Google on Core Updates: Your competitors are better than you

Every few months, Google goes live with a large Core Update and stirs up the SERPs. In a new blogpost, Googler Danny Sullivan gives more insights into these updates.

In their blogpost What webmasters should know about Google’s “core updates” we get a lot of platitudes but also a few pieces of actual news as well as information on new weightings. Here, we want to both summarise the findings as well as put them into perspective.

  • Official confirmation: Google decided to officially confirm major Core Updates. The numerous small changes to their algorithms will still get pushed online without notice.
  • General reevaluation of content: the Core Updates are not targeted at individual pages or pieces of content. The goal that Google wants to achieve with these updates is to get better at evaluating content in general.

Taking the above into consideration, it is interesting that Danny choses the following example: if, in 2015, you had a list of the 100 best movies of all time and were to update it today, it would inevitably look different – not because films on the previous list became worse over time, but because, today, there are new, better movies available to choose from.

Transferring this to the Core Updates: the level of sophistication needed within the Google results has gone up. If you want to stay in the race for good results you will need to continuously get better, as your competitors will do the same.

  • More guidance for content: Google has already published a list of questions about content back in 2011, which they have now updated and adapted. The list is now divided into sections. The “Comparative Questions” part is interesting, as it is not only about your own content but also about your content in comparison to your competitors: is your page offering a substantial added value compared to the other results?
  • Read and understand: E-A-T: Everyone who has read Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines should be familiar with Google’s concept of E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness) as well as having understood it. This is the foundation on which Google is trying to make the algorithms better.
  • Google is a machine: Danny confirmed once again that Google is not able to understand content. Google needs to detect machine-readable signals and use them as a proxy for how humans would evaluate the content. Links are still one of these signals.
  • Recovery on the next update: if a domain looses rankings through one of Google’s Core Updates and, as a consequence, improves their content, they will generally still need to wait for the next Core Update for the rankings to improve again. No surprise here: there are no guarantees.


It would be foolish to expect Google’s blogpost to hand us the holy grail of how to reach top rankings. Still, Google has summarised a number of points well and confirmed others. The most interesting piece of information for me was the confirmation that your competitors content has an impact on your rankings. The level of quality within the SERPs is going up and anyone who wants to stay in the game will need to adjust.

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