Google’s November 2019 Updates and Recovery

Google November 2019 Updates and Path to Recovery

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Google’s November 2019 updates recently confirmed by John Mueller, Webmaster Trends analyst at Google, due to which, several websites have been reported to lose their rankings.

Here’s all about the update as well as what to consider and how to recover from the decline.

Via its Twitter channel, Google recently posted a remark on the November 2019 update. The search engine has confirmed that Google Search algorithm observed several updates during the month of November 2019. However, Google, at the same time, said that these are just part of regular changes. It also did not specify anything in particular about these updates, means there is nothing for the site owners to worry about or to fix. As always, the Google’s message remains the same for everyone – focus on creating quality content.

Following the report of 40% traffic decline from a user and speculations about BERT being the culprit, Google’s Webmaster Trends analyst, John Mueller clarified that such a drop in rakings and traffic is not because of BERT, but one of the core or regular updates.

Webmasters and SEOs on Google November 2019 Update

After a restless weekend, the SEO community on Google’s Webmaster Forum and Twitter has observed a spectrum of activities. People were found citing instances of websites being allegedly affected by Google updates. As per the claims, food, travel and recipe sites are the most affected ones, but YMYL and lifestyle domains are also said to be impacted. As a matter of fact, the bulk of the reported traffic declines are over 30%. Keep reading to know what experts had said about the updates.

SEO Consultant Alan Bleiweiss prepared a list of several websites that have been affected by the updates with both upward and downward movement. Out of the 47 websites that he managed, skincare affiliate site observed maximum loss while a travel website achieved maximum gains.

Likewise, SEO Consultant, Casey Markee tweeted on several lifestyle and food blogs that saw a minimum drop of 30% in traffic. Similar reports were shared by SEO maven, Glenn Gabe, whose assumption that the Holiday Season might be responsible for the ranking changes is in line with Searchmetrics Research Cloud data.

Stats show that among the top 10 websites, three domains, dedicated to the high-selling Black Friday, experienced maximum increase in overall SEO visibility. Paul Shapiro, a technical SEO, found that a lifestyle website experienced more than 30% traffic drop during the November 8 to November 1 week-on-week comparison.

A Twitter survey on the probable effect of Google’s November 2019 update was launched by Barry Schwartz, editor of Search Engine Rountable. The survey found SEOs and webmasters complaining that the ‘changes’ were pretty harsh on small affiliate websites. A former SEO consultant, Kevin Indig went a step further by calling the updates “aggressive” and even compared them with the 1st Penguin Updates, launched by Google in 2012.

Recovery from Google’s November 2019 Update

While Google’s statement that it is just impossible to get back to #1 position might sound unhelpful, it is actually useful. Wondering how? Well, this indirectly helps you know things in which you shouldn’t waste your time. This means, once you know what not to bother about, you can focus on productive areas in a far better way.

What to Fix? 

Google has said that fixing things is not going to help, but what does that mean?  It probably means conventional things like technical SEO, experts often focus on, have very little to do with fixing an update – which in reality is about relevance.

Many experts do claim that sites that experienced ranking declines have issues with technical SEO. However, if we look at the top-ranking websites, most of them are perhaps not that great with respect to technical SEO, but still holding one of the top three positions in the search results.  

Is Page Speed a Major Concern?

Page speed does matter. But, even John Mueller says that it is just one among numerous ranking factors, and less important than many others. Still in doubt? Just check the speed of top ranking sites for a specific query.

Ranking a site lower only due of slow speed even when that site have the most relevant answer to a common search query simply doesn’t make any sense. Reason being, the ultimate goal for Google is to satisfy the query in the most appropriate way.

Nevertheless, we should never forget that page speed is extremely important in terms of ad clicks, conversions and engagement. It is just that page speed is an overvalued ranking factor.

Do You Need to Worry about Spam Links and Disavows?

Nearly every top-ranking site has junk links. Google doesn’t give attention to paid links or junk links simply because answering a search query is what matters most. This means, if the page is capable of satisfying a search query appropriately, it will still be ranked by Google.

Interstingly, paid links may boost the ranking a website, but after sometime – from a few days to months – when the links stop working, the site’s ranking drops to its former position. This is how Google ignores links. Google also ignores off-topic, keyword-optimized anchor text links from spam sites.  A possible reason for this could be irrelevance of the links to the page they are linked to.

Similarly, Google does rank sites with spammy backlinks. While commenting on this, John Mueller once said that Google ignores spammy links if the content is great enough to serve the purpose. This testifies that Google never decreases a site’s ranking, and that too by 30-90%, just because of some random links.

Therefore, if a site was loved by people last week, then despite any algorithm update, Google would rank the site #1 this week too. Radom spam links are rarely responsible for website ranking drops.

Do Missing Pages and 404 Error Response Affect Ranking?

According to Mueller, if Google checks your URLs and finds a server error or the ‘Page Not Found’ error, then this will be informed to you in Search Console. He further adds that this is something site owners shouldn’t worry about.

So, What Causes Sites to Lose Rankings? 

This is for sure that matching relevant web pages to search queries is what Google always aims at. It is for the sake of relevance that Google modified the nofollow attribute from a directive to a hint, as suggested by Google’s Webmasters trends analyst, Gary Illyes.


The two major Google algorithm changes that are worth considering now are as follows:

  1. Modification of the nofollow attribute from a directive to a hint, meaning now more links will be used as search engine ranking factors.
  1. BERT update, which is speculated to affect 10% of all Google search queries that include featured snippets too. In fact, featured snippets alone could be held responsible for various traffic declines.

Technical Issues and Relevance 

While fixing technical glitches is critical, finding relevance issues is even more important when it is chiefly about recovering from a ranking decline. Nearly every update from Google considers the relevance factor.

Nonetheless, some updates were also related to other factors. One typical example is the “speed” update that included website speed as a mild ranking factor. Panda Update, related to content, and Penguin Update, related to links, are other common examples.

In a nutshell, the best way to help sites recover from ranking declines is to keep the focus on relevance.

Constant changes in Google search algorithms is a never-ending process. What’s important is to keep a constant eye on such changes so that you never fail to get the desired outcomes. At Alchemy Interactive, our SEO experts exactly do the same, so that you always stay ahead of the curve with our time-tested SEO strategies.


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