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Navigating Google Broad Core Updates

My experience and advice to content developers
You may notice a sudden surge or a distinct drop in your website traffic. Chances are Google just rolled out an update. How it affected your site is a strong indicator of your content's quality...

This piece covers the following questions:

  1. What are Google broad core updates?

  2. How do they impact my business?

  3. What can I do to keep improving my site’s ranking?

In September 2019, Google released their second broad core update of the year. This time though, Google gave webmasters and SEO experts advance notice of the broad core algorithm update. This is a promising sign. It seems that Google have started announcing broad core algorithm updates in advance; September’s update was the second one when we received warning ahead of time. This is a nod that the Internet monolith is taking webmaster outreach more seriously and (let’s hope) looking to be more involved with the community.

Here’s a summary of Google’s guidance in relation to (all) broad core updates shortly before the September update rolled out (in brief and with my interpretations of the guidance in places):
  1. Expect notable effects including drops and gains in search rankings.

  2. Broad core updates improve Google’s overall systems. They don’t target anything specific.

  3. Pages that drop in rankings are being reassessed [rather than penalised] against other web content published since the last broad core update.

  4. Providing the best possible content is Google’s official recommended way to deal with the impact of broad core algorithm updates. I read this as: produce high-quality (as close to media-grade as possible) content and web copy that is long-form and targeted as well as increase the number of pages in your domain (blog posts).

  5. Broad core updates happen every few months (average twice a year). A website that dropped might not recover until the next update rolls out. i.e. get that top quality content up and ready to be indexed! The number of websites is always increasing, so doing nothing or worse, producing lousy second-rate pages will mess up site rankings and performance.

  6. Improvements do not guarantee recovery. A disclaimer-of-sorts?

What we can ordain from Google’s guidance notes, is that doing nothing and making no changes to your website content or its SEO almost certainly guarantees that it will keep dropping each time a broad core update rolls out. But then again, all web designers, SEO experts, and content marketers I know say the same thing: that a website is a living thing which needs regular attention to stay healthy. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

As for us, we have actually seen a marked increase in website traffic (39% increase in organic traffic)! So thank you, Google! Reassuring, naturally, and it seems to be in-line with Google’s guidance and the discussions we have had with colleagues about high-quality long-form content and web copy pushing some sites up while sites with [comparatively] lower-quality content have recently gone down.

What I glean from this, is that Google is making significant efforts to include the quality of written language in their algorithm updates. Therefore, as more well-written, relevant, and insightful content is uploaded and indexed, even a website that has pretty good content and copy will be slowly pulled down the rankings in the absence of maintenance and new content uploads. This becomes markedly more important for websites in a second language where site localisation needs to be on-point.

Several of my clients have been in a bit of a panic since September, especially those who rely on steady traffic for daily business. I advised clients and contemporaries to do the following:
  • Do a trending content check on Buzzsumo or similar. Select five specific keywords and five broader keywords and base your content (loosely: native content is proving stronger than pure SEO content these days) around them.

  • Keep your copy native. Try to include around three of your keywords in each content piece and in the copy on each page.

  • Produce regular high-quality content (publish as few as one piece a month and in a year you will have twelve quality articles and twelve more pages in your domain for indexing).

  • Go long: 1,200-1,500 words plus per piece. Browsing habits indicate that viewers will stay and read long pieces WHEN it is relevant i.e. the SEO (meta-description, title, and leader) matches the content they clicked through to!

  • Use keyword-targeted web copy on your site and add new pages to keep improving your ranking, for example: customer FAQs, Our Story, Terms and Conditions, and Definitions pages are always a good shout plus they are super user-friendly. Native copy CAN include researched keywords!

  • Avoid duplicating content verbatim on your site. Search engines penalising websites with duplicate content is a bone of contention with experts holding different opinions about what qualifies as duplicate content and how stringently search engines take this. My advice is to paraphrase to lessen the likelihood of penalisation (and to keep you content original and engaging for users).

  • REMEMBER: update your content to keep it optimised and evergreen, even if it is just a glancing re-read, changing dates and adding updates. Aim for once every six months and ADD IT TO YOUR CONTENT CALENDAR! If you don’t, you won’t get round to it, just like I don’t (judge a builder by his work, not his house)!

  • In the meantime, if you NEED a traffic boost, go into overdrive on your social media feeds and top up your ads accounts. Consider opening up a new business page on another social media site, BUT remember the extra workload that this will ultimately bring to keep traffic up (yet another social media account, community, and brand image to keep up).

In many instances I carried a content review and update on behalf of my clients in order to either:
  1. recover their ranking, or

  2. improve their ranking (who doesn’t want to improve their ranking?) especially ahead of time before the next broad core update rolls out in a few months.

My only question to Google is: who gets to decide what is ‘high’ and ‘low’ quality content and input their notions into the core search algorithm? Can anyone shed light on this!?


Published 26 November 2019






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