Have you lost (or gained) some website traffic recently? If so, that change may be due to the most recent Google core update, which began to roll out on March 15, 2023, and officially ended on March 28, 2023.
If you’re unsure what a core update is and how it can affect your SEO management, let’s take a moment to introduce you to them and help you decide what to do if your website has been affected.
What is a Core Update, and Why Do They Matter?
Core updates are significant updates to the search algorithm. Google’s business model relies on a high number of searches per day (and they get approximately 5.6 billion searches per day – 63,000 searches per second), but to keep users engaged, the company has to sort through the search results on a fairly regular basis… promoting great content and, in turn, pushing other content down.
That’s where core updates come in. In short, core updates aim to improve search results by refining Google’s algorithm and providing more relevant results for user search queries.
Core updates don’t necessarily target anything specific (like the recent “Helpful Content Update” did), but they comb through nearly every website on the Internet and decide if Google should reward the indexed pages by bumping them up in the search results.
As you may imagine, these updates can greatly impact website rankings and traffic (either positively or negatively) and ultimately influence your business’s revenue. And whether your website sees improved search visibility or a loss in SERP rankings usually depends on how well it’s optimized for search engine visitors.
Knowing the dates and specifics of Google’s core updates can help you decipher whether a change in website traffic was due to an update or something else… giving you the knowledge you need to make changes to your content when necessary.
What’s the Purpose of Core Updates?
Google releases its core updates in order to refine its algorithm and enhance the quality of its search results. Core updates usually involve every website on the Internet and look at content relevance and authoritativeness in addition to user signals like time on page and engagement rate.
Core updates are not intended to penalize websites. Instead, they exist to reward sites that follow Google’s best practices and give users what they’re looking for. Ultimately, Google’s core updates emphasize the importance of creating high-quality content.
How Often Are Google Core Updates?
Google core updates aren’t on any set schedule, but they happen several times per year.
Core updates usually occur without prior announcement, but Google almost always confirms their release after the rollout, like with this Tweet sent out on March 15:
Traffic fluctuations often occur within days of the initial rollout, but sometimes you may not see the results for a few weeks. This is why it’s important to wait until the rollout is over before you make any changes to your content.
When Was the Last Google Core Update?
The most recent Google core update began its rollout on March 15, 2023, and finished on March 28, 2023. Knowing these exact dates may allow you to identify the cause of traffic increases or declines and adjust your site strategies accordingly.
What Did the March 2023 Google Core Update Do?
The full extent of the March 2023 core update is unknown, but it seemed to be a broad update that hit nearly every vertical, and we saw much more prominent changes than we did after the September 2022 update.
According to search volatility reports (like the one below from RankRanger), the most significant changes were felt on March 16 and 24. If you noticed your website traffic increase or decrease on or around these dates, the Google core update is likely to blame.
What to Do When You’ve Lost Rankings After a Core Update
If you’ve lost rankings after a Google core update, there are some things you can do to help.
(And if you’re unsure if you’ve lost traffic, check your data. You can do a comparative report in Google Analytics and also monitor your search visibility in Google Search Console. Richardson Media Group can help you with this if needed).
1. Wait Until the Rollout is Complete
If you see a decline in traffic or rankings after a Google core update is released, it’s important not to panic. Wait until the rollout is finished before you make any significant changes to your website. Often sites drop from the SERPs and then return to where they were (or surpass their previous rankings) before the update is over.
2. Take a Deep-Dive Into Your Analytics Data to Evaluate the Impact
Open up Google Analytics and dive into the vast data available. Which pages lost traffic? Did any of your pages gain traffic? If so, what’s different about the content on those pages? Note what you see in Analytics so you can go through and improve your site’s content as necessary.
3. Check SERPs
Do a Google search for the keywords you used to rank for. What websites are ranking above you now? What makes their websites or content different from yours? Again, make a note of any major differences before moving on to the next step.
4. Improve Your Content
Gather the data from your own Analytics and from your competitors’ websites and make changes to your site’s content as you see fit. You may need to add more information, include videos, photos, or infographics, or otherwise cater the content to what searchers are looking for. Also, make sure you’re following Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines and showcasing E-E-A-T (which stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness).
5. Continue to Monitor Your Site’s Performance
After you make changes to your website, it’s important to continue monitoring its performance in the SERPs. You don’t have to wait until the next core update to see changes in your rankings. You should (hopefully) see incremental improvements over time.
6. Seek Advice from an SEO Agency for Businesses
If you’re unsure where to start with your SEO or don’t have the time to monitor your SEO progress, you should contact an SEO agency like Richardson Media Group to help.
Let us help you improve your site rankings and reach your new business goals. Contact Richardson Media Group today and launch your next SEO campaign!