Google’s John Mueller On Website Recovery After Core Updates

John Mueller, a Google Search Advocate, provided guidance this week regarding the path forward for websites impacted by recent search algorithm updates.

The discussion started on X (formerly Twitter) by SEO professional Thomas Jepsen.

Jepsen tagged Mueller, asking:

“Google has previously said Google doesn’t hold a grudge and sites will recover once issues have been solved. Is that still the case after HCU?”

Mueller’s response offered hope to site owners while being realistic about the challenges ahead.

Addressing Recovery Timelines

Mueller affirmed Google’s stance on not holding grudges, stating, “That’s still the case.”

However, he acknowledged the complexity of rankings, saying:

“…some things take much longer to be reassessed (sometimes months, at the moment), and some bigger effects require another update cycle.”

Mueller pointed to a Google help document explaining the nuances. The document reads:

“Broad core updates tend to happen every few months. Content that was impacted in Search or Discover by one might not recover—assuming improvements have been made—until the next broad core update is released.

Do keep in mind that improvements made by site owners aren’t a guarantee of recovery, nor do pages have any static or guaranteed position in our search results. If there’s more deserving content, that will continue to rank well with our systems.”

The Comments Sparking Debate

Jepsen probed further, asking, “Is a core update what’s needed for HCU-affected sites to recover (assuming they’ve fixed their issues)?”

Mueller’s response highlighted how situations can differ:

“It depends on the situation… I realize there’s a big space between the situations, but generalizing doesn’t help. Sometimes it takes a lot of work on the site, a long time, and an update.”

The thread grew as user @selectgame raised concerns about Google Discover traffic, to which Mueller replied:

“Google Discover is affected by core updates as well as other parts of Search (and there are more policies that apply to Discover).”

See also: Google Offers Advice For Those Affected By HCU

Growing Frustrations

Prominent industry figure Lily Ray voiced mounting frustrations, stating,

“…many HCU-affected websites – which have been making all kinds of improvements over the last 7 months – have only seen further declines with the March Core Update.

I have seen some sites lose 90% or more of their SEO visibility since the HCU, with the last few weeks being the nail in the coffin, despite making significant improvements.”

Ray continued:

“And in my professional opinion, many of these sites did not deserve anywhere near that level of impact, especially the further declines over the past month.”

Mueller hasn’t responded to Ray’s tweet at this time.

Looking Ahead

As the search community awaits Google’s next moves, the path to recovery appears arduous for many impacted by recent algorithm reassessments of “Helpful Content.”

Site improvements don’t guarantee immediate recovery, so publishers face an uphill battle guided only by Google’s ambiguous public advice.

See also: Google March 2024 Update: 6 Insights On Manual Actions

Why SEJ Cares

The March 2024 core update has proven disastrous for many websites, with severe traffic losses persisting even after sites try to improve low-quality content, address technical issues, and realign with Google’s guidelines.

Having clear, actionable guidance from Google on recovering from core update updates is invaluable.

As evidenced by the frustrations expressed, the current communications leave much to be desired regarding transparency and defining a straightforward recovery path.

How This Can Help You

While Mueller’s comments provide some insights, the key takeaways are:

  • Regaining previous rankings after an algorithm hit is possible if sufficient content/site quality improvements are made.
  • Recovery timelines can vary significantly and may require a future core algorithm update.
  • Even with enhancements, recovery isn’t guaranteed as rankings depend on the overall pool of competing content.

The path is undoubtedly challenging, but Mueller’s comments underscore that perseverance with substantial site improvements can eventually pay off.


Can SEO professionals predict recovery time for a website hit by core updates?

SEO professionals can’t pinpoint when a site will recover after a core Google algorithm update.

Reasons for this include:

  • Google releases core updates every few months, so sites may need to wait for the next one.
  • It can take months for Google to reassess and adjust rankings.
  • How competitive the query is also impacts if and when a site recovers.

Does making site improvements after a core update ensure recovery in rankings and visibility?

After making improvements following a Google algorithm update, regaining your previous rankings isn’t guaranteed.

Reasons why include:

  • Your impacted content may not recover until the next core update, provided you’ve implemented enough site improvements.
  • Google’s search results are dynamic, and rankings can fluctuate based on the quality of competitor content.
  • There’s no fixed or guaranteed position in Google’s search results.

What is the relationship between Google Discover traffic and core search updates?

Google’s core algorithm updates that impact regular search results also affect Google Discover.

However, Google Discover has additional specific policies that determine what content appears there.

This means:

  • Improving your content and website quality can boost your visibility on Google Discover, just like regular searches.
  • You may see changes in your Discover traffic when Google rolls out core updates.
  • Your SEO and content strategy should account for potential impacts on regular searches and Google Discover.

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