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Google’s Mueller Outlines Path To Recovery For Sites Hit By Core Update

Google's John Mueller reveals the reality of recovering from algorithm updates: Adaptation is key.

  • Recovery from Google's algorithm updates can take months.
  • Significant drops may require multiple update cycles to resolve.
  • Adapting to the evolving web and user expectations is crucial for recovery.
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Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller recently addressed the SEO community’s concerns about site recovery after being impacted by algorithm updates.

The conversation arose as people questioned whether sites hit by the September helpful content update could regain lost traffic and rankings after future core updates.

The exchange began on X when an SEO professional, Thomas Jepsen, asked Mueller if Google’s previous stance still held true – that the search engine “doesn’t hold a grudge” and sites will recover once issues are resolved.

Mueller confirmed, “That’s still the case,” but cautioned that “some things take much longer to be reassessed (sometimes months, at the moment), and some bigger effects require another update cycle.

Addressing Lingering Confusion

Following Mueller’s statements, confusion persisted around whether sites hit by the helpful content update require a new core update to recover lost rankings.

Mueller clarified:

“… not all changes require another update cycle. In practice, I’d assume that stronger effects will require another update. Core updates can include many things.”

He likened core updates to adjustments in ranking formulas and thresholds, with the latter often necessitating another update cycle.

Dismissing Permanence Concerns

There’s concern that sites affected by the September helpful content update will be permanently classified, obstructing future growth.

Mueller addressed those concerns and affirmed that affected sites could regain traffic by improving quality.

However, Mueller says full recovery to pre-update levels is unrealistic.

He states:

“Permanent changes are not very useful in a dynamic world… However, ‘recover’ implies going back to just-as-before, and IMO that is always unrealistic, since the world, user-expectations, and the rest of the web continues to change. It’s never ‘just-as-before’.”

When asked directly if a site affected by the helpful content update can grow in traffic if it improves in quality, Mueller stated:

“Yes, sites can grow again after being affected by the ‘HCU’ (well, core update now). This isn’t permanent. It can take a lot of work, time, and perhaps update cycles, and/but a different – updated – site will be different in search too.”

The Long Road Ahead

Continuing the conversation on LinkedIn, Mueller stressed that the recovery process isn’t specific to helpful content updates or core updates but applies to all kinds of systems and updates within Google.

Mueller states:

“… to be clear, it’s not that “helpful content update” “recoveries” take longer than other updates. It’s just that some kinds of changes take a long time to build up, and that applies to all kinds of systems & updates in Google & in any other larger computer system. Saying that this is specific to the helpful content system, or to core updates would be wrong & misleading.”

Mueller acknowledged that the recovery process doesn’t have a single, straightforward solution and may require deep analysis and significant work to understand how to make a website relevant again.

“There is, however, the additional aspect of the “core update” being about how our systems assess content overall, how we consider it to be helpful, reliable, relevant to users’ queries. This does not map back to a single change that you can make on a website, so – in my experience – it’s not something that a website can just tweak overnight and be done with it. It can require deep analysis to understand how to make a website relevant in a modern world, and significant work to implement those changes — assuming that it’s something that aligns with what the website even wants.”

Lastly, he adds that a recovery will take more than fixing technical issues. It may require a realignment of business priorities.

“These are not “recoveries” in the sense that someone fixes a technical issue and they’re back on track – they are essentially changes in a business’s priorities (and, a business might choose not to do that).”

Why SEJ Cares

Google’s core algorithm updates can dramatically impact a website’s search visibility and traffic.

For sites negatively affected, clear guidance on recovery is critical – both for setting realistic expectations and charting a practical path forward.

Mueller’s insights reassure that improvement remains possible through strategic realignment with Google’s current quality standards.

How This Can Help You

Mueller’s insights allow impacted sites to set realistic expectations for recovery.

Regaining visibility remains possible with patience, thorough analysis, and persistent effort.

Mueller’s statements offer the following takeaways for sites impacted by Google’s updates:

  • Recovery isn’t out of the question but will require significant effort over multiple update cycles.
  • Simply restoring previous tactics is insufficient; sites must evolve to meet changing user needs and internet best practices.
  • Deep analysis is necessary to identify areas for improvement and realign content strategy with modern relevance signals.
  • Returning to previous ranking positions is unrealistic due to evolving user needs.

Featured Image: rudall30/Shutterstock

Category News SEO
SEJ STAFF Matt G. Southern Senior News Writer at Search Engine Journal

Matt G. Southern, Senior News Writer, has been with Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a bachelor’s degree in communications, ...

Google’s Mueller Outlines Path To Recovery For Sites Hit By Core Update

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