Part of the investment in Search Engine Optimization is being alert for indications of Google algorithm changes. While Google announces major core algorithm updates ahead of time, they also make many smaller updates without any forewarning. Sometimes these updates are later confirmed by statements from Google staff, sometimes not. Based on fluctuations in site rankings between March 9th through March 11, 2020 Google rolled out an update. This is based on data aggregated by Fruition’s Google Penalty Checker tool and third party tools such as Mozcast and Cognitive SEO. Google did not confirm or deny whether an update had occurred in early March 2020.
Advice on Recovery
Whenever one’s site drops in traffic or rankings, the immediate question is what should be done to recover. However, in cases like this, the best course of action is usually to be patient. For one thing, it has not been confirmed by Google that an update has indeed occurred; it is possible that the observed fluctuations are merely normal churn, in which case the site should recover without any need for changes. Second, even if an update has indeed taken place, the lack of any statement by Google means that we do not know what specific changes were made to the algorithm or what particular ranking factors are being targeted; therefore, it is difficult to know what changes should be made to benefit from the update. Finally, Google themselves have advice warning against attempting “quick fix” changes in response to updates, as site owners may end up accidentally making their sites worse by changing things that weren’t actually broken.
In cases such as thus, without official Google confirmation, the best course of action is to be patient and first see if the drop in traffic is merely a temporary fluctuation. In the case that a site is showing a significant, lasting drop in traffic or ranking, the next step is to work on improving any part of the site that does not meet Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Though Google does not announce the specific details of every update, the overall goal of all of their updates is to improve the quality of results delivered in response to user queries; and since Google’s Webmaster Guidelines contain their definition of what makes for a high quality site, ensuring that your site conforms to those guidelines will generally result in it benefiting from rather than being punished by Google updates. Fruition’s Google Penalty Checker takes into account normal fluctuations and seasonality to tell you if you’re been impacted or not.
With this information, you should now know how to react appropriately to any impact you might have noticed to your website.
“Possible March 10th Google Search Algorithm Update” by Barry Schwartz. Search Engine Roundtable. March 11, 2020. https://www.seroundtable.com/march-10th-google-search-algorithm-update-29139.html
“Google advice on improving your site’s ranking for future core ranking update” by Barry Schwartz. Search Engine Land. August 1, 2019. https://searchengineland.com/google-advice-on-improving-your-sites-ranking-for-future-core-ranking-update-320184
Ben Smith is a Researcher at Fruition, specializing in Google's Algorithm changes. Ben is a graduate of the University of Denver’s Mathematics program, and he enjoys learning about Google’s search algorithm updates. He's a vital asset of the Fruition team, and he one day hopes to publish a book. In his free time, you can find Ben enjoying the outdoors of Colorado.
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