Is your organic search traffic falling? Find out how to determine if it is due to Google's recent core algorithm update.
As bloggers, we don't want to have to think about the Google algorithm! We want Google search to be simple–pick out a keyword, write some good content, and rank on the first page for that term.
But it isn't. Google search is complex. Driven by its algorithm, Google looks at over 200 ranking factors.
We don't know exactly what all those factors are because Google doesn't publish them. Brian Dean from Backlinko published his complete list of ranking factors, but he tells us some of them are speculation.
How Does the Google Search Algorithm Work?
The company published a really good overview of how it works and what the key ranking factors are.
The bottom line is that Google wants to give a searcher what they're looking for. If they think your post is the most likely to give the person the answer they're looking for, your post will rank high.
The Google algorithm changes often. The Moz blog says that in 2018, Google reported 3,234 improvements–an average of 9 a day.
Most of these are very minor, and we don't even know they've happened.
But there are major updates. Prior to 2019, we found out about these when people reported changes in their search traffic and visibility.
Everyone in the online world was surprised when, at the beginning of June 2019, Google announced the release of a broad core algorithm update. They had never announced one before.
Danny Sullivan, Google's public search liaison, said it was just a normal core update that they wanted to let people know about.
What Will Happen to Our Traffic?
We may not know until a couple of weeks after the update is complete.
I agree with Adam Reimer who tells us, “Do not read anything.” He gives us several reasons why, but the primary reason is that your site is different than those reporting gains or losses. Just because something happened to a similar site doesn't mean you'll get the same results.
You really need to check the organic search traffic to your site to determine if you were affected by the update. Keep reading for instructions on how to do that.
Is My Traffic Decrease Related to the Core Update?
One of the easiest ways to find out if your traffic decrease is related to the algorithm update is to compare this year's traffic to last year's.
Start by going to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium. Click on google/organic.
Set your date range for about a month before the rollout began.
Next, click the compare box and choose Previous Year from the drop down.
Click Apply. The default is set to Users. Click on the Users box, and select Sessions.
The points on the graph are days, but because traffic often fluctuates depending on the day of the week, it's hard to determine a pattern. Change that to weeks, and it's easier to see any drops.
If the blue line (for this year) is trending down, and the orange line (for last year) is doing the same thing, then you most likely weren't impacted by the core update.
If the blue line is trending down more steeply than the orange line, it's possible that your site was impacted by the update.
My Cub Scout blog is seeing a decrease in organic search, but that's because of the seasonality of Cub Scouting. When you compare May 1st through June 13th of last year to this year, you can see that my sessions are dropping at the same rate as last year.
What Do I Do If My Site Was Impacted?
I'm afraid I have to tell you something you probably don't want to hear. There's really nothing specific you can do other than try to have the best quality site possible.
This post from Search Engine Roundtable references a talk that Google's John Mueller gave in a webmaster hangout earlier today. In it, he said, “There is no specific thing where we'd be able to say you did this and you should have done that and therefore we're showing things differently.”
Mueller mentioned a 2011 (!) post by Amit Singhal that was written after the Panda update. Singhal lists a series of questions that we could ask ourselves to determine if we have a “quality” site.
Mueller expanded this by suggesting that we have someone unrelated to our site answer those questions. I would take that one step further and ask a person who doesn't have an online business or blog to review it. Most of our readers probably aren't bloggers, so their answers would be most helpful.
Share what your site's organic search traffic is doing in a comment below.