SEO, Thought Leaders

How 5 Recent Google Algorithm Updates Affects SEO

March 27, 2020

by Scott Wentworth

Understanding Google’s recent algorithm changes can help your business improve its SEO strategy.

Google. It’s the name that most people recognize, and it’s the most-used search engine in the world. But what does this kind of power and influence mean to ordinary people and businesses, and what kind of effect do their algorithm changes have on us?

Here we delve into Google’s 5 latest algorithm updates and how they will change the nature of search, affect what the searcher sees, and what we can do to keep up. You need to know Google’s updates in order to have a successful SEO strategy.

1. Original Reporting Preference (September 2019)

Released: Google announced that it updated its algorithm to highlight original reporting in Search more on September 12, 2019.

What this means for search: Google announced that not only is it promoting and supporting original content more in terms of giving it higher ranking, but it is also keeping original content at the top spots in the search results for longer, with Google saying:

Google original reporting preference

This means that Google is working hard to highlight original content to help you and its readers stay informed about all types of topics, ranging from movies and sports to serious journalism. This is done in order for original content to not get lost in the wave of articles that follow it but rather be seen alongside them.

How should I react: Keep making original content. Google has made serious leaps to show that it takes taking original content very seriously by:

  • Updating its search rater guidelines as its algorithms learn
  • Instructing raters to place the highest rating on original content
  • Looking at the reputation of the source of original content (high reputation, low reputation, won awards?)

Google has more than 10,000 raters worldwide evaluating its work to help the algorithms understand the authoritativeness of individual pages.

The search rater guideline, used by these raters, is available to the public. Check it out to see how they are rating individual work to improve your own.

2. Review Rich Results Update (September 2019)

Released: Google introduced its update to making review rich results more helpful on September 16, 2019.

Google rich results updates

What this means for search: A rich snippet or result is what appears in Google’s search results, beyond its standard blue link. This tells more about the webpage you are about to visit. They can be images, product information, upcoming events and star reviews.

This update is specifically looking at improving review snippets like this:

Google review snippets

Google has said that it is limiting the types of pages that are allowed to have review snippets such as movies, books, music, products, recipes, courses, games, and so on. Google has also limited what it calls “self-serving reviews” and other review snippets, as they are being overused and do not always enhance a search result.

How should I react: What you need to know is:

  • You can no longer place reviews shown on your website as a rich snippet, aka self- serving reviews
  • When making your rich snippet, you have to name the product being reviewed in your structured data. This means if you have rich review plugins, you need to check them for an update or look at a new one that has the ‘name’ function.

If you comply with all these standards then you can continue using review rich snippets as normal.

3. September Core Update (September 2019)

Google has differentiated core updates from normal updates by pointing out that they are updates that are more noticeable and have more of an effect on web pages and their overall ranking. These core updates “are about improving how our systems assess content overall.”

Released: Google announced its next core update of 2019 following its June and March core updates on September 24, calling it “The September 2019 Core Update.”

Google September 2019 core update

What this means for search: This core update affects businesses in different ways. Similar to the March and June updates, there hasn’t been consistency with the changes. Some businesses have seen an increase in ranking since the update, and some have seen a decrease in ranking or no change.

How should I react: Whenever these core updates happen, Google points out that your site could be impacted negatively or positively by the update. What’s important to know is the date the update happened in order to understand why your ratings improved or got worse. Google suggests constantly improving your content, though, and gives helpful tips and questions to follow, such as using:

  • Original content
  • Interesting information
  • Other sources
  • A descriptive headline and summary

4. BERT Update (October 2019)

Released: Google announced its Google BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) update on October 25.

What this means for search: This is probably the biggest update of 2019, with Google saying:

Google GERT update

This update means that Google has further improved how it understands queries to the point that our computers can understand language and concepts like humans do (or at least they try to). BERT enables search engines to better understand the context of a query in order to yield the best results.

Google BERT update

How should I react: According to Google, 10% of queries have been impacted by this Google BERT Update, but there isn’t all too much you can do. This update means that Google is understanding language better and better every day, so keep writing relevant content for your users.

If you have found that this new BERT update has decreased your ranking, an online marketing agency can also help you improve your ranking through SEO practices that understand how Google and this new BERT update works.   

5. Local Search Update (November 2019)

Released: Google officially confirmed this update on its Twitter account on December 2 and coined it the November 2019 Local Search Update.

Google 2019 Local Search Update

What this means for search: With this new update Google, has used its neutral matching system, a system that better understands how words are related to concepts, to local search queries. This means that Google is not only exactly matching words in a business name but understanding the word searches conceptually in order to match unrelated words to your business.

Google 2019 Local Search Update

This update is similar to the Google Possum update of 2016 but much more aggressive at targeting Google My Business Listings closer to the searcher. The problem with proximity searches is the increase in ‘spam’ business listings, something that Google is working hard at weeding out.

How should I react: According to Google, this update requires no changes from businesses who should keep following its advice to improve their local ranking. Other ways to make up for lost search volume is to use Google or Facebook Ads by using precise geotargeting and aggressive bidding to beat out other local ads and businesses.

Improve Your SEO by Understanding Google Algorithm Changes

So, after reading this, you should have a bit more knowledge about Google’s newest algorithm updates and how they effect search and ultimately how they effect you as the searcher or the one trying to be searched for. Don’t forget that Google is constantly updating and changing tits algorithm, meaning you need to also be constantly on the ball and look out for Google’s updates.

You can find Google’s updates:

By following Google’s algorithm changes, your business can stay on top of the SEO game.

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