The 5-Stage Secret Process to Survive A Google Algorithm Update
A Google SEO update is announced, and your site starts seeing traffic drops—what do you do?
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about dealing with and recovering from Google algorithm updates.
Google’s been on an algorithm update rampage in 2022
2022’s been a big year for SEO. In February, we had the page experience update, and then in March, the product reviews update. In May, the first Google core update of the year was announced with broad changes to how its ranking system assessed content. In August, Google’s helpful content update was rolled out, with a focus on building human-first content. In September, there was a second product review update that overlapped with the helpful content update. And, in October, we had the google spam update.
They won’t release information about the percentage of global search queries affected by the latest Google algorithm update, but there have been reports of BIG swings in rankings. And we still have two months left of 2022… What else could be in store?!
It’s totally understandable if you’re feeling STRESSED by SEO right now
SEOs have been dealing with the fallout from Google’s tinkering for years. If you’re a digital marketer or SEO, chances are you’ve had to deal with at least one crisis caused by a Google algorithm update in your career. Especially since it can feel like Google is changing the goalposts for SEO on an almost daily basis.
So what should marketers do when it seems like everything they know about SEO stops working overnight? The answer might surprise you: stop trying so hard to please Google and focus more on pleasing your audience instead!
What should you do when your site is severely affected by a Google algorithm update?
First, DON’T PANIC. All is not lost. Stay calm, and figure out the following:
- What type of update was it?
- How did it affect your site? Did you lose rankings or traffic?
- How did it affect your competitors’ sites? Did they gain more traffic and/or rankings after the update as well?
- What can be done about this situation to get back on track again?
How to survive a google algorithm update without tearing your hair out
Google algorithm updates are a fact of life. Google is constantly evolving its search engine to keep up with the ever-changing online landscape, and this means that you’re going to have to reevaluate your SEO strategy from time to time. A Google algorithm update isn’t a punishment for not keeping up with trends or changes. Google simply updates its algorithms as needed and moves on —so learn how to do the same!
Compare your situation to the 5 stages of grief
It might seem a little melodramatic, but we can understand if what you’re feeling when you’ve lost your rankings progress due to a Google algorithm update is akin to something traumatic like grief. It’s hard to accept that your hard work is gone and there’s nothing you can do about it.
We honestly feel that you’ll see some parallels with the 5 stages of grief and that this process can help you provide a framework to make sense of where you are and figure out how to move forward.
The 5 stages of grief:
The first stage is denial. You’re not sure what’s happening and you may think that nothing has changed. You might question if what you’re noticing is real. This is because the first thought of a confident SEO specialist is that you’re doing everything right!
The second stage is anger. This will probably be directed at Google. All SEO experts have this love-hate relationship with Google. You’d do anything to get in its good books, but Google also blew up your hard work! You may also feel angry with yourself for not foreseeing the issue.
Stage three is bargaining. “Please let me get through this update so I don’t have to start from scratch again!” You may frantically seek answers from your community to try to find an easy solution and way out of this. (Protip: Your community is unlikely to have the answers when even the engineers at Google don’t know it. Sorry.)
The fourth stage of grief comes with depression: “Is there no hope left?” You’ll probably spend several hours or even days feeling numb and defeated. At this stage, there’ll be nothing you can do since you need more data to decide on how you can re-optimize your site.
The fifth and final stage of grief is acceptance. You deserve gentle congratulations for reaching this stage. You’ll realize that there’s nothing you can do to change the situation or save your site in the short term. You start to shift to long-term thinking, and once you’ve compiled enough data from the community and your own analytics you’ll be ready to start living the rest of your life and put the pain of the fallout from the last Google algorithm update behind you.
Here’s what you should do to survive the latest Google SEO update
First, don’t rush in. Before you act, you need to get a handle on what’s going on. You’ll likely see rankings fluctuate in the short term, but then it will take a few days for the new Google algorithm update fallout to settle down. Then you’ll see the true impact.
If, after a pause, your rank is still dropping then it’s time for action. But don’t rush in, or Google may penalize you for being a try-hard. A good rule of thumb is to wait 3 weeks. This gives the new rankings time to settle down and offers time for Google itself to provide confirmation that it exists and any information they choose to divulge.
It also gives you time to start your plan.
1. Do your research
The first step is to find out what the update was and what it targeted. Was it a core algorithm or has it affected a specific vertical? You can turn to the community for clues to the answer.
Next, you’ll want to look at how you ranked for keywords that used to work for you and see if you can find commonalities with other sites that were hit hard by the update. A spreadsheet will come in handy for this. It makes it easy to compare your rankings with other websites that have also been impacted by this change. When researching what happened with your own and your competitor’s websites treat any data with a little suspicion. Just because a competitor has been successful at recovering from an algorithmic penalty doesn’t mean all sites are affected equally.
2. Try to get in Google’s head
If you can understand what Google was trying to achieve with their latest update and get inside the head of an algorithm maker, you’ll be on track to figuring out why you’re not giving them what they’re looking for anymore.
Understanding what Google is thinking when they make these updates gives us SEOs and marketers a head start in creating content that fits their criteria and expectations. For example, the October 2022 spam update was to exclude sites that violate any aspect of the spam policy. So, if you’ve been impacted, it’s because you are triggering suspicion.
If it’s none of the obvious issues, like hidden content or redirects, maybe your content is a little thin. Ensure you’re creating rich, useful, meaty content. Ensure the most natural language, check your keyword density and recalibrate your spam-o-meter. If you don’t already, get a professional writer on the case, and we aren’t talking about the cheapest you can find from Fiverr. This latest update means you, really, REALLY need to invest in your content and make it super professional.
3. Address the basics
First, marketers and SEOs need to make sure the basics are taken care of. So make sure you do a technical audit of your website to check for any issues that could be impacting its performance in the SERPS.
Next, you’ll need to work on your on and off-page SEO. Audit your content, your internal linking strategy, and your backlink profile.
Work on your Core Web Vitals (CWV), which will measure how well your site is doing in terms of UX, load speed, and more. These are all crucial yet often overlooked factors in SEO success. CWVs also include relevance signals like clickthrough rate from SERPs versus organic listings, along with conversion rates. Don’t overlook user signals like bounce rate and time spent on site. Also, look at engagement metrics like time spent reading content – so if you’re falling behind here, do you need to up your word counts or the quality of your content? Is it your structure that needs work? And that leads us to the final stage of your plan:
4. Build your content strategy all over again around the Google algorithm update
Next, you need to build your content strategy around what types of content will best address your current shortcomings and ensure it aligns with user intent right now.
Implement E-A-T in your SEO content strategy. If your content it’s not in line with user intent or doesn’t have the right level of expertise, authority or trust then it won’t rank well.
Strategies for implementing E-A-T in your content strategy include:
- Creating content around topics that are unique to you and your industry
- building an author brand that can be leveraged across multiple channels (no more anonymous blogs)
- creating educational resources for your audience (infographics, ebooks, etc.)
- link-building strategies that focus on high-quality backlinks from reputable sites
If you’re affected by the latest Google algorithm update, you’ll get through this
Take a deep breath. It’s daunting, but you got there before so you can 100% get there again. It might take time, but the number one thing any marketer or SEO can learn from taking a hit from a Google algorithm update is to NEVER count your SEO chickens before your eggs have hatched.
SEOs never know what Google has up its sleeve. Building agility into your SEO strategy, along with the analytics software that will give you the data you need to be responsive, is going to be your number one plan for recovery from Google algorithm nightmares. And if a free SEO audit might help you start getting things back on track, click here to get one.
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