Google started 2024 off strong with a highly impactful Local Ranking Algorithm Update in the first week of January. This is not a named update with specific goals in mind, but we saw far higher ranking volatility with this routine tweak than seen from similar ones in months prior.
Whenever Google updates its search ranking algorithms, it means that your site can do better or worse in the search results. Knowing when Google makes these updates gives us something to point to in order to understand if it was something you changed on your website or something Google changed with its ranking algorithm. The best response to these updates is the same thing you should do whether there is an algorithm update or not, follow SEO best practices and maintain an organic ranking that is less prone to algorithm volatility.
Webmasters can always adjust their optimisation practices when an update hits but what they cannot plan around are search engine bugs, especially ones that entirely remove their websites from result pages. Since November of last year, a strange error in Google’s algorithm caused some websites to disappear, and only during the weekends.
The pattern was predictable and easily observable, affected webpages seeing their traffic drop to zero over the course of the weekend and then return to normal levels come Monday morning. Known instances of this error have been reported as early as the third week of November and persisted into early January.
Nearly three months after the issue was first reported, it now appears to be resolved. While such a strange and specifically targeting issue cannot be predicted, the length of time it took to resolve is unacceptable. For some businesses, they lost all their weekend traffic during the majority of the golden quarter. This means that any businesses which solely relied on Google traffic for their leads could very easily have seen their businesses ruined in 2023.
This stands as a cautionary tale stating that no local business should rely on a single source for their marketing, no matter how all-encompassing or infallible something like Google can seem. Local businesses need to ensure they have a good marketing mix, a strong organic presence in all directories, and utilise paid advertising channels when possible. When a huge issue like this latest Google glitch arises, businesses can’t be caught resting on their laurels and have no backup plan.