Google has announced a new broad core algorithm update, a mere two hours before it took effect. So far, this update is known only as the “January 2020 Core Update”, but, like other updates, will likely earn a more distinct moniker once its effects are better understood. Until then, Google advises webmasters and digital marketers to approach this broad core update as they have with major updates in the past, by playing it slow and waiting for any results to reveal themselves before making changes.


Google SearchLiaison on Twitter
Google SearchLiaison on Twitter


So, what do we know about this new Google update, and what should/can we do about it? Learn more below.

What is the January 2020 Core Update?

The January 2020 Core Update is a significant adjustment to Google’s broad core algorithms.

Google is constantly making minor, subtle changes to the algorithms they use to crawl the web, indexing web pages to feature them in search results. These changes are made daily, seldom without announcement and rarely resulting in noticeable changes to search results. However, Google occasionally makes much larger changes that will have a noticeable impact on the search rankings for many sites.

These larger updates are changes made to what Google calls its “Core” algorithm, or an update to Google’s primary search algorithm. Because the nature of Google’s core algorithm is their secret sauce, Google tends to offer little, if any, insight into the nature of these changes, leaving it to SEO strategists and webmasters to put the pieces together once the changes take effect.

Broadly speaking, the goal of these updates is always the same. Google is trying to ensure that sites are appropriately ranked based on their quality. In other words, sites they may slide in the search rankings after a broad core update are not being punished. It’s just that previously undervalued sites are now more accurately positioned, or that previously high-ranking sites have been reassessed against better, more recently published content.

What should you do about the January 2020 Core Update?

Core updates that tend to arrive with little warning and even less explanation, but the strategy for dealing with them remains simple: abide by SEO best practices, provide great user experience, generate engaging content, and keep an eye on Google news and insights. Consider last month’s Google BERT update, which fundamentally enhanced Google’s capacity to understand the context of search queries. Page content that was coherently written, easy to understand, and made effective use of long-tail keywords were more likely to rank, even if the content involved words that could potentially be taken out of context or applied with different meaning. That doesn’t mean pages that had previously ranked well were doing anything wrong. It just meant that some pages were finally getting their just rewards.

With every update, there are fewer and fewer ways to trick Google into falsely inflating your search rankings. At the end of the day, sound SEO strategy will always offer sustainable search engine success. Keep the following principles in mind if your site if impacted by this (or any) core update:

  • 1. Think about user intent – The keywords you want your site to rank for are only valuable if they attract people searching for what you provide. Think about who would gain the most from visiting your page and ask yourself what they would be asking Google. Your SEO strategy works best when it aligns your page content with user intent.
  • 2. Write quality content – Content that exists merely to stuff keywords won’t help you. Google will recognise it straight away but more importantly, so will visitors. People know when content is written to help and inform, and when it is written to manipulate an internet algorithm. Ultimately, your SEO strategy should not impede your mission to provide informative, entertaining, and engaging content for your visitors. In fact, SEO best practices will enhance it!
  • 3. Keep your site architecture clean – When it comes to your sitemap, having multiple pages allows you to utilise a wider range of keywords and optimise your pages more specifically, but with that comes the challenge of keeping your website coherently structured and easy to navigate.
  • 4. Abide by Google’s guidelines – SEO isn’t a guessing game! We may not know what goes into Google’s broad core algorithm, but we know what they expect of our websites. Why? Because they tell us! Google’s guidelines offer a wealth of insight into the priorities of search engines when assessing site quality. So, when it comes to SEO, there’s no excuse for flying blind.

A crucial thing you must remember when algorithm updates take effect is to remember that lower rankings do not mean that you’re doing anything wrong, that something needs fixing, or that Google is penalising you. However, it is best to look at the webpages which now occupy the top rankings and see what strategies these pages are implementing that you could adopt for your website.

Finally, don’t let an update deter from pursuing your SEO strategy. Google is just showing you a little more clearly how close you are to the summit of SEO perfection. Stay tuned and stay up to date!