Clear Case of BS? Google Says there is No SEO Fix if You Were Hit by the March 2019 Core Update

Jen Saunders
Reading Time:8minutes

If your rankings suddenly tanked a few days ago, it is likely not due to any technical change you made, but instead your flat content. On March 12 Google rolled out a core update. And while not enough time has passed to really see its full extent, two things are known: (1) the search engine announced “there is no fix if your site was negatively impacted”, and (2) sites with a specific kind of content either recovered the following day, or improved in rankings.

If your SEO agency is on top of trying to triage any decline in rankings, they will do the following:

  1. Wait for two more weeks before making any changes
  2. Prepare a strategy in the meantime so it can be implemented sooner than later, if need be
  3. Audit a site’s content for SEO best practices and the user experience
  4. Create a cluster topic blog strategy that focuses on target buyer needs with resolutions

From the start, Google has made it abundantly clear that it’s main goal is to provide the best user experience by offering search results that give people high-quality SPECIFIC content they desire.So any core algorithm update will likely revolve around this goal.

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No Fix SEO BS?

Google’s goal isn’t to destroy a site’s ability to attract organic traffic. It’s goal is to give organic searchers the best content. Google makes roughly 500 algorithm updates each year, and in the past spokespeople for the search engine have said there is no fix, but there was. I’ve been heading SEO strategy for 15 years, and whether it was by luck, an educated guess, working knowledge of Google and consumer behavior, all all of these points combined, we have helped sites recover from massive ranking hits when Google made an update that was “unfixable”. So, based on experience alone, I call BS because I’ve heard it many times, and found the opposite to be true.

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Can Anyone Really Give SEO Tips to Fix Ranking Drops at this Point?

The short answer is no. Nobody will be able to give grounded strategic advice until a few more weeks pass so that enough data can be collected, studied, and to see if any ranking drops recover. If you are going to recover from an algorithm update, more than 90 percent of sites experience this within the first proceeding two weeks. However, the best SEO agencies that excel in content marketing will be able to look at their client’s data (and their own) and note the correlations between those sites that were hit hard, and those who managed to escape or bounce back quickly, and WEBITMD has done just that. Therefore, we can give an educated prediction on strategies that will improve rankings.

Before we jump right into strategy, let’s go back to Google’s claim there is no fix. Aside from the fact we have heard this before (and their past claims were clearly not accurate), part of Google’s ability to improve search results for people is to manipulate SEOs. There is value in Google knowing how SEO agencies respond to various updates, and how SEO experts approach resolutions based on Google’s statement about the update. They absolutely collect data on site updates, changes in linking profiles, and we know that onsite content and links play heavily into a site’s ability to rank for target keywords and search phrases,

So, based on my experience in weathering Google storms for the past 15 years, analyzing our client’s data thus far, and seeing how Google’s algorithm has evolved over time with the way SEO has changed, I can offer some pretty solid tips along with some cautionary advice to wait for two full weeks to pass before making any changes.

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Similarities in Sites that Took Hits

H tags played a significant role in sites that took a hit. From one SEO agency to another, there are always three types of clients when it comes to H tags: (1) those who allow the SEO agency to place the right H tags that will (with optimized content) attract (and convert) organic traffic, (2) insist on their “branded language” (no search volume or context) and (3) refuse to use H tags because they want to keep that minimalistic look with little to no text (newsflash, unless you are Coca- Cola, you won’t get organic traffic without content and H tags).

Roughly 30 percent of our clients insist on creating their own H tags which offer zero SEO value. And of these clients ALL took a hit in rankings. We advised against their choices and explained why , but they were adamant. While our goal is to also respect their branded voice, no compromise could be achieved, and these clients ultimately decided to use H tags with content that isn’t SEO friendly, and as a result, a large chunk of their rankings took a dive. Now EVERY SINGLE CLIENT in this cohort has booked a call to find a compromise to revamp H tags and content.

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Let’s Talk About H Tags for SEO

H tags have two main purposes. First, to help Google understand what the content is about, and (more recently) who the content is intended for. It also helps readers understand what the content is about. When Google crawls a web page or blog it looks to see how relevant the H tag is according to search queries, and if the textual content on the page is relevant. Expecting organic traffic without H tags is like expecting to win the Grand Prix with an empty fuel tank–H tags are paramount to a successful SEO strategy.

Each page should have a single H1. You can then use multiple H2s and H3s. The idea is to use a main keyword with lots of search volume and a low competition score (sometimes a low competitions score won’t be possible) and shape it into a longtail keyword version that has context reflecting the customer’s needs. In other words, your H tag should have a main keyword and let people know how your product or service will provide a solution to their problem. You can use multiple H tags with constructed content to do this as opposed to trying to squeeze everything into one paragraph. For example, if a company sells dog training videos, a good strategy may look like this:

H1 – Dog Training Videos for House Training

H2 – Do Dog Training Videos on House Training Work?

H2 – How to House Train Your Dog to Use a Single Patch of Grass in the Yard

H2 – How to Award a Dog for Using the Bathroom Outside

H2 – What Problems do People Face in House Training their Dog?

H2 – If My Dog is Going Outside to Use the Bathroom, do I Still Need to Award Him?

Can you see how these H tags tell an overall story? Do you also see how the content addresses all the common pain points a consumer might have, educate them with their purchasing decision, and what to expect in the product itself?

Of our clients who used this type of strategy, only two took a hit, but both recovered the following day. Regardless of Google’s March 2019 update, using H tags with supportive content that directly addresses buyer needs with thorough answers to common questions is the right strategic play, and if you can update your pages to reflect this strategy, I would bet my left hand that you will see ranking improvements within a few months (you need to blog though), despite Google’s bleak “no way out” fix.

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Change Your Blog’s Structure for SEO Improvements

Before you go and re-write blogs that don’t target buyers, start by optimizing your homepage and main web pages (like product pages). Then start a new blog strategy, and from each blog, link to one of these appropriate and recently optimized pillar pages.

As for the blogs, create topic clusters. This consists of a single topic like “Summer Camp Programs for Kids”. Then each topic will have a set number of blogs (can be 5, 20, or 50) that has a unique title and addresses a specific topic. These topics can range from “tips for parents to choose the best Summer camps” to “Summer Camp Activities that Help Your Child perform Better in School”. Each blog should be written to a target audience (parents of 10 to 12 year-old kids), internally link to one another with an anchor text that has a main keyword and context that shows subject relativity between the two blogs, and tot he target audience, and each should also link to the pillar page.

This strategy is ideal because it provides circulation between blogs for “SEO juice” to flow, channels this search juice to the pilar pages (the core of your website) and it provides for an amazing user experience as it easily directs readers to the right information they are looking for in as few clicks as possible.

Of our clients who used this strategy, none saw a major hit in rankings that lasted more than a day.

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When you Write for People, You Write for Google, and Growth Marketing Stacks Cut Costs and Increase Efficiency

Over the years Google has been able to evolve its algorithm so that now, writing high-quality content for people means you are putting yourself in a better position to rank well.

But your ultimate goal isn’t to just rank. It’s to convert organic traffic into paying customers. But let’s go even deeper and assume your real goal is to simply increase sales, and you are willing to try any channel necessary so long as it is profitable.

A Growth Marketing Stack is a set of customized tools and strategies that all work together to achieve the same goal. If you are like most organizations, SEO is probably your best bet to attract new buyers. But this doesn’t mean it is the only profitable strategy, nor does it mean there aren’t other strategies out there that can help you achieve your revenue goals. For example, growth marketing stacks always help to improve SEO results for multiple reasons. From sending additional traffic to landing pages where SEO-friendly engagement signals can spawn, to giving high-level data you can’t obtain from Google Analytics to improve audience targeting in your content, Growth Stacks only empower sEO. In fact, when Google updates cause temporary drops in rankings, paid media or email marketing can continue to work uninterrupted to attract traffic and nurture readers into buyers.

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Don’t Panic Over the Google Update Yet

Honestly, half the stuff Google has said in the past has really panned out. In my experience, I can confidently say sites will bounce back from this is they step up their content game. Remember to use SEO best practices while putting focus on the buyer, and let a high-quality blog empower your main pages while educating your target audience.

Were You Impacted by the Google Update?

If you took a hit and lost traffic, we invite you to download our FREE guide on the Growth Marketing Stack. Discover how our modern approach to SEO works together with other strategies and tech tools to cut investment costs, maximize your team’s efficiency, align sales and marketing, and generate the best results from organic and other traffic channels with measurable profitability. Then give us a call, let’s talk SEO, and see if you are a great fit for this approach as a stand-alone strategy, or if your sales cycle and price point makes sense for the Growth Stack!
Download The WEBITMD Growth Stack.

About
Jen Saunders is the Director of SEO for WEBITMD bringing more than 15 years of search marketing experience. She spent 13 years in Europe earning her PhD while looking at lots of old neat stuff. Jen enjoys simple things, like trees, sunrises, and the delicate lull of a 16th century harpsichord. Jen enjoys meditating and studies Buddhism. She is a certified master scuba diver, dolls make her nervous, and she enjoys craft beer. Jen has two cats, Chairman Thaddeus Whiskers and Lord Joffrey Gaius Pitty-Paws. They are her heirs.