Google Algorithm Updates - 2020 Ongoing Discussion

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Yes Floate recently mentioned in a YouTube video that he thinks it could of been about authority, lack of links to pages & over-optimization.

The over-optimization theory could fit in with the outlier site I have thats killing it while being a 3 month old brand new domain with 4 links. I have about 30 articles of 2.5k words each and its the only site in my portfolio I did not use Surfer SEO on or do any on-page optimization for, again too small a sample size but its the only difference I am seeing between my other sites. Cant wait until some studies come out from the bigger testers in seo
How are the sites doing that you use Surfer SEO on?
 

bernard

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I'll say something a bit controversial, but usually the worst takes on Google algo seem to come from link spammers.

Their entire business model is based on link spam and "optimization", so naturally everything has to be about links, too many or too few.

Then EAT replaced the old Moz bs of "good content".

In reality, the Google algo is a complex algorithm with variables that act on each other. It's also probably more and more driven by AI, which means that it is increasingly difficult to pinpoint A -> B.

I've thought of Google algos as a flag based model for the last years. Like you get one flag for being slow, one flag for poor content (lacking LSI etc), one flag for lack of links, one flag for lack of brand searches etc. It could also be reverse, but for positive flags. If you reach a certain tresholds of flags, you move up, if you have enough bad ones, you move down, then Google uses AI to user test your site, which particularly makes you move up or down on the front page.

There are ways around this, notably having a lot more links than the competition, but I've increasingly seen in my niches, that "King of the Links" is reserved for one or two spots only, while most sites rank based on seemingly other factors. This does change. Some updates you get more linkranking sites and some updates you get more UX ranking sites.

My 2 cents.
 
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The main pattern I'm seeing is the same thing we see every time. @secretagentdad's screenshot above shows it perfectly. His clicks in the SERPs didn't decrease and perhaps increased, but his impressions decreased.

This is explained by the fact that there's always a window of time between updates where a page can rank for crazy amounts of long-tails that it shouldn't be. And then some offline relevancy calculation is done and the data is merged in and you lose all of that "extra free traffic," which is how it should be seen.

The way I look at core updates is, in between them you have a chance to take 2 steps forward, then the update takes you 1 step back. And in that way you rollercoaster your way forward with an upwards trend.
This.

This time around, the data's even more fuzzy because different countries/states are relaxing their lockdown measures at different rates. The virus changed search patterns and volumes, so if you're seeing a drop then it could also be due to search behaviors (volume) going back to pre-virus conditions because of the on-going relaxing of measures. There's no way to prove this, of course, but it would be interesting to see what happens when there's a (big) second wave.
 
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Did this update focus on content quality(as determined by AI) more than links?
It will explain results in many niches to an extent. I know there are many exceptions. But, the trend seems to point that way.
It would explain why some sites with average/shitty/weak link profiles ranking well. As Google relying less on links and more on search intent, some queries give worse results.
 
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How are the sites doing that you use Surfer SEO on?
Honestly they varied up and down, not enough data to make any conclusion from, but this volatility and the non surfer site doing so well makes me wonder if its really worth using these expensive content tools now when the results of just writing naturally and optimizing the basics like Title h1 h2 are giving the same or better results, why am i dedicating an hour an article of a va and $x a month on them.
 
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Honestly they varied up and down, not enough data to make any conclusion from, but this volatility and the non surfer site doing so well makes me wonder if its really worth using these expensive content tools now when the results of just writing naturally and optimizing the basics like Title h1 h2 are giving the same or better results, why am i dedicating an hour an article of a va and $x a month on them.
I ended up to the same conclusion.

Frankly, I had some issues with this concept behind "100s of ranking factors". While some keywords performed better, I can not say for sure that it's because of the modifications. There are too many factors at play. I prefer to tweak and wait.
 

Ryuzaki

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Update: May 21st, 2020

Yesterday I noticed that I was losing a bit of the gains I had received from the core update and assumed they were doing their typical corrections after the fact. Turns out this was the case. Many of the SERP analyzers are now picking it up. It doesn't seem to be drastic, but they definitely turned a few knobs.

Algoroo


Accuranker:


Looking at SERPWoo's volatility stats, which break it down to region and volume ranges, it looks like this had the most impact from keywords with search volumes between 0 to under 1,000,000, which again suggests a correction to the core update. It doesn't appear to target local or mobile or desktop only results, but had a minor affect across the board, with one exception.

Canada appears to have the most volatility for some reason (maybe geo-results getting shuffled around between .com vs. .ca).

It's hard to say much because it doesn't seem to be a huge update, just a correction-based tremor.
 
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On the core update, I read in recent days that (1) Google views UGC content the same as your own (i.e. can impact you just as much as your own content; and (2) someone noticed that a lot of heavy UGC sites got massacred in the update.

My only site that got massacred has a very popular forum that gets 70% of its traffic and it got MASSACRED. So I would agree with the above. What I have now done is index the HP of the forum only, and noindex everything else. The rest of the site content (that I wrote) is 100% quality stuff and deserves to rank well, so this is going to be a test to see what happens when I noindex the UGC.
 
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First week after May 4th update: -16% organic traffic
Second week: -22% (versus week before update)
Third week: -26%
Yesterday (Friday) versus Friday before the update: -58% (Friday's been my weakest day of the week for a while now in terms of traffic)

April vs May (to date) I've lost about 30% of organic traffic and I sure hope Friday will remain my weakest day.

I saw some big movements yesterday, most of them not in my favor. There's no penalties, technical problems, etc. at start of update or now. I do expect June to be worse than May, purely going off of the trend.
 

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Update: June 10th, 2020

Seems like there's an update going on today. I think it's been rolling out slowly for a couple days now, as I've been seeing some of the losses I suffered around the May 20th - 24th date range being reversed.

SEMRush:


Cognitive SEO:
 

bernard

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Is it me or does it seem like the last updates are really benefiting big brands?
 

CCarter

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Is it me or does it seem like the last updates are really benefiting big brands?
Well, why would they benefit the little guys? I mean most affiliate sites are pretty shitty with no pricing - "click here to see price on amazon" - WHY they think that's a good user experience is beyond me.

In other scenarios why would Google want to benefit smaller websites? They rarely have better quality content - besides the webmasters that think THEIR content is quality, when a simple eyeball look shows almost no images and poorly bland content that was bought on the cheap. OR they are overwhelmingly filled with ADs or some other nonsense making the user experience bad.

You can't believe how many people STILL to this day think it's appropriate to have a mobile score under 70 for the pagespeed insight metric. They really think "that's fine!" WTF. Over 50% of online traffic is mobile traffic... Why would Google reward a website that's literally a dinosaur not keeping up with the times?
 

bernard

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In other scenarios why would Google want to benefit smaller websites?
In most cases, they wouldn't want to.

People DO want "test" sites to read though, before making a purchase and there's a limit to how much Consumer Report or Which can test.

That's where the test sites, that I aim to create, come into play. I aggregate test results from Which, Choice, Consumer Reports, etc etc etc from around the world, and show which products won which tests.

That's a value add.

There's also various forms of aggregation of offers and discounts, that are useful.

Now in general affiliate sites are not a good user experience, but neither is vendor websites in a lot of cases. I mean, there's a product I promote that costs $5000 and on the producer website, it has a 50 word description. I figure that someone like me, would add some value by telling people what it is they're buying, just in general, that's value add.

I've actually asked quite a bit of people about "test sites" and if people use them and like them. I was surprised to see that most people liked them even if they recognised that they were commercial and not objective.

I do have stats to back this as well. More niche oriented test sites have higher EPCs here than do the large Wirecutter style sites.

In some cases, you bet that my hobby niche site, is a much better experience for the noob than the brand webshop. Not black and white.

I would say, affiliate sites, do serve a value add purpose in Google, but I do agree, that there are probably too many for a good result. Which is why, we as affiliates, need to constantly think about adding more and more value, because increasingly it is winner takes all.
 
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Affiliate sites definitely got hit after that update... but it was obvious. When you list 20 affiliate links in a large article around a product or list product comparisons.. but you are showing 30+ Amazon links. Really easy to find and wipe out. Local clients showed massive success after that update (At least on my end). Talk about a footprint when a URL has 30+ redirect URLs all over the place. Low-quality experience.
 
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Well, why would they benefit the little guys? I mean most affiliate sites are pretty shitty with no pricing - "click here to see price on amazon" - WHY they think that's a good user experience is beyond me.
I don't agree. Its not just the little guys that have shitty affiliate content. Most of the big publishers with "Reviews" section are guilty of same thing ; most times even worse than the small sites.

Why then would Google favour them?
 

Ryuzaki

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Why then would Google favour them?
Usually because the chance for a big publisher to publish trash is a lot lower than your typical affiliate. They've been moving towards weighting branded, authoritative (in terms of root domain link strength), and aged domains for a long time. Probably a decade at least.

Sadly there's a bias among searchers too. If a big publisher posts the exact same trash as an affiliate site, the big publisher will still be seen as more trustworhy. They've earned some good faith, basically. All of that plays out with other metrics that influence the rankings too.

At the same time, I'm not seeing my affiliate pages having been hit. They actually improved a bit in this most recent update.
 

Ryuzaki

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Update: June 17th, 2020

CognitiveSEO:


Rank Ranger:


The only thing I noticed was a striking difference in the amount of clicks I sent to Amazon starting on the 17th. It went downwards around 20%, and without checking I assumed they tweaked something with buyers' intent SERPs.
 
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I noticed my Amazon clicks down closer to 40% yesterday. My volume is low and it was just one day but will report back if it turns into a trend.
 

bernard

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This one brought me back to before May 7th update for some keywords, but not all.

Honestly, I am not even gonna bother really diving into most updates, just focus on working on intent and figuring out that, because whatever other factor weights seem to be less important.
 

Ryuzaki

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Update: June 24th, 2020

I'm hesitant to post these a lot of times when they don't seem major, but I always notice the effects of those. But then when there's a much larger update, I don't notice them myself but realize I need to share it for the sake of others.

Google is updating daily, of course, but yesterday and today are either potentially big ones or they changed some HTML or something that's tripping up the sensors:

AdvancedWebRanking:


Algoroo:


MozCast:


SEMRush:


Combining that it looks like it started yesterday, and is almost "core update" size, and I haven't seen or heard anyone else talking about it (now that I think about it, @Grind did mention something a couple nights ago about signs of an impending update...), I wonder if it's not something they did to create a tracking issue. Perhaps @CCarter can lay that to rest one way or another?

Have any of you seen any effects from this? Maybe I'm barking too early and the rest of the industry is in an uproar by the end of the day, or maybe it's nothing. I've seen nothing on my own sites thus far.
 

Ryuzaki

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Update: July 2nd, 2020

Looks like an update occurred yesterday. It doesn't seem to be insanely huge, maybe just corrections on the June 24th update. All I'm really noticing is a shuffling around of long-tails. It's hard to say if it's link related or content related, but I'm only feeling it on posts that have a great chance of ranking but never got the links they need.

SEMRush:


SERPWoo:
 

eliquid

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I can validate that the June 17th and June 24th SERPs had a positive impact on the terms and sites I am monitoring from my "Ranking A New Website From Scratch" series -> https://www.serpwoo.com/blog/tutorials/ranking-new-site4/

1. Domain is brand new ( under 7 months old )
2. Less than 7 pages of content, total word count for all content is less than 1k words total website
3. Hardly any backlinks
4. Pretty major B2B SaaS term ( for it's niche )
5. Almost no SEO strategy
6. Hit the front page ( ranking of 5th ) in less than 6 months and staying there ( no bouncing )
7. Big brand competitors, Moz DA average of front page is almost 90.. site Im working with is Moz DA of
8. Keyword Im targeting, only getting used on the homepage and barely used in that.
9. Very slow and poor performing Google Page Insight scores




Not sure what Google was rewarding on those dates, but I'd have to say small sites or unoptimized sites looking at what I see currently.

You can get more details and follow the series if you want. Latest post is https://www.serpwoo.com/blog/tutorials/ranking-new-site4/
 

secretagentdad

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I can validate that the June 17th and June 24th SERPs had a positive impact on the terms and sites I am monitoring from my "Ranking A New Website From Scratch" series -> https://www.serpwoo.com/blog/tutorials/ranking-new-site4/

1. Domain is brand new ( under 7 months old )
2. Less than 7 pages of content, total word count for all content is less than 1k words total website
3. Hardly any backlinks
4. Pretty major B2B SaaS term ( for it's niche )
5. Almost no SEO strategy
6. Hit the front page ( ranking of 5th ) in less than 6 months and staying there ( no bouncing )
7. Big brand competitors, Moz DA average of front page is almost 90.. site Im working with is Moz DA of
8. Keyword Im targeting, only getting used on the homepage and barely used in that.
9. Very slow and poor performing Google Page Insight scores




Not sure what Google was rewarding on those dates, but I'd have to say small sites or unoptimized sites looking at what I see currently.

You can get more details and follow the series if you want. Latest post is https://www.serpwoo.com/blog/tutorials/ranking-new-site4/
you guys are always the first content marketing department to out what’s working for realz.

Respect.
 
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I noticed referrals from appen.io/assingments today, which I believe is appen.com, one company that Google uses to check the quality of its search results. The referrals started around the end of April and have visited just 5 fairly high traffic pages out of a 1K page site. 5 times each page. My visibility has increased with this most recent update.
Does anyone else regularly see referrals from this domain? I have seen it several times just while looking at real-time referrals in GA.