What Is a Google Core Update and How Do They Affect SEO?

Google Core Updates icon

Last week, Google tweeted the news announcing the release of the August 2023 core update and promising to update its ranking release history page when the rollout is complete, which could take up to two weeks.

But what are these core updates and why are they so important to SEO? We’ll explore Google's frequent algorithm tweaks and delve deeper into what this means and its potential implications for SEO.

What Is a Google Core Update?

At its essence, a core update is a significant change to Google's search algorithm that can influence the visibility of millions of web pages in the search results. It's a modification to how Google reviews and ranks the content on the web. Unlike the daily, minor updates Google performs, core updates are broad and can have substantial effects on rankings and traffic for websites. 

Think of it like this - you have created a list of your top 100 favourite films at the start of a year. You then decide the frequently revisit and recreate that list and also make sure you include any new films that may have come out but you also consider how important certain aspects are to you for “what is a good film”. Over time, newer movies might be added or previous ones reassessed, leading to changes.

It is important to note that a shift in position doesn't denote an improvement or decrease in quality or that you have been penalised but simply the existence of more relevant content.

Why Does Google Release Core Updates?

Google's main objective is to serve users the most relevant, accurate, and high-quality content in response to their queries. As the internet evolves and new content is published, Google revisits and recalibrates its approach to ensure it meets this objective.

Why Does Google Toy With Our Emotions... I Mean, Rankings?

Jokes aside, Google's updates orbit around three pillars:

  • Relevance: Does the content address the specific query of the user? Is it contextually appropriate?
  • Accuracy: Is the information factually correct? Does it reflect the current state of knowledge or events?
  • Quality: Beyond factual accuracy, is the content well-researched, well-presented, and sourced from reputable authorities?

By adjusting its algorithm, Google aims to improve its proficiency in evaluating these factors, ensuring that users get top-notch, reliable answers.

Core updates, in essence, are Google's way of adapting to the evolving web. It's a continuous cycle of learning, adjusting, and refining. Google learns from the trillions of searches performed each year, gathers feedback from users and webmasters, and revisits its algorithm to ensure it's aligned with its central mission.

How Do Core Updates Impact SEO?

The aftermath of a core update can be positive, negative, or neutral for websites:

  • Traffic Increase: If a website’s content aligns better with Google's updated guidelines, it may experience a surge in organic traffic.
  • Traffic Dip: Conversely, sites that don’t align well might see a decline.
  • No Change: Some sites won't notice any significant difference after an update.

Again, it’s important to note that a negative change in performance does not necessarily mean any penalisation or negative view from Google towards your site.

The August 2023 Core Update

As always, the updates are one of the most discussed changes amongst SEO but here are some of the things we can guestimate being targeted.

  • E-E-A-T-Enhanced: Google's emphasis on Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) will likely take centre stage again. Websites that showcase experience in their topic, clear expertise in their field, backed by reputable authors and trusted sources, seemed to fare better after the update.
  • User Experience (UX) is Paramount: Google continued to stress the importance of a seamless user experience. Sites with quicker load times, mobile optimization, and intuitive navigation will likely see a boost.
  • Content Depth and Relevance: Pages that address topics in-depth, rather than skimming over them, will likely see a positive effect. It's no longer just about keyword optimization but about truly addressing user intent.
  • Backlinks Reassessed: Google appears to have refined how it values backlinks. Links from highly relevant and authoritative sites will make more of a difference than a large volume of lower-quality links.

Navigating the Waters Post-Core Update

For those affected by the Core Updates, here are some general pointers:

  • Don't Panic: Abrupt changes might stabilise after a few days or weeks as the update fully rolls out.
  • Assess and Analyse: Use analytics tools to see where changes occurred. Is it a sitewide decline or specific to certain pages or keywords?
  • Refine Content Strategy: Reinforce the E-E-A-T principles, enhance content depth, and ensure your site provides a stellar user experience.
  • Engage in White-Hat Link Acquisition: With the renewed focus on link quality, invest in acquiring genuine, high-quality links.
  • Stay Updated: Google provides insights and documentation about core updates. Keep yourself informed to make the necessary adjustments.

In the world of SEO, change is the only constant. By understanding the nuances of these updates, webmasters and SEO professionals can better navigate changes, refine strategies, and continue to thrive in the world of search.