Regain Traffic After Google’s March 2024 Update: 5 Steps


image featuring text "how to recover" [from Google core update]

Google’s March 2024 core update shook things up, and if you’re seeing a traffic nosedive, you are not alone. After 45 days of rollout, the update finally completed on April 19th – but the aftershocks might still be hitting your website.

So, what do you do now? Here’s how to get back on track:

1. Assess the damage

First, confirm that the traffic drop is actually tied to the core update.

Did your numbers take a hit within the rollout period (March 5 – April 19)? Head to Google Search Console and compare your traffic before and after the update for a clear picture.

Is you site’s performance trend in the last 3 months looks like this?

sample search performance drop (Google march 2024 core update)
Screenshot showing a significant traffic drop for site Y as a result of the Google March 2024 core update.

The example above is from a personal site (let’s call it site Y). Notice the fluctuations 10 days immediately before and after the release date on March 5. Site Y took a massive 64% hit in clicks (blue line) between March 3rd and 8th, then saw a temporary rise on March 11 before a steady decline through March 14th. Both clicks and impressions became stable after this date.

If your site shows a similar trend, you definitely took a hit.

Let’s analyze a stable post-drop period and compare it to a similar timeframe pre-update. For Site Y, we’ll look at March 14th – April 10th (28 days) versus February 2nd – 29th (also 28 days).

After the update’s release, this site suffered a 51.5% drop in clicks and an 88.7% drop in impressions, numbers that would significantly impact anyone relying on advertising revenue!

Where do your numbers stand?

2. Pinpoint the problem

Next, let’s figure out which pages or search queries took the biggest hit.

In its documentation for debugging traffic drops, Google notes that sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with your content; small ranking shifts are normal. But significant position drops across many keywords could signal a bigger issue.

How do you know if you need to make major changes to your pages?

In Search Console, review the top queries that are driving traffic to your top landing pages. If you notice only minor average position shifts (e.g., from position 2 to 4), they likely can’t be blamed solely for the major traffic loss. Small fluctuations in position can happen at any time, and you don’t need to do anything in this case.

Instead, try to focus on less prominent queries – those that individually bring small amounts of traffic, but collectively drive a lot. They might explain the huge decline in clicks despite minimal position changes for top queries.

In contrast, if many top queries plummeted (e.g., from position 10 to 29), you’re facing a bigger issue that calls for a comprehensive self-assessment of your site, not just the individual pages. Recovery might take months, even with changes, and sadly, isn’t guaranteed.

3. Understand Google’s intent

The third step is figuring out what went wrong and caused the significant shift in your traffic performance. Do this by fully understanding what Google wanted to do with this particular update.

According to Google, the March 2024 core update is a more complex update “designed to improve the quality of Search by showing less content that feels like it was made to attract clicks, and more content that people find useful.”

Google’s primary goal in this release is to reduce low-quality, unoriginal results by as much as 40%. Upon completion of the rollout, Google announced that it had exceeded its expectations, achieving a 45% improvement instead.

Many sites that relied on AI to churn out low-quality, unoriginal content were axed, along with those that persisted in using black-hat tactics to boost their rankings.

While the use of AI tools like ChatGPT and Gemini for content creation isn’t bad in itself, it’s important to ensure that the final output is high-quality and genuinely beneficial to users. This level of quality can only be achieved when human oversight or review is involved in the writing process.

4. Audit your existing strategy

It’s time for some honest reflection.

Where might things have gone wrong, and how can you fix them?

Most importantly, how can you better align your overall strategy with Google’s new perspective on ranking?

Fundamentally, prioritize creating helpful and reliable content to benefit your target audience rather than solely focusing on gaining search engine rankings. While delivering value to your audience and achieving clicks can go hand in hand, ensure that your primary focus is on serving your readers’ needs.

You must also understand that while high-quality content is essential for improved rankings, it alone does not guarantee top positions in search results.

The page experience of your users comes next. Exceptional content cannot carry a site with frustrating navigation, slow loading, and intrusive ads. So, review your existing site design and functionalities to make sure they offer the best page experience to your users. This might also be a good time to implement conversion rate optimization (CRO) changes.

These people-centric elements should be your focus. As you can see, everything must satisfy the user.

Google’s automated ranking systems use numerous other signals to determine the ranking of a web page, so having awesome content plus great UX won’t automatically get you the #1 spot. However, crossing off these two from your checklist vastly increases your chances of surviving major updates in the future.

That’s because content and UX are your bedrock—everything else builds from there.

So, if you haven’t yet, put helpful content and great page experience at the core of your SEO strategy.

5. Implement the needed changes

Once you’ve got an action plan, it’s time to execute.

Depending on your case, it may take several weeks or months.

Bear in mind though that your rankings may not improve right after making these changes, and you might not recover until the next broad core update is released.

And the worst case? You might not recover at all. But as long as you steer clear of shady or spammy tactics and stick to Google’s guidelines, that scenario is very unlikely. So, be patient persistent.

Meanwhile, if you sailed through the March 2024 core update unscathed (or even saw a rankings boost), congrats!

But don’t get complacent.

It’s equally important for you to know why other sites weren’t so lucky and what content are now dominating the search results.

Re-assess your overarching strategy and make sure that your practices continue to play by Google’s latest rules. By doing this, you are most likely to withstand any future major update.


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