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.

Link Spam & Helpful Content Update Now Complete


Hey, there Google enthusiasts!

It’s been a wild ride, but the December 2022 updates from Google are finally here. That’s right, both the helpful content update and the link spam update have officially completed their rollouts. But, before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let’s talk about why these updates took a little longer than expected.

What Took So Long?

Google initially planned for both updates to be completed within two weeks, but as we all know, the holidays can throw a wrench in even the best-laid plans.

Read More: Links Spam & Google Helpful Content Update Still Rolling Out  

Due to security issues surrounding the holiday season, Google decided to take a pause on the updates. But, as the saying goes, “better late than never,” and the updates finally went live on January 12, 2023.

What To Do If Your Site Is Impacted?

So, what exactly do these updates mean for your website? Well, let’s start with the “helpful content update.” This update focuses on content that is created to rank well in search, but doesn’t necessarily help humans.

Helpful Content Update

In other words, if your content is more focused on keywords than user experience, you may be in for a rough ride. But don’t worry, if your website was hit by this update, there’s still hope for recovery. Google advises taking a look at your content and seeing if you can improve it to better align with their guidelines.

Read More: Google: Helpful Content Update All Around The World  

It’s worth noting that this update only impacts Google Search, and not Google Discover or other Google surfaces. However, Google may expand it to Discover and more in the future. Also, unlike a core update, this is a sitewide algorithm, meaning the whole site will be impacted.

Link Spam Update

As for the “link spam update,” this one is aimed at both sites buying links and sites used for the purpose of passing outgoing links.

The goal of this update is to “neutralize” links that Google detects as being spam. So, if your website has been buying links or participating in link schemes, you may see a decline in rankings. But, unlike manual actions, you won’t be notified in Search Console if you are hit by this update.

This update also marks the first time that Google is using its AI-based spam detection, “SpamBrain,” for link spam purposes. It’s a global launch, affecting all languages.

Read More: Impacts From The Link Spam Update  

All in all, these updates may have caused some inconvenience and delay, but they’re here now and it’s important to stay informed and adapt to the changes.

Keep an eye out for fluctuations in your website’s rankings and take the necessary steps to ensure that your content is high-quality and aligns with Google’s guidelines. Happy optimizing!

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You Guessed It! Another Google Algorithm Update


Here it is again! Most of you don’t have to guess, you already know. This past weekend another Google algorithm was noticed. It certainly isn’t the first to occur over the weekend and it likely won’t be the last.

Notes On The Algorithm Update

Every time a weekend rolls around, Google seems to take that opportunity to run some algorithm updates. This time the modifications seem to be pretty in line with the last algorithm update. Some notable differences involve changes in “ranking, visibility and traffic changes via Google Search. Plus, most of the tools are showing spikes and volatility from Google Search over the weekend,” Search Engine Roundtable reports.

Read More: Google’s Ranking Algorithm Had Another Update!

As always, whenever there is a ranking or search algorithm updates, SEOs are all over Twitter and WebmasterWorld. User @ichthyous made a comment about the impacts they’ve seen occurring based off the update.

“A huge drop in direct traffic starting yesterday at 10am sharp and lasting the entire rest of the day. This morning my search traffic is down 62% and direct is down 43%. USA, UK, CA, AU, DE and AE traffic all affected heavily. Anyone else seeing a big drop starting yesterday?”, says @ichthyous on WebmasterWorld.

You can also see the impact he’s taking about when taking a look at sites like SEMrush.

Here’s a snippet of the hits that SEO Roundtable captured.

H2: Past Google Algorithm Updates

Its’ funny that every time Google seems to run an update on algorithms, it is over the weekend. And more often than not its typically one we weren’t made aware of which meaning finding out by tracking. The last unconfirmed update rolled out over the weekend of November 11th and 12th.

Read More: Will Google Run Another Search Ranking Update?

Before that, by multiple accounts, every weekend its something. Take October for example, the October 2022 Spam Update received an unconfirmed update on October 21st. Everyone is just going to have to keep their eyes peeled every weekend.

You never know, maybe Google will make it a regular thing if it isn’t already!

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