How to Recover SEO Rankings if You Are Hit By Google Core Update
Have you experienced when your SEO rankings suddenly dropped after Google Core Update went live? You’ve struggled so hard to get your pages to the top results and now you get to sit there and watch how your hard work is going down the drain. We’ve all been there and know how frustrating this situation might be. That’s why I’ve prepared this article for you to calm things down a little bit and show you how you can recover your rankings from a core update faster.
In this article you’ll learn:
- What is a core algorithm update
- 12 most intense Google core updates
- Why Should You Care About Core Updates
- How to be the first to know when the next core update will be
- Why is my Google ranking dropping
- How to get Google rankings back if your positions dropped
- Ranking signals to assess the quality of content
- Google ranking signals to assess the expertise of content
- Ranking signals to assess presentation and production of content
- Google ranking signals to assess comparative content
- How to fix technical SEO issues and recover SEO rankings
What is Google Core Update?
Almost every day Google deploys new updates in order to polish up its algorithms so they could provide the most accurate and relevant search results to searchers. Although most of these changes are minor improvements and do not noticeably affect your SEO, once in a while Google releases broad core updates that may result in a sudden position drop or (for those lucky out there) a sudden rise.
Google Core Update is a serious improvement in its ranking algorithm that implements broad changes in how the search engine works and how it indexes web pages. Such significant updates happen on average 3-4 times per year and are created to enhance the relevance and accuracy of search results.
12 Most Broad and Intense Google Core Updates
1. Panda – February 23, 2011
2. Freshness – November 3, 2011
3. Penguin – April 24, 2012
4. Hummingbird – September 26, 2013
5. Pigeon – July 24, 2014
6. Mobilegeddon – April 21, 2015
7. Rankbrain – October 26, 2015
8. Possum – September 1, 2016
9. Fred – March 7, 2017
10. Brackets – March 7, 2018
11. Medic – August 1, 2018
12. BERT – October 1, 2019
Why Should You Care About Core Updates?
Google core updates impact SEO the most. This is because, in order to keep your Google positions high and even improve them with time, you have to make friends with changes in the ranking algorithm they introduce. During core algorithm updates, a lot of website owners notice a sudden SEO ranking drop because the overall formula has been changed and therefore doesn’t provide the same positive results as it used to.
Core updates are an incredible way for Google to restructure SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) by adding, modifying, and theoretically even removing listings. Map Pack, Knowledge Graph, People Also Ask, and Featured Snippets were all the results of such impactful updates that introduced additional non-paid properties to the public.
Why is My Google Ranking Dropping?
Although core updates are supposed to bring only benefits, some webmasters and SEO specialists fail to keep up with new approaches and end up losing their Google search positions. This is because while minor updates influence around 0,1-1% of the content, each Google core update may affect up to 10% of all web searches and on average takes a couple of weeks to completely roll out.
I have a simple example to explain why Google ranking drop is happening while core updates are rolling out. Let’s say you have a drawer stuffed with super important items for your work. Every day you take out and put back in dozens of supplies and necessities but rarely remember to keep things back on their own places. Although you try to keep your stuff organized and partially clean it every week or two, after 2 months of actively using this drawer the only way to clean it is to take everything out and properly reorganize it.
Every Google core update is like taking all the mess out from the drawer to tidy it up. It tweaks the algorithm to reevaluate (reindex) web pages and the positions they hold. And like with items in that drawer in my example if some item appeared to be out it doesn’t mean that it’s not valuable or it won’t take its previous place anymore – just tidying up takes some time.
How to Recover if Your Positions Dropped After Google Core Update?
1. Prepare Upfront
Hurting your SEO is so not what Google aims to achieve. Core updates are designed to improve how the algorithm works to make sure searchers receive the most relevant, accurate, and authoritative content possible. That’s why in order to notify you about the upcoming noticeable changes, the company confirms these updates and provides actionable information before actual deployment. For example, before Speed Update began rolling out, Google published advanced notice and advice upfront.
There are couple of way to know when an important update is about to be launched:
- On Google’s Webmaster Central Blog where the company shares news and updates in the ranking algorithm
- By subscribing to the Google Newsletter
- On Twitter where Dunny Sullivan announces upcoming core updates and important Google-related news
July 2021 Core Update Rollout Announcement
Here is the tweet announcing the July 2021 Core Update rollout:
2. Give It Some Time
Core updates always lead to changes. That’s why I totally understand why those of you who have experienced sudden google rankings drops will be searching for answers to recover SEO rankings and get those positions back as soon as possible.
The reason why I’ve added this point here is to remind you that core updates are about reassessing all the content on the web. It means that if your rankings have dropped dramatically, it is not because there is something wrong with your pages or that you’ve violated Google’s webmaster guidelines. Oftentimes, you have to wait before implementing any changes to your content because your rankings may recover as the initial dust settles down and the update is completely rolled out. On average that’s 1-2 weeks.
3. Don’t Try to Fix the Wrong Things
Core update does not target particular web pages but are implemented to improve how the Google algorithm works. It means that if your Google rankings have dropped, it doesn’t mean that you have to start deleting pages and rewriting everything from scratch. Each core update has specific focus points but oftentimes it’s all about the experience your site provides.
Make sure you’ve taken good care of your off-page and on-page SEO. You can use our free on-page SEO checker to identify issues you might have. Then, make sure your website wasn’t involved in suspicious link-building tactics that can easily result in Google rankings drop that will be hard to recover. After, just follow the rest of the steps in this blog post and test what issue might have been the reason for your sudden drops. If you’re using Wincher, you know that there is a feature called on-demand update which makes your tracking so much more efficient. You can read our blog post that explains why refreshing your google positions on-demand is so crucial and how exactly do you update them manually in just a few clicks.
4. Focus on Content
The important insight that I recommend you taking into consideration is that you have to be careful with the tone in your texts. Websites that lose the most during core updates tend to overuse salesy language and bombard their pages with CTAs (call-to-action). These will most certainly decrease trust in the information you provide. Conversion is important but don’t make it too obvious and pushy.
The quality of your content is what determines your SEO success. Google published advice that will come in handy if you need some guidance in assessing your content quality that the algorithm will potentially reward. You won’t be able to find out exact signals that Google takes into account before making its final decision but will step inside the algorithm “mindset” when it scrolls through any page or an article online.
Here are the main points that you must maintain to earn high positions on Google and recover your rankings:
8 Ranking Signals that Google Algorithm Uses to Assess the Quality of Content
- Your content must be original and include your own report or analysis to help searchers the most
- Your pages should provide the most comprehensive information that fully answers the topic
- Your content should give the best answer in the query
- When using third-party resources, you should make sure you infuse your text with a relevant summary that will complement your piece. Copy-pasting or rewriting is always a bad idea
- Use the most descriptive headlines and titles
- Avoid shocking headlines and titles. These will attract the attention of users but Google doesn’t like these kinds of actions
- After finishing your piece, make sure it looks like a page a person would want to bookmark and/or recommend
- Make sure your content looks professional and could easily be printed in a magazine, book, or encyclopedia.
5 Ranking Signals that Google Algorithm Uses to Assess the Expertise of Content
- When creating content you have to make sure that all the information you provide is accurate. Add sources, provide additional evidence, involve experts, add bios of authors with links on LinkedIn or other social media accounts
- Make sure you sound like a well-trusted expert on its subject matter
- Your content should provide valuable information and answer the question as fully as you can only imaging
- Avoid any factual errors that will decrease the trust and value of your texts
- The piece of content should ensure that each piece of content you publish can be trusted and your advice can be easily followed and won’t bring any harm to your readers
5 Ranking Signals that Google Algorithm Uses to Assess Presentation and Production of Content
- Make sure your content doesn’t have any spelling or grammatical mistakes
- Hit publish only when you’re 100% sure your content doesn’t appear sloppy
- Make sure all your individual pages get the same attention and no content seems to be mass-produced to a large number of creators or spread across a variety of websites
- Control the number of ads on pages. Google decreases your rankings if ads are too distracted from the main content on a page.
- Don’t forget about mobile-first indexing. Ensure a seamless experience on mobile devices – not only on desktop. Read our blog post about the Difference Between Mobile SEO vs Desktop where I explain the difference between these two and explain why you should care
3 Ranking Signals that Google Algorithm Uses to Assess Comparative Content
- Make sure the value your content provides is more significant than other pages in the query have
- Create content with genuine intent to satisfy users’ needs and help them solve issues they have faced
- Don’t try to get around the Google algorithm by creating content with the primary intent just to rank well
The best-case scenario is to audit your pages using the points that I’ve summed up. This way you’ll get unbiased feedback (even if it’s from your colleagues or family members). Be open-minded and soak the opinions you’ll receive to figure out what your content is lacking, what have you been doing wrong, and what you can do to recover your rankings.
Google algorithm ranks content that brings value. This is because this is what a search engine is all about: people are coming to Google to look for answers, solutions, and advice and the job of the algorithm is to provide the most relevant and accurate results it can (and display them first). That’s why if you want to recover your Google rankings or increase your SEO positions, you have to make sure you’ve done your homework well and created the best possible content. Here the important part that many forget is that we’re here to help users with our content, not to please the algorithm in the first place.
Using the ranking signals that I’ve provided above is a great way to assess the content you already have, analyze what you might have done wrong, and learn a lesson to recover your rankings faster. Also, I really recommend you check out Google resources about things you can do to improve the SEO of your website.
5. Take Care of E-A-T
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. These are more than important for YMYL (your money, your life) websites. If your site falls into the YMYL niche, you have to pay precise attention to what you publish and how you do it because your content can drastically impact the health, safety, financial situation, and even the happiness of your visitors. On the screenshot below you can check out which websites does Google include websites in its official guidelines:
Google recommends you going through an article by Jennifer Slegg called “Google Updates Quality Rater Guidelines Targeting E-A-T, Page Quality & Interstitials”. It will give you a lot of insights about how E-A-T should be shown on websites that theoretically don’t fall into the YMYL niche and therefore don’t “potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users”.
6. Share your Achievements
Winners win. Recent research has shown that websites that display their earned awards tend to be among the winners during Google core updates. That’s why in order to make your users trust you, you have to show them that you deserve that trust first.
For example, you have earned an award from an authoritative resource or got mentioned in a TOP listing – put it out on your site! This is a significant way to show your visitors that you are a worthy player on a market and that your efforts were recognized and appreciated by third-party unbiased organizations. Testimonials and reviews from your clients are still important but are so less trusted than public awards. Here’s an example from Mayo Clinic.
7. Maintain Clear Editorial and Advertising policies
Users and algorithms love transparency. It means that including pages like “Ad & Sponsorship Policy” might play a game-changing role for your business and help you recover your rankings. This is because this way you show that you’re open about what’s going on behind the scenes: who edits your content, what criteria do you use to select ads, what ad types you will never display. By being transparent about these things you tell your visitors that value them.
8. Take Care of Your Technical SEO
This may sound obvious but make sure you’ve taken this step seriously if you want to recover pages that experienced google rankings drop after core update. Ignoring this step can lead to crawling and indexing issues that you surely don’t need.
Here are Some Technical SEO Tips that Will Help you Recover your Rankings:
1. Keep your eye on Coverage to track potential issues that Google might have to crawl and index your pages. To see the report, sign in to your Google Search Console and click on Index -> Coverage.
2. While you’re signed in to your Google Search Console, check AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) report to make sure there are no errors to fix (if applicable to you).
2. Track your site speed to ensure noticing issues as soon as they arise. You can monitor this metric easily at PageSpeed Insights. Just enter your URL and hit ANALYZE.
Here, don’t forget to check results for both mobile and desktop. Read our recent blog posts to figure out Why Mobile SEO is Important and How to Set Up Mobile Rank Tracking in order to improve your Google positions even faster.
3. Monitor “Manual Actions” to be able to react fast. You can do it by clicking on Security & Manual Actions -> Manual Actions and also by checking your Messages in the “Legacy tools and reports” section.
4. Check pagination to ensure that the setup was correct and tags are in their places. For those of you unfamiliar with what this term means, Pagination is used to describe the situation when we divide content into parts that we distribute separately. Let’s say the blog post is too long and in order to ensure seamless reading and to not overwhelm the reader, we divide the content into 3 parts and publish them each on a different page. But in order to tell the search engine that these parts are linked together and are basically a series of one research, we add special tags.
9. Get Rid of Poor-Quality Content
Low-quality content can easily deteriorate your SEO rankings. John Mueller confirms it in a Google Webmaster Hangouts from September 6, 2019. That’s why to not let poor-quality content decrease your domain quality, make sure you’ve removed or noindexed it.
10. Monitor Local Intent
How long has it been since you last updated your keywords on local search intent? Sometimes in order to recover SEO rankings faster, you just need to reassess the SERPs for the desired query. This is a good way to see whether or not things have changed. While analyzing it’s important to focus on local intent and check if a map pack, local listings, or names of the cities have appeared. This way you’ll be able to restructure your current strategy in order to perform as well for that local query.
Maybe the picture will be the opposite and the keyword that you used to rank for as local isn’t so anymore because the search intent for that query has changed. It will also indicate that you’ve missed an update and need to recover.
Google is a search engine that comprehends information not the way our human brain does. It works to ensure that every user gets the most accurate search results from the most trustworthy sources possible.
Google core updates are happening in order to improve how search algorithms work and how it assesses websites. After one update or another update, you might be facing your SEO rankings drop, but it’s not because you’ve done something bad – just the initial ranking formula has changed.
If you’ve got hit by a Google core update, it’s still possible to recover your rankings. Yes, this process won’t be easy and fast, but it’s always good to know that you can fix things up. I really hope that in this blog post I managed to show you what core updates are and how to deal with them.
Leave a comment below if you want to share your experience of how you managed to recover rankings after core update. We all will be fascinated to read your story!