How Often Is Google’s Algorithm Updated?

You know the signs of a Google algorithm update. Suddenly, traffic to your firm’s site drops and leads are down. Or maybe your firm is one of the lucky ones that is positively affected and traffic to your firm’s site takes off. When dramatic changes like either of these happen, it’s most likely due to a large algorithm update by Google. These major updates happen a handful of times throughout the year. But, how often does Google actually update its algorithm?

Google updates its algorithm multiple times each day. In 2010, Matt Cutts of Google revealed that Google averages 350-400 “things” (updates) each year. This number has since grown. According to Moz, Google updates about 9 times each day, with more than 3,000 reported updates in 2018 alone.

What do these updates do?

Most algorithm updates happen to make improvements to search results. They can be for things like new features, such as different forms of featured snippets, or user experience updates. Updates can be targeted to different countries or parts of the world, leaving no repercussions for your firm.

Some updates are specific to one industry and have no impact on others. Take the Medic Update of August 2018. This update mainly affected health and medical sites. It was meant to boost the rankings of underperforming sites while not penalizing sites that already ranked well. Social Security disability firms may have seen some changes in traffic to their site while FDCPA firms likely saw no difference in traffic.

Will I ever know if a large update is going to happen?

Unfortunately, most of the time Google does not announce ahead of time, although there have been a couple of instances when it did. Google pre-announced in 2015 that those with a mobile-friendly site would rank better on mobile search. Similarly, Google pre-announced that in July of 2018, if you did not have an SSL certificate, which adds an extra layer of security to your firm’s site, you would likely see a drop in your search result rankings.

Most recently, Google announced an update happening in June of 2019 but claimed it wouldn’t be a major update. They pre-announced this update to be more “proactive” rather than leaving people to scramble after a large update occurred. Because the announcement wasn’t to allow people time to prepare a mobile site or get an SSL certificate, it could be that Google is beginning to announce bigger updates, rather than confirming after the fact.

Do I need to I pay attention to the small updates?

Though some smaller updates won’t directly impact your firm’s site, watching what Google is putting a focus on can shed light on areas you haven’t thought to optimize. For example, in the past few months Google has been working to improve image search results and user experience within image search. Because of this, you may want to make sure your images are properly optimized with an alt text tag. While not having an image alt text may not hurt your firm’s SEO, as these smaller updates roll out this optimization can help your firm make the most of them.