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‘Algorithm updates’ aren’t the end of the world for SEO managers – TechCrunch

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Eli Schwartz is an SEO expert and consultant with over a decade of experience working for leading B2B and B2C companies.

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Whenever a rumor of a Google algorithm update occurs, a general panic ripples through the SEO community. After the update is released, especially if Google confirms it, many articles and pundit analyses attempt to dissect what Google changed and won in the new paradigm. There is a collective holding of breath while the numbers are analyzed and then a sigh of relief (hopefully) when they survive the algorithm update unscathed.

I believe all this angst is entirely misplaced. The Google algorithm is made out to be some mystical secret recipe cooked up in a lab designed to simultaneously rob and reward sites at the whims of a magical, all-knowing wizard. In this outdated schema, the goal of every SEO and web admin is to dupe this wizard and come out on the winning side of every update.

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Google’s algorithms are extensive and complex software programs that constantly need to be updated on real scenarios. This idea is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of what happens in a Google algorithm update — and a fundamental misunderstanding of Google. The reality is algorithms are not your enemy. They are designed to help create a better, more accurate user experience. Here are a few pieces of perspective that should help reframe your relationship with algorithms.

Google is just trying to help.

First, let’s establish this: Google is only trying to help. It is not a wizard; its system is not meant to rob and reward sites arbitrarily. The company wants to ensure a pleasurable, high-quality user experience for the searcher. Nothing more, nothing less.

Google’s algorithms are extensive and complex software programs that constantly need to be updated on real scenarios. Otherwise, they would be arbitrary. Just as bugs are reported and fixed in a software program, search engines must discover what’s not working and create solutions. Keep that in mind as we continue.

Like any other software company, Google releases updates with giant leaps forward to its products and services. However, they are called “major algorithm updates” in Google’s case instead of just product updates. You are now armed with knowing exactly what a Google algorithm update is. Is it not, then, gratifying to know there is never a reason to panic?

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A drop in search traffic isn’t necessarily hurting you

If a site experiences a decline in search traffic after a major algorithm update, it is rarely because the entire area was targeted. Typically, while one collection of URLs may be demoted in search rankings, other pages likely improve.

Seeing the improved pages requires deep diving into Google Search Console to drill into which URLs saw drops in traffic and witnessed gains. While a site can certainly see a steep decline after an update, it usually has more losers than winners. Any reduction is most definitely not because the algorithm punished the site.

With a recent update, Google removed the organic listing of sites that had a featured snippet ranking. I saw steep drops in impressions, but the clicks were virtually unchanged. If you see a decline, your site might not have lost real traffic in many cases; often, the losses represent only lost impressions already not converting into clicks. Gather and study your granular data for more precise information rendering rather than assuming the site has become a winner or loser after an update.

Focus on a great user experience, just like Google.

Websites that focus on providing users with a unique and high-quality experience shouldn’t fear algorithm updates. Updates can give the needed impetus to excel. The only websites that have something to fear are those that should not have had high search visibility in the first place because of a poor user experience. If your website provides an excellent user experience, updates are likely to help you because they winnow those more inadequate quality sites out of the running.

If you focus on a good user experience, pages may lose some traffic in algorithm updates. Still, in the aggregate, the site will typically gain traffic in most scenarios. Digging into the granular data of what changed will likely support the idea that websites do not suffer or benefit from algorithm updates — only specific URLs do.

Updates are a fact of search life.

Google’s primary motivation is to have an evolving product that will please and retain its users. Google will, and should, continuously update its algorithms. Consider that if Google leaves its algorithm alone, it risks being overrun by spammers who exploit loopholes.

A search function that provides too many spammy results will soon go the way of AOL, Excite, Yahoo, and every other search engine functionally no longer in existence. Google stays relevant by updating algorithms. Updates are a part of search life.

Chase the user, not the algorithm.

Instead of chasing the algorithm, which will inevitably change, I believe every website that relies on organic search should train its focus somewhere more important: on the user experience.

The user is the ultimate customer of search. If your site serves the user, it will be immunized from algorithm updates designed to protect the search experience. There is no algorithm wizard — only SEO masters who have figured out how to apply our website’sthe best processes, procedures, and actiite.

Algorithms and updates have only one purpose: to help users find exactly what they seek. Period. If you are helpful to the user, you have nothing to fear. This post is an excerpt from “Product-Led SEO: The Why Behind Building Your Organic Growth Strategy.”

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