The impact of and counter measures to the last Google Core Update


Userlevel 7
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In the first week of May, Google rolled out a big core update which has a significant impact on positions and SERPs of many, many websites.

Some people claimed to have lost over 90% of their Google organic traffic, while others did well from this update.

 

Our community seems to have been negatively affected by the update by about 5-10%, as far as we can see.

My questions to other inSided customers:

How have you been affected? And what actions did you take (or are you planning to take) in order to optimize your content? What inSided SEO features are you missing that you could make use of in this current situation?

My questions to inSided:

Did you do an analysis of the update and its impact on inSided communities? What is your takeaway from the analysis? How are inSided communities affected? Which (missing) components / functionalities are having a negative / positive impact on the communities’ search result positions? What technical optimizations are you planning to do in order to counter the negative effects and to secure your clients’ SEO growth?


2 replies

Userlevel 7
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​Hi Bjoern,

thanks for sharing this with us. Surely this is a topic which is just as complex as it is unsatisfying to hear that your community probably has been affected negatively. I will try to keep it simple and to-the-point as possible, as I am not an expert in this specific segment. This is what I learned from colleagues and a bit of reading myself.

The main challenge that we see is that we cannot be 100% sure of the size of the impact of this change on communities, at least at this stage. This update has just been fully in effect since about two weeks now. There are a number of affected spaces which have been identified, but for communities, the impact is still uncertain: 

Communities are, compared to other commercial pages which live on generating traffic (shops, blogs, advertisements etc.), usually not in the focus of SEO experts and blogs which do an extensive investigation into the effect of such changes. At least not on such a large scale, this community is probably one of the very few places such things are being discussed. So it needs more time to learn what the algorithm is focusing on more or less than before.

What we can also say is that especially larger and more mature communities might be seeing a bigger impact since the update, as we have seen indicators that more and more old and outdated content is being punished by Google. This is not necessarily negative, as there is also more focus on converting incoming traffic.

I have written down a number of other, general findings and thoughts:

The good news

Updates should help communities with SEO

First of all, Google is always promoting one thing: GIving the user what they are looking for. In consequence, relevancy of content is something that Google recognizes (measured e.g. in bounce rate) and promotes. So community will always have a strong hand in terms of SEO, thus in general an optimization should benefit communities in the long run if Google does a good job.

There is a fallpit to this thought however, which might explain a drop in sessions. I will come back to this later.

Most B2C support communities have not decreased in sessions (so far)

If I look at the last 3 months of typical B2C support communities (a telco community with 2-5 years of age), then I see that the traffic was either flat or saw an increase in sessions. I cannot say if this is due to this update, but good to say that a decrease is not a general trend we see - as of now. I will come back to this further below.

Help outside of your community has received a boost

I had a look at the performance of Google Rich Results (the card-style boxes of information which Google promotes at the top of search results pages) and have found that the amount of Google Rich Results impressions (blue line) as well as the amount of Google Rich Results being used (green bar) has vastly improved for most of the communities I've checked:

It makes sense that, in the graphic above, you see a delay in the increase by just about two weeks as “the entire period of the rollout takes one to two weeks until all changes are live” (Source).

Content with low word-count has been hurt

Community content is rather extensive when it comes to word count. Generally speaking, they seem to have increased in SEO relevance, as “sites that tend to have content with low word count registered a drop in ranking and traffic” (Source). So what's bad for others is good for us here, in a sense.

 

The bad news

Unfortunately, also due to complexity and black-box of the actual changes, there are some things to be worried about:

Vagueness makes it hard to act on

As we do not know the exact “enemies” that cause organic traffic to drop since the change, it is quite hard to make out that one change which will restore this dip. Even after we recently rolled out a number of relevant SEO improvements, of course there are still some things which would surely help here (e.g. reduce the amount of identical links per page). Nevertheless, choosing a single aspect to counter this seems like risky business compared to working on things we know will be very valuable to you.

Measurability

Not just that many communities know seasonal performance peaks, the pandemic did affect each of our communities in very different ways. A nightmare for benchmarking as it is hard to find a standard to compare it with Q1, the last month or anything else, unfortunately. I was looking at benchmark data from one year ago, however you would have to take into account a) the growth of all communities since then and b) seasonal peaks of certain communities (which can jade the benchmark data) and c) other effects as new products, categories, market changes etc.

Mixed results for individual communities

I honestly did not have an easy time figuring out what to compare this while and have a good feeling about the validity of the results. So please take this with a spoon of salt.

Looking at the numbers from Q1, I see an increase in traffic for most B2C communities that have a support focus and are older than one year. This probably has to do with shortage in support staff & extraordinary events (e.g. shops closed). The pandemic is entering a new phase in more and more countries. You could argue that, if you observe a drop, a decrease in relevancy in online self-service support in your region could be the cause, but I cannot verify it due to lack of data.

In B2B communities it is very mixed - I see trends in both directions, but this also has to do with the developments in Q1. Some communities were the central piece in strategies to catch the fall of the pandemic (a reason we have prioritized our online events roadmap), while others were affected by their customers focussing on burning internal issues (e.g. vast drop in demand). It is highly contextual.

 

What’s ahead?

As with many updates, there are good and bad things - relevant content will win and unhelpful content probably will lose. Taking everything of the above into account, it is best to say that communities remain strong in SEO also after the update, however we will have to closely monitor performance in Q3 & Q4 and compare it with expected growth compared to what we saw in 2019. Hopefully the next quarter will be less eventful in many ways and give us more certainty, also in terms of analytics.

After having rolled out a number of SEO improvements just before this update, it also seems to me that continuing with previously planned SEO improvements (based on your ideas & feedback) will be the best way to go until we can be more sure about the impact of all of this.

 

What can a Community Manager do?

As a Community Manager, you can do a number of things to catch a dip like this. If I look at the list that you’ve linked to in your post, I see a lot of things which can be done by good content management. Think of that vague, one-liner question without much info. Improve it - or move it (as in: merge it with a better topic). And instead spending time adding 100 different keywords to an article, focus more on what can really help every visitor with what they want to learn more about. There are many tips on boosting your SEO out there, but nothing beats real value and such updates are aimed to achieve just that.

But I am also intrigued to hear from others if they noticed anything related to this update, good or bad, or if anyone has identified certain parts of the platform which could help making use of these changes!

 

Userlevel 4
Badge +3

Making sure community content is helpful and valuable to the reader is a good way to maintain SEO for sure.

 

BUT it would be interesting to know the impact of these changes, and what we can do to help mitigate...
 

The first action is to analyse the data: does anyone recommend any GA must-look metrics? We can start capturing these and compare to previous years...

 

 

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