Why some of your ranks may have dropped: Google’s recent core ranking algorithm update

Did you experience a sudden and unexplained drop in ranks? Did unexpected gains in ranks happen to your surprise? If so, it may be due to Google’s recent core algorithm update.

A few weeks ago it became evident that Google shifted something major in its core, as some users experienced rank drops and other unexpected changes. It all became official once Google made a Twitter statement regarding the update. Today, we will go over some of the key parts of their (mostly ambiguous) statement and how it affects SERP tracking. Best of all, we will give you a few tips on how you can be better covered and prepared when the next big update hits.

“Last week, we released a broad core algorithm update. We do these routinely several times per year.”

So, this was officially a major core algorithm update and not a small one. These happen relatively rarely – only a few times a year – but when they do, it’s noticeable, since anyone seriously affected can see the drops or spikes in their ranks.

“Each day, Google usually releases one or more changes designed to improve our results.”

A common myth that’s still circulating is that Google only changes its algorithm in big moves, but as we’ve been telling you in our blog, changes to the algorithm happen almost ALL THE TIME. It’s really interesting to note that by their own official admission, they make significant small changes at least twice a day. There are also micro-changes that happen constantly, and all these changes can affect the accuracy rates of your SERP tracker by as much as 20%. The slightest markup change can throw a wrench in the gears of rank tracking tools unequipped to handle it. Some SERP trackers on the market can show you a false rank that’s off by as many as 20 positions or more! This is a very important subject to understand for anyone tracking their ranks, and you can read more in-depth in our full article on the subject:

Why are some SERP trackers more precise than others?

PRT has developed instant response mechanisms to give you your REAL ranks. We constantly monitor these changes and adapt our rank-tracking algorithms to suit the ever-evolving Google.

“As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded.”

Google acknowledges the possible negative outcome for some websites, hence the drops and losses in traffic some may have experienced. And if you saw some pleasant unexpected gains, you were possibly one of the “under-rewarded” sites.

What can be done if you dropped in ranks or gains didn’t happen? Well, according to Google, nothing much:

“There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.”

So, unfortunately, until more is discovered about how this new update affects ranks, there’s nothing special that can be done, other than to stay with your regular strategy, follow Google’s guidelines (especially the mobile-first approach), and continue to create fresh, relevant content. With luck, it will be enough.

Most importantly, though, even if your ranks took a hit and you lost traffic, just keep moving forward. Google dropping an update bomb is an event which just about everyone in the SEO community has learned to expect and has experienced, for better or for worse. It can catch even the most seasoned SEO expert by surprise because of its out-of-the-blue nature.

PRT has some tips and solutions that can help you better handle the looming updates that lurk around the corner:

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  ― Benjamin Franklin

Make sure your rank tracker has a good Rank Update Frequency (RUF) – Update frequency is how often the tool checks Google’s source search index to fetch the freshest, most updated ranks. An SEO industry-standard SERP tracker needs to update your ranking data at least once a day. If your ranks get hit, you need to know about it that day and not a moment later, so you can figure out what to do next. This is important not only because of sudden algorithm updates, but also due to how often Google may be crawling your website and updating its position in their search index. Highly popular websites that post new content frequently (such as authority blogs, e-commerce giants, and news outlets) can get crawled as often as every few seconds. You can see a more thorough explanation about RUF here:

SEO’s life monitor: Why you absolutely must know about your SERP tracker’s rank update frequency

What you need to know is that this action takes a lot of system recourses, which is why some tools on the market will only check your ranks once a week to save resources, but it’s useless for keeping track of sudden ranking changes. PRT guarantees we’ll bring you fresh ranks every day, and you can even get up to 3 updates on demand per day for every term you track! In uncertain periods, three updates per day can shine a light on the situation and help you adjust.

Notification Tool ‘safety net’ – In PRT’s system, you can set specific triggers for each term so you’ll be alerted whenever an important ranking change happens, so you won’t miss a thing. Here are the triggers that can be set:

For example, if your usual progress pattern is moving 1-5 positions at a time, you can set a progressive trigger of “decreased by 30“. If a term suddenly drops by more than 30 positions, you will know something’s up right away. A more positive and fun trigger to set is “reached top 10” so you get notified when something’s worked in your favor.

Having high RUF allows the Notification Tool to become a powerful aid against those sudden updates. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a major update, a small update, a penalty, crawl rates or anything else that influences a rank — you should set a notification safety net to alert you immediately when a term makes a big move. To learn more about it and how you can use it to boost your SEO strategies, check out our full article:

PRT’s tactical Notifications Tool: Level up your SEO strategy

In periods of major updates and turmoil such as this, it’s especially valuable.

Avoid putting all your SEO eggs in a single Google basket – Like in previous Google updates, many websites that did ‘clean’ Google SEO have unfortunately been affected negatively, and this seems to be a regular result of these updates. It’s exactly why alternative search engines can become a valuable lifeline until your main Google ranks stabilize and return to their rightful place. Yahoo!, Bing and Yandex are small compared to Google, but Google is so huge, that their ‘small’ size still equals search volumes in the millions and valuable organic traffic.

PRT can accurately track Yahoo!, Bing and Yandex, so don’t neglect to optimize your websites for the smaller search engines as well! That way, you might lose your main organic search engine traffic temporarily, but not all your traffic. Your clients will thank you for it.

Historical insight with Term Notes and the Trend Graph – With PRT you can add notes to any term that you track, and to any date:

Clicking the little pen icon in the “Notes” tab will show this expanded window:

 

The notes can than be represented in our Trend ranking graph:

By hovering over the exclamation mark, the date, rank, indexed URL and contents of the note are revealed:

 

Placing notes on terms can reveal clues about the ranking behavior of the term upon later review. This is especially good for tracking Google updates and how they influence your ranks. A good example is simply placing a note that mentions the Google update on the respective term and the date it happened. You can place notes retroactively on any date as well and add just about any valuable information that comes to mind.

Visual graphs are the ideal way to track ranks. Huge spikes caused by a Google update bomb will be easy to spot and analyze. Even without the major updates, ranking changes can be fairly volatile, and nothing is better than a graph to show you that:

This shows just how volatile a rank can be, even for a powerful website such as Yahoo!

To read more about Term Notes and our ranking graphs:

Manage your SEO campaigns like never before with PRT’s TermNotes feature

Enter PRT’s new ranking charts: The ideal way to track an SEO campaign

Choose a tool with a solid track record – By using a SERP tracker with a proven record of handling major updates, you’ll be covered whenever the next big update happens. PRT stays on top of major Google updates so you don’t have to worry. When the infamous Search Volume update hit, and Keyword Planner users suddenly stopped seeing their valuable keyword search volume, PRT stepped up to the plate. We brought our users their search volume data without any extra fees, just as an intrinsic part of our rank tracker:

You can now see Google keyword search volume with PRT!

When Google announced its mobile-first approach, we were prepared by future-proofing our mobile rank tracking algorithms:

In fact, we developed it so much we currently have the highest rank-tracking resolutions on the market. We can show your mobile ranks as they appear from virtually any location on the planet. Here’s more on the importance of Rank Tracking Resolution, the attribute no other SERP tracker wants to mention:

Rank Tracking Resolution (RTR): one of the most important SEO topics to know about

Google updates will keep happening as long as Google exists. Some updates will benefit you, while others will do a number on your ranks. None of us knows what Google may be brewing for us next, so you need a good SERP tracker to help you stay on top of your game and catch those updates on time.


PRT is an industry-standard SERP tracker with over 50,000 users. It has all of the features mentioned above and much more! All of our features are SEO-centered, and we always make sure to be the best at what counts – giving you the most accurate and reliable search engine rank tracking on the market. Our most popular plan is only $0.034 per tracked term!

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