Google’s broad core updates in early June have left some brands staggering in the wake of lost traffic. Some of the ramifications of the update weren’t a surprise for those following trends in the wake up the previous Medic update, but a shake-up in the SERPs is always a game of Russian roulette for companies that rely heavily on organic traffic to fill the coffers.
Here’s what you need to know about Google’s June 2019 Core update.
What Is a Core Update?
Core updates are an overall optimization of Google’s algorithm based on broad principles instead of a targeted update on any one particular element or ranking factor. They’re not “maintenance” work meant to fix a specific, identified problem.
Updates such as Panda or Penguin were targeted — specifically meant to target issues such as the quality of backlinks or content. The June core update may include some changes related to quality, but it wasn’t specifically geared toward that.
When releasing core updates Google always advises there isn’t anything you need to “fix” to recover lost rankings. Moreover, you just need to do all the essential SEO things well including writing great SEO content, providing great user experience, being mobile friendly, having fast page speeds, building healthy backlinks, and updating your site often.
Takeaways and Talking Points for Google’s June 2019 Core Update
Let’s start by looking over some of the expert talking points of this broad core algorithm update and what they mean for brands and content marketers.
1. Google Announced the Update
Google announced the update via Twitter a day ahead of time to give the SEO community a heads up. This is the first time news about an update was broken by Google and ahead of the game.
The benefit of the announcement is that brands could monitor their SEO performance and traffic immediately to understand how they were impacted instead of second guessing after traffic changed.
The takeaway is that, whether or not Google continues to notify the community of updates in the future, it’s important for content marketers to follow industry leaders and keep up with trends and news.
2. The Core Update Overlapped With the Diversity Update
The core update rolled out from June 3 through June 8. The diversity update(which aimed to show links from different domains in search results instead of showing many links from one domain) rolled out from June 4 through June 6.
The takeaway for brands is that paying attention to when traffic changes began is critical to understand which update might be impacting you. That lets you know what types of changes may be needed in the future.
3. The June Update Reverted Some of the March Update
Some of the March core updates seem to have been reverted with the June update, based on losers in March becoming winners in June.
The takeaway is that you can’t ride or die based on Google updates that occur a few times per year. You have to find what works for your audience and concentrate on delivering high-quality content that serves consumer needs.
4. Video Carousels Get More Action
The June 2019 update did more than shake up search traffic. It also caused some changes to the SERPs themselves, with more video carousels appearing on desktop following the update.
The takeaway here isn’t very specific. This does point to Google signaling the continued value increase for video, which is something all content marketers should consider in the image-and-media-based market today.
Winners and Losers From June’s Update
SEO data companies, including Search Engine Land, are able to provide specific lists of winners and losers of the Google June 2019 core update. But the consensus seems to be that:
- E-A-T content is still important to success in the SERPs
- Google continues to look for authority and authorship, especially in YMYL (your money, your life) arenas
- The June update did seem to target news sites with low-quality content or low-quality topics
Some Advice From the SEO Community in the Wake of June’s Core Update
1. Concentrate on E-A-T Content
Arren Wilkinson, the SEO Manager at 52fridays says, “It’s clear to me that the June 2019 update heavily penalized sites that are lacking in E-A-T. Of most of our client sites that seemed to suffer the most, all were lacking in expertise in their editorial content. These sites also suffered during the Medic update of 2019.”
In the wake of these broad core updates, Wilkinson says, “My best piece of advice would be to work solely on improving your E-A-T; get experts to contribute to your editorial content, get cited from experts in your niche, and be transparent with your users (explain how your site makes money, its business model, etc.).”
Marissa Ryan, a Managing Partner at VisualFizz, goes even further, stating that author bios for your blog posts should read like resumes. She notes that bios should prove “the writer’s expertise in your industry by linking to other projects, other writings and other brands.”
Ryan also says companies should avoid using one author for all content. “You should have multiple writers on your blog.”
This advice about authority and E-A-T content is important for all companies, but it’s especially critical for YMYL brands as Google is paying increasing attention to the quality and authority of that content.
2. Remember That Search Algorithms Constantly Evolve
Audrey Strasenburgh, SEO Strategist at FreeLogoServices, points out that brands gain and lose traffic based on different algorithm tweaks. Strasenburgh says, “The general consensus is that websites that were severely impacted during the March algorithm update saw marked increases in site visibility after the June update. FreeLogoServices, in particular, saw an increase in SERPs after the June update where we did not fare as well in March.”
The takeaway for online brands and marketers is that lost rankings can be found again, and sometimes it’s about consistently churning good content while the dust settles in the SERPs.
3. Update Content to Reflect Search Intent and User Need
Victor Pan, the Principle Technical SEO at HubSpot, agrees that Google algorithm changes come and go and there’s no magic fix for companies that lose ranking when the search engine tweaks its processes.
“There’s no magic bullet for dealing with these core algorithm updates,” says Pan, “but what everyone can do is look at their content that lost visibility and traffic, look at the SERPS of those pages, empathize with the user’s need, based on device time, location, time of day or need state, what search features are showing up… and then update the content to address those gaps. Time and time again, the best content wins. One-and-done evergreen content is dead. Periodically updated evergreen content is the new norm.”
Ryan agrees, saying, “if your website hasn’t had any updates in a while (more than 6 months), you may have noticed a steep decline in organic traffic. Update your static pages, and make sure to contribute to your site at least once a week.”
The take-aways here are:
- Web pages can’t be left on the shelf to rot; you have to take them down and dust them off periodically
- Google is about serving the intent and need of the user, and it’s going to continue placing pages that meet those demands in the top ranks
- You can’t avoid analyzing the performance of your pages; if you don’t know which of your pages are performing well and which aren’t, you’re missing out on valuable knowledge that can help you create higher-ranking content going forward
4. Differentiate Your Pages
According to Ryan, pages on your site with similar content won’t all stand on Google.
“Brands, especially eCommerce brands, found that many of their product pages became unindexed from Google.” says Ryan. “This is because of Google’s canonical push, which means that if Google determined several pages on your website were too similar, they would only index one of those pages and consider it the canonical version of all the other pages that were very similar. If this happened to you, update your individual product/service pages to be completely unique and give lots of info about the product/service. Then, push to the Google search console for a recrawl.”
5. Ensure Your Site Supports Strong User Experience for Desktop and Mobile
Michael Zima, Co-Founder of Zima Media, LLC, wraps it all up by returning to the need to support the user.
“We have to remember that Google’s mission is to make the information of the world available in one click,” says Zima. “Now more than ever, your website content has to solve the searcher’s intent, visiting your website has to be a pleasure with a modern experience and everything has to be blazing fast since the mass rollout of the Google mobile-first indexing. We know Google is prioritizing the mobile version of your website for both searchers coming from either mobile devices or desktop computers as implied by the mobile-first name.”
Zima likens well-performing sites to Swiss army knives, unfolding with many utilities for the user. To accomplish that, he says, “We see more and more success by creating a reliable pillar webpage to bring more qualified clicks from Google by creating a meaningful piece of content instead of sprinting and creating several weaker and shorter pages.”