Does Google only really warn us about minor updates?

Our latest blog posts considers something which has been baffling the SEO industry for a while. We consider the merits to this latest observation and what the reasons behind it may be.

It has been widely (and increasingly) communicated from commentators, that when Google updates occur, they only seem to give people advanced warning of those minor updates which aren’t likely to impact the industry very much. Some have noticed a trend that when it comes to big and major updates, the opposite is true. This seems not only very illogical, but confusing. If believed to be true, it risks giving the industry a bad name and sending off mixed messages, because the whole principle underpinning SEO is to make things better for webmasters and audiences, so everyone has the best possible experience and outcomes of search.

What is the evidence?

Consider one of the most recent updates – the page experience update. This was announced by Google in May 2020 but it has taken more than 12 months for it to be rolled out. There was also a desktop related version of this update announced in November 2021 and this is not due to launch until sometime this month (February 2022.) Further evidence considers the likes of the page speed update or the intrusive interstitials penalty update – all being announced months in advance of them being implemented. With respect to all these updates, Google openly communicated that they were only minor and shouldn’t have much impact.

On the converse side of this, what are seen as bigger and major updates –  the likes of the core update (most recently,) or the Panda and Penguin, seem to have very little time to prepare for. It is fact that these bigger updates require more work and take longer to understand, and evidence shows that relative to those mentioned above, there is hardly any time to prepare for these updates.

Why?

The reasons aren’t entirely clear, and of course Google would argue that sufficient time is given to implement all changes whether minor or major. One consensus seems to be that because many of the minor updates require some form of technical changes to a website, there needs to be a sufficient amount of time to allow people to implement those amendments.  That said, most of the major updates require significant work and effort to be put in if they are being followed properly, so that logic doesn’t make sense.

Is there really a difference?

It is critical to remember that ALL updates are important, no matter whether they are perceived by the community as ‘minor’ or ‘major.’ We mentioned the word ‘shouldn’t’ above. Even those minor updates can affect rankings and have impact on your website. If your industry has a lot of competition and there are people with better websites than yours, even those minor changes can be just enough to tip the balance away from you and in favour of your competitors if they are not followed. The important take from this? Don’t be under any illusion that minor updates can be ignored, or just implemented when felt like it.

Confused?

The bottom line is this, minor updates give you time to prepare so that causes no issue in terms of timings and penalties. If as many people do believe that major updates are given less notice, it will pay webmasters to constantly scout the news for changes to the industry. Even if little time is given to implement these major changes, if you can be one of the first to do it and be ahead of your competitors, chances are you will be at an advantage anyway, so there is less need to worry, or risk compromising your website.

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