Why Do Some Sites Lose Rankings Following Core Updates?
Disavowing spam links and fixing technical problems will not restore your rankings after taking a hit from a core update, according to John Mueller; during a recent SEO Office-hours hangout he discussed the main reasons why some sites fall in the rankings when Google updates its algorithm.
Among other things, he was adamant in pointing out how technical issues and spam backlinks are not the major causes of ranking issues.
Unsolicited Spam Backlinks
Mr Mueller was questioned by an online business owner from Switzerland, who voiced concern over several unsolicited spam backlinks now pointing to one of his websites. He said that he had reported the issue to Google previously and was promised action would be taken, but nonetheless saw a significant fall in the rankings and traffic following a major core update.
As his other websites saw better performance following the update, he concluded that the spammy backlinks were taking their toll; even after disavowing the links and making several significant technical improvements, the site still performed poorly.
Mr Mueller suggested that neither of these issues was likely a major factor behind the site’s poor rankings performance:
“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.
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.”
Especially with regards to things like 404 pages and technical issues, that would not be related to core updates.
Core updates are really more about understanding your site’s overall quality and its relevance and less about technical issues and less about spam.”
Wider Site Quality Issues
He continued by emphasising the importance of overall site quality, explaining how Google’s algorithm makes decisions based on a much broader range of factors. He also indicated how restoring a site’s rankings and general SEO performance is more of a slow and steady process.
“Also with core updates, you can make incremental changes to improve your site over time with regards to the overall quality and that will incrementally help there.”
Mr Mueller simply re-emphasised the importance of focusing on overall site quality, rather than one or two specific ranking factors.
Though if nothing else, it is at least reassuring to know that the old technical error and spam link here and there is not going to see you fall from the rankings entirely.