How to Track Google Search Algorithm Updates

Jessica is a Google Analytics and Google Ads certified Digital Video Specialist at WebFX. She has created over 50 videos for the WebFX YouTube channel (youtube.com/webfx) in the last year. Jessica specializes in video marketing and also loves content marketing, SEO, social media marketing, and many other aspects of digital marketing. When she's not creating videos, Jessica enjoys listening to music, reading, writing, and watching movies.

Tracking Google search algorithm updates can be tricky, but Jess has the details on how you can spot and keep track of the latest changes from Google.

Transcript: Have you ever gotten excited that your website is at the top of the Google search results, only to be bummed later on when you notice that it’s been bumped down a few spots? 

You can thank the Google search algorithm for that. 

Google’s search algorithm is what determines where your content will rank when someone types in a search. 

It takes into account a bunch of different factors to figure out which websites have the most relevant and trustworthy information related to that particular search. 

There are over 200 factors that affect Google rankings, some of which include: 

  • Page speed
  • Links
  • Keywords
  • Mobile-friendliness

It’s not hard to be confused and overwhelmed by Google search algorithm updates. After all, Search Engine Land reports that Google can update its algorithm up to 600 times per year. 

So maybe the most important question here is… 

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How do you know if your website has been affected by Google algorithm changes?

Pinpointing this isn’t as easy as reading an article about the latest Google update. 

An update may roll out and have little impact on your site. You may also notice a spike or decline in site visitors. 

Basically, if you do notice a jump or total loss of traffic to your website, do some research and see if it corresponds with an algorithm update. (Keep watching for some helpful tools to track updates.)

Rankings typically fluctuate with an update, so don’t immediately panic if you see a lot of ups and downs. 

If you do notice a boost to your traffic but there hasn’t been an update, dig deeper into your pages to see what might be helping you. Maybe one of your pages was linked to in a popular blog. 

If you see a complete loss of traffic, your site may have been penalized by Google, and you’ll want to double-check your Google Search Console account to be sure. 

So how do you track Google search algorithm updates? 

Well, first, partnering with an agency like WebFX is a great way to stay on top of algorithm updates. If you’re not ready to partner with an award-winning agency, you can use some tools to track updates on your own.

Monitoring your website traffic with a tool like Google Analytics can help you keep track of major dips or spikes that might be the result of an algorithm update. But, again, not every change in traffic is because of an update. 

Remember the hundreds of updates I just mentioned? Not all of them are super important. 

An algorithm tracker—paired with your web analytics data—can help you focus on the updates that will actually impact your website. 

MozCastupdate tracker from Moz

Some great algorithm tracking tools are Moz’s MozCast and SEMrush’s Sensor.

I’d also recommend hopping on Twitter to get some quick updates. If you follow any SEO professionals, it’s pretty likely they’ll tweet about the latest Google algorithm changes.

Google also has a Twitter account called Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) where you’ll learn about the latest updates and changes to the algorithm. I’d highly recommend keeping an eye on that.

Google's Search Liaison Twitter account

What does the Google algorithm mean for SEO?

An SEOs job is never done. 

The constant Google algorithm changes mean that SEO professionals can’t just optimize a site once and be done. SEO is an ongoing task that requires as much research as it does implementation.

That’s why investing in ongoing SEO, whether you do it yourself or work with an SEO agency, is so important for your website. 

This also means that if you hire an SEO specialist and they promise you page one, number one rankings, you should walk away. That’s not something even the best SEO agencies can guarantee. 

Before this video comes to an end, let me just go over some of the biggest search algorithm updates in the last decade. 

Major Google search algorithm updates 

While not every Google update makes waves, some create tsunamis. 

If Google announces a core update, you can usually expect to see a lot of change.

Google announces a December 2020 Core Update on Twitter

A few of the most infamous updates of the decade are:

  • Google Panda
  • Google Penguin
  • Google BERT

I just want to reiterate that these are just a few of many important updates.

Google Panda

Back in the dark ages, a.k.a. 2011, Google released a major update that changed the way websites created content. 

Pre-Panda, sites could rank highly with low-quality content. The Panda update gave a boost to sites that contained high-quality, trustworthy content. 

Google Penguin

Also back in the days of yore, known as 2012, people could purchase links from spammy websites and see positive results on Google. They could also shove a bunch of keywords into their content and rank well. 

The Penguin update made it so that sites taking advantage of link schemes and keyword stuffing aren’t featured prominently on the first page of the search results. 

Google BERT

Lastly, Google BERT is the most recent of the infamous Google updates. 

While this update doesn’t necessarily penalize sites for bad SEO practices, it encourages content creators to write for people, not search engines (although they should’ve been doing that anyway.)

BERT took Google a step forward in how it understands language in searches. 

BERT helps Google take the context of content into account even more than it did before, giving users better search results. 

And that’s the last of the Google updates I’ll talk about…but it’s certainly not the last of the Google updates. 

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I know I just threw a lot of information at you. The good thing is, if you have already partnered with an SEO agency, your partner should have a very good understanding of Google search algorithm updates so you don’t have to keep looking out for them. 

If you want to partner with an SEO agency that will keep your website on excellent terms with Google, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at WebFX.

And as always, like this video and subscribe to our YouTube channel for the latest in digital marketing. 

Thanks for watching!