How to communicate Google core updates to executives
Google releases broad changes to their ranking algorithms several times a year, which can cause major shifts in websites’ search visibility and traffic.
When updates roll out, it’s important to keep stakeholders and business partners informed on the update, timing, and potential impacts so that you can highlight your team’s work.
As an SEO, your role extends beyond optimizing for search engines. You’re also the bridge between the content and technical teams that rely on your expertise. By being a proactive communicator, you demonstrate leadership of the SEO team and shape perceptions of your team and its work.
Here’s how to use Google updates as another opportunity to drive product- or marketing-focused strategy within your organization.
Communication across teams is critical to SEO success
Success in SEO depends on partnerships with teams across the organization. If you aren’t constantly communicating, you’re missing out on opportunities to influence content and product strategy that can impact the SEO team’s goals.
Great communication is a soft skill that’s important to master as you level up from an individual contributor to a leadership role. At the director, head-of, and VP levels, the soft skills of communication and strategic thinking become more important because that’s how you’ll win budget and resources to implement your SEO strategy.
Communication skills are essential for anyone looking to level up their SEO career, as highlighted by:
Control the narrative on the SEO team’s expertise and attentiveness
Imagine that Google has just announced a core update, and you see that it will take a couple of weeks to finish the rollout. You won’t have any data for a week or more, so there’s nothing to report.
You’re OK to wait until you have something definitive to report, right?
The best time to communicate about a core update is when Google has made the announcement.
Communicating that there is an update (even when there’s nothing to report yet) and offering some background information will let you demonstrate the work the SEO team has been releasing.
Think about it from the leadership point of view:
If you aren’t communicating, leadership doesn’t know what’s going on or what’s in your head. Is no news good news? Or does it mean you’re hiding, hoping not to get called out?
What happens if another team or outside agency starts talking about Google updates and is now leading the conversation and forcing you to respond? You’ve lost the ability to lead the narrative and are now reacting to someone else’s agenda.
Don’t leave the perceptions to chance. Do everything you can to be proactive and take control of the conversation.
You are the expert, and knowing how to communicate during a period of uncertainty is a critical skill when dealing with executives.
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So, what do you communicate about core updates?
When informing your management or stakeholders about core updates (or any other broad change like the reviews or helpful content updates), lay out the overall timing and goals of these updates and any historical context.
Google releases core updates several times a year. When laying out the context around updates, refer to the timeline of updates and their various themes. Even better: tie recent SEO work to those themes or responses to past updates
Use the announcement of the core update to lead the conversation on the SEO team’s roadmap, work in progress, and expectations around the update.
When Google announces the update
Send out an email to stakeholders and your leadership and include:
- The date of the update and link to Google’s announcement.
- A statement that Google releases these broad core updates several times a year.
- How long is the update estimated to last (based on Google’s statement)?
- How has the site fared against the last one to two updates?
- Highlight any work released (technical, content, etc.) that could factor into this update.
Sometimes you’ll already have early movements to report, but this is usually an awareness email. What this does is reinforce that your team is on top of their responsibility to
About midway through the update (or when you see the first results)
Send a follow-up. This communication can reinforce your work, keep teams updated on your status, and enable you to start new conversations around performance.
In this email, I work to include:
- Restate the start of the core update and the expected end date.
- I like to include a statement that after an update is complete, there are post-release adjustments.
- Metrics that indicate positive/negative impacts from the update. (Include any tracked competitors.)
- Screenshot from your dashboards as visuals.
- Tie back results to areas of the site or projects the SEO team has worked on.
- Include any current work that would fit into these themes as efforts in a process that would further improve performance with future updates.
When the core update is complete
Google will announce this via Google Search Central and the Google Developers site.
At this point, you get to send a recap email that reinforces your prior two emails and ads in any final results you see.
Ensure to also include that Google often fine-tunes results after an update, so you expect to see additional volatility over the next 1-2 weeks.
In this email:
- Restate the timeline for the update.
- Restate that you expect to see some post-release fluctuation.
- Key metrics showing which segments of the site have positive or negative results.
- Cover any obvious differences between this update and past updates.
- Highlight work since that last core update that aligns with positive results.
- Highlight past audits or work scheduled that would impact negative results.
- Discuss the overall theme from the past few updates and impacts on the site.
Expect these emails to be forwarded to other leaders watching traffic and revenue metrics.
Send a copy to your key partners so they know how you communicate the team efforts related to SEO and traffic growth.
After you’ve sent out these updates, take time to schedule meetings with key individuals on both impacts and opportunities.
I’ve used these meetings both as ways to highlight successful feature releases and as a way to get backlogged projects prioritized. (Once, I was able to dust off a project idea that was over a year old. Timing is everything!)
Take control of the SEO narrative
When leading SEO in an organization, focusing time on the soft skills of effective communication is a cornerstone to long-term success.
SEO managers are responsible for ensuring this knowledge is relayed strategically to stakeholders and teams across the organization.
Taking the initiative to communicate during times of uncertainty affords you the opportunity to highlight the great work your teams are doing. It can unlock additional resources to take your teams to new heights.
Because updates are a recurring fact of life, now is a great time to craft your communication plan and have those templates ready to go when the next core update is announced.
Dig deeper: Google says you can recover from core updates without a new core update
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.