How I stopped worrying and learned to love the bomb

How to survive any Google update, core or otherwise, by following a simple set of rules. The same set of rules I follow for the past 10 years.

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Here’s something no one will ever tell you. Consultants, Agencies, Industry “Gurus” and all that jazz, we don’t know squat about Google core algorithm updates. 

There is not one person in the industry that can reliably tell you that he or she can predict or protect a site from the next search engine update. 

I’ve been in the industry for 15 years, and the one thing that I can tell you with certainty is that I don’t know anything for certain. There are no “gurus,” and there are no “experts.” Some people are devoted, and they research, experiment, and fail daily, and there are others.

As a consultant myself, I have had my share of failures. Failing is natural and even required to move ahead. 

This article has a goal to help you identify when a Google update is rolling out as well as how you need to act afterward or if you are lucky before the fact.

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Stay Calm 

One of the most common things I notice amongst SEO Specialists is the need to overreact. If you have ever followed a thread in the Google Webmaster Forums or are looking for answers within Twitter or Reddit, you will know what I am talking about. 

As a Consultant, I receive numerous calls at the time the news of an update hit the Twitter feed of my clients. Unfortunately, wanting to survive the update, they look online to get relevant information from the “experts” of the industry, only to see them beg for mercy. Panic hits the doors. 

Since the Panda, Penguin Era, and all the updates afterward, I noticed something that I have never shared with anyone.

Overreaction caused a panic that caused people to update their websites after reading a couple of articles on the day of the update, which in turn caused their website to lose their hard-earned organic visibility.

Of course, as you would expect, these people went back online to cry how the update caused them to lose everything. 

That mistake was so apparent to me that I made some rules that I follow to this day, and I urge you to do the same. 

Follow The Rules

Rule 1 – No reading the usual sites

I take a leave of absence from the typical “SEO News” websites. They are fun, and sometimes they post something interesting, but their articles are hardly ever usable during an update. They report what they find on online communities putting extra oil to the fire and leaving you with more questions than answers. 

Rule 2 – Read only the official announcements (Optional)

Reading the official reports sometimes will help calm you down. In most situations, it’s one of those “if you’ve seen it once you’ve seen it all.” Google won’t give away that much; you know, trade secrets and all, but unless something huge is happening that will shake the core of how the engine works, why should they. 

Rule 3 – It’s all right f***ing there

Seriously, there has never been an update that you couldn’t sail through by following the guidelines. In my experience, core updates, ever since I joined the industry, had to do with some quality update or patching some holes that people tried to exploit so much that you could fit a SpaceX through it. 

Let’s see some examples, 

Panda Update – Google asked people to stop using duplicate, spam, and low-value content to promote their website through the engines. People keep on building crappy content. BOOM! Panda.

Penguin Update – Google has been asking people to play nice and stop using link schemes to manipulate rankings. People don’t listen. BOOM! Penguin.

Hummingbird Update – Google tries to promote sites that match user intent. People that had low-value content lost traffic due to their inability to follow best practices. 

Hundreds of examples like this throughout the whole life of search are known. 

Rule 4 – Don’t go poking

Sometimes people find this peculiar, but I follow through and through. 

If nothing changes on my end – why should I go looking for what changes Google made on their engine? Am I going to find anything, or am I wasting my time trying to interpret the uninterpreted? 

I used to have multiple hands-on SEO clients in different industries before I decided to become a consultant. Back then, I could see which one was getting affected and who wouldn’t. If someone was getting less traffic than usual and their end goal were conversions, and that was the same, then I would pretty much say “Thank you,” and I would move on. 

For some reason, people need to know where that extra traffic that wasn’t converting went. Why do you care? Are you going to write a book about them? Why are you researching it! 

Rule 5 – Be honest with yourself

Something that I find fascinating with people that would go above and beyond to figure out how to avoid or how to protect their website from a future Google update. I dare you to look at the comments online. 

They are always looking for a loophole. 

“Any way that I could buy some links without being spotted?” 

No, Dick,(name pun intended) you can’t. You will be spotted, you will be penalized, and you will blame someone else later as usual.

Be honest with yourself. Check your website and write down all the things that you believe don’t look and feel right. 

  • Is the performance good enough?
  • Is it secure?
  • Does it provide a safe environment for your users?
  • Have you read your content, and does it read well?
  • Is it valuable for the user?
  • Does it solve a problem, or does it have a purpose for being there?
  • Is your website optimized properly?
  • Have you engaged in any shady techniques?

There are a thousand questions that I could ask, but in reality, if you are honest, you won’t have an issue with any update, core or otherwise.

Rule 6 – Due diligence

While I am always trying to optimize as best as possible the sites that I work on, while people are going about crying at Google SearchLiaison account I take the time to do my own due diligence.

I really don’t spend a whole lot of time on it but I do check the basic on-page optimization factors that I know engines like, I make sure that my performance hasn’t taken a hit since the last time I checked and I check my backlink portfolio to make sure that nothing weird popped up that might be seen as suspicious.

Conclusion

There is little to nothing anyone can do after the fact. Try to prepare your self and your business’s site beforehand by following some simple rules. Take some time and familiarize yourself with this Google blog post regarding Core Updates.

Optimize your site as best as you can when you have the time to do so and perform some technical SEO checks every now and then.

Don’t panic and everything is going to be just fine.

Talk soon,

Angelos 

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