What is the Google January 2020 Update?

January 14th in SEO 4 minute read

Google has confirmed that they’ve released a brand new broad core algorithm update titled ‘January 2020 Core Update’. The update started rolling out yesterday (13th January 2020) and will impact all search results on a worldwide scale. You can see their tweet confirming the news below:

Every year, Google makes several significant broad changes to its search algorithms. These are referred to as core updates and are designed to improve the overall search experience for users when searching through Google. You may notice some significant drops or gains to your visibility and organic traffic but sometimes you may notice no difference at all. 

What is a Google Core Update?

A Google Core Update is an update to Google’s core search algorithm with the intention of providing the user with more relevant content to their search query. These updates happen on a sporadic basis across the year and are usually confirmed by Google either in advance or once live depending on the size of the update. This gives you time to be reactive to whatever it is the update impacts.

Why do we care about Google’s updates?

SEO is an ever-changing environment. Having the knowledge that Google has released an update gives you a checkpoint to reference any drops or increases in visibility and traffic to your website. 

Whenever Google releases an update it’s more important than ever to keep an eye on your site’s analytics. If you see traffic drop suddenly, it’s likely it’s as a result of a Google update. 

What do you do if you get hit?

It’s important first to determine what the update is targetting. For example, past updates such as BERT have seen Google target more humanistic, user-friendly search queries. The January 2018 update targeted page speed as a ranking factor. And it remains to be seen what the latest update will bring.

When the details come out, jump into analytics and take the opportunity to optimise your content where possible.

Google Analytics

Has Google given any advice?

Google hasn’t directly offered any advice, however, they have released a series of questions they feel you should ask yourself when evaluating your content. This advice was released in 2011 regarding its Panda update. The questions were as follows:

  • Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
  • Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Is the content providing insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
  • Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
  • Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

You can see the full list of questions in their Webmaster Central Blog, giving more details into what you should be looking for. 

It’s not all negative though. You may see an increase in traffic and visibility. Google was quoted as saying:

“The changes are about improving how our systems assess content overall. These changes may cause some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better.”

In their core updates guidelines they summarise core updates like this:

“One way to think of how a core update operates is to imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015. A few years later in 2019, you refresh the list. It’s going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realize they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before.”

What Google is saying here is that their core updates are a way of refreshing the search results to ensure that users are getting the best content for their search query. Making sure that new content isn’t overlooked. 

So there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the pages that have seen drops. They’re just being looked at in comparison to new content that’s been released since Google’s update. This is one of the main reasons to keep checking and updating content to keep it fresh and relevant.

Get ready for Google’s updates in 2020

As Google releases updates throughout the year, you’re likely to see some fluctuation in your visibility. If you’re unsure what this means for your website, fear not. We’re an SEO agency dedicated to keeping you ahead of the game. Email seoteam@wehavezeal.com to speak to our team.

Why not take advantage of our free SEO audit? This will ensure your site is ready for what’s to come. Follow the link below to find out more.

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