Why does Google tip us off to search updates with minor ranking impacts but surprise us with the major ones?

Did you ever wonder why Google pre-announces search algorithm updates that have minor ranking impact?

I’ve been following Google’s algorithm updates for about two-decades now and time-and-time again, the algorithm updates that Google gives us months or even years to prepare for, are often the ones that have the least amount of impact on rankings in Google’s search results.

The most recent is the page experience update, it was page experience update that was pre-announced in May 2020 but it didn’t start to roll out until over a year later – oh and we have the desktop version announced in November 2021 not rolling out until next month. Google even told us the page experience update is a minor factor and you should not see significant changes from it.

This is the same for the intrusive interstitials penalty where we had months of a heads up with little recourse after it launched.  The same with page speed update, months of notice, little impact in reality.  The list goes on and on, virtually all these long lead time search algorithm updates. 

It is the updates Google does not give us huge lead time to prepare for that impact the rankings the most, like the core updates, the Penguin and Panda updates from the past and most of the updates that go unconfirmed or unannounced.

Why? Why keep us busy with updates where the outcome in ranking is minor? Well, Google might say it is because we can act on these pre-announced updates because they require technical changes to our sites. Core updates and quality updates are about the content and quality of your site, there isn’t one technical change to make.  But again, there is no real meat in these pre-announced updates – so should we panic and put so much effort into working on them, when we can focus on overall site quality improvements? 

Why we care. Should we, as SEOs, spend so many resources on these pre-announced updates? If the results have minimal impact on rankings, shouldn’t we spend more of our time focused on the next core update? That would require more effort and resources on overall site quality, better content, and the hundreds of little things you need to do to improve your site overall.


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About The Author

Barry Schwartz a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry’s personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here.