For anyone who has been involved with SEO since the early days, the spectre of the ‘Google Dance’ will no doubt cause the heart to flutter.
The infamous volatility of search results following a major index update was typically a lot less fun than strutting your stuff on the dance floor and I suspect that a lot of agencies braced themselves for a barrage of panicked calls from clients who were in a flat spin over red arrows on ranking reports whenever Google did its jig.
It was obviously not always bad news, as any site dropping out of the elusive top spots would obviously have to be replaced by new sites, so there were winners and losers. As a general rule, the losers were those that were manically chasing algorithms, rather than focusing on their users and the quality of their websites, so I actually enjoyed the volatility but do not miss the hysteria that often accompanied each ‘dance’.
Thankfully, Google moved away from seismic changes to a more perma shuffle model where its algorithm is updated much more frequently and the index is refreshed on a near permanent basis. The result? Fewer earthquakes ripping the SERPs to shreds and fewer panic stricken webmasters. That is not to say that all algorithm updates are now insignificant and Google shares a list of the more notable updates that are released at https://developers.google.com/search/updates/ranking.
As you will see, there was an update last week which was rolled out incredibly quickly. Two days to complete a global release is possibly a record, as they typically take a number of days, sometimes weeks, to complete. The latest update is part of its ongoing war against spam and, more specifically, looks as though it is going after the mass / artificial intelligence (AI) generated content that is swamping many websites in the hope of dominating the SERPs for a huge range of keywords.
Ignoring the dramatic irony of AI taking on AI (gulp – are we humans actually needed for anything anymore?!!!!), it is
not very interesting to see what sort of volatility this latest update caused:
Whist there is a noticeable spike in the temperature (a metric used by Moz to indicate volatility in the SERPs), it is not massive and most definitely not on a par with the Google dances of yesteryear.
To be honest, I am not surprised. Whilst the SEO community often likes to create a mountain out of a molehill / storm in a teacup / <insert your hyperbolic metaphor of choice>, the reality is that nothing really changed.
Yes, Google has upped the ante in its war against spam. Yes, there was a degree of extra volatility in the SERPs. Does it affect those practicing ethical / white hat SEO? Not really – it can only be good news if Google’s new algorithm is more successful at identifying automated content creation, as those sites that are not using AI to create masses of (often very poor quality) content should hopefully move up the rankings.
The bigger picture, of course, is that obsessing about rankings is unhealthy. Wholesome SEO should look at a number of KPIs but focus primarily on creating amazing content for your target audience. It is the humans that browse your website that should be your primary focus. Rankings are, of course, part of the mix and a very helpful barometer for performance but should not be your primary measure.
As an aside, I would encourage you to use Google Search Console’s ‘average position’ data rather than furiously checking the SERPs yourself. The order in which sites are ranked is heavily personalised and what you see may well not be reflective of what the vast majority of users will see – the ‘average position’ data will help show a truer reflection of where your site ranks for particular keywords across all searches.
An obsession with Google algorithm updates is also unhealthy. Whilst some SEO bods will tell you that search engine optimisation is a rapidly changing discipline and that it is almost impossible to keep on top of the daily changes, the real truth is that the underlying ambition of Google (to help users find helpful content) has not changed and that the various updates that are rolled out are almost exclusively aimed at stamping out spam. If you are playing by Google’s rules, and not practicing shady tactics, you should not worry about algorithm updates. Yes, there are false positives and Google does not always get it right, but such blips are generally very short lived whereas a penalty for genuine spam can be very hard to reverse.
TLDR – focus on your human readers rather than algorithms.