There are basically 3 types of Google updates: Small, Medium, and Large. I was going to use Starbucks sizes for this analogy, but that seemed pretentious. Typing the words Venti update made me hate myself.
Small updates happen quietly behind the scenes. Not even the most hardcore SEO nerds in our Toronto SEO company will really notice them. There is no appreciable difference and there are literally a few thousand of these every year.
Next, you have medium-sized updates. These would be core updates and core refreshes. These are sorta-big deals. In most cases, it’s good (not crucial) to be aware of them. Google will often give us an idea of what was involved, but not a lot of detail. You may experience fluctuations in some of your keywords.
Then there are large updates. These are typically the ones that Google talks openly about and they give webmasters a fair amount of warning. That includes this year’s Page Experience update.
To make sure you’re ready for the Page Experience Update, or anything after that, here are a few things you need to know.
1. This Update Does Not Change ‘What Google Wants’
This is actually a pretty good time to work in SEO, because the search algorithm has never made more sense than it does right now. Google has been moving in a very predictable direction for the last few years, and most core updates have really just been incremental steps forward.
Here’s what Google likes:
- Good content
- Organic links from high-quality sites
- Good site speeds
- Mobile-friendly sites
- Sites with a good user experience (UX)
The Page Experience update focuses on that last point. It’s all about rewarding the sites that are providing users with the best experience, while helping to clarify what a good user experience is. Basically, you will need to do 4 things for this update:
- Make your pages as fast as possible: Refer to a Core Web Vitals test
- Fix cumbersome interstitial ads: Refer to Google’s guidelines
- Ensure your mobile experience is rock solid: Refer to their mobile-friendliness test
- Address any security issues: Make sure your site is HTTPS and remove any malware
There is really nothing new there. If you had issues with any of those things before the page experience update, you were probably already having SEO issues.
We like to say that if you spend the whole year doing the right things, you should feel relaxed going into any sort of update—even a bit excited! But if you haven’t been doing the homework, you should probably be worried.
2. A Drop in Rankings Does Not Mean You’re Being ‘Punished’
Only one thing is truly certain after every Google update: Their Twitter feed will be lit up with furious webmasters asking why they’re being punished.
Keywords are going to rise and fall. There is a natural fluctuation. That’s the nature of SEO. It can be frustrating to think you’re doing all of the right things, only to see your rankings drop after an update. But framing it as being punished is a problematic way of thinking about SEO.
That mentality will:
- Hurt your future SEO efforts
- Drive you completely insane
Here’s how Google would like you to think about dropping in the keyword rankings.
“There’s nothing wrong with pages that may perform less well in a core update. They haven’t violated our webmaster guidelines nor been subjected to a manual or algorithmic action… Instead, the changes are about improving how our systems assess content overall. These changes may cause some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better.”
I think that the last passage is particularly important: previously under-rewarded content is now doing better. Google isn’t suddenly seeing your content as bad. They are now seeing other content as better.
Adopting this mentality can help you revisit your content and make the required changes that get you back on track. This is better than getting frustrated and quitting SEO forever because you think that Google hates you and is punishing you.
Try a different type of SEO audit by looking at your competitors’ content instead of your own. Look at what is currently outranking you. Ask yourself what they could be doing better.
Ask yourself if any of these things could improve your content:
- A better headline
- New statistics/insights
- Better images/ an infographic
- More backlinks
Upping your game in any of these ways can help you climb back into the rankings and help you write better content moving forward.
3. The Next Time Google Gives You Time, Take Advantage of it!
As mentioned earlier, Google will sometimes give us a warning that something fairly big is coming. For example, they gave us more than a year’s worth of notice for The Core Web Vitals, while Mobile-first indexing has been slowly rolled out over a few years.
They do this because:
- If you’re an SEO company or marketing firm, you may have to change several sites
- If you’re a small business owner, you don’t have time to worry about SEO every day
With a year or more to prepare, it can be really easy to put off your homework until the night before it’s due. But don’t do that.
For example, as of May 2021, 60% of surveyed SEOs said that they used this year to make improvements to their sites’ page speeds. What about the other 40%? One could assume that all of their sites are already running super fast. Or we could assume that they will see a reduction in rankings and traffic very soon.
Trust us, if you have time, use that time. We certainly did! We have been pretty obsessed with page speed optimization for the last year, actually.
Have You Seen a Recent Drop in Rankings or Traffic?
Do you feel like you’ve been hurt by a recent update? Or have you simply seen a decline in your SEO rankings and organic traffic? We can help!
Our experienced strategists can help you find any issues, and create a customized plan that will help update-proof and future-proof your SEO success.