On March 13th, Google confirmed the launch of a broad core update, Update Florida 2.  What does this mean for you?

First, a little background.

Officially named the March 2019 Core Update, the name Florida 2 is interesting. The original Florida update was an important one in the early 2000s.

Even though the official date was March 13th, based on some flux we saw in client visibility I suspect that updates were in play before that date. By flux, I’m pleased to say I mean an uptick, not a fall.

Google confirmed that the algorithm change is a “Broad Core Update”, meaning that it’s not targeting a specific industry or ranking signals.  In fact Cognitive SEO reported that “Florida 2.0 is clearly a global update that affects websites regardless of the country, region or country”, while SearchEngineJournal suggests that the update “is one of the biggest updates in years”.

And yet, according to Google, the update does not require a “fix”.  We shall see!

Ranking flux charts from SEMrush, CognitiveSEO and Moz clearly show evidence of change going on. SearchMetrics indicates similarly for our clients.  In the interests of commercial confidence, I’ve attached a name-free chart below to show this.  It appears that visibility is bouncing back to similar levels just before Christmas.

SEO Visibillity

So is it correct to say that no “fix” is required? That depends on what you are doing at the moment. Here are some perceived impacts of Florida 2, and what they might mean.

  1. There is evidence of increased traffic for sites that prioritise quality content and page speed. In truth, though, Google has always rewarded great original content.  However, with the number of searches simply being what they are, increased traffic for some sites must be balanced by decreased traffic to sites that have not prioritised quality content and page speed.  If since March 13th you have noticed persistently reduced traffic that and – be honest, here – you know your site lacks great original content and/or loads slowly, then actually, yes, a “fix” (probably understating the task ahead of you) may well be on the cards.  Don’t rush in, though.
  2. Google may have adjusted how it interprets particular search queries. That’s going to mean examining the data to see how your search terms, particularly those that drive most traffic and are therefore most important to you, continue to perform.
  3. Backlink quality appears to have become more important. If true, that will be an interesting one, since it effectively rewards your site based on other site owners finding your content sufficiently ‘interesting’ to link to it. And that may mean embarking on backlink strategies to a greater degree than currently.
  4. Short term keyword ranking changes (declines in ranking that then revert to “normal” after a few hours). ‘Short term’ is a very uncomfortable description, especially when we don’t know the precise cause. And it doesn’t really align with the basic principles of how Google rewards content.  This one has ‘wait and see’ written all over it for the time being; it may be an unintended impact that Google itself may address in a future update.

You’ll have noticed that throughout this blog I have used words like “may”, “appears to” and “evidence of”. That’s because Google doesn’t tell anyone exactly what effects its algorithm changes are intended to have, and we (and, in fairness, every other agency) are still looking at the data to be sure we understand cause and effect correctly. Indeed, you’d be amazed if Google itself understood every impact of every change across the entire web.

That lack of absolute certainty means our advice to site owners is, for the time being, based on caution:

  • don’t rush unduly to make changes. Gather data and understand everything first.
  • review Google’s Quality Guidelines to identify improvements that can be made with confidence based on Google’s own advice.
  • think back to core principles that remain unchanged: page speed (especially on mobile), content quality and backlinks have always been important to earning organic visibility in Google.
  • continually monitor your site for basic errors that affect organic search visibility, such as crawlability, duplication and on page elements.
  • maintain a detailed log of all changes you or your agency make to your site.  By identifying which changes reflect the most impact, you will better understand the consequences of Florida 2/ the March 2019 Core Update for you.

If you need agency assistance with your SEO rankings, for this or any other reason… well, you are already on the right site.