A look at Google’s algorithm and why your web traffic is all over the place right now.
When you notice lots of wild ups and downs in traffic, it’s likely you’re caught in the middle of a Google algorithm update and your website isn’t taking it well.
After all, the algorithm is what determines where you show up in the search results, and therefore, how much organic traffic you get. So let’s talk about what the Google algorithm is, what it means for businesses, and ways to counteract penalties.
What is a Google algorithm update?
As you know, Google is a search engine. And its algorithm is what powers it — it’s like the man behind the curtain. It’s also like a vacuum that sucks up a bunch of data, analyzes it, then uses that data to rank websites.
The algorithm’s primary goal is to make sure that whatever lands at the top of each search results page is the most valuable to the searcher.
And the algorithm constantly updates (thousands of times a year, usually without warning) to deliver the best experience. Yet not every update matters to businesses — a lot of them aren’t even noticeable. But every now and then, Google releases an algorithm update that sends out a shockwave.
Why is it so important?
We rarely know the exact date and time when Google is going to release an update. So sometimes business owners wake up to find out their website has been penalized. Or maybe a competitor took over their coveted snippet spot.
In other words, algorithm updates have the power to make or break you. So it’s important to pay attention to them and adjust accordingly. Otherwise, you risk losing your spot in the search results (which can be REALLY tough to undo).
So here are the top three Google algorithm updates to know about if you want better search performance in 2022.
Multitask Unified Model (MUM)
Initial Roll Out: June 2021 (ongoing)
Google’s Multitask Unified Model was released in a June 2021 algorithm update. It’s a special kind of technology that helps Google understand complex search queries. The reason it’s ongoing is that MUM learns and matures over time. So a year from now, MUM will be more powerful than it is today. Google teases that MUM is learning how to do things like:
- Answer long-form and complex questions
- Use text and images in multiple languages to provide nuanced search results
- Refine and broaden search feed features
So while MUM isn’t something you can exactly prepare for, it’s certainly something to have on your radar. Google says one of its goals is to let searchers take a photo of a pair of boots and ask if they’re good for hiking in Mt. Fuji. Another way to put this is, the future of search is changing.
Google Algorithm pro tip
Work with a team of experts to make sure your website is as helpful as it possibly can be for your audience. Think content, photos, FAQs, internal links, the whole package. Because the easier it is for people to find information on your website, the easier it will be for your website to earn qualified traffic.
2021 Core Updates
Initial Roll Out: June, July, November (ongoing)
The 2021 Core Updates (that are likely to continue into 2022) focus on content quality control. They’re ongoing and almost always unexpected. So the best thing you can do here is to remember E-A-T:
According to Google, this acronym is the most important criterion that determines page quality. In other words, it’s what helps you in the search results. The better your content is, the better off your search results performance will be.
Bad content = Way less website traffic
So if you published a bunch of poor-quality content on your website, you probably noticed a dip in traffic and rankings.
Algorithm pro tip
The best way to improve your rank on Google and attract more traffic is to beef up your content. This means finding out what your audience needs and then giving it to them. For example, if you own a local bakery, your website could post quality content about recipes.
Page Experience and Core Web Vitals
Initial Roll Out: June 2021
Google started rolling out Page Experience (and Core Web Vitals) toward the middle of last year. This update checks for things about your website that make it easier or harder for searchers to use like:
- Mobile usability
- Safe and secure browsing
- Secure transfer protocol (HTTPS)
- Intrusive ad experiences
- Core Web Vitals (fast loading times, responsiveness, and Cumulative Layout Shift)
Now, this is a lot of fancy jargon that boils down to this:
If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, fast, secure, and easy to use, your website gets penalized.
So if your website had serious technical issues (like it only worked on desktop), you almost certainly experienced a horrifying drop in traffic and rankings.
Algorithm pro tip
Google keeps hinting that there are more updates to Page Experience and Core Web Vitals coming. Keep your eyes peeled or work with a team of pros to make sure your website isn’t impacted.
Final thoughts on Google algorithm updates in 2022
The world of search algorithms is like a rabbit hole. The deeper you go, the more algorithm questions you have. But luckily, it’s relatively simple to make sure your website is up for any update. Here’s a recap of how to stabilize traffic during Google algorithm updates:
- Understand your customers and what they need from your website
- Publish quality content that serves your audience
- Make sure your website is technically sound
Keep exploring similar topics by checking out our small business hub here. It’s filled with tons of helpful resources, guides, and tips for SMBs — and we’re always updating it so be sure to check back frequently.
If you’re ready to get your website prepped and ready to withstand any Google algorithm update, talk to us.