Florida 2? What’s Google’s March Core Algorithm Update Really All About?

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Another month, another Google algorithm update. You’ve likely been hearing a lot about ‘Florida 2’ over the last week — and for good reason. As Roger Montti of Search Engine Lands put it, “It’s a big one.”

Although there’s been plenty of speculation over this latest core algorithm update by Google, with SEOs reporting significant ranking improvements and drops, we still don’t have a ton of clarity around the update.

Even its name has been a source of confusion. Is it actually Florida 2?

The short answer? No.

The long answer? You’ll find out below, along with a more detailed look at what’s going on here.

What is the March Google Algorithm update all about?

Google confirmed through Twitter that they released a “broad core algorithm update,” as they do several times each year.

A broad core update means that Google is not targeting a specific signal, tactic or niche; in fact, it often means it isn’t targeting anything. Broad updates are simply improvements in the overall algorithm for the purpose of better matching search queries to the best search results.

In plain and simple terms, these updates generally are an optimization of the existing process to ensure that great content that satisfies searcher intent continues to take its place at on the first page.

The update was confirmed to have started on March 12th, according to Danny Sullivan, Google’s public Search Liaison.

So why was it referred to as Florida 2?

Search Engine Land has a detailed article explaining this, but here’s a quick synopsis.

Florida 1 — also called Florida — was a significant update made in the early 2000s. It was the first major Google algorithm update, and it ensured the spammy tactics of the previous decade such as leveraging keyword-stuffed affiliate sites to rank for high-volume search terms and then linking to your actual site were no longer contributing to overall high search rankings.

This update left brands, agencies and consultants of the day scrambling to adjust SEO tactics in a major way. Ultimately, the change was for the best as it pushed brands to create higher-quality websites that had a clear focus on creating valuable content.

Florida laid the groundwork for other hard-hitting updates; ones that would impact the remainder of those aforementioned “spammy” websites.

The original Florida update launched in November, 2003 just before PubCon Florida in Orlando — hence the moniker “Florida.”

The March Core Algorithm Update also happened right around a PubCon event in Florida, so people decided to christen it as a sequel. WebMasterWorld.com was the first to refer to this update as Google Florida Update 2 as forum members discussed what impacts they were seeing.

To be clear, though, the two Florida updates are not necessarily related other than both launching when PubCon events were taking place in down South. Florida 1 targeted a specific tactic of using affiliate sites to rank for high-volume search terms and then funneling traffic back to the main site. Florida 2 is a core algorithm update and likely extends well beyond targeting just one tactic.

How does this impact my website?

While we’re still waiting for clarity around the overall impact of the update, we’re watching two things — what Google is reporting and what the experts are saying.

Google shared via Twitter that all sites should remain focused on creating great content. Outside of this recommendation, the search engine has yet to share what exactly this broad update impacts.

Anecdotally, we’re seeing many of our clients benefiting from these changes. They’re mostly focused on creating high-quality, informative content, so that does suggest this update rewards better content.

Who is the update impacting?

Members of the SEO community have been abuzz about websites focused on creating E-A-T content and how they’ve been impacted most.

E-A-T stands for:

  • Expertise
  • Authority
  • Trustworthiness

At this point, discussion suggests that the update has impacted websites that host a lot of this type of informative content, with a particular focus on health sectors.

Further discussions indicate that sites with this type of content are being rewarded in search results, which might be coming at the detriment of sites with less informative content.

Here’s what we’re seeing…

Many SEOs are reporting it seems Google has updated how its algorithm looks at informational keywords as the primary focus. This has impacted many media pages including Complex, Everyday Health, Variety and more.

In SEO-speak, informational keywords are search terms where a user is looking for a specific bit of information. Think of informational as specific and focused — for example, “weather in London” or “alcohol percentage on Fat Tug Beer” as compared to “get play tickets in London” or “buy Canadian beer.” They’re more about learning something than making a transaction.

If you have a site that has a lot of content relating to these informational type keywords, you may have been impacted by this update.

Are you seeing this? Something else? Let us know in the comments.

What are SEO experts saying?

While we’re still waiting for more details on this update, we’re also looking to the experts for their feedback on the March update. Many are just speculating at this time, but it’s important to consider what they’re seeing through their lens.

Here is a collection of insights from several experts who are sharing their initial feedback on this latest update.

Notable SEO expert Mordy Oberstein has shared that many websites took a significant hit or increase in visibility, while failing to initially understand why. When looking at data from March 12 to March 18, some websites actually recovered within a few days. Mordy’s observation shares that this is too preliminary to determine what the actual impact of the update is, though it seems to be less significant when compared to the “Medic Update” from August, 2018.

Marie Haynes, an influencer in the SEO space, shared her thoughts within 48 hours of the update.

Dr. Pete Meyers, Marketing Scientist at Moz, echos Oberstein’s findings around the improvement of some websites that experienced significant declines in search rankings in the months leading up to this update:

WebMasterWorld had plenty of expert forum discussion on the change, with members reporting both positive and negative updates.

One discussion shared:

Based on previous observations these type of Core updates usually take a week+- to fully deployed. Most niches will be affected to varying degrees throughout the week with some days being more pronounced than others.

During the rollout of the update, some days will be up and some days will be down but I find if you have a large initial jump or drop that will be how your site comes out at the end, though it will be not as pronounced.

Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable and a self-proclaimed SEO geek is trying to gather SEO experts’ experiences with this update by asking them to take this survey and share what impacts they’ve seen.

Hopefully, he’ll share his results soon and we can all better understand the impact of this update.

Barry shares:

It is important to check your analytics, Google Search Console, ranking data, etc and see how your sites were impacted on or after March 12th. That is when you may or may not see changes, negative or positive changes.

As you can see, there’s a lot of discussion around this update among the experts, but we’re still trying to learn more and understand the update better.

In closing…

One thing we do know for certain — the update made on March 12 had a significant impact for many brands.

While Google has referred to this as a broad update in that it’s not made to target a specific signal or niche it’s interesting to note that their only advice was to focus on creating great content. That is a bit vague, but knowing that Google is focused on giving searchers the best possible content that best solves their needs, it seems that creating amazing SEO content is the best way to safeguard yourself against future algorithm updates.  


Article by

Eric has been working in marketing and product management for over a decade with companies in the software, eCommerce and content creation spaces. He’s particularly drawn to both content marketing and SEO and is excited that the two areas are increasingly converging. While he’s pretty serious about marketing, he does love to drop a great dad joke on occasion.

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