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Google Core Updates: Are new ranking factors relevant?

Last month, Google rolled out the first Core Update 2021 and immediately announced the next one for July. This has changed the ranking positions of companies all over the world and will continue to do so over the next month. However, these are not the only updates Google will implement that will permanently change existing SEO practices. In addition, it is important to dispel widespread myths about relevant ranking factors.

Which updates has Google implemented and which are still to come?
The Google Core Updates include lasting changes to the ranking algorithm, which sorts the search results according to various ranking factors. Unlike the usual daily updates (Google Everlfux), the Core Updates have a much stronger impact on the search results pages. In general, as always, they serve to improve search and access to relevant content for the user.

After the last update in December 2020, Google made their user wait an unusual long time for further renewals. In addition, the Core Updates 2021 are characterized by the peculiarity that they are implemented in two parts – the so-called June and July Core Updates 2021. The first changes in the ranking are already visible since June 3rd, but since Google could not complete all changes by then, the second part is now rolled out in July.
At the same time, the technology company launched the Page Experience Update, which has been permanently shaping the ranking factors since mid-June. We will report on this again in detail in a following news article.

How can one handle the changes successfully?
According to Danny Sullivan, head of Google Search Liaison, Google is not penalizing webmasters through the Core Updates, but rather striving to better evaluate content and respond to users needs. Thus, providing relevant content remains success factor number one. In order to rank at the top of the search results, it is still fundamentally essential to publish high-quality content and to keep the company basics maintained at all times.

It is noticeable that former update losers, rather "old" websites with traditional SEO factors such as domain age and backlinks, are currently ranking higher while really popular stores and content sites have been "punished". This effect will probably change within the next month, though. That remains to be continuously observed.

Therefore, it remains the crux of the whole matter to find out, which ranking factors currently play a greater role. There is also a lot to read about classic SEO factors on the web. And this often leads one to overestimate the relevance of some ranking factors. Such allegedly highly relevant ranking factors, but which in fact have little influence on the ranking currently, are for example:

  • Keyword Density: This refers to how often a keyword is mentioned on the page in relation to all words in total. It is often recommended to have a keyword density of 3-5% but the influence of this ranking factor has long since faded. In fact, according to John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, keyword density is no longer pivotal. The search results as a whole are no longer strongly aligned with the keywords, because the search intention behind the search term is of greater importance for Google – because this approach enables the company to suggest truly relevant results. So please do not compulsively place keywords and thereby make texts almost unreadable. It is more about a positive user experience while reading. Readable, relevant content is the key to ranking success.
  • Keywords in the meta description: Even though meta descriptions are displayed in the search results and are thus intended to show one’s own relevance to the searcher as a kind of figurehead, keywords in the meta description are not included in the ranking process. However, there are indirect influences of the keywords in meta descriptions for the ranking: By using appealing meta descriptions and meta titles, one’s own website has a greater chance of being relevant for the users and thus being clicked on as well. Here, too, only the search intention is decisive – without influencing the ranking of the website.
  • Actuality: While actuality is effectively a ranking factor on Google, it is not equally important across all industries. For example, while it makes perfectly sense for news organizations to publish new content on a daily or hourly basis, companies, especially in B2B, can also offer high-quality content that can stay on the website for years without updating. After all, a good service or product description remains a good description. So, it is not necessary to compulsively post new content if it does not bring any new relevant aspect at all.
  • Bounce rate: This ranking factor indicates how many users have left a website directly after visiting it without looking at other pages. This is often seen as an alarm signal in marketing analyses – and wrongly so. Although it is desirable to keep this factor low, it is not relevant for all industries as is often assumed. If a question is answered immediately on the page, it is not necessary for the user to deal with further content. Mueller also confirms that the bounce rate is not a decisive factor in the ranking of search results. Again, good content is king. The bounce rate only becomes important on pages that are supposed to bring about a conversion such as the purchase of an article, the download of a whitepaper or similar – here Heat Maps can help to recognize where users linger on the page, what they do not read, which is perhaps a hurdle to the completion of the conversion. However, this is not decisive for the ranking of one's own website.

The Core Updates are not the only SEO-relevant updates that Google currently wants to enforce. With the Page Experience Update follows another change in the ranking algorithm, which can influence the visibility of a majority of German companies. What exactly changes and how best to deal with it – these questions will be answered in the next news article on SEO.

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