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March 2019 Core Update: What’s Changed? Early Insights & Reaction

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March 2019 Core Update: What’s Changed? Early Insights & Reaction

Reaction and feedback to Google’s March 2019 Core Update (a.k.a., Florida 2) is generally more upbeat than negative. A common theme among many in the SEO community is that Google’s March 2019 Core Update is behaving like a rollback of previous updates.

Interestingly, some publishers noted connections to links and their rankings.

In the weeks leading up to this update I had noticed numerous reports of aggressive spidering by GoogleBot. I don’t know if there’s a connection between aggressive spidering, links and the update. But it was interesting to see that in the lead up to the update.

Screenshot of a report showing aggressive crawling by GoogleBotPrior to the core algorithm update, there were numerous reports online asking about aggressive GoogleBot crawling. This screenshot shows how GoogleBot had been attempting to crawl admin pages on a WordPress site.

UPDATE: Google Names Update ‘March 2019 Core Update’

There has been a ludicrous amount of discussion and debate about the name of this update. But now we have an official name, via Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liaison.

Brett Tabke on the March 2019 Core Update

Brett Tabke is the founder of WebmasterWorld marketing forum and Pubcon Search, Social Media, Marketing Conferences. Tabke is someone I regard as one of the founders of modern SEO.

Many SEO practices we take for granted originated through ideas Brett suggested on WebmasterWorld. The acronym SERPs was invented on WebmasterWorld.

It was Tabke who had received advance notice from Google about this update during the recent Pubcon Florida conference. I asked Tabke what he thought about this update so far:

“Well, as you can tell from the Google forum, we are a little too early too tell.

Originally guidance from Google was this was going to be one of the largest updates we’ve seen in “a very long time” (their words). So far, it doesn’t appear that is the case.

In fact, I think we may be seeing a rollback of a few of the last updates.”

Tabke’s insight about the update seeming to appear like a rollback is a well-stated observation. A common theme among many publishers is how their sites are bouncing back from previous algorithms.

SEMrush on the March 2019 Core Update

I reached out to SEMrush to see if they could share any data or early findings about Florida 2. Here is their response:

Right away, I can tell you the basic things that we see in Sensor about Florida 2:

1. Overall volatility levels are not significantly higher than run-of-the-mill unannounced Google Updates
2. Update patterns are almost the same on Desktop vs Mobile
3. All countries that we track are affected, but Germany and especially France and Italy seem to lag a day behind
4. Most affected categories so far are Autos&Vehicles, Health and Pets&Animals

WebmasterWorld Discusses the March 2019 Core Update

In a discussion on WebmasterWorld, members were reporting more gains than losses. Tabke posted:

“Traffic on several sites that were abused by Penguin have rebounded significantly. …I’d given them up for dead. Then noticed affiliate earnings on them this morning for the first time in a year. Traffic was way up. (400 uniques a day to 2500)”

Another WebmasterWorld member immediately responded with a similar anecdote of a formerly penalized site that has also returned to ranking again.

Screenshot of a WebmasterWorld postA forum member commented on how their formerly penalized website has returned to the search results.

Then further down in the discussion, another member stated:

“…there is definitely an anchor text link element to the changes today. I have a huge amount of exact match links thanks to the copy & paste box I’ve had on my site since about 2002 that used to contain an exact match link. All my well established pages that have exact match links are getting trashed, but the new pages I put up a few months ago that have hardly any links yet are doing fine and even gaining.”

Black Hat Reaction

Comments from a private black hat Facebook group note that sites powered by automated link building were trending downward. Several comments made directly to me and in the private Facebook groups noted that sites with heavy anchor text optimization are losing in the SERPs.

An anchor text is the words used to link to another site. Typical anchor text is “click here.” Anchor text optimization is creating links with specific words as the anchor with the goal of influencing search engines.

I would caution that correlations between anchor text optimization and ranking changes are unreliable. While it may seem like the anchor text optimization was the cause it could more likely be an issue with the quality of the site where the link was obtained.

The low quality of a link can have a delayed reaction from Google. What typically happens is the link works then it stops working as Google devalues the power of the link.

An over-optimization manual action results in a warning in the Google Search Console. Everything else is usually a devaluation of a link.

In the black hat forums, the reaction was more upbeat than down. More black hat forum members were posting gains then members who were posting losses.

March 2019 Core Update Summary

As Tabke observed, it’s still early to reach conclusions. But it’s helpful to get a snapshot of where the digital publishing community stands today in reaction to Google’s update.

Google has in the past revealed details of major changes to their algorithm. If the update formerly known as Florida 2 is indeed a major change, as was telegraphed to Tabke, then I expect Google at some point in the near future to reveal some general details of what changed.

Read More About the Google March 2019 Core Algorithm Update

Data Confirms Why Google March 2019 Update Feels Like a Rollback
New data explains why the update feels like a rollback

Google Update Florida 2: March 2019 Core Update Is a Big One
The original announcement in which a Googler informed Brett Tabke that this update would be important.


Images by Shutterstock, Modified by Author
Screenshots by Author, Modified by Author

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Roger Montti

Roger Montti is an SEO consultant & web publisher with nearly 20 years experience. He offers Site Audits for ranking ... [Read full bio]

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