Case Study: Google Core Update Recovery by Ditching Links

Google Core Update Recovery


name obfuscated – not everyone wants to admit they were hit by an SEO “penalty”. In fact, a lot of our work is sensitive, that’s why we always have NDAs in place.


A large national independent eCommerce brand approached us after suffering a series of mishaps due to several consecutive Google Core Updates. The two biggest traffic drops occurred during the May 2022 wide Core Update and the August 2022 “helpful content” update.


It became clear pretty fast that this was a two-fold SEO problem. OK, you get one SEO camp who will shout that backlink profile can’t land you in hot water. The only thing that is true about this statement is that a Core Update works differently to how the “Penguin” update worked back in 2012. In other words, a Core Update is not a straightforward penalty – it’s just that your website is no longer considered as high a quality as before the update. When looking at quality factors, can we really afford to ignore backlinks? Well, no obviously.

The client had built links on PBN (private blog networks) – websites that only exist for a purpose of selling links. We had two potential routes of action – easy one, which is disavow the links using Google Search Console. And the difficult one – get the links removed without openly admitting – “hey, we did something to violate the webmaster guidelines” We’re not necessarily saying it’s a bad decision to use the disavow tool, however in this case we made a conscious decision to remove the links directly.

Note that we did not build any fresh white-hat links to replace the PBN links. If you look at the screenshot, you will see that for a national brand, 800 linking domains, that’s pretty low. Would they benefit from a continuous sustainable link building strategy moving forward? Yes, of course, however, in this case we managed to achieve a Google Core Update recovery without doing any additional link building.

The 2nd facet of the SEO problem was content. If your site is affected by the “helpful content” update, I mean, you can’t say Google is not being helpful to the webmasters – it’s kind of spoon-feeding info to you. It means your content is not helpful. So, how did we make it more helpful?

  1. This is an innate trouble for eCommerce establishments – their product descriptions and supporting content is either borrowed from manufacturers or fluffed up by interns who have nothing much to say. In this day and age, in order to be successful, your content has to add value. You can find more info about what adding value means in context of Google Core Update recoveries. We rewrote ALL product descriptions to meet the search intent better – in other words, to make descriptions helpful. It’s not that difficult but you have to keep “benchmarking” in mind. For example, if you sell gadgets, your product descriptions are expected to be very geeky.
  2. Added as much UGC (user generated content) as possible. Which meant reaching out to past customers for reviews.
  3. Improved internal linking to ensure each silo or content hub has plenty of links going to and fro connecting top products, guides and other types of content. Why? Make it easier for Google to crawl the site and understand contextual relationships between pages.

Google Core Update Recovery Take-aways:

A bad backlink profile can be part of perception of quality when it comes to Google scoring you against the benchmark in your niche. If all your competitors have a clean backlink profile and yours is spammy, it’s fairly obvious that it is going to weight you down.

Another take-away is that added value always helps, especially with eCommerce product descriptions. The key is to do your research and understand what are the ways to make the descriptions helpful in your specific niche. There is no one size fits all solution. The best way to nail this is to do competitor research and to actually understand your customer base – knowing what it is that makes them tick.

Interested to find out more?

Book a quick no-obligation meeting to discuss your issues or download our Google Core Update checklist to figure out if you’ve even been hit by one.

Arvid Linde

Leave a Reply

Cat Biscuits (AKA privacy cookies)

By clicking the "agree" button you're agreeing with our Privacy Policy. It is compliant with GDPR and all that jazz. This is standard stuff so unless you're in a super stealth mode, you're ok.