What You Need To Know About The March 7 Google Update

— April 23, 2018

Have you heard? Google confirmed that it released a new algorithm update on March 7.

Was your website hit? Have you noticed a change in rank for some of your most popular pages?

Here’s what you need to know about the latest Google update.

It’s called “Brackets”

The new update has been dubbed “Brackets.” That’s because it happened around the time of the NCAA basketball championships (during “March Madness”).

Google issued the following statement about Brackets: “Each day, Google usually releases one or more changes designed to improve our results. Some are focused around specific improvements. Some are broad changes. Last week, we released a broad core algorithm update. We do these routinely several times per year.”

That’s pretty vague, isn’t it?

Fortunately, Google’s own John Mueller later confirmed that the update was about relevance.

Here’s what he said: “[A] a lot of the updates that we make are more around relevance. Where we’re trying to figure out the relevance of certain queries, and not so much a matter of quality overall.”

He went on to say that people who saw their sites lose rank didn’t necessarily do anything wrong. It’s just that Google determined that certain pages weren’t relevant to a specific search query.

It Wasn’t About Quality

Mueller’s statement can’t be emphasized enough. The Brackets update wasn’t about quality. It was about relevance.

What’s the difference? A lot, actually.

An update that deals with quality, such as the Penguin algorithm update, is designed to punish sites that attempt to manipulate search engines with backlink spam. Those are sites that usually offer low-quality content and try to achieve rank by buying links from private blog networks.

Google, understandably, doesn’t want its users finding sub-par content when they’re searching for info online. That’s why they released the Penguin update.

On the other hand, sometimes sites produce great articles and they’re not trying to manipulate the search engines. Still, that doesn’t mean their content has anything to do with the search term.

The latest update addressed that issue. It demoted search results from sites that aren’t particularly relevant to what users were looking for.

Checking the Fallout

At Ignite Visibility, we used our own analytics tools to see how the Brackets update affected our site. There were some surprises.

For starters, SEMRush showed us that we had previously ranked #6 for “top SEO company.” After the update, we weren’t even ranked!

That was a low blow. Fortunately, there was more to the story.

We decided to Google “top SEO company.” To our delight, we found that our site was sitting pretty at #3.

So the Brackets update appeared to have helped us, the reporting of SEMRush notwithstanding.

It’s always a great idea to manually validate at least some of the numbers you’re seeing with your analytics tools.

But There Was Some Damage

SEMRush may have been wrong about that search term, but we did take some hits following the Brackets update.

When we went into Google Analytics, we noticed that our that one of our articles lost 12% of its traffic. But it made sense.

Why? The article was entitled “How to Undo an Email in Gmail or Outlook 365 in a Few Seconds.”

People who visit our blog typically aren’t searching for info on how to unsend an email. We’re a digital marketing agency, after all.

Visitors flock to our site because they’re looking for email marketing tips, ideas for copywriting, listicles of great tools they can use, and other articles related to marketing in the 21st century.

So we weren’t surprised to see that the Brackets update adversely affected one of our articles about unsending an email. It’s not really in line with the nature of our business to provide that kind of advice.

That was just more evidence that the update was about relevance.

Still Some Good News

That was really the worst news that we got.

Within Google Analytics, we ran a month-over-month report that compared traffic from January 24 through March 4 with traffic from March 7 through April 15.

According to GA, we got a 14% increase in traffic after the Brackets update. That certainly gave us no reason to complain.

Of course, we rely heavily on content marketing and SEO to promote our brand at Ignite Visibility. So the increase in traffic wasn’t a huge shock.

Wrapping It Up

The Brackets update was a good update. It ensures that Google’s users find relevant search results online.

If your site took a hit after March 7, there’s not much you can do about it. That’s because Google determined that some of your pages aren’t relevant to one or more search terms.

However, what you can do going forward is this: create amazing, shareable content that’s in line with the overall theme of your website. You might find that you even outrank some high DA sites that way.

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Author: John Lincoln

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