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Google: Site Changes Can Take Months to be Reflected in Search Results

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Matt Southern
Matt Southern SEJ STAFF
Google: Site Changes Can Take Months to be Reflected in Search Results

Google’s John Mueller says it may take months for major site changes to be processed by search ranking algorithms.

So, if site changes were implemented around the same time as a known Google algorithm update, any gains/losses in traffic are not necessarily a result of the recent site changes.

This topic came up during a recent Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout where two site owners brought up similar concerns.

One site owner noted seeing gains in traffic following Google’s broad core algorithm update in March. This was followed by a loss in traffic around the same time as the broad core algorithm update in April.

Another site owner chimed in saying they’re experiencing the same thing. This individual happened to implement a full update of their site in mid-March.

Since then, all metrics improved, including a big spike in traffic. However, traffic ended up getting cut in half as time went on and has not recovered.

The following questions were brought up:

  • Is the traffic drop related to the previous condition of the site?
  • Will metrics improve now that the site has been updated?
  • Or, is the site being negatively impacted by recent changes?

In Mueller’s response he explained that any changes to how a site appears in Google Search should not be attributed to recent site adjustments — even if the adjustments coincide with an algorithm update.

It’s a lengthy process to recrawl, reindex, and reprocess a site. It may take several months for Google to figure out where a site should appear in search results following any major changes.

Changes to search rankings are probably not related to an algorithm update if these events recently occurred around the same time.

This discussion can be seen in the video below starting at the 45-minute mark, followed by a transcript of Mueller’s full response.

”Usually — so especially if you have a bigger website — then it takes quite a bit of time for algorithms to adjust to bigger changes on the website.

So that’s something where I wouldn’t expect to see fast changes. It’s more a matter of like, maybe, several months over which it takes for us to recrawl, reindex, reprocess the website to understand how it has changed how we need to change how we show it in the search results.

So, if you made changes on one day and, like, a week later you start seeing changes in the search results — and that was also a date that other people mentioned as having bigger changes that they were seeing — then probably that’s not related to the changes that you made.

Usually you’d really have, like, this multi-month period of things kind of subtly changing over time — rather than this one big change.”

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Matt Southern

Lead News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt ... [Read full bio]

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