Google Core Updates: What You Need to Know & What’s Coming in 2022

JCPenney suffered a significant loss in traffic after their site was hit with a Panda Google core update in early 2012. Their site dropped from around #100 to around #800 for many of their main keywords. In 2011, The New York Times investigated how jcpenney.com was able to do so well in organic or unpaid search.

Said Search Engine Land:

“The investigation found that thousands of seemingly unrelated web sites (many that seemed to contain only links) were linking to the J.C. Penney website. And most of those links had really descriptive anchor text. It was almost like someone had arranged for all of those links in order to get better rankings in Google.

Wikipedia describes the fallout for J.C. Penney, the historic retailer:

“Doug Pierce, an expert in online search from Blue Fountain Media, described the optimization as “the most ambitious attempt to game Google’s search results that he has ever seen.” Ultimately, Google took retaliatory action and drastically reduced the visibility of J. C. Penney in the search results. Although the retailer denied any involvement, it fired its search engine consulting firm, SearchDex.”

By May 2020, JCPenney entered bankruptcy.

Pay Attention to Google Core Updates

If you want to avoid the fate of JCPenney, pay attention to Google core updates!

The search giant updates its algorithm at least 9-10 times daily. A core update is when Google makes a major update that has the potential to affect many websites that rely on the search giant for organic traffic.

Google core updates can radically upend search engine optimization (SEO) or the visibility of web properties online. With the New Year looming, we wanted to detail further Google updates and rumored ones for 2022 and how they might affect your business.

Previous Google Core Updates

Some of the most notable recent ones include: Penguin in January 2016, Mobilegeddon in April 2015 and Possum/Exact Match Domain (EMD) in September 2012.

These were all algorithm changes that directly impacted search results. Of course there was also a host of other less dramatic algorithmic updates such as Snippet Length, AMP Carousel or Pigeon to name just three others. We cover more about these kinds of minor technical tweaks here because they can often be where changes happen first before moving onto larger scale site moves for example with mobile responsive design overhauls later on down the line. This is why it’s so important to keep up with what Google is doing even if your site appears to be unaffected.

Recent Core Update Impacts on SEO

Google Penguin Update in 2016

The most recent significant Google update was the rollout of the long-awaited Google Penguin algorithm update. The focus of this new version of Penguin is on penalizing websites that engage in spammy link building practices, such as buying links or exchanging them for goods and services. Previously, sites affected by Penguin would simply see a decrease in rankings; now, they may also get hit with a manual penalty from Google’s team of human reviewers.

Google Mobilegeddon Update in 2015

Another highly anticipated update that significantly affected search results was the Google mobile friendly update. This change, which rolled out in 2015, gave a huge boost to mobile ranking for sites with responsive designs and high quality content while demoting those without either of these attributes. Sites across industries saw significant changes as a result of this algorithm change. It’s important to note that, presently, there is no one “mobile friendly” ranking factor anymore since other factors beyond site design have been added into consideration by the new Hummingbird machine learning algorithm. Rather than considering individual elements such as page speed and load time (as used to be done), now overall user experience matters more when determining organic search ranking on mobile devices.

Google Possum Update in 2016

The Google Possum update, which was released in late 2016, had a significant impact on local search results. This algorithm change aimed to provide more relevant and accurate local search results by taking into account the physical location of the searcher as well as the business itself. The end result was that businesses located near other businesses with similar names started appearing in each others’ search results, even if they were not actually competitors. Additionally, businesses that shared an address (but were located in different areas) saw their rankings fluctuate more than ever before as a result of this update.

What’s Coming Next?

Now that we’ve gone over the most important recent Google algorithm changes, let’s take a look at what we can expect in the coming year.

One of the biggest changes that is rumored to be on the horizon is an update to the Penguin algorithm. This new version, which is code-named “Penguin 11”, is expected to focus on penalizing websites that engage in artificial link building practices such as paid links or excessive link exchanges.

Another change that is expected to happen in 2022 is a further increase in the importance of user experience. With Hummingbird, Google’s machine learning algorithm, now taking into account a wider variety of factors when determining organic search ranking, it’s more important than ever to make sure your website provides an excellent overall experience for visitors.

We can also expect Google to continue its focus on local search results. With the earlier Possum and numerous other changes over the past few years, it’s clear that Google is placing greater emphasis on providing relevant results for users who are looking for businesses nearby.

Another change that may be coming soon is an increased emphasis on user experience when it comes to ranking websites on mobile devices. With Hummingbird now able to better understand complex search queries, Google may start placing even more weight on factors such as page speed and load time when determining how.

What’s Coming Next for SEO?

Now that we’ve covered what to expect, here is how to get ahead of the SEO curve in 2022.

  • Remove any bad links from your website and disavow any links that you weren’t able to get rid of using Google’s link disavowing tool. In addition, make sure your website is mobile friendly and easy for visitors to navigate!
  • Regularly audit your website to ensure that it is providing a great user experience! Make sure all of your business information (including address, phone number and website) is up to date on Google My Business.
  • Focus on creating high-quality content that will attract natural links from other reputable websites.
  • Continue using keyword research to determine which keywords are most relevant for your business.

Need Some Help?

It’s important to note that not all businesses will be impacted in the same way by Google core updates. Some may see a slight decrease in traffic, while others may see a more significant drop. However, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and make sure your site is up to par with Google’s latest guidelines.

If you would like help from an SEO agency with decades of experience to “crystal ball” SEO in 2022, click here for a free consultation.

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