In a move very unlike the search engine giant, Google announced a broad core update in June, before it actually happened. The update will continue to roll out for a while, and as of this writing, there’s no indication when it will be complete. It’s still too early to determine the full impact of the update, but it’s important to be aware of.
What is a Broad Core Update?
According to Google SearchLiason on Twitter, every day Google releases at least one change geared toward making the search results better. While some of the updates are focused on specific improvements, the others are considered broad core changes. They say these updates are routine and take place multiple times a year.
When these updates occur, there’s nothing wrong with the pages that notice drops. It’s a reflection of changes in the system that were benefiting previously under-rewarded sites. There’s no “fix” to regain rankings you lost as a result of one of these broad core updates. Google suggests focusing efforts on quality content creation, as this may help your site rise through rankings relative to other pages.
My understanding is a broad core update makes changes to the main search algorithm, as there are at least 200 (and likely many more) ranking factors that are part of it. A broad core update may make adjustments to the order, importance, or weight of any given one of these factors in an effort to make overall search results better.
What Happened in June?
The update began June 3rd, and continued until all data centers were updated. Google announced on June 8 that the update had been fully rolled out.. Google doesn’t typically announce these sorts of changes before or as they occur, but it may have something to do with the fact that the SEO community has been asking Google to announce when these kinds of updates would occur to allow them to prepare and remain proactive about any changes that occur because of the updates. Google’s Danny Sullivan said in a tweet, “Nothing special or particular ‘big.’ It’s the usual type of core updates that we regularly do. We just wanted to be more proactive. Rather than people scratching their heads after-the-fact and asking ‘hmm?,’ we thought it would be good to just let folks know before it rolled out.”
With this update, as well as other broad core updates, we don’t see anything extraordinary. Google just wanted to alert the community so they knew what was going on and didn’t stress about any changes they may notice.
What the Data Says
In the wake of the updates, many large data providers released reports about how this update has affected them. RankRanger, Moz, SearchMetrics, and Sistrix have amassed large datasets around Google rankings, allowing them to see the bigger picture when it comes to algorithm updates and how they affect rankings.
RankRanger found that gambling, health, and financial websites were hit the hardest in terms of visibility loss. They noted that while many sites fluctuate in the search results, the fluctuation wasn’t as strong as seen in the past.
Dr. Pete Myers, the Marketing Scientist at Moz, shared his early findings on Twitter. He says though it’s not an in-depth analysis, there was high flux across verticals, but unusually high for health, and food and groceries. Day over day flux was high, but 22 days in 2019 have been at or over that temperature. In another update, he said there was some flux on the 4th, but by the 5th it was stabilizing. Sites that had gained or lost big on the first day continued to lose or gain, but at a smaller scale.
SearchMetrics found, at least in preliminary analysis, that many parts of the March broad core update were reversed. It appears that Google changed some factors to brand and authority too much in March, and used the June update to revert it. The reason for this line of thinking is that many websites, especially in the medical niche that lost visibility as a result of the March update gained back that visibility. But in other areas, they’re not seeing the same pattern. They also found that trusted aggregator sites, such as Yelp and YellowPages were boosted.
Sistrix found that in comparison to the previous days results, you could definitely see the impact of the core update. Sites like Mercola.com and Daily Mail were among the hardest hit, whereas sites like Mirror, HuffPost, and Healthline were among the ones to receive the biggest gains.
Bonus: Separate Algorithm Update Launches Alongside Broad Core
What’s interesting to see is that on June 4th, just one day after starting the broad core update, Google also released what they dubbed as a Diversity update. The fact that updates came out so close together makes analysis a bit more confusing, but it’s nice to see Google providing more information about the updates.
In a June 6 tweet, Google announced they were making a change to search results because they’ve received feedback indicating that many searches provide several results from the same site. As a result of the change, you typically will not see more than two results from the same site in the top results. There are some instances, though, such as when the system determines it is especially relevant, to show more than two results from the same site.
The site diversity update will treat subdomains as part of a root domain so results from a subdomain will be considered the same as results from the root domain in terms of diversity. However, when deemed relevant, they are to be treated separately.
At the end of the thread, Google made it know the launch of the diversity update was separate from the core update that had also launched that week – as different, unconnected releases.
I, for one, am glad to see Google keeping us up to date on what’s going on before it happens because it lets us keep our clients informed about the process and what they may be able to expect.