Why & How to Identify Changes to the Google Algorithm

Why & How to Identify Changes to the Google Algorithm

Google algorithm updates thousands of times a year.

Some of Google’s algorithms are quite well known – some have almost taken on legendary status (e.g., Florida, Panda, Penguin, RankBrain) and have had a major impact on the history of SEO and the rankings (and revenue) of websites.

But most changes are much smaller. Some updates even go completely unnoticed.

In just the past two years, we’ve seen roughly a dozen significant updates – many of which were “quality updates,” as well as:

March 9, 2018: Broad Core Algorithm Update

December 12, 2017: Maccabees

March 7, 2017: “Fred”

Some of these recent updates have been confirmed or announced by Google.

However, other periods of volatility in the SERPs (believed to be due to an algorithm update) have been observed and reported by algorithm watchers and tracking tools, but Google has never officially confirmed an update.

Why You Should Track Google Updates

You’re in the profession of optimizing websites and content for search engines.

So it makes sense to keep track of big and important changes that could impact your SEO strategy and tactics.

An algorithm change or update can either help or hurt your:

  • Search ranking and visibility.
  • Organic search traffic.
  • Conversions.
  • Return on investment (ROI).
  • Revenue.

Most people tend to think of an algorithm as a way Google punishes websites.

But really, algorithms are a way to reward websites for providing a good user experience and relevant content.

Search is a zero-sum game. For every winner, there must be a loser.

Google wants to provide the best possible answer for the user’s search query.

All that said, it would be kind of insane (and impossible) to try to keep track of every little Google search update.

Think about it like this:

If Google is updating it’s search algorithm thousands of times per year, that means Google is changing its algorithm around three times per day, on average.

To paraphrase Roger Montti: If you pick any day of the week and declare a Google update happened, you’d probably be correct!

So track those big updates. Just don’t obsess over them or you’ll make yourself crazy.

So how do you track Google algorithm updates?

Places to Track Google Algorithm Updates

There are many great SEO blogs that cover all types of search updates.

But here are a few resources you can use to specifically to keep track of Google algorithm updates.

From 2003 to the present, Search Engine Journal has you covered.

The following details are included on a whole page that we have devoted to Google algorithm updates:

  • named algorithm.
  • The launch date (s).
  • a succinct description of the effect.
  • Whether it has been verified or not.
  • Links to official announcements (blog posts and tweets), news articles, and analysis (from the SEJ and other reliable outside sources), so you can dig deeper and comprehend the changes.

8 Tools to Track Google Algorithm Updates

Google isn’t particularly fond of any third-party tools that monitor changes to Google’s algorithms.

Officially, some Google spokespeople have warned SEO professionals that such tools are inaccurate most of the time.

This is true – some of these tools pick up on “changes” to Google’s search results that aren’t really algorithm updates at all.

Fluctuation? Sure. But volatility in the SERP results isn’t always due to a Google algorithm change.

All that said, these tools can provide an early warning that an update might be brewing and you should check your analytics.

The Google Webmaster Central Blog used to be the go-to source for information on significant algorithm updates as they happened, whether it was the introduction of Panda, Penguin, or the Page Layout algorithm.

However, Google continues to use the blog to communicate upcoming significant changes, occasionally weeks or even months beforehand.

Keep an eye on this source to learn about the most recent updates, straight from Google.

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