On 12th March 2019, Google released another one of its search ranking algorithm updates. Despite the fact this is a regular occurrence throughout the year, Google actually confirms very few updates.
But this time around, Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan took the liberty to confirm the release of the “March 2019 Core Update” on Twitter. Google also said that its “guidance about such updates remains as we’ve covered before.”
In other words, there is no fix if your site was negatively impacted. But that doesn’t mean to say previous victims of an algorithm update are in deeper trouble now…
As a matter of fact, it seems as though many who saw gains with the August 1 2018 core update witnessed a negative impact with the March 2019 core update. Meanwhile, those who witnessed a negative impact with the August 1 2018 core update saw gains with the March 2019 core update.
So, if you’ve recently noticed a change in your rankings and traffic, it could be down to Google’s latest algorithm update. Here’s a closer look at the March 2019 core update and how it might impact your SEO strategy moving forward.
March 2019 Core Update – What has changed?
It’s still early days in terms of the update and which types of sites have been impacted the most. Some SEO discussions seem to suggest that it once again targeted the health/medical space – something Google denied with its previous August 1 update.
One thing has remained the same though – Google’s advice and guidance on core algorithm updates:
“Each day, Google usually releases one or more changes designed to improve our results. Some are focused around specific improvements. Some are broad changes. Last week, we released a broad core algorithm update. We do these routinely several times per year.
As with any update, some sites may note drops or gains. There’s nothing wrong with pages that may now perform less well. Instead, it’s that changes to our systems are benefiting pages that were previously under-rewarded.
There’s no “fix” for pages that may perform less well other than to remain focused on building great content. Over time, it may be that your content may rise relative to other pages.”
Is this the same as Google’s Florida 2 update?
Not long after the release of the March 2019 core update, some in the industry started calling it the “Florida 2 update” in reference to the PubCon conference which took place a week prior. The same thing also happened with an update way back when in 2003.
But soon after the release of its latest algorithm, Google was quick to name it the March 2019 core update to avoid confusion. What’s more, the way in which Google updated its search engine algorithm in 2003 is incredibly different to how updates are released today.
So yes, Florida 2 is the same as the March 2019 core update, but its safe to say there are no similarities with the original Florida update.
What is the early data saying?
Data collected on the weekend following the March 2019 core update release made for interesting reading, with previous winners of algorithm changes suddenly starting to lose out and vice versa.
Search Engine Land sent out a survey to help it analyse the update with questions about keywords, site improvements, and previous algorithm results.
The early numbers indicated that almost 60 per cent of the 315+ people who filled out the survey claimed they saw a recovery from a previous core update. While the same can’t be said for everyone, there were plenty of winners and losers that saw reversals to their gains or losses from the August 1 1 update.
“It seems that Google updated its algorithm primarily for informational keywords and many media pages are affected,” said Marcus Tober, founder and CIO of Search Metrics.
“Many pages that won August 1st 2018 now lost. Obviously Google reverted some changes and increased the diversity of the domains that now rank for the keywords where the media pages lost.”
Media pages that have witnessed a big decrease in visibility include The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Wired, Time, and Harper’s Bazaar.
Google would not confirm if the March 2019 core update was a reversal of the August 1 update. But the fact not all sites were impacted would suggest this is simply an update to previous core updates.
Who has benefitted from the March 2019 Core Update?
Since the update, a large number of sites that made changes based on clues found in Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines (QRG) have reported some type of gain in traffic.
The QRG document is meant to serve as a textbook to help Google’s team assess websites. This team then helps Google engineers determine whether their algorithms are doing what they want them to do. For this reason, it has the potential to be an extremely valuable resource, as the following sites have discovered with an uplift in traffic:
March 2019 Core Update Success Story 1 – Nutrition Site
With the QRG stating the importance of being able to easily determine what the “beneficial purpose” of a page is, one nutritional site owner added content above the fold that demonstrated authority and trust. The site also added clear information on terms and conditions, improved its review profile online, included appropriate references, and kept content up to date.
March 2019 Core Update Success Story 1 – E-Commerce Site
In addition to adding accomplishments and accolades to its About page, this website also included a paragraph of text to tell people why they should be considered the experts in their field. On top of that, it improved product pages with unique product descriptions and reduced the amount of thin content in its index, including pages that contained only a single image.
March 2019 Core Update Success Story 1 – Medical Practitioner site
For on-site improvements, this site gave each author a by-line that clearly demonstrated their credentials. It also implemented better use of scientific references through its content.