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Google's 'January 2020 Core Update' – What we know so far banner

Google's 'January 2020 Core Update' – What we know so far

This month, Google have announced the release of their new 'January Core Update' and this time, it's getting a lot more attention than previous updates.  

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What is a Google core update

Core updates occur multiple times throughout the year, with the bigger updates happening every quarter. A Google core update is the process in which the algorithm Google produces adjusts, with an intended outcome to increase the relevancy of search results to the user. The algorithms affect the search rankings, and each core update is often described as being 'strong' or 'weak', often comparing to the previous core update. 

We previously wrote an article on the BERT update, this was a prime example of a strong update which Google announced as being the 'biggest change to Google search in the past 5 years'. That being said, this new January 2020 Core Update is showing to be more noticeable and widespread.

So, what do we know so far?

As mentioned above, this update has shown to be bigger and stronger than previous changes. The update is not only big but it is global, affecting more people than updates like the BERT update or the September 2019 Core Update, which seemed to focus on boosting video content in the rankings by increasing the relevance it gives to video content for informational keywords.

It can be hard to tell the full impact or focus of an update as Google never give much detail to the algorithm change. It's up to us SEO professionals to figure out; based on the changes to rankings and the way searches are impacted, what change has been made and how to make sure our sites are successful and continue to be seen.

This core update looks to have not targeted any specific sites or businesses, with no changes to a particular industry. It hasn't targeted people who have made mistakes or are doing things wrong, but more the sites who are doing well and contain rich and more relevant content than the other pages.

We can also see the changes made to the featured snippets that display at the top of the first search engine results page (SERP). Google have announced that featured snippet sites will no longer be listed again on the results page in an attempt to de-clutter and organise the SERP better. Danny Sullivan; Google's public search liaison, Tweeted in regards to this:

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You may have noticed the new icons that Google have started showing in Chrome, known as 'favicons'. This has been a more gradual update, starting with mobile devices and has now moved on to desktop. These favicons aim to highlight ads with a bold 'ad' symbol placed next to paid ads and a personalised favicon next to organic results. This may not have been rolled out across all desktops yet, so don't worry if yours doesn't appear just yet.

Here are a few examples for you to look out for:

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What is the general opinion 

It's always difficult to come to terms with new changes, especially if you're not massively tech savvy and have only just got used to the previous change. Updates like these often have mixed reviews, the favicons seem to have users questioning if the use of the black 'ad' icon does actually make the ads stand out more, or if it actually helps blend the pages in with the organic results as the layout is now exactly the same, in comparison to the older setup which had 'ad' written in green along with the URL.

It should also be said that if your rankings following this update have decreased, because this is not an update to target specific industries, it doesn't mean you have done anything wrong but more that other sites may have more rich content than you do at the moment. 

Our advice following the update

Sometimes an update like this can come as a shock to companies, with results fluctuating rapidly in a way you didn't expect. Whether your rankings have decreased or even increased following the update, we have some key advice to keep you at your best.

Make sure you are writing relevant and informative content, go back and read your current content on each page to find ways to raise the quality of your text. If you are continually optimising your content, you will always be meeting Google's regulations and not experience huge drops, instead even crawl to the top. It's all about relevancy, if you help the user more than others, Google will recognise this.

Remember, this isn't permanent. Google's Core updates usually take a few weeks if not longer to complete, and then settle down. User examples of drops have already been shown to have stabilised and even turned around to a positive result following the algorithm update.

Hydra will be keeping an eye out over the next few weeks and months to see the full impact of this new update, so stay tuned.

Hydra Creative specialise in SEO and digital marketing, writing content and carrying out keyword research for websites in order to optimise their Google rankings. We keep on top of Google's updates and algorithm changes, doing the hard work for you. Contact a member of the team today for advice and to start your journey to better quality content with successful results.

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