On March 12, 13, and 14, 2019, many webmasters began noticing a change to their rankings and traffic. That’s because Google rolled out an update to their algorithm. Google frequently rolls out updates, but this one was a significant “Broad Core algorithm update”.
The update began rolling out late on March 10 or early March 11 and as far as I know it was first spotted here in real time by “@tehseowner”. As with any Broad Core algorithm update, not all sites are impacted at the same time.
NOTE: This page will be updated as more becomes known about this algorithm.
Originally published: 3/14/2019
Takeaways from the March 12, 2019 Google Broad Core Algorithm Update
After pouring over several Google Analytics accounts I have come to several conclusions to this update which I can state with 100% certainty:
- Backlinks were a factor. What the factor was is a huge question mark.
- Some of the same knobs were turned from Medic. In general, many sites which were impacted by medic (The August 1, 2018 Broad Core Algorithm Update) were impacted once again, in most cases, not nearly as drastically, and many moved in all sorts of directions.
- Rich Snippets and review stars were impacted. I haven’t heard anyone talking about this, but, then again I almost never read SEO articles and I only go by my own data.
- Featured Snippets were impacted. I personally have seen some sites lose them in this update, and other sites which lost them 9/27/2018 gained them back during this update.
What is a Broad Core Algorithm Update?
On the March 13, 2019, Google announced the update was a “Broad Core” update.
A Broad Core update involves multiple changes to the algorithm and the changes are bundled up into one major rollout.
This is much different than an algorithm update which isolates one specific factor such as page speed.
As with any Broad Core algorithm update, not all sites are impacted at the same time, and changes can occur at different times for different niches and different regions.
Traffic Gains and Losses
Below are some sites which I have Google Analytics access to which were impacted, followed by additional sites impacted.
1. UK Financial Site
This is a client site. Their technical SEO was spot on and their site did great on all “audits”. However, on September 27 they were hit and sank half way down on page 1. But the real traffic loss came from them losing Featured Snippets:
Action taken included:
- Expanding upon their most important pages to be more comprehensive and answer related questions people may be asking
- Helping them acquire a dozen high authority links. They had some great content and statistics on their site which aligned well with news stories and we went from there.
Their rankings returned on March 12, 2019 along with their Featured Snippets and they’re actually at all new highs for traffic.
Herbal Supplement Site
This site was whacked August 1, 2018 and if you look closely you’ll see they were hit again9/27/2018. They scaled back on advertising, upgraded old content, noindexed thin content and content which received no traffic, obtained some fresh links and produced some new high quality content. They are still on the path to recovery and are headed in the right direction with a nice 260% bump:
I am not working with this site but I hear from the owner from time to time. They have been focusing on E-A-T factors, adding author bios and updating content which was stale. One thing they did NOT fix was their ads. The have ads right in the main content at the top of an article and about 2 paragraphs in as well. I think it looks terrible, but what do I know… They haven’t “recovered” but they did see a little improvement:
Some high authority sites in the health niche lost traffic, such as webmd.com and healthline.com. I doubt they’ve done anything wrong, they’ve just lost some of their previous gains from the 8/1/2018 slaughter of everyone else. Here’s healthline below – note that many sites impacted 3/12/2019 were also impacted again around 3/26/2019. Semrush estimate:
DrAxe.com and others like Wellness Mama gained traffic. I have no idea if these sites made any changes after the last big core algorithm update. Here’s WellnessMama:
DrAxe.com with a partial recovery according to Semrush guesstimates:
I’ll mention that not all sites that were hit 8/1/18 made any recovery at all. This site, for example, was hit very hard on both 8/1/18 and 9/27/18. They were very unhappy and quit working on their website all together. The site lacks authority links for the type of content they cover. Additionally, the site is plastered with ads, and I mean plastered, especially above the fold, creating a very awful user experience:
March 2019 Google Broad Core Algorithm FAQ
This article will be updated as I get more data. Below are updates as I have discovered them.
Was this update Medic related?
A few people have asked me if the update was related to the August 1, 2018 update (aka the Medic Update). My answer is yes (sort of). Nobody has any way of knowing which knobs the Google engineers twisted but I can say that on 8/1/18 sites across the board were impacted, and YMYL sites were hit the hardest, which includes medical / nutritional / wellness sites. And yes, on 3/12/19 some of those sites were impacted again. Most of the sites impacted a second time made a mild change (such as a partial recovery), and, most of the sites impacted have made changes after losing traffic. That’s why it is tough to tell what happened; were the changes effective or did Google twist some knobs to dial back Medic, or both? I’ll post examples below in the screenshots section.
Was this update backlink related?
Partially. Google is constantly evaluating the most important factor in SEO, and that’s backlinks. The type of link, where it came from, what it points to, the context the link was used in, the age of the link, etc – these are all things any search engine must constantly reevaluate in an effort to provide the best results possible to the end user.
I recently commented on an article about the impact YMYL content has on a site’s rankings and pointed out that after studying mental health sites which increased in rankings in a post 8/1/2018 world, the links you will need to succeed could include fda.gov, cdc.gov, nih.gov, nami.org, mayoclinic.org, webmd.com, adaa.org. This is a good thing, as (most) sites negatively impacted that I looked at were bad. Really bad. One even claimed “drinking green tea cures depression”. Of course, the next sentence read “click here to get the tea we recommend”. You don’t have to be a doctor to know that’s probably jst not true and that kind of advice could kill someone, which is why it’s called YMYL content (as it could impact Your Money or Your Life).
Did this update affect all niches?
Yes, this was by no means an update specifically geared towards medical websites.
Were you impacted by the March 2019 Google Broad Core Algorithm Update?
If you lost traffic, gained traffic, or just saw no changes at all, please feel free to post your findings below.