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A mature view on Google’s Broad Core Updates

I didn’t want to write this blog post / viewpoint. Within SEO we have this need to blindly publish content and opinions on everything that comes along with the hope of being seen as an authority – often with little to no value being added. I am not that guy. CreativeRace are not that business. But, every time Google publishes a new update, the same cycle of first to publish nonsense ensues that has been going on since Google Caffeine and prior, so I feel it is time to put my mark in the sand.

May 25th saw the official acknowledgment of the May Core Algorithm update. By all means have a read but you will soon realise it doesn’t actually say much. It certainly doesn’t give you a blueprint to turn to should your site suddenly tank. So it is understandable I guess that people turn to SEO practitioners for answers.

Well, the truth is we don’t know. We don’t have a secret phone that rings telling us of these things in advance. Yes, some of us have relationships with various Google representatives but this doesn’t make us privy to an insider track and it shouldn’t. All we can do is analyse the data, take past experiences into account and try to formulate rational reasons as to why certain sites have gained and other have lost out.

What do we really know about these Broad Core Updates?

From what we have seen from past core updates, these major rollouts span much more than a single aspect of how Google works. Certain types of site or activity are often affected more so than others, but it doesn’t seem that Google is taking direct action against a specific type of site such as affiliate sites, a particular type of content such as Your Money or Your Life (YMYL), or a particular technique such as PBNs.

Instead it is Google changing things to move further towards understanding and relevance, based on what it can learn from the Worldwide Web at scale. Sometimes, it looks like Google has simply devalued another group of websites, in effect reducing their ability to pass PageRank and contribute in any way, but in reality it is more likely to be a load of smaller tweaks all bundled together in a way that makes it impossible to reverse engineer or identify what has changed. I love that. I have always come at SEO from the mindset of “what would I do if I ran Google?”

Penguin – bad links – disavow – be less obvious
Panda – bad content – remove or rework – be less obvious.

Rolling multiple things together is what I would do.

Do Google know what is going on?

While “It is all done by AI now so even Google don’t know what is going on” is an exciting string to consider, it isn’t true. Everything is documented. There isn’t this self-developing thing preparing to take over the world. Yes, Google sometimes make mistakes. It is impossible not to when you consider the size of testing that would be required to avoid error. This is probably the reason why Google can’t make any massive changes – it’s more a case of incremental tweaks over time that hopefully all add up to something massive.

How should I adapt post May 2022?

Firstly, wait prior to making any fundamental changes. It takes time for this scale of update to really kick in and the spikes or cliffs you may be currently seeing might have reverted within the next two weeks without any major change.

If they do stick, we always advise taking an honest look at how you stack up against your competitors from the lens of your users. Are you a brand in their eyes? Do you have the same levels of trust? Are you supporting your users, digitally, to the same level?

SEO has been more than tech, links and content for a long time now, and it is important to look beyond these three staple SEO battlegrounds.

There will be occasional anomalies where someone ranks and you think they shouldn’t. Look deeper. Look at your competitors as a set rather than individuals and – more importantly – look internally.

Once the dust has settled, there may not be anything to change. You might be on the right track and the next update might benefit you without any massive changes to strategy. Or you may realise that your current efforts are in vain.

Here you need to take a realistic stance on can you genuinely compete with what Google currently favours. The chances of Google suddenly seeing those terrible links or those automated thin pages as gold dust are infinitely small.

Remember, Google doesn’t care if you rank or not. It isn’t that granular. If the first 20 results are good enough, job done. If they are not, the PPC ads should fill that void. If they don’t then maybe you didn’t search for the right thing, cue ‘people also asked’…