What do real-time Google algorithm updates mean for your business?

Updates to Google's algorithms always bring good and bad news to webmasters, and as our digital world changes and grows faster so do the algorithms themselves. At the end of last year it was announced that the latest version of the Penguin algorithm would be rolling out in real-time, we are however yet to see any updates. So what does this mean for your business?

Firstly, we don't want to assume that you already know everything about Google's algorithm, so allow us the time to explain the Penguin to you. 

This algorithm was initially created to catch out those using 'spammy' techniques to manipulate a website's performance in the search engine results pages. This form of spamming is most commonly done through the building of low quality links, usually on a very high scale. Whilst this may sometimes have a positive effect in the short term, it is highly likely that when Google crawls and indexes a website with these poor quality and false links – the site will be hit with an algorithmic 'Penguin penalty'. The result of this is a massive drop in search rankings and worst case scenerio, the website totally de-indexed.

Previously algorithm updates were rolled out over a long period of time which meant that webmasters might not witness Google's wrath until much further down the line. However with the proposed real-time updates, we could start to see issues much sooner.

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Algorithmic penalties

So, what are these penalties and how do you find out if your site has been hit with one? Unfortunately, they are a lot more difficult to troubleshoot than Manual Actions; where Google informs webmasters via the Google Search Console. If your website has been hit by the latest update, you won't receive a direct message from Google identifying the issue and so it's likely you won't know that you have an algorithmic penalty. 

Google's previous updates to its algorithms have not always been quick in rolling out, for example, the last noticeable Penguin algorithm update was in October 2014. These slow burns and delays to penalties mean it takes longer for businesses and digital agencies to identify if there is an issue and rectify the problem. Aside from watching for drops in traffic with analytical tools like SEMRush (although drops in traffic can be caused by many different changes including design, layout, links etc) it's quite difficult to find out when, and if you were even hit before it's too late.

However – change seems to be on the horizon with an announcement from Google at the last Search Marketing Expo in New York, to say that the next Penguin update will be in the very near future, and that it's affect will be applied to websites in real-time.

What does real-time mean?

Real-time algorithm changes ultimately mean that Google will be applying the algorithm to all websites as it rolls out; instead of waiting for an indication that your website has been updated and needs re-indexing. This could mean that more websites will be hit however, it gives webmasters a better chance of identifying an algorithmic penalty and resolving the issue; hopefully offering your business a much faster recovery time. 

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What are the negatives?

1) Google's crawlers won't crawl pages at the same speed as the update is released, meaning it could take weeks or even months to have a penalty noticed and applied. 

2) Even if you keep a detailed timeline of website changes and actions, due to crawl speed they may not match up to a sudden drop in traffic, ultimately leading to mis-diagnosis. 

3) Any algorithmic changes could affect ranking, not just penalties; this will make it difficult to diagnose an issue.

What are the positives? 

Change isn't all bad – search marketers and businesses will now be more aware of when each change is happening, and overall do stand a greater chance of noticing any penalties.  With increased testing, digital agencies like ourselves will be able to better understand the impact of these key algorithm elements, and with this knowledge we can now concentrate on building a perfectly optimised website and help business owners recover faster from any issues. Finally, if sites are now being penalised quickly and in greater numbers, it means that your search results will be higher, cleaner and more informative to your customers.

Your website is one of the most important assets to on and offline success, and a good digital marketing agency will ensure you're consistently at the top of your game. To find out more about SEO, Google's algorithm or how we can help you grow online in a sustainable way – get in touch with us today.

Catherine Durham

Catherine Durham

Digital Marketing Manager (Dip DigM)

Digital Marketing Manager at Netmatter, Catherine Durham graduated in Press & Editorial Photography. She has since gone on to work in digital marketing and ecommerce, with experience in SEO, copywriting, design and photography.

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