Google changes in January 2020

Has the January 2020 Google Core update affected your website?

Weighing in quickly in the new year, Google announced its latest core update last Monday, the 13 January.

By Thursday, January 16th, Google Tweeted the update had almost finished rolling out:

By announcing its Core Updates, Google makes a break from its past, when we were left guessing if there had been an update or not. According to its blog post What webmasters should know about Google’s core updates, it aims to confirm that an update is going to happen and to give ‘actionable information that webmasters and content providers might take in relation to them’.

What’s the update about?

It’s interesting to note that Google wasn’t giving any specific advice about the January 2020 Core Update. Google refers everyone to its blog post from 1 August 2019. It says Google Core Updates ‘typically produce some widely notable effects. Some sites may note drops or gains during them. We know those with sites that experience drops will be looking for a fix, and we want to ensure they don’t try to fix the wrong things. Moreover, there might not be anything to fix at all’.

It goes on to say:

‘One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015. A few years later in 2019, you refresh the list. It’s going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realize they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before.’

In typical Google fashion, the blog post says there’s nothing wrong with pages that perform less well after a core update; the advice, as always, is to leave well alone and don’t do any nasty optimisation.

But I’m a fan of Directors’ Cuts 🙂

What does the SEO community make of it?

Search Engine Roundtable announced Google January 2020 Core Update Is Live & It’s Big, with posts from a significant number of site owners who are in pain.

Google January 2020 Google Core Update and see why I see ‘and it’s big’ as hyperbole.

There are always sites that take a big hit — you could argue that’s why Google does these updates — but there are those sites who find themselves rewarded for playing the right game, in Google’s eyes, over time.

At the time of writing, there is little discernible pattern — some are saying Google has hit medical sites again, but I have no first-hand evidence for that. But if you think about it, the lack of pattern for the update reflects Google’s announcement of January 2020 as ‘a broad algorithm update’ and making no specific recommendations.

There are always sites that take a big hit — you could argue that’s why Google does these updates — but there are those sites who find themselves rewarded for playing the right game, in Google’s eyes, over time.

What should you do?

I believe I’ve succeeded with my educated guesses of what Google wants if my and my clients’ websites show no noticeable change in their traffic levels. If they get more traffic, then great.

Occasionally, some of the sites I’m involved with take a hit. But it’s not a time to panic.

If you’ve been playing by the rules and your site is working well technically on good hosting, sit tight. Always, always wait until the SERPs have calmed down. Typically, we see a few days of sites’ key phrase rankings going up and down. If it’s a week on (certainly, if you’re reading this piece), and you’re still taking a traffic hit, then you can probably conclude that something about your site is not working with Google’s core update.

I’ve seen instances where businesses have made things so much worse by making wholesale changes driven by erroneous thinking. You can undo months or even years of good, solid SEO and content progress in just a few days.

It’s time to take steps to understand why your traffic has dropped. Get your in-house team, agency or SEO consultant looking for what could have caused the hit.

Always look for the obvious before you dig any deeper. Be honest. Have you had some slightly iffy SEO done? Has someone been experimenting with some ideas gleaned from forums on the shadier side of SEO? Are you at ease with the digital marketing advice you’ve been given?

Do your research and auditing before you do anything to your site. I’ve seen instances where businesses have made things so much worse by making wholesale changes driven by erroneous thinking. You can undo months or even years of good, solid SEO and content progress in just a few days.

Don’t know why it’s gone pear-shaped?

Or not happy with your current advice? Talk to an expert who hasn’t been involved with the site. A fresh view is invaluable. They may see something that you’ve missed.

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Photo by Rajeshwar Bachu on Unsplash