Does Core Update Rankings Drop Mean It Is a Soft Penalty? Google Answers.

3 min read

In an Office-hours Hangout September Edition, one of Google’s representatives addressed the causes that lead to rankings loss after a core update, and discussed if it was all kind of a soft penalty. The discussion caught wind almost immediately after the session ended wherein one from the audience asked if suppressing a website’s rankings was kind of a soft penalty because two of their websites experienced near 90% drops. The Google representative went on to say it was not a penalty in any shape of form. In fact, none of the named updates that Google releases every now and then is a penalty in any way. The term “soft penalty” is a said to be a phantom phrase that has no real-life evidence or impact on how core updates evaluates sites. Let’s take a closer look at the discussion.

It is not a soft penalty, said Google.

The viewer asked, “Both of my websites have been hit by different updates, around 90% drops and are suffering from some type of flag that is suppressing our sites until the soft penalty is lifted. Or… is there even a soft penalty? “

To which one of Googlers replied, “No, the named updates that we publish on the rankings updates page on Search Central are not penalties in any shape or form. They are adjustments to our ranking algorithms, so they surface even higher quality and more relevant results to search users. If your site has dropped in rankings after an update, follow our general guidelines for content. Take a look at how you could improve your site as a whole, both from content and user experience perspective, and you may be able to increase your rankings again.”

This pretty much confirms that if a website’s suffers a drop in rankings after a core update, there may be other underlying reasons for it but quote-unquote soft penalty isn’t it. It isn’t real. A statement that backs this response comes from a document published by Google at the time of May 2022 Core Update, “There’s nothing wrong with pages that may perform less well in a core update. They haven’t violated our webmaster guidelines nor been subjected to a manual or algorithmic action, as can happen to pages that do violate those guidelines. In fact, there’s nothing in a core update that targets specific pages or sites. Instead, the changes are about improving how our systems assess content overall. These changes may cause some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better.”

What is it all about then? The Core Update and Content Correlation?

Time and again website owners suffering at the hands of core updates ask what may be the reason for it, and time and again Google takes a stand that often brings the factor of content into play, while at the same maintaining that there is nothing to really fix.

A statement penned by Google in their blog earlier this year reads, “We confirm broad core updates because they typically produce some widely notable effects. Some sites may note drops or gains during them. We know those with sites that experience drops will be looking for a fix, and we want to ensure they don’t try to fix the wrong things. Moreover, there might not be anything to fix at all.”

At the same time, Google also advices to improve your content quality because Google’s algorithms are on an evolutionary path to only showing high-quality and relevant content in their search results. And that means there is something to fix, after all, and that is content. However, it is important to note that high-quality content alone can’t guarantee improved rankings or traffic. It has to be backed equally competition On-page Optimization, Keyword Research Analysis, and Technical SEO. All of which are an integral part of our Monthly SEO Packages, along with, of course, high-quality content. You can listen to Google’s full response to question at the 15:08 minute mark and may be also stick around for the rest of the discussion for some other valuable insights.


Source: Search Engine Journal