Google's core search ranking algorithm goes through regular updates every few months; the last edit was in June 2019. Google understands that after any core update, there will be those webmasters looking for fixes should a drop in performance be witnessed. With core updates, there often isn't anything wrong - guidelines have not been violated and core updates don't target specific pages or sites.
So, why the drop in performance and more importantly how do you improve performance if "there is nothing wrong"? Core updates are strongly associated with the assessing of content overall, which means in many ways there are no quick fixes and perhaps it's your approach that needs addressing. Google's explained via an analogy... "One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015. A few years later in 2019, you refresh the list. It's going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realise they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before. The list will change, and films previously higher on the list that move down aren't bad. There are simply more deserving films that are coming before them."If this leaves you feeling quite helpless, don't panic...
Here's Google's 20 Point List
Fortunately Google offered some questions to give more direction to help you regain ranking and to provide some ideas on how to refine your approach for future success (taken straight from the Official Google Webmaster Blog):
- Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
- Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
- Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
- Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
- Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
- If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognised as an authority on its topic?
- Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
- Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
- Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?
- Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
- Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?
- Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- Does the content seem to be serving the genuine interests of visitors to the site or does it seem to exist solely by someone attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
What Now? Where Do You Start?
Firstly take a look at what keywords or topics where you've dropped in rankings - ideally you'll want to look across keywords groups rather than individual keywords as that may not be enough data to be sure where the best improvements are needed, and tackling these areas with the biggest impact first is the most efficient way forward. At Wildfire Digital, our keyword ranking reports are created to understand performance at the keyword category level to make this assessment easy for you!
Next, look at what landing pages have received drops in organic traffic, and again ideally at the category level. It's great if your keyword groupings also tie in with your site categories as then you have a pretty clear picture which areas need addressing the most. Again, in Wildfire Digital's reporting we segment by site category and often have keyword groups tied with site categories for this quick insight.
Another layer worth adding are engagement metrics on those landing pages that have dropped in organic traffic. This may shed some light on why those pages aren't performing so well in search results (on-page engagement is a search engine ranking factor). Wildfire Digital produce regular Low Engagement Pages Analyses for our clients to understand where the weaknesses are in your site.
Once you've identified and prioritised which areas need the most improvement then you can run down the 20 point list and see what needs to be done and create an execution plan. If you use Google Analytics, ensure you create dated annotations before you action your plan so you can run a comparison on traffic and engagement through Google Analytics at a later date, and also, so you have a date to compare rankings through your rank tracking software/reports.