Google Core Update

Why Trust Techopedia

What is Google Core Update?

A Google Core Update is a major change or modification to the underlying algorithms that Google uses to rank web pages on search engine result pages (SERPs).  Core Updates are significant enough to be announced publicly on Google’s Developer Blog because they have the potential to impact website search rankings.

Advertisements

Core updates are part of Google’s continuous effort to match users’ search engine queries with the most relevant, authoritative, and high-quality content available. Google announces core updates to provide transparency and give website owners, search engine optimization (SEO) consultants, and content creators a heads-up that significant shifts in organic search rankings might occur.

Techopedia Explains the Google Core Update Meaning

Techopedia Explains the Google Core Update Meaning 

Google Core Updates are called “core” because they fundamentally change how Google evaluates and understands web content.

This type of broad update is not intended to fix specific technical issues in search or address specific black hat SEO practices. The purpose is to re-evaluate how Google assesses website content in order to improve the overall quality and usefulness of search results.

Major Google Updates Since 2018

In 2019, Google released an important core update called BERT. BERT, which stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, represented a major leap forward in Google’s ability to interpret natural language in search queries.

Before BERT, Google’s search engine results primarily matched linear keywords in search queries with linear keywords in web content. BERT was transformational because it can analyze an entire query at once. This means it can consider how each word in a query relates to both the words before it and the words after it.

This fundamental change dramatically improved organic search results because it allows future Google algorithm updates to understand user intent more accurately.

BERT is also important because it is arguably the last Google Core Update to be given a memorable name. Today, core updates are simply referred to by the month and year they are rolled out. The Core Update for March 2024, for example, follows the new naming convention of month/year.

March 2024 Core Update

The Core Update in March 2024 got a lot of media buzz before it finished rolling out, perhaps because people were anticipating the update would address generative AI content. Initially, many armchair pundits predicted that this update would negatively impact sites that used ChatGPT or Google Gemini to create content.

Surprisingly, however, the update’s actual impact seems to be somewhat neutral for sites whose AI-generated content provides a positive user experience (UX) and follows Google’s E-A-T principles. Elizabeth Tucker, the Director of Product Management has made it clear that today, Google cares more about the final content’s quality than whether a human or AI wrote it.

What some website owners found shocking, however, was that during the update, Google actually deindexed websites that posted “unhelpful” or “unoriginal” content that appeared to be published just for SEO purposes.

After the March 2024 Core Update, sites that have a poor user experience or feel like they are created for search engines (instead of people) will be regarded as scam sites and won’t be listed on Google SERPs.

“Based on our evaluations, we expect that the combination of this [March 2024] update and our previous efforts will collectively reduce low-quality, unoriginal content in search results by 40%.” – Elizabeth Tucker, Director of Product Management at Google.

How Google Core Update Works

Before a Core Update is rolled out, it undergoes extensive testing. Google uses sophisticated methods to analyze the potential impact of algorithmic changes before each Core Update is released.

This typically involves analyzing vast amounts of search data, using small-scale rollouts, hiring humans to evaluate search results, or a combination of techniques designed to ensure the update improves overall search quality and user experience. Once the Core Update is deemed ready, Google will deploy it across its servers worldwide. Depending on the release, this step can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

After the release has been completed, Google will monitor the impact of the Core Update and collect both data and human feedback. If necessary, future adjustments or updates will be made to address any issues or further refine search results.

How Often Does Google Update?

Google engineers release small Micro Updates to Google’s search engine several times a day. This Agile software development strategy typically fixes bugs or makes minor data-driven tweaks to search algorithms to proactively prevent machine learning (ML) model drift. Micro Updates are not announced because their impact is on the back end and doesn’t directly impact user experience.

Several times during the year, Google software engineers, machine learning engineers, and product managers will also release Targeted Updates. Targeted Updates are intended to address specific issues like improving location-based search results, or raising visibility for review sites that verify the reviewer’s identity and/or qualifications for submitting a review.  Google typically does announce Targeted Updates, because they can impact search engine results for a limited number of sites.

Core Updates vs. Minor Updates

Unlike Micro Updates or Targeted Updates that Google implements to fix specific issues, Core Updates are broad and can significantly influence organic search rankings.

How Google Core Update is Different From Other Updates?

Core updates and other updates in Google’s search algorithm have distinct characteristics and impacts:

Core Updates
  • Are announced.
  • Affect a wide range of search results across all languages.
  • Has the potential to influence website visibility and organic traffic for a large number of sites.
  • Can significantly change how search algorithms assess and rank web content.
  • Occur several times each year.

Targeted Updates
  • Are usually announced.
  • Target a particular issue within the search ecosystem.
  • Are usually intended to improve specific types of search engine results.
  • Happen more frequently than Core Updates but less frequently than Daily Updates.
  • Typically have a much narrower SEO impact compared to Core Updates.

Daily Updates

How to Recover From Google Core Updates

Google often advises that improvements made in response to a Core Update’s impact may not be reflected until the next Core Update.

To recover from a Core Update and prepare for the next one, website owners should perform both technical and editorial site audits. It can also be useful to consult well-regarded SEO sites like Moz or Search Engine Land and follow trusted SEO experts like Neil Patel or Aleyda Solis on social media.

In general, website publishers whose organic traffic has declined after a Core Update should review Google’s Search Quality Rating Guidelines and ensure that their site:

  1. Is mobile-friendly, loads quickly, and is easy to navigate.
  2. Enhances E-E-A-T principles by providing clear authorship and citing authoritative sources.
  3. Provides clear authorship for Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) content.
  4. Removes or revises low-quality content that does not provide users with informational, transactional, commercial, or navigational value.
  5. Uses HTTPS to ensure secure web browsing.
  6. Identifies and fixes technical SEO issues such as broken links or lack of breadcrumb trails.
  7. Disavows toxic or spammy backlinks that could harm the site’s reputation and search performance.
  8. Ensures the site’s XML site map is up to date and submitted to Google Search Console.
  9. Is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.

Google Core Update Impact on SEO

After a Google Core Update, websites may experience sudden rises or drops in search rankings. Sites that are better aligned with the criteria that are emphasized by the update may see improvements in their rankings, while those that are not may experience declines. The specific reasons for these changes can vary widely depending on the focus of a particular Core Update and the content and features of individual websites.

Google Core Update Examples

Early on, Google often gave its Core Updates memorable names that were loosely connected to the issues the update was intended to address.

In recent years, however, Google has changed the naming convention for Core Updates to month/year. The new naming convention is meant to help simplify the identification of specific Core Updates for discussion purposes now that Google is releasing them more often.

 

Panda

February 2011

Targeted low-quality content, content farms, and sites with high ad-to-content ratios, aiming to reduce their visibility in search results.

Penguin

April 2012

Focused on penalizing sites engaging in manipulative link practices and keyword stuffing to boost rankings artificially.

Hummingbird

August 2013

Improved Google’s understanding of natural language queries. Helped make search results more relevant to the searcher’s intent.

Mobilegeddon

April 2015

Prioritized mobile-friendly websites in mobile search results.

RankBrain

October 2015

Introduced machine learning into the ranking algorithm to interpret complex queries and match them with the most relevant results.

BERT

October 2019

Enhanced understanding of the context of words in search queries to provide more accurate search results based on natural language processing (NLP).

Core Update

January 2020

Broadly aimed at improving structured data formats and shared schemas that provide information about a page and the things described by the page.

Core Update

Core Update

August 2023

Broadly focused on improving user experience signals by reducing the visibility of FAQ-rich results and limiting How-to-rich results to desktop devices.

The Bottom Line

Google Core Updates are important updates that can significantly impact the top results on search engine results pages.

Google announces this type of update because websites may see page rankings rise or fall in search results depending on how well the site is aligned with the criteria emphasized by the update.

FAQs

What is Google Core Update in simple terms?

Is Google Core update important?

When was the last Google Core update?

What is core in Google?

Advertisements

Related Questions

Related Terms

Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.