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Google: When To Fix Sites Hit By March 2024 Core Update

Google's John Mueller offers advice on whether to fix a website before the Core Update is finished rolling out

Google’s John Mueller answered a question about whether the March Core Update was finished and whether it’s okay to begin fixing things in response to the update.

Core Update Question On Reddit

The person asking the question wanted to know if the core update was finished because they’ve experienced a 60% loss in traffic and they were waiting for the update to finish before fixing things to make it rank again.

“People advised me against making drastic changes to my blogs while the core update was ongoing. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced a significant loss, about 60% of my traffic, and now I’m determined to restore these numbers.
Do you have any tips for me? It appears that my pages, including (purchased) backlinks, have been most adversely affected!”

The advice that the Redditor received about waiting until after an update is finished before attempting to fix things is good advice… most of the time.

March 2024 Core Algorithm Update Is Not Over

Core algorithm updates are changes to the entire range of algorithms that are a part of search. The ranking part of the algorithm is a part of what constitutes as Google’s Core Algorithm. And the ranking system itself is made up of multiple other components that are related to understanding search queries and webpages, weighting different factors depending on the context and meaning of the search query, relevance, quality, and page experience, among many other factors.

There are also spam related systems such as RankBrain. The core algorithm is comprised of many things and the March 2024 Core Update is a particularly complex one which may explain why it’s taking so long.

John Mueller responded by first acknowledging that the March Core Update is not over yet.

He explained:

“No, it’s not complete. It’ll be labeled complete when it’s finished rolling out.”

Should You Wait Until The Update Is Over?

Mueller next addresses the part of the question that is about whether the person should wait until the update is over to fix their site.

He answered:

“Regardless, if you have noticed things that are worth improving on your site, I’d go ahead and get things done. The idea is not to make changes just for search engines, right? Your users will be happy if you can make things better even if search engines haven’t updated their view of your site yet.”

John Mueller makes a valid point that any time is the right to time to fix shortcomings that are discovered after a website self-assessment.

I’ve been working as a search marketer for 25 years, far longer than John Mueller ever has, so from that perspective I know that rankings tend to shift throughout an algorithm update. It’s not unusual that catastrophic ranking changes are reversed by the time an update is finished. “Fixing” something before the update has finished risks changing something that isn’t broken or in need of fixing.

However in this one specific instance John Mueller’s advice to go ahead and fix what’s broken is absolutely correct because a problem the Redditor mentioned, paid links, is quite likely a contributing factor to the negative change in their rankings.

But if paid links or aggressive link building like guest posts with keyword rich anchor texts is not something you engaged in then it may be useful to wait.

Google’s documentation noted that this particular update is complex and that the fluctuations may persist. So that means that sites that lost rankings may regain them.

From Google’s March Core Update documentation:

“As this is a complex update, the rollout may take up to a month. It’s likely there will be more fluctuations in rankings than with a regular core update, as different systems get fully updated and reinforce each other.”

See also: Google March 2024 Update: 6 Insights On Manual Actions

Optimizing For People

Mueller’s next advice is to focus on optimizing the website for people and not search engines. The emphasis of Mueller’s response was to encourage optimizing for “users” which means site visitors.

The remainder of Mueller’s response:

“Also, while I don’t know your site, one thing you can do regardless of anything is to work out how you can grow alternate sources of traffic, so that when search engines revamp their opinion of your site, you’ll have less strong fluctuations (make things more independent of search engines).

And, once you go down this path, you’ll probably also notice that you focus more on building out value for users (because you want them to come & visit & recommend on their own) – which is ultimately what search engines want too.”

Mueller’s response has a lot of merit because optimizing for people will align with how Google ranks websites.  It’s an approach to SEO that I call User Experience SEO.  User experience SEO is anticipating how content affects the user’s experience and satisfaction.

Using these principles I was able to anticipate by several years everything that was in Google’s Reviews Update. My clients with review websites were not caught by surprise by that update because I had anticipated everything in that update so they were ready for it when it happened.

Optimizing for people is not a shallow “make your site awesome” or “content is king” slogan. Optimizing for people is an actionable strategy for how to create and optimize websites with strong ranking power.

The recent U.S. government anti-trust lawsuit against Google made clear that the Navboost signal which tracks user interaction signals is a powerful ranking factor. Google responds to user interaction signals and one of the best ways of creating user interaction signals (as described in the Navboost Patent) is to create websites that cultivate positive responses.

Read the discussion on Reddit:

Is the March core update ended yet?

Category News SEO
SEJ STAFF Roger Montti Owner - at

I have 25 years hands-on experience in SEO and have kept on  top of the evolution of search every step ...

Google: When To Fix Sites Hit By March 2024 Core Update

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