Dan Wood, Senior SEO Manager at McCann Bristol, shares his insight into how to prepare for Google's algorithm updates.
We don’t really live in a world of pandas and penguins anymore. Even the common pigeon has long since migrated to other shores. And hummingbirds? They’ve vanished too.
But this isn’t a blog set in some horrible dystopian future in which your favourite animals are extinct.
Instead, we’re talking about the very dry world of Google algorithm updates.
And as fun as it was at the time, Google doesn’t name their algorithm updates after cute little animals anymore.
These days, we’re lucky if we get anything more interesting than: Core Update.
In truth, this change is probably a good thing. By naming the algorithm updates cute animals (and pigeons), Google gave the updates a material and long-lasting influence that the updates didn’t really justify.
Focus shifted to searching for silver bullets to beat the algorithm, rather than simply creating great website content.
So should we just ignore Google’s algorithm updates?
On the contrary, we know that Google updates can have a dramatic impact. Just take a look at the search visibility of the Daily Mail and The Sun websites following a core update in June 2019:
Google giveth, and Google taketh away.
Updates like this one are often announced with little more than a terse tweet:
For the team at the Daily Mail, it probably didn’t feel all that different from Elon Musk tweeting away your wisely invested retirement fund in Bitcoin and Doge.
And that’s something in which I’m sure we can all relate.
How Can You Prepare for a Google Algorithm Update?
As we’ve noted, there’s often no silver bullets when it comes to Google’s algorithm.
Successful SEO strategies can take months or years to come to fruition. They aren’t—or shouldn’t be—beholden to a Google update to swing it one way or another.
Your focus then should always remain on creating the best possible website content, targeting the queries your customers are searching for and making sure your website is technically sound.
Having said that, occasionally Google does reach out and prepare us for an update.
For example, Google gave us plenty of notice when they moved to mobile-first indexing. And with an upcoming update in June 2021, we have some metrics to measure our websites against and even an actual proper name.
June 2021: The Google Page Experience Update
Panda or penguin it may not be, but a name is a name.
Not only have we got a name, but we’ve got plenty of information on how to measure our websites against the update’s metrics. To ignore it blindly would be a mistake.
This update relates to a new set of metrics called Core Web Vitals which focus on three aspects of the user experience.
Broadly speaking, they are as follow: loading (LCP), interactivity (FID), and visual stability (CLS):
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): measures loading performance. To provide a good user experience, LCP should occur within 2.5 seconds of when the page first starts loading.
- First Input Delay (FID): measures interactivity. To provide a good user experience, pages should have a FID of 100 milliseconds or less.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures visual stability. To provide a good user experience, pages should maintain a CLS of 0.1. or less.
So, is this going to be another update that sends tremors through the SEO world?
As always, it’s impossible to say one way or the other. Your best bet is to be as well prepared as possible.
And that’s not just because of Google’s update, but because providing the best experience for users on your website will reward you many times over.
It will result in more conversions, more sales, more sign-ups, more leads, and many more happy customers.
If you have a well optimised website that provides a great user experience, Google’s updates aren’t to be feared. Just to be well prepared for.
In fact, if you were going to fear one update, it would have been Google’s Medic update a couple of years ago. And nothing bad has happened since then, right?
If you’d like us to take a look at how your website performs against Google’s new core web vitals, get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.