Google’s John Mueller was asked a two part question on the last video hangout he conducted. The first was, does it still take several months for Google to reevaluate the quality of a site. The second is, how do you know that you are on the right path to doing well after the next core update.
This question came up 6:15 mark into the video and John basically said:
(1) The time frame is still accurate but some sites might see improvements in a couple months, some might see improvements in 6 months and some might take longer. John said it can take a “couple of months, half a year, maybe even a bit longer.”
(2) In regards to part two, he said “that’s super hard” to know if you are on the right track to seeing a recovery. He said you will likely see a “drop in traffic from those pages” that you remove for quality reasons, because you are removing the pages. John added it might make sense for you to make “proxy metrics” where you can pretend to know how Google measures quality. Some of those metrics might be engagement metrics like time on site, conversions, etc. Not that Google uses these metrics in search, John said “it’s not so much that we would use that user behavior directly in search,” but these are “leading indicator for you to let you know that you’re on the right track.”
And you really can’t do this for a subset of your site, you need to go all in with these changes, John added. “From a kind of a Google search quality point of view, I don’t think taking a small subset of a site and improving the quality of that would be enough to to make us say oh this is a different part of a site and this is high quality and this is kind of medium quality, I will treat it differently,” John said.
Here is the video embed:
Here is the transcript of John’s answers (but watch how well the questions were phrases and asked):
I think the timeline is is probably about right. I’m sure there are situations where it can go a little bit faster but uh on a whole that’s that’s probably something which which takes that I don’t know half year or longer almost for things to to kind of settle down. And it’s I think partially due to kind of us needing to reindex everything on the site understanding the site again, partially also just because all of the the quality signals that we collect they just take a long time to to kind of be built up. So that’s something where a couple of months, half a year, maybe even a bit longer, I think that would be kind of the the norm. I’m sure there are situations where it can be faster but for for the most part it’s is probably in that range.
With regards to recognizing when you’re kind of on the right track. I think that’s super hard because on the one hand you have the situation where you’re moving pages so you might see kind of like a drop in traffic from those pages. I think overall if you look at the metrics for your site the pages that you remove are probably pages that don’t get a ton of page views so maybe that’s something that something that wouldn’t pull down your overall traffic from search or not not that much. But it takes a long time for things to kind of start seeing more and more traffic and kind of being picked up as being higher quality.
So one thing I would try to do is to find try to find some other proxy metrics that you can use for recognizing the quality of your site. And that could be something like looking into analytics and looking at things like I think like they they call it the engagement right now or other metrics where you have kind of time on site, where you have something where when you look at the metrics now or when you compare to the metrics that you had maybe a month ago before you started working on this you can tell that actually those were pretty bad and with these improvements we see kind of this shift in user behavior.
And it’s not so much that we would use that user behavior directly in search. But it’s something that’s more like a leading indicator for you to let you know that you’re on the right track. So that’s kind of the direction I would look at it there.
On the one hand kind of you shouldn’t see a big drop from the pages that you remove, you should see kind of like this slight subtle shift in user behavior through the other metrics that you track, and then over the course of I don’t know a couple of months you’ll probably see like a gradual increase and then at some point you see maybe a bigger jump.
From a kind of a Google search quality point of view, I don’t think taking a small subset of a site and improving the quality of that would be enough to to make us say oh this is a different part of a site and this is high quality and this is kind of medium quality, I will treat it differently. I think for the most part we would look at it or try to look at it as as an overhaul thing and it might be that the small set that you improved kind of moved the overall average up a little bit higher but that’s not something I would kind of wait for. Because if you’re talking about a half a year and you improve 10 of your pages and after half a year you realize oh I need to improve even more, like you’ve kind of wasted a lot of time.
Here is how Glenn Gabe, who deserves the hat tip on this, summed it up on Twitter:
More: Also, it’s hard to understand when you are on the right track b/c you are removing pages (so you might see a short-term drop). Then you might see a subtle/gradual increase, & then a bigger jump at some point. Me: that could be during a core update: https://t.co/LAxheTmPRU pic.twitter.com/hsoEIBIjBZ
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) August 15, 2021
Me: This is why I’ve always said that short-term testing or just testing a subset of pages is not effective when trying to recover from broad core updates. You need to improve your site overall, and over the long-term. Great to hear this again from John: https://t.co/LAxheTmPRU pic.twitter.com/Z0W8M9YauU
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) August 15, 2021
Forum discussion at Twitter.