What do we know about Google’s March 2019 Core Update?

By Lucia Navarro | 18 Mar 2019

Algorithm updates are always the talk of the table within the SEO community, and recently rumours have been spreading about the latest core update that arrived on 12th March. The webmaster world adventurously called it Google Florida Update 2, despite it having nothing in common with its predecessor, Florida 1 (November 2003); Google has now officially named it March 2019 Core Update to avoid any further confusion.

As with tradition, SEOs are already speculating a possible reversal of the Medic update, some say it could be Panda and/or Penguin related, and others claim it’s EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trust) related in combination with user search intent.

The biggest SEO chatter is around the new method of ranking webpages, called Groupwise Scoring Functions. To support this, Google published a research paper that describes the new way to improve how pages are ranked. There have been complaints about a greater query-specific influence on rankings and search results, which we think may be a sign of a new ranking method. Furthermore, Bing recently confirmed that it’s doing something similar too.

Although it’s early days, Google has already stated that if your site was impacted, “there is no fix”. It notes that the focus should remain on building great content and following its quality guidelines which, over time, should help improve or recover performance levels.

How do you know if your site has been affected?

If abnormal ranking fluctuations are seen and organic traffic is affected, it might be related to this broad core update and not necessarily connected to any recent content or technical changes made to the site.

Google has a long history of well-known algorithm updates and claims that the intention is always to improve search results and to give a better response to search queries. Google’s algorithms are a complex system used to retrieve data from its search index and instantly deliver the best possible results for a query. 

How often does Google update its algorithm?

It’s believed that Google changes its search algorithm at least 500 to 600 times a year. While most of these updates are tiny and often aren't even picked up by SEOs, others are big updates that clearly affect the visibility of a website.

When was the last Google algorithm update?

Google’s last core search algorithm update was in August 2018, which was named by the SEO community as the Medic Update, although Google has always denied the direct relationship between that update and the health and wellbeing industry.

Prior to that update was the Mobile Speed Update, which saw page speed become a ranking factor for mobile results. Google claimed that the update only affected the slowest mobile sites, and there was no evidence of major mobile rankings shifts.

What is a broad core search algorithm update?

Google has offered some clues to unravel the difference between a broad core algorithm update and a major update – below are the key ways to identify a broad core update:

  • A core update is a tweak or change to the main search algorithm itself, wherein Google slightly tweaks the importance, order, weights, or values of ranking signals
  • All updates have a specific purpose and aim to provide better search results for users
  • For sites that have fallen down the ranks, Google will note there isn’t an easy fix and won’t tell webmasters how to recover as the answer will vary for every website and query

We always recommend that webmasters keep an eye on their site’s ranking and monitor how updates affect their SEO performance.