Are Core Update Ranking Losses A Soft Penalty? According to Google, Soft Penalties Don't Exist

author image Written by: Rabije Gashi Corluka           Categories - In The News, SEO

Yeah, sometimes it might feel like a penalty if your website just randomly starts experiencing losses in rankings. And while it would be nice to be able to blame the bad performance on something else, there is no such thing as a soft penalty.

Google confirmed this during Google’s Office Hours Hangout during which one of the attendees asked a question regarding a ‘soft penalty’ and ‘flags’, Search Engine Journal reports.

The person asking the question was concerned about both of their websites being hit by different updates and mentioned 90% drops. They said that the websites are suffering from some type of flag that is suppressing their sites until the soft penalty is lifted.

Google answered:

“No, the named updates that we publish on the rankings updates page on Search Central are not penalties in any shape or form.”

Read More: Google Releases A New Products Review Update

In other words, ranking drops resulting from Google updates are not penalties and shouldn’t be interpreted that way because that’s not the case.

Soft Penalties Are A Myth?

Google proceeded to explain that the updates are just adjustments to their ranking algorithms, with a goal to give searches even higher quality and more relevant results.

If your site has suffered a drop after an update, you might be able to improve your rankings by following Google’s general guidelines for content and improve your site overall, both from a content and user experience perspective.

Read More: Google Releases September 2022 Broad Core Update

As Roger Montti from Search Engine Journal says: “There is no half-version of a penalty. A site is either penalized (by a manual action) or it’s not. It’s a catch-all phrase that explains something without actually explaining it.”

The changes in rankings can happen because of some content-related issues, if Google changed how it understands search queries, or if your competitor is simply better. Might be the harsh truth, but that’s how it is. Better content will get better ranking.

To Fix Or Not To Fix?

In the same report, Roger noticed two contradictory tweets from Google dating a few years back. Initially, they advised us that there is nothing to fix when a site loses rankings after a core algorithm update:

Then again, at the same time they were also saying to improve content:

However, it makes sense to focus on improving your rankings – fix your content, and make sure it’s high quality. But, always wait for the update to fully roll out.

Read More: Google’s helpful content update is now complete

Rabije Gashi Corluka

Rabije always enjoyed finding different angles to a story, so it’s not surprising her curiosity influenced a move to a new continent, widening her perspective. She enjoys hearing people's stories and learning about different cultures and places - but most of all, she loves putting her thoughts on a piece of paper. Her love for writing led to her studying Journalism and PR, but she actually became a storyteller during her radio-hosting era. Now, she uses her skills, experience, and love for writing to help your brand stand out.

Google Releases A New Products Review Update


Update from the future: On September 26, both the September Core Update and the Product Reviews Update have been fully rolled out. Read about it here and find out how to know if you’ve been hit and what to do about it. 

This is not a drill. I repeat – this is NOT a drill! Google is releasing multiple updates at the same time and it seems like the winter has finally come (cue GOT fans). Even Glenn Gabe is scared, who tweeted about this.

Currently, there is a September 2022 Broad Core Update rolling out. Google also released a Product Review Update during this one, Search Engine Land reports. So yeah, they both be rolling at the same time.

This is the fifth version of the product reviews update, the last one being released in July. It targets ranking product review-related content on the web. So, it ties in nicely with another major update the search engine released recently – the Helpful Content Update, which was said to be more serious with each new update, targeting content created for search engines first instead of humans. Google really is serious about this, with all of the sudden updates and all.

Read More: Google Releases September 2022 Broad Core Update

However, this update has been announced on Twitter already, by none other than Google itself.

What Will This Update Do?

As usual – promote good content. Google repeatedly talks about the importance of offering content that is more than just a template. And with each new update, they promote review content that goes above and beyond the basics. What does that look like? Like rewarding pages with better content with a higher ranking. Does that mean that it penalizes the other pages by lowering their rank? Might feel like it, yes.

However, if you provide high-quality content, not just basic templates and SEO-focused content and follow Google’s best practices, chances are your website will be right up on its feet. It’s all about putting in the effort.

The initial rollout is targeted at content in English, but it might impact other languages in the future too. It usually takes about two weeks for these updates to roll out, however, the July one only took about five days.

Read More: Are Core Update Ranking Losses A Soft Penalty?

September 2022 Broad Core Update Still Rolling On

Meanwhile, as mentioned, the latest broad core update is still rolling out. Google said it’s mostly over and should be completed within a week.

But, you must be asking yourself: How do I know by which update I got impacted with?

Google gave the most basic answer of them all to help you out, according to Search Engine Land:

“If you see a change and wonder if it’s related to the core update or the product reviews update:

  • If you produce product reviews, then it’s probably related to that.
  • If not, then it might be related to the core update.”

You’ve got to love that.

However, the search engine did provide us with some directions and best practices on how to create Google-updates-friendly content. Along with all the known advice on creating that type of content, like evaluating from a user’s perspective, showing your expertise, etc., Google also added three new points of advice:

  • When comparing products or listing a ranked list, try demonstrating expertise more concisely. You can do that by citing pertinent results and including original images from tests you performed with the product. That way, you also reinforce authenticity.
  • If your reviews recommend something as ‘best’, then have a clear explanation of WHY it’s the best. What sets that product apart from its competition? Why is it best for a specific purpose? Include evidence!
  • If you write both a high-quality ranked list of related products and an in-depth single product review for each recommended product, make sure there’s enough useful content in the ranked list for it to stand on its own.
Read More: Google Helpful Content Update Targets SEO-Friendly Content


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Google Business Profile Makes New Users Wait


With the new name and an update, the Google Business profile came with a few other changes. Now, when you add a new owner or a manager to a profile, they must wait for seven days before they can start managing all of the features.

Given that new owners and managers would run into issues along the way, Google decided to make them wait for a week in order to be able to continue their work problem-free.

Before the update the process of adding new owners and managers has been problematic on many occasions, for example:

  • Removing or deleting a profile
  • Taking over listings by changing details and removing others
  • Locking up a listing

So, not only will there be fewer headaches, there will be less security problems, too.

During this 7 day period, the new owner or manager gets an error if they try any of the following:

  • Delete or undelete a profile.
  • Remove other owners or managers from a profile.
  • Transfer primary ownership of a profile to themselves or a third user.
  • An existing owner or manager tries to transfer primary ownership of the profile to a new owner or manager still in their first 7 days.

As explained by Google: “If the new owner or manager deletes their account within the first 7 days, they’re removed from the profile. If they undelete their account, they must be added to the profile again.”

To find out how to add (or remove) owners and managers, check out this resource.


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