On December 3, Google released a core algorithm update that changes the way Google categorizes and ranks websites for search results.
This update was very big, taking twice the amount of time to develop than its usual quarterly core updates. For SEOs, the month of December is turning out to be a rollercoaster ride with huge dips and spikes in search ranking for their clients as the update is being rolled out and refined by Google.
To give you an idea of the scope and impact of this change, 55% of websites that typically rank in the top 3 positions in search results lost their top ranking and 98% of websites in the top 10 positions saw a drop in their rankings as well.
How much of a drop? On average, websites in the top 20 positions dropped by more than 3 spots, according to RankRanger (an SEO software company). This can devastate your website traffic as the chart below from Sistrix demonstrates.
CTR stands for Click-Through Rate and represents the percentage of Google users who will click on a website link to visit the site. And, in the chart above, you can see that a website in the #1 spot gets 34.2% of Google’s traffic, while a website in position 3 in search results gets just 11.4% of Google’s traffic.
Why is this happening? Google works hard to ensure that search results are providing consumers with the best responses to their queries. As consumers’ needs change, Google and other search engines must adapt and change as well.
Why now? No one has explicitly stated this, but I believe it is related to two major changes in the marketing arena:
1. New Privacy laws that restrict how consumer data can be shared
Google will no longer be able to benefit from social media insights as Facebook and other social platforms discontinue their pixels or tracking codes. As a result, Google has been developing artificial intelligence and machine learning and I believe they may be introducing that code into the search algorithm so Google can continue to provide you valuable insights that help you in your marketing decisions.
2. Core Web Vitals (factors that affect how fast your website loads for visitors) being added as a ranking factor for Google search results
With mobile devices accounting for more than half of all web traffic, pagespeed (how fast your website loads when consumers click on your link) is more important to consumers than ever. As a result, Google is adding factors that affect pagespeed to its algorithm for search ranking.
What You Need To Know:
Google never tells us what specific changes are made in these updates. So it’s always a process to discover what steps need to be taken in order to recover if an update has had an adverse impact on your search ranking.
What we do know is that Google stopped indexing and reindexing websites for several weeks prior to releasing this new update. So Google may not be aware of content updates made to your site in November and December. And, because of this, it will take longer than usual to reap the benefits of these changes.
It’s a good idea to check Pagespeed Insights to find out whether your website meets Google’s criteria and what steps you can take to improve performance and speed.
If your website has experienced a negative impact from Google’s core update, it is important for you to know that doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong with your pages that were affected. But it is a good opportunity to take a step back and examine the quality of your website overall.
Websites that consistently focus on quality:
- Providing the best experience for users
- Providing the content consumers want and need
- Making it easy for consumers to dig deeper and gain a better understanding of each topic you address
- Following SEO best practices
perform better in search results than websites that do not.