Google updates from an SEO perspective – a blessing or a curse?

ByDr.-Ing. Erik Neitzel
Google updates from an SEO perspective – a blessing or a curse?

Updates to the Google algorithm can potentially cause major changes to SEO-optimized blogs and websites. Whether that’s good or bad for you as SEO depends entirely on the condition of your website. But let’s first clarify what this is all about.

What is a Google Update?

Google publishes so-called “core updates” at regular intervals. These are refinements of the algorithm that determines the ranking of the web for certain search terms. These refinements are based on the constant quality control of the search results, which Google constantly carries out itself. They also address the constantly changing requirements of the modern web – for example the increasing importance of optimizing websites for mobile devices or changing data protection requirements.

Google Updates

What kind of Google updates are there?

Possible Google updates are:

  • Permanent updates: Daily updates that serve to increase the general search quality
  • Updates regarding technical requirements: Updates that address the optimization of a website for mobile devices, speed, security (SSL) and the like
  • Updates regarding legal requirements: Updates that serve the conformity of websites of certain countries with current legislation (keyword GDPR)
  • Updates regarding the semantics of search queries: for example to differentiate between general vs. local search queries (restaurants, gas stations, etc.)
  • Updates to detect manipulation: for example, to reduce the rankings of websites with an unnatural backlink profile

In addition to these core updates, which affect websites of all genres and subject areas, there are also subject-related updates that focus on websites of very specific industries and / or topics. Regardless of which type of website these updates affect: sooner or later you will feel the effects of a Google update.

What are specific Google updates from the last few years?

The aforementioned types of Google updates can be found in Google’s update history:

  1. 2011 – Panda Update: Detection of inferior content with low user acceptance
  2. 2012 – Penguin Update: Detection of tampering with the backlink profile of websites
  3. 2013 – Hummingbird Update: Semantic update to take into account the user’s search intention
  4. 2014 – Pigeon Update: Consideration of the user’s location when delivering search result pages
  5. 2015 – Mobile Update: Differentiation between desktop and mobile version of a website
  6. 2018 – Medic Update: Update on the more critical assessment of “Your Money Your Life” (YMYL) content websites
  7. 2019 – BERT Update: Update for better recognition of natural languages ​​(optimized semantic understanding of requests)
  8. 2020 – January 2020 Core Update: Update to reassess trust in a domain
  9. 2020 – May 2020 Core Update: Greater focus on “Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness” (EAT), probably primarily with regard to the removal of websites that pass on false medical information in the context of the Corona crisis
  10. 2020 – December 2020 Core Update: No official details known yet

We never know exactly what the content of the respective updates is. This list is by no means complete. However, it does give an idea of how Google works. The following video can give you an idea of what Google was aiming for with the latest update from 2020.

Are Google Updates Good Or Bad?

In order to answer the question of whether you should be a friend or an enemy of Google Updates, the question of perspective arises first.

From the perspective of a user, i.e. someone who enters search terms into a search engine and expects matching results, Google updates are usually good. After all, this is exactly the goal of fine-tuning the algorithm that Google wants to achieve.

From the point of view of an SEO, a Google update can in turn be both beneficial and disadvantageous. So ask yourself: which methods do you use as SEO to bring your website ahead to Google?

The question is: how much manipulator are you as SEO?

If in the past you paid a lot of attention to the (self-inflicted) increase in your backlinks, bought links and / or only paid as much attention to your content as was absolutely necessary, you will hardly benefit from a Google update. Exactly such sites would like to recognize these algorithm optimizations and give them less traffic in the future than other, more user-centered sites.

If, on the other hand, you as SEO have put your content in the foreground, observed legal requirements, optimized your blog or website for different devices and let the backlink building happen organically, you can only benefit from all Google updates sooner or later.

Who or what is at the center of your SEO universe for you?

In order not to have to be afraid of future Google updates, but on the contrary to be able to look forward to them, you can ask yourself as honestly as possible: Who are you focusing on – your traffic goals or your visitors?

Remember: Google has no interest in getting you as much or as little traffic as possible. Google simply wants to ensure that the user is suggested exactly the websites that match his search query. So it is always just a question of which visitor can you serve the most, and how exactly can you ensure this benefit?

A suitable visitor for you should be at the center of your SEO efforts. Then every Google update is your best friend.

Google therefore implicitly rewards a solid SEO methodology and the creation of high quality websites.

The Google Update conclusion

What we as SEOs know as Google Update are natural iterations as a search engine matures. They are the technical equivalent of what nature holds as natural mutations in order to adapt to the environment in the best possible way.

If possible, never ask yourself how you can best take advantage of the current changes in the algorithm. Instead, ask yourself what you as a user on and from your own website would most likely want, and how much you already meet these requirements. If you don’t: Optimize your website accordingly. The next Google update will thank you.

Dr.-Ing. Erik Neitzel