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Google’s core update causes search volatility

The latest algorithm update led to more fluctuations in search positioning than previous updates

Google’s March 2023 core update, rolled out over 13 days between March 15th and March 28th, appears to have been significant, resulting in ‘notable ranking fluctuations’ in Google Search results. Writing on Search Engine Land, Barry Schwarz said:

This update was indeed a big one, and caused a lot of ranking volatility across many verticals in the Google search results.

Schwartz looked at data from two analytics providers – Semrush and RankRanger – to gauge the impact of the update.

Semrush said the March 2023 update led to more volatility in search positioning than the September 2022 core update. The March 2023 core update hit a peak of 8 on Semrush Sensor’s data volatility scale; the September 2022 core update peaked at 5.

RankRanger acknowledged the March 2023 core update as significant, with its Rank Risk Index showing high levels of volatility on the day after Google began to roll out the update. However, in comparing the most recent update with all updates since December 2020, while it was one of the biggest, it was on a par with the September 2022 core update.

Reversing impacts

Google’s core updates are infamously vague. Schwartz says it is hard to isolate what you need to do to ‘reverse any algorithmic hit’ your site has seen and this is even harder to do with Google core updates. He explains that core updates are broad, wide and cover a lot of overall quality issues.

The Search giant has previously issued advice on what to do if your site is impacted by a core update but the general SEO consensus is the best thing you can do to protect your search performance and website traffic is make sure your content follows Google’s site quality guidelines.

More updates in 2023?

News of updates from Google seems constant at the moment, from moving users onto GA4 after the sunsetting of Universal Analytics in July to opening access to the BARD generative AI experiment. And there are signs that the company is not finished with algorithm updates for 2023.

Schwartz has noticed early indications of a Google Search ranking algorithm update, reporting that experts in the SEO community have observed significant fluctuations in website rankings and traffic. He spotted ‘chatter’ in the comments section of Search Engine Roundtable, where SEOs were noting ‘big ranking and traffic swings’.

He says Google algorithm updates are critical and brands, businesses and organizations should understand how they can impact site performance in search results. He explains:

Knowing when Google makes these updates gives you something to point to in order to understand if it was something you changed on your website or something Google changed with its ranking algorithm.

For now, as the impact of Google’s March 2023 core update become clearer, it makes sense to have a good look at your site content to see what improvements can be made against a range of questions Google has previously put to help content creators rank well.

We suggest focusing on ensuring you’re offering the best content you can. That’s what our algorithms seek to reward.

This piece was originally published in Spiny Trends and is re-published with permission. Spiny Trends is a division of, a content analytics and revenue generation platform for digital publishers. For weekly updates and analysis on the industry news you need as a media and publishing business, subscribe to Spiny’s Trends weekly email roundup here.