Google has launched its first Core Update of 2021 – and the next Core Update is coming sooner than you’d think.
During the afternoon of Wednesday, June 2, the Google Search Liaison Twitter account, operated by Google’s Danny Sullivan, posted a thread announcing that the update would be launching later in the day.
Though there were plenty of unconfirmed Google updates in May, this is the first real Core Update of the year – the last one was launched in December 2020. SEOs have been waiting for this day!
UPDATE (June 7) – Following the launch of Google’s most recent Core Update, SEOs are taking to message boards and social media to share their reactions. Read more here: SEOs React to Google’s June Core Update
What is a Core Update?
All of Google’s updates are important to consider for webmasters – but the Core Update is particularly important.
When a Core Update is launched, Google makes broad, important changes to its search engine algorithms. This means that the metrics that are considered to rank a web page change. Therefore, webmasters should look at their web pages’ metrics to see if their performance has changed following an update.
This is not to be confused with Google’s other kinds of updates – these are usually implemented for specific purposes.
Why does Google launch these updates? The internet is a fast-paced place, and its users are constantly changing. Google updates its algorithms to better reflect changing patterns of behaviour from users, as well as their expectations. Ultimately, the goal of a Core Update is to better help users find what they’re looking for through Google Search.
Google compares core updates and the SERPs they affect to a hypothetical list of ‘top movies.’
“Imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015,” they explained. “A few years later in 2019, you refresh the list. It’s going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realize they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before.”
I’m a Webmaster – What Should I Do?
In 2019, Google released a guide for webmasters, detailing what to do following a Core Update. The guide – available here – is still useful years later.
“Pages that drop after a Core Update don’t have anything wrong to fix,” Google explains.
If you want your pages to rank higher following an update, they suggest reassessing your web pages’ content, first and foremost. Following a core update, what may have performed well before may begin to underperform on SERPs – meaning your content might need a refresh. With keyword search intent changing, Google is better able to align the content that users are looking for.
Google also suggests paying attention to their Search Quality Rater Guidelines for directions on how you can improve your site. This is an extensive guide that all site owners should read to perform well on SERPs.
How the Update Has Affected SEOs So Far
As with any Google update, the Core Update has created plenty of chatter in the SEO community.
So far, a handful of experts have seen little change. Rob May, our V.P. of Search & Digital at Creative TRND, notes that sites have been stable for the most part, but fluctuations could still be coming.
So far so good for the Core Update push yesterday by Google. Clients accounts all look stable (for now). Some are seeing small bumps, but can’t say that’s directly related to the release. Hard to say at this point. Major tools (overall) not tracking any significant swings. #SEO pic.twitter.com/uHKzT87Qs2
— Rob May (@robinlmay) June 3, 2021
Others SEO professionals seem to have the same results looking at thier client data this morning:
Quick update: All silent on the core update front so far, which isn’t surprising given the late rollout (about 6:40PM ET last night). I’ve checked a # of sites this morning & hourly Google organic trending looks very stable so far. I’ll post another update as more data comes in: pic.twitter.com/60QuqvpQR7
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) June 3, 2021
Had a very quick look at client data this morning and so far I’m not seeing any obvious significant movement.
Something to note if you are looking at client data to determine if the core update hit is that last weekend was a holiday in the US (and the prev one was in Canada).
— Marie Haynes (@Marie_Haynes) June 3, 2021
Of course, updates affect each site differently, and users may notice changes days or even weeks later.
When’s the Next Core Update? Much Sooner Than You’d Expect!
Typically, Google launches a Core Update once every few months. However, Google has different plans for this summer: a second Core Update will be launched in July – just one month later.
“Some of our planned improvements for the June 2021 update aren’t quite ready,” Google tweeted yesterday. “We’re moving ahead with the parts that are, then we will follow with the rest with the July 2021 update.”
Our VP of Search’s theory is that the GWVC (Google Web Core Vitals) algorithm wasn’t quite ready for a full roll-out in June, so some of the its foundations are being pushed out now, in preparation for the upcoming GWCV launch.
Notably, Google explained that the dual nature of the update may cause chaos for some users.
“Because of the two-part nature of this release, it’s possible a very small slice of content might see changes in June that reverse in July.”
Additionally, Google is still planning to launch the Google Page Experience Update this month – it will bring Core Web Vitals into the fold.
Google’s Core Web Vitals measure three metrics that will soon affect search rankings.
These metrics are:
Largest Contentful Paint, or how quickly content loads
First Input Delay, or how quickly a page can become interactive
Cumulative Layout Shift, or how little unexpected movement of visual elements there is on the page.
Learn more about the Google Page Experience Update here.
The freshly launched Core Update has only been live for less than 24 hours, and these updates normally take a few days to complete. We recommend checking in on your pages periodically over the next week.