Google Algorithm update March 9, 2018

Google doesn’t confirm a lot of algorithm updates these days, but they did confirm that they made a significant change to their core quality algorithm last week.

I have been traveling as I am speaking at SMX West this week. (Coincidentally, I will be speaking on Google algorithm updates.) When I finally found time to check my data, I was thrilled to see several sites with incredible improvements. I don’t have clearance to share direct Google Analytics data for each of these, but here are some screenshots from SEMRush.


This first site was one that was hit hard in an algorithm update on February 7, 2017. In my opinion, that update was primarily about demoting sites that lacked good E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trust). We have been working with them to improve their E-A-T and it appears to be helping!

mar 9 quality update


This next site is an eCommerce site that has been gradually improving content over the years. We did a link audit for them a few years ago and they saw a beautiful increase with Penguin 4.0. They saw a significant increase on March 9 as well. I believe this increase is likely due to site quality rather than links:


March 9 quality update


This is an eCommerce site that we reviewed that was absolutely loaded with quality issues. We recommended a large amount of canonicalization, and removal of huge amounts of thin content plus quite a few other things. So far those changes seem to be helping quite nicely:


March 9 Quality update


And here is one final one. This site is in one of the most competitive verticals on the internet. In our review of the site we found a bunch of user frustration issues, ad problems and also significant E-A-T issues. They have been working really hard to improve the site dramatically and the results are showing. Wheeeeee!

mar 9 google update


We have several more clients as well that saw good or modest gains starting on March 9, 2018.

What Google says about the Mar 9 algorithm update

Our new Google Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan had this to say about the changes:

So, we know that this was a “broad core algorithm update”. While Google does make several changes a day to the algorithm, every now and then they make bigger changes like this one.


I found this tweet interesting. What Google is telling us here is that Google found more ways to identify high quality.

Danny also confirmed what most of us already know and that is that there are significant algorithm updates that Google pushes out a few times a year:

He also said that this was a “broader general change to the core algorithm”:

And finally, Danny shared with us that Google is not giving this algorithm a name. It will be interesting to see whether the search community ends up giving it a name as it really was a big update:

What kind of sites were hit by this update?

I find it interesting that in my data so far, I am seeing some big wins, but very few obvious losses. While the braggy side of me would like to say that that is because all of our clients is winning, in reality this doesn’t make sense as I also have access to a lot of Google Analytics profiles for sites that I know are low quality and have not made any changes.

I did see a few losses in my GA data, but they were all mild.

The few sites that I saw that had hits looked like this:

March 9 update hit

This makes sense to me as Danny said previously that this algorithm change was not one that punished websites, but rather, one that benefitted high quality websites. As such, those who are seeing losses are not likely seeing losses across the board. Instead, they are likely losing a position or two to on just some keywords, to sites that were recognized as higher quality.

I also spent time reviewing that last 24 hours of posts in the Google help forum and did not find anyone crying about being negatively affected by an algorithm change.

If you were significantly negatively affected by this update, I would love for you to either leave a comment below or to share the site with me.


What do you do if you were negatively affected by the March 9, 2018 Google update

As Danny Sullivan mentioned, this is not a situation where your site was demoted. Also, it’s not like you can fix a couple of things and expect to see improvement. The drops you are seeing are likely because Google recognized quality in one or more of your competitors. As such, in my opinion, the only way to recover from this is not really to recover, but to improve your site greatly so that it truly is the best option for searchers.

Here are my thoughts on how to make those improvements:

  • Start with a site audit. While we don’t know whether this update focused on technical issues, many technical issues can frustrate users. If you have broken links, redirect loops and page speed issues, then these are all things that must be fixed!
  • Read through the entire Quality Raters’ Guidelines. Yes, the QRG are 160 pages long. It’s worth the read though. These guidelines teach Google Quality Raters how to determine which websites are high quality. If you have E-A-T issues, this book has pages and pages of advice on what Google considers high E-A-T. There is also information here on what ads are considered annoying and what types of pages are considered high or low quality.If you don’t want to read through all 160 pages, I have written a book on the Quality Raters’ Guidelines that summarizes the important points and also includes the checklist that my team and I use to assess websites for quality.
  • Have someone who is not intimately familiar with your website do some competitor comparisons. It is really hard for you to assess your own website to determine whether it serves users better than your competitors do. One of the best ways to determine if you truly are the best site out there is to ask actual users for their opinions.Ask your volunteers to look at three competitors that are ranking well, plus your site and tell you which site they would be likely to buy from. If they don’t always choose your site, then figure out why. What can you add to your pages that will make users want to buy from you? Could you make a buying guide, add a video, add reviews, or do something else to help the user in their journey? If you are not an eCommerce store is there content, tools or images/video that you could add to your pages to help searchers get more information on the subject?

When improving site quality, it is important to know that you can’t just be a “little bit better” than your competitors and expect Google to rank you better. Google wants to rank sites that truly are the best choice. Our clients who have seen nice improvements with this update all worked extremely hard at improving overall site quality. In the past, if you knew enough SEO tricks and loopholes you could rank well. But, with every update Google is getting better at closing loopholes that don’t actually improve the user experience.

What about links?

At the time of writing this, I do not think that this update is related to link quality. As this is a boosting algorithm rather than a demoting one, it does not look like Google demoted sites for having unnatural links. If you were hit by this change, doing extra disavow work is not likely to help.


Need help?

If you were negatively affected by this update feel free to leave a comment below and I’d be happy to take a quick look at your site.  Or, you can contact me to request a site review.



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Dr. Marie Haynes is recognized as a leader in the SEO industry and has 10+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their site quality. She is a frequent contributor to and Search Engine Watch and a regular speaker at Pubcon and SMX. Marie was named one of the top five industry influencers by Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, and constantly stays up to date with changes to Google’s algorithms to the benefit of her clients. To contact Marie, visit the contact page. For media Inquiries, click here.

  1. I am seeing a heavy boost in my website traffic increased by %120 according to Google analytics. But my other website traffic dropped to -%60. This website has hardly 3 contents with each having 3500+. Are the updates was about Rankbrain? U said it isn’t related to links right?

    • It’s really early to say with certainty whether this was a link related algorithm, but my guess is that it is not. I really think it is an update where Google got better at assessing true quality. I’ve been telling sites that have been hit to look at technical issues, user experience issues and to objectively compare the site to competitors to see if they are possibly doing a better job at answering users’ queries.

  2. My site suffered from this update (it doesn’t seem to do anything else). For the search I target (HTML5 charts) I was ranking 7/8 but now I’m ranking 10/11. Mostly 11. So I guess I should try and identify the pages on my site that Google doesn’t think are high quality. Which, with my success rate at SEO, will be a mountainous task.

    • Oh Richard, I am sorry to hear that you have been hit again.

      I really do think that much of this update is about E-A-T. I would recommend looking at the search results for brand searches for your competitors to see if people are talking about them more than you. My goal would be to do everything I could to get people talking about your site.

  3. Hello Marie! Well.. i am one of the persons affected by this update.. i lost positions :/ exactly on march 9, in my case a recipes website in spanish..
    i am looking for possible reasons and improvements!

    • I’m sorry to hear that your site has been hit. It’s early to say exactly what needs to be done to see improvement, but in most cases when a site suffers during a quality update, there have to be drastic improvements in quality.

      If your site dropped with this update, it means that Google is thinking that one or more competitors is a better fit for users’ searches. I would recommend having a few people who are not closely connected with your site look at your site as compared to competitors and tell you which sites they prefer and why. Often the answers are surprising.

      While E-A-T is probably not as important for a recipe site, I still do think it’s a factor. Take a look at the search results for the sites that are ranked well for your keywords now. Are people on other websites talking about them? Do you see people on other websites such as forums talking about your site?

      I’d also make sure that your site is technically sound as well.

      Good luck!

  4. Hi Marie
    Thanks for the article
    I’ve noticed a drop in traffic in the last few days
    Probably about a 20-25% fall
    I own a financial publishing site and I’m finding it’s not ranking as well in Google News or Search, but possibly too early to confirm

    • I’m sorry to hear this. Since writing this article I have had several emails from sites that suffered big drops. Every one of them was in a very competitive vertical…many were in finance.

      I would focus on making sure that your E-A-T is really good. In finance, Google really wants to rank sites that are known authorities in the space.

  5. Hi Marie,
    I am a person who have been affected drastically by this update. My site have been hit very hard. It was ranking in third position for past 6 months and now suddenly it dropped down to rank 7.
    I don’t know the reason. I have been updating our sites regularly with fresh contents and our link building strategy is also well, I think.
    But this update really astonishing. I’am requesting you to point out our faults and suggestions to improve. Please…

    • I’m sorry to hear that your site was affected. My first piece of advice would be to look at the sites that gained rankings for your keywords. Have someone who is not emotionally connected to you or your site look at both your competitors and your site and determine which they would be most likely to use and why. In most cases, when sites have dropped in rankings on or around March 9, 2018, it is because other sites have been deemed higher quality by Google.

      If you are interested in having my team and I assess your site and give you some recommendations for improving quality you can contact me here.

  6. My site traffic affected almost 50%… Why this is happened please give me some suggestions… I’m doing daily updates ….

    • It’s almost impossible to say what is going on without doing a thorough investigation. If you have dropped with this update, it means that Google has deemed competitors as higher quality than you. I’d look at the following:

      -E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trust)
      -Off site reputation
      -Customer experience – Is it super obvious that your site is the best choice for them?
      -Technical issues.

  7. This update has seriously affected my website. On march 9, I noticed a sudden boost of visits, about 75% more than usual. I was really glad because I thought all my hard working would finally pay off. Unfortunately, my happiness lasted for only a couple of days. Since yesterday, the site dropped five positions for our main keyword. The hardest part is to realize that the sites on top are brand new ones with popups and popunders and lots of ads, while mine has none of those, only some tradicional ad banners. Besides, I spend a lot of time working on improvements everyday. I dedicate special attention to the quality of my content. My website is also much faster than the competitors, loading under 1 sec most of the time. This change makes no sense to me. I hope things get back to normal in the next days.

    • It does seem that there was more algorithmic movement on March 14 (and possibly March 12). I saw a number of sites that had their boost clawed back. But I also saw more sites that saw even further gains on the 14th.

      It’s hard to say why the ad heavy sites are beating you without doing a thorough investigation. While it’s true that there is a lot about ads in the Quality Raters’ Guidelines, there are many other factors at play as well. One thing I’d look at for sure is E-A-T. Do you have authoritative websites in your niche, or related news sites talking about you? Do your competitors?

      Our investigation into this type of thing is extensive as there are so many factors. It does sound like you’re doing some good things, but the number one question is whether a searcher truly would prefer your content over every else’s.

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Marie Haynes is the founder of HIS Web Marketing, formerly at In 2015, she rebranded the company to Marie Haynes Consulting Inc.
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