It’s estimated that Google makes minor changes to its search algorithm at least 500 times per year. Every tweak is made to help users find what they want more easily, meaning the search engine results pages (SERPs) are constantly changing.

Although Google algorithm updates are great for users, they often cause headaches for businesses whose rankings change. As an SEO, part of my job is to detect and decipher Google’s (often secret) algorithm updates.

How Does the Google Algorithm Work?

Let’s start with some essential vocab: a search engine algorithm is a complex mathematical instruction that tells computers how to search. Google’s algorithm is incredibly complex, ranking the relevance of search results against searcher requirements and expectations.

When you type a word or phrase into Google, it scans billions of pages to find the keywords in your query. As the engine searches, it assigns a rank to each page based on a number of factors, including how many times the content includes your keywords. Pages most relevant to your query are ranked higher and appear higher on the SERPs.

Why Tracking Algorithm Updates Matters

Google is constantly adjusting its algorithm to deliver the best possible results. Search engine optimization adjusts with these changes because a small change in the algorithm could affect your website’s positioning in the SERPs.

A cartoon drawing that depicts to mobsters hiding a dead body on page 2 of Google's search results. The caption reads 'The best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google.'

Periodically, Google makes a major algorithmic update — such as Panda and Penguin — that has significant impact on search results.

As a business owner, your digital livelihood can depend on your rankings in search. You want to be aware of the major changes so you are not blindsided by a serious drop in your rankings and thus site visitors and sales.

How to Track Google Algorithm Updates

At Knucklepuck, we are often asked how we anticipate and track Google updates. Here are four ways our SEO Team tracks Google algorithm fluctuations. We recommend the following actions.

Set up Google Alerts

Setting up a Google alert via is one of the easiest ways to monitor algorithm shifts. You can customize alerts based on:

  • Phrase
  • Topic
  • Frequency
  • Source
  • Quality

Knucklepuck has an alert to monitor the topic “google algorithm update.” As industry movers and shakers publish new content on this topic, we get an alert email.

The biggest benefit of this approach is the news comes to you — no action is necessary once the alert is set up.

Follow Industry Leaders

The SEO industry has many thought leaders that include both companies and key individual players. Some big names in SEO are:

  • John Mueller
  • Moz
  • Rand Fishkin
  • Search Engine Land
  • Search Engine Roundtable
  • Matt Cutts

These influencers are known for their work in the tech space, so if a major change occurs, they will likely report on it. Subscribing to their newsletters or signing up for their email lists is another easy way to get algorithm news.

Get on Twitter

Twitter is one of the most relevant social media platforms in the SEO world. It can serve as an excellent Google algorithm checker, especially if you know where to look. We recommend following influencers, including Googlers, and relevant hashtags (#GoogleUpdate and #GoogleAlgorithm, for example).

Watch Google Analytics

It’s important for webmasters to regularly monitor Google Analytics, a Google tool that tracks website traffic and other metrics. This will help you get a feel for what to expect and what normal fluctuations look like (like fewer people searching for your business of a Saturday).

If you know what “normal” looks like, bigger changes in traffic and conversions will stick out, and alert you to possible algorithm changes.

Staying on Top of Changes with Knucklepuck

Some companies prefer to monitor Google algorithm changes and other important SEO metrics themselves. Some depend on the expertise of a digital marketing agency like Knucklepuck. Either way, staying up-to-date on the details can help your business avoid a precipitous drop in website traffic. If you’d like our help, all you have to do is get in touch. We’re ready to optimize your SEO efforts.