What Is the Brackets Core Update?

The brackets core update was the most recent Google update to its core algorithm. The update changed how the search engines rank sites based on quality content.  The update was rolled out around March 7, 2018, but some site owners reported seeing changes as early as March 2nd.

What’s With the Name “Brackets”?

This new update for Google earned the name “Brackets” due to its coincidence with the 2018 NCAA March Madness Basketball Tournament. Apparently, both the tournament and the algorithm update were equally unpredictable. The update was officially acknowledged in a tweet:

Why Did Google Roll Out the Brackets Core Algorithm Update?

Content Is King

Yes, we know, we know—content is king. It’s been said so many times that it’s almost a moot point now. Except it’s not. In fact, it’s the most important point. Since the dawn of the search engine, Google has been ranking sites based on their content. The search engine rewards content that’s good—meaning it’s relevant to the search query and useful to the reader—and punishes content that’s bad—meaning it’s irrelevant and/or useless. Seems pretty, simple, right?

What Is Quality Content Anyway?

In theory, defining quality content is simple, but in practice, it can get extremely complex, especially when search engines and algorithms are concerned. Google is continually refining its quality indicators in an attempt to provide users with the very best (read useful and relevant) results possible on the first SERP. That’s good for the users, but for website owners, things can get dicey to say the least. All of that constant refinement and tweaking of Google’s quality algorithm could result in you losing your hard-earned spot on SERPs.

Quality Sites Were Being Under-Rewarded, Says Google

When the Core Bracket update first started stirring things up on search engine results pages, Google was quick to point out that it wasn’t punishing sites for bad or irrelevant content. On the contrary, it was rewardingunderrated sites for quality content that was previously unrecognized. As these sites rose to the top, other sites fell from grace as a result. Of course, this explanation from the search giant was little consolation to sites that lost coveted rankings on SERPs.

What’s the Fix for the Bracket Core Update?

There is no fix per se.

When your site takes a hit due to a Google algorithm update, it’s natural to want to fix the problem right away. You immediately start looking for solutions, and you’re hoping you’ll find that proverbial magic wand to instantly put things back the way they were before. We get it.

Unfortunately, the Brackets update is not one of those updates that has a definitive fix. The way Google puts it is that there’s no fix per se at all for the Brackets Core Algorithm Update because your website’s not broken, even if it fell on the SERPs. If you’re losing any rankings or other quality indicators (think rich snippets), then that’s just a natural effect of the search engine rewarding other sites that are producing relevant content.

Yeah, Google likes to speak in euphemisms. But reality is still reality, and you want your rankings back, right? Right.

There’s definitely no quick fix.

According to Google trends analyst John Mueller, with quality updates like the brackets core algorithm update, Google wants to see sites improve “significantly” and “over the long term.” What this means is that any changes made to gain back your footing post- Brackets update should be big. It also means that you aren’t likely to see any major improvement overnight. It may take a few months or even more for things to turn around. It’s not what you want to hear, but we’re shooting you straight here.

Strategies to Improve Website Quality

Google says the only thing webmasters can do about any drop in rankings as a result of the core brackets algorithm update is to “remain focused on building great content.” (Just as it has a propensity for euphemism, Google has a penchant for vague language as well.) So just what does this mean? Here are some strategies that can help you recover from this algorithm update.

Build “Quality” Content

The obvious way to add quality to your site is by filling it with quality content. Simple, right? Well, not exactly. All SEO consultants and experts will tell you that content is king for Google, but they may differ widely on just what defines this “quality content” the search giant speaks of. While some will tell you quality content must be of a certain length, others will tell you that high quality equals high relevancy. Neither of these things is entirely true, by the way. And there are scores of other theories as well.

Follow Google’s Quality Guidelines

While it’s possible that no one (including the folks at Google) really knows what quality content is exactly, the search giant has listed some quality guidelines for webmasters on its blog. We recommend you follow them:

Focus on the Visitor

Google’s quality guidelines heavily emphasize the user experience. It’s pretty clear after reading them that Google is rewarding sites that provide added value to the website visitor and give them something that they can’t get elsewhere. Examples of this premium content include user reviews, how-to articles, instructional videos, and more.

Avoid Webspam or Other Content Violations

Spamming your visitors or engaging in deceptive SEO practices is the opposite of providing them with quality, valuable content. Not only is this just shady, it can get you punished by Google on SERPs or even banned from the search engine altogether. Don’t do it. Just don’t.

Bracing Yourself for More Brackets

The brackets update really shook things up for webmasters and for the SEO community at large. It had a big impact and was unexpected. Although we’d like to tell you this algorithm update was a one-off and you’ll never have to worry about such a big shake-up ever again, we obviously can’t promise you that. In fact, it’s much more likely that you’ll see another brackets-level update sooner rather than later. So check for Google updates like this one in the future, and be ready for it when it comes!