Worried about the regular and unpredictable Google algorithm updates? Google has never stopped working on their system. They’re constantly refining their algorithm and rolling regular updates that generally affect how you rank in the SERPs.
Most of the time, these updates appear to target those involved in black hat SEO practices. Google has only one mission – and that is solving users’ problem by ensuring they’re getting high-quality content.
So whenever the internet is resorting to unscrupulous ranking tactics that are likely to affect the quality of content users find online, Google rolls a new update to nip the issue by the bud.
So until search engines achieve perfection, new updates will keep rolling in. Of course, some of these updates go unnoticed, while others go live and are reeled back several weeks later.
And then there’re the notorious ones that leave a mark behind or leave the entire world of marketing talking. Think the infamous caffeine, Penguin, and Panda.
Any website that existed at the time Google was rolling any of these updates must have felt the impact in one way or another.
There’s nothing predictable about these updates
Google updates are so unpredictable. Of course, if you’ve been in the game long enough, you might be able to pick a few things here and there and make a near-accurate prediction of what to expect. But most of the time, these changes hit the entire world of marketing by storm.
Meaning, your rank may drop drastically, and you’re left wondering how to crawl out of the hole. It even gets worse with some updates, where only a few people manage to bounce back from the impact.
A good example is the Medic update. As Cyrus Shepard, a renowned SEO expert would tweet it; there wasn’t even a single case study of any site that had managed to recover from the update 60 days after its rolling.
And up until now, there has only been a handful of practical advice on how to recover from the update by regaining both your ranking and traffic.
What to do When Google Rolls out a New Update
Find out if your site has been impacted
Every time you hear about a new update, the first thing to do should be to find out if your site has been impacted in any way.
You have two tools that may come in handy at such a time:
Google Analytics: for organic search traffic reports. With this tool, you’ll know if there’s been a sharp drop in the amount of traffic you’re getting. A simple trick would be to look at the amount of traffic you’ve been getting for the past 30 days and see if there’s been a drastic drop in the traffic with no real explanation.
Barracuda’s Panguin SEO tool: a free SEO tool that will be helping you find out if your site has been affected by an algorithm update from Google.
With this tool, the SEO report provided will feature the latest Google updates, so you can go through them all and find out if your site has been affected.
Odds are, your organic search traffic would drop immediately after you’re hit by an update, and it’s upon you to head back to the drawing board and device a new strategy that will be helping you bounce back and recover everything.
As part of your recovery process, here’s a list of key things you should do:
Analyze your website
Identify all the pages that have been affected and those you’ve always wanted to improve.
Come up with an action plan to bounce back
By implementing the following SEO tactics and techniques, it should only take you a few months to fully recover from the hit and regain everything.
Check Your Traffic and ranking Position – Don’t Rush to take Action
A sharp drop in the amount of organic traffic your site attracts doesn’t always translate to a Google update. Something else could be happening. So don’t be hasty to draw conclusions.
Take your time to run your site through a series of checks. Besides Google Analytics and Barracuda’s SEO tool, you might want to run the site through Cognitive SEO, and check its status in the Search Visibility Widget.
If it registers any drop there, then there’s a fair likelihood that your site has been hit. Cognitive SEO is recommended because it’s more effective than most of the analytic tools you know.
Again, a drop in traffic is NOT a sure way to find out if your site is suffering from a penalty. Assuming most of your site pages are on page 50 of SERPs. Since these pages rarely bring a significant amount of traffic, you might NOT be able to see major changes in the amount of traffic you’re getting.
However, should the penalty impact them by dropping them further down in the SERPs, there’ll be a sharp drop in your search visibility metric suggesting you’ve been hit.
Another tool to consider using is the Rank Tracker, which will be monitoring your most relevant list of keywords. With this tool, it’s even possible to set notifications that will be keeping you informed every time there’s a shift in position for that particular list of keywords.
Your focus should be on organic traffic only, not general traffic. Reason being, Google updates only affect your organic traffic. So expect the traffic you’re getting via social media or PPC not to be affected, unless otherwise.
Alternatively, you can run your site through Google Search console to find out about the average position of some of the keywords you’re ranked on. If their positions dropped dramatically, then there’s a higher likelihood that you’ve been penalized.
However, if the keywords have only moved down a few positions, then chances are that the update has worked in favour of a few of your competitors by pushing them up. And if this is the case, then you might want to revisit your strategies and figure out how to beat them again and reclaim your position.
Check the Traffic Again
Give yourself some time before you can go ahead and take any action. For all we know, your sources for organic traffic might just be acting up. So don’t let the sudden change of events push you into making rash decisions.
Give yourself about a week or so to check your traffic and find out if the drop had anything to do with the latest update. During this time, you should be keeping a keen eye on your traffic and search visibility as you analyze everything for any other possible reason.
It’s normal to experience a push-down, after which things may revert to normal. So don’t rush into making hasty decisions before you ascertain the exact cause of the drop.
It gets even worse when you start moving things around based on what you read online without first finding out if your site was affected. Your traffic might be intact and your rank positions unaffected; but based on what you’re reading online, be driven to make unnecessary changes to your content and everything else.
Don’t give in to peer pressure, or be forced to act out of fear or because you’re panicking. So until you’re sure that your website has been affected, you should avoid doing anything you haven’t been doing.
Audit Your Website
Any attempt to fix your website after it’s been affected should start with an audit. You’ve noticed a significant change in the amount of traffic you’re getting and even established that it’s due to the latest Google update, so go ahead and audit the website.
There might be a plugin that’s causing all the issues. Or maybe your developer missed on something important. It’s time you found out before jumping on figuring out your next course of action.
In your audit, here are four crucial areas you’d want to focus on:
Google may launch a new update, but decide to go through some of the affected websites once more and reconsider them. Also, some of the issues your site registered in the past and which never bothered Google a whit might now be a concern that might get you penalised.
So unless you’ve been aiming for perfection from the word go, you have all the reasons in the world to audit the technical aspect of your website before doing anything else.
Google might have nothing to do with whatever is happening to your site. For which case, the real culprit might be the bad href lang or canonical tags you’re implementing. Or your site might have been thriving for loading much faster than the rest of the sites you’re competing with.
However, they were recently updated and now they’re loading just as fast if not faster. In other words, you were outranked and not penalised as you’d like to assume and the only way to find out is by running a thorough technical audit of your site.
Backlinks can hurt your site in so many ways, and they could be the real culprit here while you’re busy laying the blame on the recent Google update.
Go ahead and submit your site for some checks on spammy links. Here’s a toolset that might come in handy for this case: Cognitive SEO link Analysis (link: https://cognitiveseo.com/backlinkanalysis/).
You can use the tool for auditing the link profile of your website and sorting out any trace of a spammy link using their Unnatural Link Detection feature.
Google could be punishing you for disrupting their system with duplicate content and meta downs.
Or perhaps you’re just filling up your website with poorly-written content that online users detest to bits. To find out, you might want to compare the content you post with that of your competitors.
Does your content fall far off in the quality department? Is there an area that you think you should improve on?
Are there topics that are popular searched on Google that you’re yet to cover on your website?
Again, everything you’re doing is about the user. You want to make sure that they’re having the best experience when they land on your website, and that Google is well aware of that.
By now, you should have known that every single one of the updates Google rolls is geared towards enhancing user experience. Google has to make sure that users from every corner of the globe are having an easy time interacting with your website.
You can start by getting the opinion of your friends and family. Give them a list of tasks to do, without caring much to give them the necessary steps to find their way around them. If anything, you want them to figure it out intuitively.
For instance, you can ask them to place an order, contact you, sign up for your newsletter, or use the contact form provided to send you a message.
All you have to do is give them the URL to your homepage and ask them to perform the tasks. The faster they’re able to do them, the better the user experience.
Ask them to try doing the same thing both on mobile and on desktop, with more weight placed on their mobile interactions – because then again, that’s where you expect the bulk of your customers to come from.
Lastly, consider running your website through User Testing tool for more input. And where possible, consider talking to a UX expert to find out if your website is killing it in this particular area or if there’s any room for improvement.
Check Out for Other Possibilities
It bears repeating that there might be other reasons behind your traffic drop, which might have nothing to do with the latest update.
As you’re soon to find out, while launching a new update, Google sometimes penalises sites that happen to have a series of other issues that have got nothing to do with the penalty itself.
If you followed the guide; by now, you should have figured out what else could be affecting your search ranking. Make an effort to fix them first before you can go ahead and consider laying down another strategy that will be aligning everything with the new update.
You might also want to check with the Google Search Console to find out if your site has been penalised for anything else. Make a point to fix these issues first before you can go ahead and do something else.
Lay down a Strategy to Bounce back and Recover Everything
After fixing your site for all the other issues it had, the next thing you do is lay down a clear outline of how you plan to bounce back from the penalty and recover everything.
Go through the issues to be fixed and arrange them in terms of priority. You want to make sure you’re fixing the most significant issues first and leave the minor ones for later.
Pick out a list of issues that have the most significant effect on the penalty and fix them first. The whole point is to recover your ranking as fast as possible without wasting much of your resources and money.
By laying down a solid plan of how to tackle the penalty, you’ll be able to execute everything faster. You’ll also be able to monitor your results and keep track of everything to find out if you’re on the right track.
Here’s the thing: even after doing everything on the list, you’ll never know how long it will take you to recover from the penalty fully. For some, it could only take them a few years, whereas some would have to wait for years to get everything back on track.
It’s for this reason that we encourage you to always follow the rules. Don’t be too smart by trying to game Google. Of course, they’ll find out, if not today then definitely sometimes later – and when they do, the effects might be far worse than you may live to recover from fully.