What To Do If Your Are Hit By A Recent Google Update

When you’re hit negatively by a Google update, it can feel like the end of the world. This counts double where major updates like the recent HCU are concerned – a massive algorithmic overhaul that took no prisoners.

Some slipped in the rankings, many fell off the face of the Earth entirely. The worst part being that as usual, those affected were given no prior warning by Google, and zero by way of explanation.

Still, even the heaviest Google penalty or punishment doesn’t have to be a brick wall. There’s always a way back, even if it feels like an uphill struggle.

Here are three things all recent HCU victims need to be mindful of:

1. Algorithmic Losses Aren’t Always Permanent

Contrary to popular belief, any blow you’re dealt by Google as part of an algorithmic update is not permanent. You’re not ‘blacklisted’ as is often the assumption, and you’ve every opportunity to turn things around. As explained by Google’s John Mueller:

“Sites can grow again after being affected by the “HCU”. This isn’t permanent. It can take a lot of work, time, and perhaps update cycles, but a different – updated – site will be different in search too.”

Which may come as cold comfort, but it’s a far better prospect than being counted out of the running for good. If you put in the time and effort needed (and enlist the right help), you can get Google back on your side.

2. Striving for ‘Recovery' Can be Counterproductive

The natural response to a Google penalty (or any slip in the rankings) is to adopt a ‘recovery’ process. But as far as Mr Mueller is concerned, the pursuit of recovery (depending how you define the term) could actually stand in your way. As he explains:

“Recover implies going back to just-as-before, and IMO that is always unrealistic, since the world, user-expectations, and the rest of the web continues to change. It’s never “just-as-before”.”

Reading between the lines, he’s saying that given the rapid and continuous evolution of the web and its users, it’s rarely as simple as making a few simple tweaks to restore a site's former SEO performance. Rather than recover to ‘just-as-before’, it may be a case of rebuilding key areas of the site and the user experience it delivers, aligned with current expectations and standards.

3. Page-Level Signals Are a Big Deal

While it’s not to say that site-wide signals don’t hold huge importance, Google’s emphasis continues to be the value of individual pages. Something Mr Mueller confirmed when commenting on the latest HCU:

“Our core ranking systems are primarily designed to work on the page level, using a variety of signals and systems to understand the helpfulness of individual pages. We do have some site-wide signals that are also considered.”

This suggests that while site-wide issues could be responsible for a fall in the rankings, it’s more likely page-specific factors are at play. And of the 200+ ranking factors Google takes into consideration, those that fall without the page-level bracket may hold the most value of all.