When you type your query into Google seeking for answers, it searches through relevant databases and delivers you a result by using search engine algorithms. Google frequently updates these search algorithms.

A number of its updates, such as Panda and Penguin, are well known because of the impact they had on website rankings. Many of the changes are smaller ones that happen on a very regular basis and go relatively unnoticed.

If you want to optimize your content, you need to be aware of any major updates. These updates can affect your ranking and visibility which affects your traffic and your ability to generate revenue.

What are Google’s updates intended to do?

Updates are not intended to punish websites but rather to reward those who provide relevant information and good user experience. Google’s goal is to offer the best result for someone looking for an answer to a query.

In constant pursuit of this goal, it keeps making changes to provide the most relevant answers and to weed out websites using ‘black hat’ or devious techniques to get a higher ranking.

Keeping track of all the minor adjustments it makes every day is senseless and unnecessary. But understanding more about major updates is important because it helps you to make on-course adjustments if necessary.

If you’re the owner of a business, you need to understand what it takes to rank (and to rank well). To do this, you must understand what Google regards as most important. Some of these factors are:

• Quality, relevant, unique content
• Websites built for good user experience
• Websites that deliver the best answer to a query
• Authoritative votes of confidence from other websites (links)

 Where can I find information about updates?

Matt Cutts became an unofficial spokesman for Google in his time as head of Google’s webspam team. He used to announce significant algorithm updates on Twitter.

Since he has left, news has not been so forthcoming. Some news does still appear on Twitter, such as on 12th March this year with the announcement that a ‘broad core algorithm update’ had been made the previous week.

Various websites have pages listing the history of updates to the Google Algorithm. Search Engine Journal has a page that gives the name of the rollout, its date, an overview of its impact and links to official announcements, news stories, and analyses to help you understand the significance. Moz and RankRanger have similar pages.

The Google Webmaster Central blog has been a source of news about major algorithm changes in the past, such as when mobile-friendliness became a ranking factor.

Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable is a reliable source of information about changes in Google algorithms.

Tools to track updates

Google’s spokespeople have warned that such tools are often inaccurate. It’s true that the tools may pick up on changes that are not due to algorithm updates.

Fluctuations in SERP results aren’t always the result of an update. But tracking of SERP fluctuations is an indicator of what is happening and here are some effective tools to provide insights.

SEMrush Sensor: This algorithm tracking tool shows SERP volatility over 30 days. It provides a score out of 10 to show the level of volatility and can be customized based on the device used and country.

MozCast: A ‘weather’ report shows turbulence in the Google algorithm. The stormier and hotter the weather, the more the algorithm has changed. The website audits 1000 keywords on a daily basis for the top ten results for a query. The top 10 are compared with the day before to see how much of a change has occurred. The more change that occurs, the higher the temperature.  

Accuranker: This tool helps you to identify Google’s ‘mood.’ Is Google furious, just grumpy or quite chilled? You can customize by the device and by country.

Penguin: This is a free SEO tool that helps you to identify whether your ranking has been affected by an algorithm update. It overlays your Google analytics data with known algorithm updates to give you more insight.

CognitiveSEO Signals: This tool monitors over 100,000 keywords on a daily basis and tracks ranking fluctuations in local, mobile and desktop search results.

Advanced Web Rankings (AWR): This tool monitors 500,000 URLs and 11,000 keywords across industries, showing changes in position and highlighting fluctuations.

Algoroo: This tool uses a metric called a ‘roo’ with a higher value meaning higher volatility. It monitors as many as 17,000 keywords and identifies winners and losers for the week.

Rank Ranger Risk Index: This tool monitors over 10,000 keywords and domains on a daily basis to track volatility and identify ranking patterns in desktop and mobile search results.

What to do after a major algorithm update

Don’t panic and rush to act if you fear you’ve been affected by a Google algorithm update. Carefully assess the situation and make sure you’ve been affected by the update and not some other issue, such as a Google manual action or a website change.

Do some research to find out what credible SEO experts have to say. You may need to make some adjustments to your SEO strategies if you have been affected by an update.

It’s always better to minimize your chances of being seriously affected by an update. The best way to do this is to focus on SEO fundamentals and avoid any violations of Google Webmaster Guidelines.

Focus on creating excellent, relevant, unique content, gaining the trust of your audience and building authority. It’s easy to become obsessed with Google algorithm updates and lose sight of the big picture.

To conclude

Google makes thousands of adjustments every year. It is not necessary to monitor each one but understanding the major changes can help you to focus on what Google wants to see and adjust your SEO strategies accordingly. Many tools are available to monitor Google’s changing algorithms, and they help you to understand the relationship between any changes and your organic traffic.