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Google Can’t Provide Details About Core Algorithm Updates

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Google Can't Provide Details About Core Algorithm Updates

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Announcements about core algorithm updates are unlikely to get more detailed in the future, as Google says it can’t provide specific information.

Google has the details internally, but it can’t release the information publicly.

This was revealed in the latest episode of the Search Off The Record podcast with John Mueller, Martin Splitt, and Gary Illyes of Google’s Search Relations team.

Illyes is particularly frustrated by the fact that the team can’t give more information to the community when a core update is announced.

He questions what value there is in even announcing core updates if they can’t provide any guidance beyond telling people to review Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Based on the discussion it sounds like every announcement of a core update is going to be repeat of the one before it.

Google’s Search Relations team empathizes with everyone concerned about core updates, and wishes they could be more helpful to those impacted. But their hands are tied.

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Here are some highlights from the discussion on core updates.

Google Knows What’s In A Core Update, But It Can’t Tell You

Illyes says the team behind core updates knows what’s in them:

“Well, our team generally knows what we are doing when we are doing core updates or what the things in the core updates do, more specifically. And in the vast majority of the cases, the things are just focusing on the guidelines that we’ve been publishing for the past 20 years.

So basically, write good content, right, don’t buy links, whatever, I don’t know. So every single time we do one of these core updates, we are basically saying that… follow our guidelines, and that’s also our advice.”

Illyes questions the benefit of announcing core updates when the team can’t provide specific details.

He continues:

“… If we could give more guidance or more information about what’s in an update or how… Or what kind of sites it’s affecting or content it’s affecting, then I would be all for it, but at the moment we cannot.”

“And at the moment, we are just saying that: ‘Hello, there was a core update or incoming core update in two hours.’ And then four weeks later, we are like: ‘Yeah, we are finished with this core update.’”

In short — communication about core updates is limited to when they’ve started rolling out and when they’ve finished rolling out.

That’s the way it has always been up to now, and that’s likely all Google will be able to say about them in the future.

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Misconceptions About Core Updates

Given that there’s so little information available about core updates, there tends to be a lot of misconceptions about them.

One of the misconceptions is that core updates are designed to punish websites.

Illyes wants to make it clear that’s not the case:

“And the thing I wanted to say is that there’s also a misconception about core updates. I think that it’s a punitive thing. It’s basically punishing sites. Which is not the case, but rather, we are optimizing our relevancy algorithms, for example, or quality, or algorithms that assess quality of a site/page/content. And what we are trying to do is give users better results in some sense, right?”

Inevitably, core updates will have a positive effect on some sites, while having a negative effect on others.

When a site is negatively impacted by a core update it’s not necessarily because it did anything wrong, Illyes says:

“So, it might be that those sites that were affected negatively by a core update didn’t actually do anything wrong, but rather, our algorithms changed and that is very hard to explain, and also swallow, I imagine.

Because if you are publishing content and you’ve been publishing content for five years already, and you have a follower base and whatever, and suddenly, you rank lower and some competitors and ranking higher because Google made a change. That’s not easy to accept, I guess.”

If you find your site ranking lower after a core update it doesn’t mean you’re publishing bad content, or that there’s anything on your site you need to fix.

It’s more that other sites were “awarded” for publishing better content. Such as articles with greater depth, or articles that are more relevant to a specific query.

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For more on recovering from core updates, see this advice Google has provided in the past:

Source: Search Off The Record


Featured Image: salarko/Shutterstock



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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

Google hosted its 3rd annual Search On event on September 28th.

The event announced numerous Search updates revolving around these key areas:

  • Visualization
  • Personalization
  • Sustainability

After the event, Google’s Ad Liason, Ginny Marvin, hosted a roundtable of PPC experts specifically in the B2B industry to give their thoughts on the announcements, as well as how they may affect B2B. I was able to participate in the roundtable and gained valuable feedback from the industry.

The roundtable of experts comprised of Brad Geddes, Melissa Mackey, Michelle Morgan, Greg Finn, Steph Bin, Michael Henderson, Andrea Cruz Lopez, and myself (Brooke Osmundson).

The Struggle With Images

Some of the updates in Search include browsable search results, larger image assets, and business messages for conversational search.

Brad Geddes, Co-Founder of Adalysis, mentioned “Desktop was never mentioned once.” Others echoed the same sentiment, that many of their B2B clients rely on desktop searches and traffic. With images showing mainly on mobile devices, their B2B clients won’t benefit as much.

Another great point came up about the context of images. While images are great for a user experience, the question reiterated by multiple roundtable members:

  • How is a B2B product or B2B service supposed to portray what they do in an image?

Images in search are certainly valuable for verticals such as apparel, automotive, and general eCommerce businesses. But for B2B, they may be left at a disadvantage.

More Uses Cases, Please

Ginny asked the group what they’d like to change or add to an event like Search On.

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The overall consensus: both Search On and Google Marketing Live (GML) have become more consumer-focused.

Greg Finn said that the Search On event was about what he expected, but Google Marketing Live feels too broad now and that Google isn’t speaking to advertisers anymore.

Marvin acknowledged and then revealed that Google received feedback that after this year’s GML, the vision felt like it was geared towards a high-level investor.

The group gave a few potential solutions to help fill the current gap of what was announced, and then later how advertisers can take action.

  • 30-minute follow-up session on how these relate to advertisers
  • Focus less on verticals
  • Provide more use cases

Michelle Morgan and Melissa Mackey said that “even just screenshots of a B2B SaaS example” would help them immensely. Providing tangible action items on how to bring this information to clients is key.

Google Product Managers Weigh In

The second half of the roundtable included input from multiple Google Search Product Managers. I started off with a more broad question to Google:

  • It seems that Google is becoming a one-stop shop for a user to gather information and make purchases. How should advertisers prepare for this? Will we expect to see lower traffic, higher CPCs to compete for that coveted space?

Cecilia Wong, Global Product Lead of Search Formats, Google, mentioned that while they can’t comment directly on the overall direction, they do focus on Search. Their recommendation:

  • Manage assets and images and optimize for best user experience
  • For B2B, align your images as a sneak peek of what users can expect on the landing page

However, image assets have tight restrictions on what’s allowed. I followed up by asking if they would be loosening asset restrictions for B2B to use creativity in its image assets.

Google could not comment directly but acknowledged that looser restrictions on image content is a need for B2B advertisers.

Is Value-Based Bidding Worth The Hassle?

The topic of value-based bidding came up after Carlo Buchmann, Product Manager of Smart Bidding, said that they want advertisers to embrace and move towards value-based bidding. While the feedback seemed grim, it opened up for candid conversation.

Melissa Mackey said that while she’s talked to her clients about values-based bidding, none of her clients want to pull the trigger. For B2B, it’s difficult to assess the value on different conversion points.

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Further, she stated that clients become fixated on their pipeline information and can end up making it too complicated. To sum up, they’re struggling to translate the value number input to what a sale is actually worth.

Geddes mentioned that some of his more sophisticated clients have moved back to manual bidding because Google doesn’t take all the values and signals to pass back and forth.

Finn closed the conversation with his experience. He emphasized that Google has not brought forth anything about best practices for value-based bidding. By having only one value, it seems like CPA bidding. And when a client has multiple value inputs, Google tends to optimize towards the lower-value conversions – ultimately affecting lead quality.

The Google Search Product Managers closed by providing additional resources to dig into overall best practices to leverage search in the world of automation.

Closing Thoughts

Google made it clear that the future of search is visual. For B2B companies, it may require extra creativity to succeed and compete with the visualization updates.

However, the PPC roundtable experts weighed in that if Google wants advertisers to adopt these features, they need to support advertisers more – especially B2B marketers. With limited time and resources, advertisers big and small are trying to do more with less.

Marketers are relying on Google to make these Search updates relevant to not only the user but the advertisers. Having clearer guides, use cases, and conversations is a great step to bringing back the Google and advertiser collaboration.

A special thank you to Ginny Marvin of Google for making space to hear B2B advertiser feedback, as well as all the PPC experts for weighing in.

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Featured image: Shutterstock/T-K-M

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