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Google Can’t Provide Details About Core Algorithm Updates

Google is unable to provide specific details about core algorithm updates, other than to announce when they've rolled out.

Announcements about core algorithm updates are unlikely to get more detailed in the future, as Google says it can’t provide specific information.

Google has the details internally, but it can’t release the information publicly.

This was revealed in the latest episode of the Search Off The Record podcast with John Mueller, Martin Splitt, and Gary Illyes of Google’s Search Relations team.

Illyes is particularly frustrated by the fact that the team can’t give more information to the community when a core update is announced.

He questions what value there is in even announcing core updates if they can’t provide any guidance beyond telling people to review Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Based on the discussion it sounds like every announcement of a core update is going to be repeat of the one before it.

Google’s Search Relations team empathizes with everyone concerned about core updates, and wishes they could be more helpful to those impacted. But their hands are tied.

Here are some highlights from the discussion on core updates.

Google Knows What’s In A Core Update, But It Can’t Tell You

Illyes says the team behind core updates knows what’s in them:

“Well, our team generally knows what we are doing when we are doing core updates or what the things in the core updates do, more specifically. And in the vast majority of the cases, the things are just focusing on the guidelines that we’ve been publishing for the past 20 years.

So basically, write good content, right, don’t buy links, whatever, I don’t know. So every single time we do one of these core updates, we are basically saying that… follow our guidelines, and that’s also our advice.”

Illyes questions the benefit of announcing core updates when the team can’t provide specific details.

He continues:

“… If we could give more guidance or more information about what’s in an update or how… Or what kind of sites it’s affecting or content it’s affecting, then I would be all for it, but at the moment we cannot.”

“And at the moment, we are just saying that: ‘Hello, there was a core update or incoming core update in two hours.’ And then four weeks later, we are like: ‘Yeah, we are finished with this core update.'”

In short — communication about core updates is limited to when they’ve started rolling out and when they’ve finished rolling out.

That’s the way it has always been up to now, and that’s likely all Google will be able to say about them in the future.

Misconceptions About Core Updates

Given that there’s so little information available about core updates, there tends to be a lot of misconceptions about them.

One of the misconceptions is that core updates are designed to punish websites.

Illyes wants to make it clear that’s not the case:

“And the thing I wanted to say is that there’s also a misconception about core updates. I think that it’s a punitive thing. It’s basically punishing sites. Which is not the case, but rather, we are optimizing our relevancy algorithms, for example, or quality, or algorithms that assess quality of a site/page/content. And what we are trying to do is give users better results in some sense, right?”

Inevitably, core updates will have a positive effect on some sites, while having a negative effect on others.

When a site is negatively impacted by a core update it’s not necessarily because it did anything wrong, Illyes says:

“So, it might be that those sites that were affected negatively by a core update didn’t actually do anything wrong, but rather, our algorithms changed and that is very hard to explain, and also swallow, I imagine.

Because if you are publishing content and you’ve been publishing content for five years already, and you have a follower base and whatever, and suddenly, you rank lower and some competitors and ranking higher because Google made a change. That’s not easy to accept, I guess.”

If you find your site ranking lower after a core update it doesn’t mean you’re publishing bad content, or that there’s anything on your site you need to fix.

It’s more that other sites were “awarded” for publishing better content. Such as articles with greater depth, or articles that are more relevant to a specific query.

For more on recovering from core updates, see this advice Google has provided in the past:

Source: Search Off The Record

Featured Image: salarko/Shutterstock

Category News SEO
SEJ STAFF Matt G. Southern Senior News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt G. Southern, Senior News Writer, has been with Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a bachelor’s degree in communications, ...

Google Can’t Provide Details About Core Algorithm Updates

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