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What Law Firms Need to Know About Recovering From Google’s Broad Core Algorithm Updates

What Law Firms Need to Know About Recovering From Google’s Broad Core Algorithm Updates

Google released its latest broad core algorithm update in June 2019. Whenever a new update is rolled out, it inevitably raises questions about how to fix a drop in search engine rankings or why a website’s traffic has improved without doing anything in particular.

At its simplest, a broad core algorithm update is a tweak to Google’s main search algorithm. Each broad core algorithm update affects websites in different ways. For instance, some sites may suffer a negative impact in terms of a loss in rankings among search results. On the other hand, certain sites may experience higher rankings after an update due to previously high-ranking pages losing their former positions.

Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller offered some insights on recovering from the new update in a Google Webmaster Hangout on September 3, 2019. He also referenced an August 2019 blog post in which Google provides an official guidance on its core algorithm updates.

According to Mueller, the main reason sites gain or lose rankings after a broad core algorithm update is because Google’s new algorithm views certain sites as more relevant than others. In other words, the update emphasizes page relevance. Sites rank better or worse depending on Google’s interpretation of how relevant they are in comparison to other sites.

However, Mueller maintained that a decline in search rankings after a core update is not a sign that there is something wrong with a site and that it must be fixed in order to get back in Google’s favor. Rather, it means Google thinks the pages are no longer as relevant as before. He reiterated that these types of changes can occur gradually over time.

Additionally, broad core algorithm updates are not penalties. While a website that loses traffic after an update may appear to be penalized, that is not the case. A penalty involves Google notifying the publisher about webmaster guideline violations via Google’s Search Console. There are no such notifications when a website loses rankings after a core algorithm update.

One key takeaway from Mueller was that there is no need to wait for a specific change to recover from a loss in rankings. Publishers who make a significant effort to improve their site do not have to bide their time until another update is released to determine whether the improvements have helped boost rankings. Because Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving with small modifications, they are likely to see subtle changes in traffic and rankings over time. Ultimately, no major changes need to be made to reduce the update’s impact.

According to Search Engine Journal, sometimes rankings are restored after a subsequent core algorithm update that fine tunes previous changes. The broad nature of updates can end up having an unintended impact on certain sites.

Some people attribute a loss in search rankings after a broad core algorithm update to problems with quality while others may view it as a technical matter, such as the site being too slow. Of course, any quality or technical issues that raise concerns about a site’s rankings need to be dealt with. However, those factors are not what Google’s broad core algorithm updates are typically about.

Mueller has been adamant there is nothing to fix since the algorithm does not target one specific aspect. However, it might be useful to consider your site’s relevance factors and find ways in which to improve upon them. A key to understanding how to recover from Google’s broad core update is to think about why a webpage may no longer be deemed relevant. Review your site in a holistic manner using Google’s guidelines to pinpoint possible shortcomings and address anything that could potentially play a role in low rankings.


Dipal Parmar is a content developer for law firms at Custom Legal Marketing.

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