Help! I was affected by Google’s core algorithm update!
This week: An algorithm update is Google’s attempt at updating and refreshing the ranking process. If May's update affected your site, read on for how best to respond as a news SEO.
Hello, and welcome back. Shelby here, writing on a much-needed vacation to the mountains. You really don’t know what “slowing down” means until you’re able to enjoy a tea on your balcony surrounded by summits.
Originally, I was going to discuss the importance of homepages and your search strategy. However, as I’m sure you’re well aware, there was a core Google algorithm update this past month! As natural as the flowing river outside my window, SEOs all freaked out and worried about their rankings.
This week: we’re going to discuss what a Google algorithm update is, what the core update from May means and how algorithms affect news in particular.
Also this week: We'll be in New York City to speak at NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute (and to see the city. Send us recommendations for the best walks and book stores – and if you’re around, we would love to get a coffee! Send a DM!). That also means no new newsletter next week – but catch up on our archive (perhaps a look at evergreen SEO, topical authority or Google Discover?).
Join our Slack community to chat SEO any time.
Let’s get it.
In this issue:
What is an algorithm update?
What did the May update do?
How do I prepare as a news SEO?
What is an algorithm update?
A quick history lesson: Google’s ranking systems – which crawl, index and rank all of the information online – are made up of a series of algorithms. Those algorithms use many, many factors (including relevancy, usability of the pages, keywords, expertise of sources, freshness) to decide the ranking of the webpages.
An algorithm update is Google’s attempt at updating and refreshing the ranking process to provide “high standards of relevance and quality.” The algorithm changes are based on a “rigorous process” that involves both live tests and Search Quality Raters.
Google makes thousands of changes in a year. They happen frequently, and the impact of the update will vary. Sometimes, you’ll see major fluctuations in what is showing in SERPs. Other days, you’ll hear more from the rumble in your stomach post-coffee than from Google’s updates.
Search Engine Journal has a full history of all of Google’s updates from the very beginning, including the major algorithmic updates that significantly impacted the SERPs.
What did the May 2022 core update do?
You may have heard a murmur – or fifty – about a recent core update for Google Search. The May 2022 core update rolled out between May 25 and June 9. Google said the update was “designed to increase the overall relevancy of our search results and make them more helpful and useful for everyone.”
According to the very active search community, this was a “big update and rolled out quickly.” Volatility was high, so it’s possible the rankings for some of your pages may have changed. Some in the community also believe the update heavily affected AI-generated content (content created automatically by a computer).
Lily Ray at Amsive Digital put together a May 2022 update winners, losers and analysis, where she collected the 1,000 winning and losing domains and used Sistrix Visibility Index for Google.com (U.S. based). You can see the full list of winners and losers in the analysis, and some very interesting notes around big-moving sites (The Washington Post saw the highest visibility increases for the U.S.-based publishers). Lily also shares a few other tidbits of analysis, such as TikTok’s massive increase for celebrity or business keywords – mostly TikTok profiles.
THE HOW TO
Google updates and news publishers – what to do if you were affected
Google algorithm updates affect all sites in different ways. John Mueller, Google’s Search Advocate, has said core updates focus on the relevance of the website rather than individual issues.
News publishers will experience the same fluctuations as other sites depending on what the update entails. But if you are affected by a Google algorithm update, fear not.
The answer to what to do is always the same: improve your site, improve your content.
This is an opportunity to look at your site holistically and decide where you can make improvements. For example, if core updates are focused on relevancy and you are affected negatively, step back and revamp your strategy around specific verticals, suggest new ideas or create new topic pages.
Don’t worry too much about the technical components – these core updates rarely affect those and are more likely to be around relevancy, which means thinking about your on-page SEO and topic coverage.
In the past, Mueller has said focusing on things like the usability, ads on the page or the way you’re presenting your journalism/content and the sources behind the journalism itself.
For news SEOs, it’s important to focus on quality journalism, a quality reader experience and providing relevant information.
If you are affected: work on providing expertise, authority and trustworthiness on your site – particularly your top-ranking articles, topic or section pages. If you have an older random wire story that still ranks well for a coveted keyword, ask: How can you improve that page? Consider adding new, fresh information, links to evergreen pieces or paths to additional reporting on your site.
As always: if the journalism is quality, you’ll be okay.
The bottom line: Google algorithm updates happen frequently and can be tumultuous. Keep a level head as you approach each update and continue to make quality improvements to the quality of your content and the experience for the reader.
THE JOBS LIST
These are roles across the globe we see that are audience positions in journalism. Want to include a position for promotion? Email us.
The Ohio Local News Initiative is hiring an audience editor with a focus on SEO (based in Cleveland).
ESPN is hiring a Senior SEO Analyst (hybrid, based in Bristol, Connecticut).
Search Engine Journal: Tools and methods for exporting Google Search Results to Excel.
Ahrefs: Why are on-page SEO and off-page SEO important?
Kyle Sutton, director of SEO for the USA TODAY network, was on the Own Thy Audience podcast talking about simplifying news SEO. (Catch up with friend of the newsletter Barry Adams who made a recent podcast appearance, too.)
Weigh in on the WTF is SEO Slack: How do you rebrand a section of your website with SEO in mind?