There have been many discussions about movements in the search results. Some have declared a February 2020 update. They were wrong.
Danny Sullivan Comments on February 2020 Update
Someone asked for a clue about what the so-called update was about. Danny Sullivan responded that there was no core algorithm update.
Some have asked if we had an update to Google Search last week. We did, actually several updates, just as we have several updates in any given week on a regular basis. In this thread, a reminder of when and why we give specific guidance about particular updates….
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) November 12, 2019
Core Algorithm Update
A core algorithm update is a major event where significant changes are made to Google’s algorithm. This can mean an addition to the algorithm, usually in how Google determines what users mean when they make a query and what words on a web page mean.
Whatever fluctuation was felt was due to the daily updates that happen all the time. Google performs updates to their algorithm every single day. For example,
Usual Indicators of an Update
Ordinarily there are many discussions on social media during a major update. For example, when an update hits a specific niche hard, one will see an uptick in social media posts clustering from that niche. But that kind of activity was missing.
Facebook groups I follow were likewise missing the panicked chatter typical of updates. I know hundreds of search marketers and agency owners and not one contacted me about it.
The No Update Update
Without a doubt people did experience movement in the search results, but those were a part of the updates that happen at Google every single day of every week, in every month, all year long.
Here is Danny Sullivan’s explanation:
We do updates all the time. I would suggest rereading our general advice about this: https://t.co/aL4QObvvhH
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) February 13, 2020
What to Do if You Lost Rankings?
Wait a few days to see if the changes are reverted. It’s not unusual for Google to roll out a change then roll it back a little as it receives feedback.
Updates are often about relevance. Many publishers tend to review their sites and ask, “What did I do wrong?”
When rankings are lost due to relevance issues, the better question to ask is, “What did my competitor do right?”
That’s my takeaway from Google’s statement about there being “nothing to fix.” It means that the usual things that publishers believe need fixing, like low quality links, low quality content and so on, those aren’t the reason why a site lost rankings and that’s why there is nothing to fix.
For example, if the query is “ice cream” and your page about “how to make ice cream” lost positions, it could be because Google is giving preference to pages that show where to buy ice cream or sites that review ice cream brands. In other words, your page is not relevant.
How does that happen? Usually that happens when Google introduces an improved way to understand what users mean when they make a search query.
The number one explanation of what happened is that it is one of many updates that happen every week. This could be a combination of minor changes that together resulted in a change in how search results are displayed. That’s not a core algorithm update.
Google Search Console Update
Perhaps not coincidentally, Google updated it’s Google Search Console (GSC). The update was to send notices to publishers that their review structured data was broken and needed fixing.
I fixed a number of outdated review structured data and experienced promotion to the featured snippets. The promotion to the top spot means that someone else may have lost traffic.
So it’s possible that at least some of the SERP fluctuation was due to changes publishers were making to their websites.
Update to News
Around February 9th or 10th 2020 Google updated something related to the discover feed. It resulted in showing web pages from offensive sites that had previously been excluded by the algorithms. Could a change in the discover feed lead to less traffic to other sites? Possible.
To update. Our apologies for this. The site had previously been blocked from showing in Google News surfaces, including Discover, for violating our news content policies. It shifted domains. We should’ve caught the change but didn’t. We’re taking steps to avoid this in the future
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) February 10, 2020
The important thing to keep in mind is there is no major Google update. The sky isn’t falling. It’s just the normal fluctuations that happen every single day.
The cries of update from certain quarters were a false alarm.