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Why Some Sites Lose Rankings in Core Update via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s John Mueller answered a question in the SEO Office-hours hangout about recovering from a core algorithm update. His main point was to rule out random spammy backlinks or technical issues as reasons why a site would lose search visibility after a Google core update.

Then Mueller explained what a core algorithm is mostly about and where affected sites should focus their attentions in order to better understand what kinds of changes might be needed.

Website Lost Rankings in July 2021 Core Update

The person asking the question related that they have three online pharmacies in Switzerland. One of the sites received a significant number of random spammy backlinks, backlinks for which they weren’t responsible for.

He mentioned that in a previous conversation John Mueller had reassured him that Google could deal with those links.

Nevertheless, the site lost search rankings and traffic after the July 2021 Core Update, while the other two sites doubled their traffic and visibility.

They tried fixing the site by addressing technical problems and also uploading a disavow file but the site never improved and continues with a reduced search presence.

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The person asking the question asserted his belief that they lost rankings in the core algorithm update because of those spammy backlinks.

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Core Updates are More About Relevance

Mueller answered by first noting that his answer is going to be a general one because he can’t speak specifically about a site without actually looking at it.

He then began talking about what a Google core update is about and what kinds of things are not related to a loss of rankings during a core update.

Mueller explained:

“In general, with the core updates, if you’re seeing changes there, usually that’s more related to trying to figure out what the relevance of a site is overall and less related to things like spammy links.

So that’s something where I wouldn’t expect any reaction from in a core update based on random spammy links that go to your website.”

Overall Site Quality

Mueller next started talking about overall site quality. In a previous Google office-hours hangout he explained that overall site quality is more than just text and that it could include the layout and other factors.

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Read: Google Offers a Definition of Quality Content

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The above article is important to read because it offers a definition of content quality that is more far reaching than it is generally thought of.

So when Mueller starts talking about “overall site quality” it’s important to really tune in and think about what he means when he talks about that.

Mueller continued with his answer:

“Also with core updates, …like… you can make incremental changes to improve your site over time with regards to the overall quality and that will incrementally help there.”

A Strong Loss of Rankings Takes Longer to Recover

The next part of Mueller’s answer addresses those sites whose rankings took a significant hit. For those kinds of sites they may have to wait.

Mueller continued:

“But if it was a really strong adjustment with a core update then you probably need to wait until the next core update to see those changes.”

Disavow Files Will Not Help Core Update Issues

Mueller next makes it clear that uploading a disavow file will not solve issues experienced from a core update.

Mueller:

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“And because I don’t think it would be related to the spammy backlinks, I don’t think disavowing those backlinks would change anything there.

It’s really a matter of us trying to figure out what the relevance of the site is overall.

And that’s something that almost relies on the overall site’s quality.”

Identify Issues Related to Relevance

Mueller next underlined the idea of focusing on overall relevance.

Mueller continued his answer:

“And I imagine it’s tricky if you have multiple shops that are fairly similar in that it’s probably not the case that one of them is really bad and the other ones are really good.

But it might still be something where you can use maybe user studies to figure out what are the differences, what are things that you could do to make it clear that this site is particularly relevant.”

YMYL Sites Face a More Critical Algorithm

Mueller next mentioned that sites that are in sensitive topics, known as Your Money Your Life (YMYL) sites, like those in the health sector, are going to face more a more “critical” algorithm.

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Mueller:

“And I think especially with regards to websites like pharmacies, it is something where our algorithms probably try to be a little bit more critical just because …there’s just so much more involved.

It’s not a random website that has a story and a funny picture. It’s like people’s health that’s involved.”

Technical Issues Not Source of Core Update Ranking Problems

The person who asked the question mentioned they were trying to fix 404 and other technical issues.

Mueller followed up his answer to make it clear that technical issues do not play a role in ranking problems associated with a core algorithm update.

Mueller said:

“Especially with regards to things like 404 pages and technical issues, that would not be related to core updates.

So core updates are really more about understanding your site’s overall quality and its relevance and less about technical issues and less about spam.”

Affected by a Google Core Update?

There’s a lot of information there that is helpful for identifying where to focus for improving after a core update and where not not waste your time.

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Some key takeaways from Mueller’s answer:

  • Uploading a disavow file is futile for fixing core update related rankings collapse
  • Fixing technical issues will not solve core update ranking problems
  • Overall quality and relevance to the topic are important areas to examine
  • A strongly impacted website may have to wait for the next core update to see an improvement

Google’s stance on core updates have generally been that there is nothing to fix.

But Mueller also says that the core update generally focuses on relevance and overall quality, which is a good thing to know.

Citation

Core Algorithm Update is Usually About Relevance and Overall Quality

Links & Technical Issues Not Related to Core Update Ranking Issues
Watch John Mueller explain core updates at the 45 second mark in the video:

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NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

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