Google Algorithm vs. Core Updates: Do They Affect Your Ranking?

Ed Pronley


December 7, 2021 (Updated: January 24, 2024)

Image of a search engine screen with people sitting around it.

Google’s search algorithm is an ever-changing behemoth that focuses on pairing user search queries with helpful, informative content. To make its tool so useful, the company often makes intricate and consistent changes to ensure its success. But when it constantly changes its algorithm, Google also changes the rules on how it ranks websites and content. If you have a business that uses content to market your brand, it’s important to understand Google’s algorithm updates versus core updates and how each one affects your content’s ranking.

What Is Google’s Algorithm?

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Google’s algorithm is the system the search engine uses to display the most relevant websites and content to searchers. The algorithm starts by crawling websites, using bots to learn what they’re about, and indexing them for easy retrieval in the future. However, Google also uses other factors to determine where it should rank content on its results pages. These factors inform companies and brands how to best perform search engine optimization (SEO) on their website, so people can find their content more easily. Some SEO actions businesses can perform include:

  • Generating backlinks
  • Filling out metadata, like image and meta descriptions
  • Increasing readability
  • Using images

Related: SEO Strategy: How To Make One and How It’s Used

What Is a Google Algorithm Update?

Google algorithm updates are changes that Google makes to its search engine to provide better results to users. People use Google more than any other search engine on the internet. That’s because it provides quality search results to users that are helpful and informative. To maintain those quality search results, Google is constantly changing how it crawls and indexes websites and content.

Previously, the search engine stated, “Each day, Google usually releases one or more changes designed to improve our search results.” That’s, at the very least, 365 changes a year, but that number could be in the thousands. Most of these updates are small and inconsequential to businesses and brands, so Google doesn’t always announce them. But when these changes are massive and greatly affect how Google’s algorithm functions, Google lets people know.

What Is a Google Core Update?

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Google core updates are major changes that Google makes to its algorithm and search engine. These generally happen a few times each year, and they provide significant changes to the system. That’s why Google announces a core update when they make one. But they don’t always announce the exact changes they make to the algorithm. For example, in November 2021, Google announced its most recent core update but didn’t provide any additional information on the things they were changing. If changes are significant to developers and SEO experts, Google provides information about specifics so people can prepare for the changes.

In June 2021, Google rolled out a significant core update that affected how it ranks page experience. These updates created additional factors that Google looks for on a webpage, including interactivity, loading speed, and mobile friendliness. That last one was pretty big news for a lot of companies and brands because if their websites didn’t support mobile platforms, it could severely impact their search rankings. Because Google understood the impact of this update, it announced that these changes were coming a year in advance.

How Google Updates Affect Your Content’s Ranking

Google updates can have a wide range of effects on your content and its ranking. For algorithm updates, the changes rarely affect your content at all. If your content currently ranks on the first page of search results, chances are it won’t shift from a minor algorithm change. However, core updates can drastically change your ranking, depending on what areas of the search engine they affect. Though Google doesn’t always provide exact details on what the core updates touch, they might inform the public on what the core updates aim to improve.

Sometimes core updates focus on examining pages for quality, while others focus on uncovering the searcher’s intent. You may find your content ranks higher or lower after Google rolls out a core update. When this occurs, it’s helpful to revisit Google’s key factors in ranking and double-check your content to make sure it’s checking all the boxes. The best way to remember how Google ranks your content is through the acronym E-A-T. EAT stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. These are the guidelines that Google uses to determine if its search results are providing high-quality content to its users.

How To Prepare for Google’s Core Updates

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Here’s a list of steps to help you prepare for Google’s core updates:

1. Follow Google’s Updates

Following Google on social media platforms, like Twitter, and checking Google’s developer blog for news can keep you informed about future updates and major changes coming to the search engine. If the core update doesn’t have a major impact on businesses and brands, Google won’t announce it ahead of time. But they’ll still inform the public through their social media accounts when it occurs.

2. Ensure You’re Practicing SEO

Practicing strong search engine optimization on your website and its content is a great way to ensure your rankings remain unchanged. Filling out metadata and targeting the right keywords can help Google understand what your content is about and properly index it for future use. If you have a large website or the layout of your site might confuse Google, it’s also helpful to submit a sitemap. Sitemaps inform Google about the structure of your site and how you link pages together. This can help it understand what your site is about and display the most relevant pages to searchers.

3. Focus On Content Quality

Next to practicing SEO, focusing on creating high-quality written content is a great way to ensure your rankings stay the same. It’s also the first thing Google recommends you reassess if your rankings change from a core update. Before an update rolls out, examine your current blogs, articles, and webpages and ask yourself questions, like:

  • Does my content provide readers with original information?
  • Does my content provide readers with insightful information?
  • Does my content answer a specific question?
  • Would I share this piece of content with a friend or family member?

Providing excellent and informative content to your audience helps increase your organic traffic, generates more backlinks, and improves your bounce rate, which are all factors Google considers when deciding where to rank your web pages on its search engine results pages (SERPs).

Looking to develop high-quality written content for your business or brand? Content marketing companies, like CopyPress, have the experts to help. With our vetted team of writers, editors, and quality assurance specialists, we can help your company develop impressive content that attracts audiences while simultaneously following Google’s ranking factors. Schedule a free call with us today to see how you can improve your content marketing strategy!

Author Image - Ed Pronley
Ed Pronley

CopyPress writer

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