So you heard from the grapevine, and Google later confirmed, that a core algorithm update has recently rolled out. But alas, despite consistent and ethical SEO efforts, your rankings for various keywords dropped. You panic. You think something must have caused ranking losses.
John Mueller assures us, however, that it is normal for websites to lose rankings during a core update. Google is not penalising you. It just happens.
If this is the case, why do websites lose rankings?
Mueller explains that every time there is an algorithm update, Google sorts out the websites and ranks them according to relevance. This means, depending on the update, a site that went up in this recent update may go down in the next one – and vice versa.
Period of Recovery for Ranking Losses
Rather than panic and hastily find ways to control the “damage,” be patient and wait until the next update. Google algorithms are being updated regularly so fluctuations are inevitable. When the next update rolls out, see if your rankings are any better.
While not expressly stated by Mueller, abrupt algorithm updates do not tend to have lasting effects. After a few days or weeks, rankings may return to normal (or what they once were before). Not that Google is throwing darts everywhere, but broad updates sometimes affect sites without meaning to. The team notices these unintentional effects immediately so it pays to be patient and wait for the experts to finish refining everything.
In the event your rankings normalise, this could mean Google made some changes and disregarded the ones that affected your site.
A quote from John Mueller’s statement:
With regards to kind of seeing changes in one core update and when would you see the next batch of changes if you make significant effort to improve your website for example, in general this is something that happens on an ongoing basis.
So on the one hand we have the core updates which are kind of bigger changes in our algorithm. And on the other hand we have lots of small things that keep changing over time.
The whole Internet changes over time and with that our search results are essentially changing from day to day and they can improve from day to day as well.
So if you’ve been making significant improvements on your website then you should see these kinds of subtle changes over time as well. So it’s not a matter of waiting for a specific change to see those changes in effect.”
Quality Websites Also Lose Rankings
A keyword you need to remember every time there is a Google update that stresses you out: relevance. You might ask, “My content and web design are top-notch. I followed white hat SEO techniques to a tee. Why did I lose my rankings?”
According to Mueller, it’s not you. It’s Google.
There is nothing wrong with your website or your SEO strategies. Google algorithms simply have their own standards (whatever they maybe). And you can also look at this is in a non-negative way. Google just needs to sort out things so wait for it to calm down.
Learning from a Google Algorithm Update
(1) Ranking losses do not necessarily mean a website has quality issues. Content, website structure, slow load time, and other technical factors may not be the cause of it. While these are valid concerns and factors that Google does pay attention to when ranking websites, generally, a core algorithm update has nothing to do with them.
(2) Users are recommended to be open to other possibilities and not be so hung up on technical issues. Google core updates rank websites according to relevance more often than not. While you cannot disregard technicality altogether, look into relevance first before jumping to conclusions.