Google changes its search algorithm about 500 to 600 times a year with about nine major updates in the past two years. Those in the SEO world are probably familiar with two of the most recent algorithm updates: Possum and Penguin 4.0, both of which were rolled out in September. As Ryan Shelly from our own Search Engine Journal stated earlier this year, there are three things to remember when an update happens: (1) don’t panic, (2) wait to react, and (3) read credible sources and make adjustments where necessary.
The important thing to remember is while staying on top of algorithm updates is important, there are always other best practices to consider alongside these new updates.
Why You Should Care
Google algorithm updates are increasingly important to consider in the SEO world. While you do not need to pay attention to every little update that Google has (which quite frankly would be overwhelming and verging on impossible, especially for small business marketers), it is important to keep tabs on the top sites and most important updates. In reality, the most important updates are what impact businesses the most. Keeping on top of algorithm updates can help you address flaws and discover adjustments you might need to make to your digital marketing strategy. Many digital marketers start out by reading every little update and trying to recognize the impact, but the key is really knowing what is most important and seeking out guidance for how it might impact your business in consideration of the whole of Google Search engine impact.
BUT…Algorithm Updates Aren’t Everything
That being said, algorithm updates are not the end-all, be-all of SEO for company websites. It is important to remember that when you see a significant change in traffic, you need to consider all possibilities. Have you changed your normal behavior with content in some way (frequency of blogging, etc.)? Are you having issues with your mobile site or load times on your site because of new content you have added? While you absolutely want to consider how new algorithm updates might impact your business, you also want to make sure you don’t use them as a scapegoat for other flaws in your digital marketing strategy.
How to Track Google Algorithm Updates
With all things considered, below I’ll explain not only how to track algorithm updates, but also how to recognize what is most important in a constant feed of changes, adjustments, and new material. There are a few different sites that you can go to to see Google Algorithm updates:
MozCast takes a unique approach to reporting the general “climate” of Google algorithm updates. With an overview page that looks much like a weather forecast, Moz has taken the approach of climate to tell marketers what is on the horizon. On a stormy day or a day with extreme temperatures, marketers know that there is a lot being stirred up in the Google algorithm. This is great because it is something that marketers can check daily, in a general sense, without getting hung up on small details. When you do see a stormy day on the horizon, that is when you know you should keep your eyes peeled on Google’s blog and on some of the other tools listed below.
Moz Pro: Google Algorithm Change History
As mentioned, changes in the algorithm can be major or minor. Marketers like to know the dates and information about algorithm changes so they can best plan for how this might impact their organic traffic and other aspects of search. Moz Pro has an entire page dedicated to Google Algorithm updates, along with links to Google articles on the updates, articles their writers have written, and articles by other sites that can be helpful in considering the change. As mentioned in the beginning, it is important to read from credible sources, and Moz has really taken this to heart in designing their stream of information.
If you are looking to get an overview of the history of Google algorithm updates from 2013 to present (and even for forecasting the future), then SEO Book is a great place to start. They highlight all the major algorithm update changes by year, and include the month and day of each change. As of now, they even have a forecast for January 2017. One of the things that is really nice about SEO Book is that they also include a concise explanation of each update.
Do you want to see how these Google algorithm updates directly impact your own organic traffic? The Panguin tool is free and allows you to look at these updates in relation to your own traffic through Google Analytics. If there have been any penalties to your traffic because of conflicts with new updates, you will easily be able to see them here! This tool is very user-friendly and gets you a report within seconds as well, so it has always been a personal favorite.
Rank Ranger is similar to the Moz page, with the exception that rather than having links to long-form content regarding the updates, a summary of each update is on the main page. This makes it easy to scroll through, read about the updates, and look at visual aids to help understand the information. A sidebar allows you to look at past updates dating back to 2000. So if you are into digital history, as well as getting a summary of the updates most recent and relevant to your work today, then Rank Ranger may be your new go-to for updates.
Bonus: Follow Search Engine Journal on Twitter @sejournal. We cover every major update in real-time.
There are many tools to monitor Google’s constantly changing algorithm updates, and most of them make it fairly easy to understand what the relationship to your organic traffic really is. While it is not necessary to monitor every update that Google puts out (especially since there are hundreds every year), it is important to understand the big changes and change your strategy accordingly as they happen.