In a Webmaster Hangout, Google’s John Mueller was asked whether there has been an update happening recently. Mueller took the time to explain what it means to discuss changes in search and the best reaction to them are.
This is the question from a publisher in Australia:
“Would you confirm if Google is making any changes into the search results?
Because I’m seeing ranking loss and big fluctuations in existing rankings for my Australia based website.”
John Mueller Did Not Confirm a Core Algorithm Update
What’s notable is that Mueller did not confirm a core algorithm update. Those are the updates that make you reach for an antacid.
He observed that Google constantly makes incremental changes to the algorithm.
What Mueller did confirm were the quotidian updates that happen all the time.
Quotidian means something that happens on a daily basis and so often that they most times are seen as mundane because they generally go unnoticed.
This is what Mueller said:
“We make changes all the time. So from that point of view I can pretty much confirm that we have made changes in the search results.”
What’s important to point out is that Google makes thousands of changes to their algorithm every year. This is well documented going back many years.
These are quotidian updates.
As an example, in 2018 Google published the following statistics about quotidian updates in search:
- 3,620 Live Algorithm Launches
- 17,523 Live traffic experiments
That’s over 20,000 tests. When divided by the number of days in a year, the number of live changes and live search tests equals about 58 search changes per day.
If we just want to talk about live launches, then that equals approximately ten changes per day to search, every day of every year.
That is what Mueller means when he says that he can confirm that a change has happened. That’s what his comment means when he stated, “We make changes all the time.”
The other thing to note is that he did not confirm a core algorithm update.
A core algorithm update is a wide ranging update that profoundly changes several aspects of search. These are what are commonly regarded as true updates.
It is significant that Mueller said that whatever changes are being noticed are due to the everyday changes.
Mueller then asked a rhetorical question about why some changes to search are felt and others go unnoticed.
This is what he followed up with:
“I don’t think that’s really useful, in that sense, because… if you’re making changes all the time why am I seeing changes now?
But rather that’s something where I would generally recommend… obviously recognizing these kinds of situations is a good first step.
But also letting it settle down, seeing what happens in the end, checking in with other webmasters… to see what kind of changes maybe they’re seeing as well.”
So right here he is acknowledging that yes, publishers may see some changes. But to wait to see if things revert or as he puts it, “settle down.”
Mueller then goes on to recommend focusing a wider range of site improvements.
I think what he may be getting at is, for example, that if you focus intensely on content, then maybe it might be useful to put some time into promotion.
And that if you focus intensely on site speed or links, then maybe you should focus more on content.
Creating a healthy website that’s resistant to algorithm changes means focusing on the wide range of qualities that make a site popular with users.
This is what John Mueller said:
“And then think about on the one hand what you can do to improve your sites, overall, so that they’re a little bit more stable and not reliant on this one particular factor that you happen to be working on.
And on the other hand, maybe looking at the search results where you’ve been seeing changes and thinking about how all of that could fit together.
So in that regard, I don’t… really have this one answer that’s like, well you’re seeing changes in search therefore you should pull the handbrake on your website and everything will stand still.
That doesn’t happen.
These changes in search are things that we do to try to improve the search results.
Sometimes we do get it wrong but a lot of times I think we head in the right direction and it’s worthwhile to find ways that you can improve your website and keep up with how the web is improving overall.”
It’s good to think of these non-core algorithm changes as incremental changes that might be indicative of a weakness in some part of your publishing practices.
On the other hand, it could be a weakness in sites that link to you and it might thus be an indirect issue with your site, which means whatever you’re doing to promote the site might need improvements.
Also, it might be useful to not panic because sometimes changes are rolled back.
Finally, the major takeaway is that these kinds of observed and unnoticed changes happen every day and do not mean that a major core algorithm update is happening.
Watch Mueller answer about recent changes to search: