Google algorithm updates – what are they and why are they so important?

Aug 9, 2019 by
Google algorithm updates – what are they and why are they so important?

As the company arguably holding the keys to the internet (or at least the digital marketing world), Google is constantly evolving. Those evolutions are not always particularly successful, but when you’re the market leader, standing still means potentially losing your crown to younger, hungrier competitors.

One of the areas that they are continually working on is the algorithm that sits at the beating heart of the search engine that gave the company its name and its legacy.

These Google algorithm updates are often met with a collective groan from online markets and particularly those who work in SEO, where their bread and butter relies on that algorithm and working with it to produce results. But for those who might be relatively new to the game, what exactly is this algorithm and why is it so important?

What is the Google algorithm?

Essentially, the Google algorithm is a list of rules that Google sets in place in order to rank the vast amounts of content published online. Given the sheer, increasingly heavy amounts of data being uploaded online, that algorithm needs to get more complex and more nuanced as the monumental database that is the internet expands.

How does it work?

The algorithm exists to catalogue the internet and the algorithm takes many factors into account when creating that catalogue. Everything from the words used to search and the relevance of the site, to the location and search history of the user and the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (or EAT) of the source are all taken into account.

Searches are contextual too, so the algorithm makes allowances for this by reading into what a user wants and delivering that to them. It’s really rather clever and it’s only getting smarter.

Why is it important?

Because the algorithm dictates whether or not your site ends up on page 1 or page 100 of the Google search results, when that algorithm changes, it could be either a major blow or a significant boon to your business. That’s why it’s always wise to stay on top of the latest SEO updates, no matter how small they might be.

Why so many changes?

With as many searches made a day as there are people on the planet and around 15% of those 7 billion searches being completely new queries, Google has to constantly stay on top of the over 5 billion pages it currently indexes.

That’s why the Google staff are always making minor revisions, often every other day. The daily work is mostly fine-tuning, of course, but it’s the big named ‘core’ updates that you really want to pay attention to. The big ‘famous’ updates are the ones that did away with the keyword stuffing cowboys (Google Penguin in 2012) and the Mobilegeddon update in 2015 that prioritised mobile-friendly pages.

The latest update

The last major update rolled out on the 3rd of June, 2019 and was notable for being the first major update that Google had informed its users of, prior to launch. It was announced as “nothing big or special,” but within days many major SEO players were claiming loss of traffic, with news sites being hit hard.

Some have suggested that certain news sites might have been dropped in the ranks due to ‘fake news’ allegations, which would mean Google is doubling down on its commitment to trustworthy, quality content.

What does it mean for marketers?

For marketers, this update could prove troubling, as digital marketing is rarely accused of spawning what we would refer to as ‘premium content’. However, if it also leads to better marketing content overall, and less fanfare being given to the sites that wantonly promote false news stories to line their own pockets then it might end up being a huge benefit to those marketers who pride themselves on the quality and integrity of their work.