What is the Google Core Update & Why Does it Matter?

Google's Core Updates effect most sites on the Internet. It's important to understand them.
PJ Haarsma
May 21, 2021

What is the Google Core Update & Why Does it Matter?

Google updates its search systems frequently to keep results relevant and useful. In 2010, it made 516 changes, averaging about 1 to 2 per day. But in 2018, the search engine made 3,234 changes to its search system, averaging 9 to 10 changes per day.

According to the tech giant, some of these changes focus on specific improvements. Some introduce new features, while others are regular updates meant to keep results relevant as content on the internet changes.  

Google notes that changes to the autosuggestion predictions and knowledge panel happen fast and usually go unnoticed. However, improvements around the core web results are gradual and take time. That's because core updates make major algorithmic adjustments.

What is the Google Core update?

Several times a year, Google makes broad and significant changes to its search algorithms and systems. These are called core updates. Google performs these updates to deliver on its mission to present relevant and superior content to its customers: people who use Google to search the internet. Think of a core update as Google's way of responding to changes in how people write, publish, and read content over time.

But since these Google updates are massive, they tend to produce some widely notable effects. Some sites may note statistical gains or drops during core updates. Google often confirms core updates, but it rarely reveals everything about how the algorithm works. This prevents abusive strategies by site owners trying to improve their rankings. Google also wants to ensure that these owners don't fix wrong things though sometimes, there might not be anything to fix at all.

Google's core updates aim to improve the quality and relevance of search results, with most changes focusing on one or more specific features, like optimization to combat duplicate content or fight search engine spam.

Redbear discusses Google Core Update

How to survive Google core updates

Google algorithm updates aren't a bad thing. They can even boost your ranking on search engine results pages. However, the goal is to ensure that you're only using white hat Search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to rank. White hat SEO is the best way to build an ethical, feasibly successful site to survive Google core updates. It involves:

  • Creating high-quality content that addresses your visitor's pain points.
  • Using expressive keyword meta tags to attract organic traffic. You can perform keyword research to identify the right keywords if you don't have them already.
  • Making your site easy to navigate.
  • Optimizing your images for quick load times.
  • Building reputation through off-page optimization strategies like link building.

Latest Core Updates

Google makes thousands of updates annually. As mentioned earlier, some of these changes are slight and go unnoticed. But occasionally, it rolls out major updates that affect the search engine results page. RankBrain, Mobilegeddon, EMD, Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird, Payday, Pigeon, and Page Layout Algorithm are some great examples of changes that Google has made over the past years.

There have also been several core updates, with the latest ones being the December 2020 Core Update and the June 2021 Core Update. The December 2020 Core Update served as a wake-up call for site owners and marketers to prioritize content quality and relevance and take their content to the next level. A report by Search Engine Land revealed that this update significantly impacted sites with content that lacked life and personality.

The June 2021 Core Update or Core Web Vitals update, as it's referred to, will consider web vitals like ranking signals. This includes aspects of your site like UX signals, HTTPS security, and site speed. The update aims at enhancing the user experience. It handles search results quality by offering users results that are friendly and easy to use. Sites that aren't fast enough or have non-secure HTTP links and large images will take a hit with this update.

Initially, this June 2021 Core Update was scheduled for May 2021, but Google announced that it would start using page experience as part of its ranking systems from mid-June 2021. It also added that the page experience wouldn't play its full role as part of those systems until the end of August. This update is meant to highlight pages that provide a great user experience. Page experience is one of the ranking factors that Google's systems consider.

What are Core Web Vitals?

A Google core update is coming that focuses on user-centric metrics like load times, visual stability, and interactivity of content on web pages as they load. This update that will be rolling out in early June 2021 is called the Core Web Vitals. It ensures that users get accurate yet fast results for their search queries. The search engine looks to add the Core Web Vitals to the existing search signals for page experience. This includes HTTP security, safe browsing, mobile-friendliness, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.

Elements of Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals consist of three main page speed and user interaction measurements. They include:

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) for loading performance

LCP is the amount of time it takes for the largest item to load fully. It's how long it takes a page to load, from when it starts loading to when the text block or biggest image becomes visible to the user. An LCP of 2.5 or less is suitable for a better user experience.

First Input Delay (FID) for interactivity

This refers to the amount of time it takes the user to interact with a page. It includes clicking links from the navigation bar and main menu to completing forms and so on. Anything slower than 100milliseconds is suboptimal.

Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) for visual stability

It is how stable a page is when it loads. If elements keep shifting or disappearing, then it has a high CLS, which is terrible. For a better user experience, a site should maintain the CLS of 0.1 or less.

Google often confirms its core updates to keep Google webmasters and the SEO community in the loop. Usually, it does this through its Google Search Liaison account on Twitter. But in some cases, it does not announce the update. This makes it hard to anticipate the changes that are coming and when they're likely to take effect. SEO audits can help you monitor such changes and take actions to mitigate any damage.

Proper technical SEO for your website is vital if you want to compete in today’s market. Take the time to make sure your marketing company or SEO technician takes these Google Core updates seriously.

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About the author:

PJ Haarsma is an author and Emmy winning producer. He has been entrenched in the world of advertising for over 30 years and is certified by MIT in data analytics.
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