I’ve mentioned a few times on Twitter and in email newsletter updates that I had three sites get hit in May 2022 core update.
One of the three sites was a large, old site while the other two were smaller sites that aren’t really a big part of my portfolio or even sites that I work on regularly.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been affected by a Google algorithm update, and I’ve written in the past on how I’ve recovered from algo hits.
However, I’ve been creating sites for long enough to know that the updates in 2022 have been unlike anything that we’ve seen in the past.
Of my sites that were hit by the core update in May, I was able to recover one of the three.
One had a partial recovery with me doing nothing.
One continued getting hit by the updates that came after the May 2022 core update.
And that last site is the most shocking one to me, as well as people who I’ve talked with about it.
Since I’ve been working on recovering these sites (at least two of them), I’m going to chronicle what I’ve done both as a roadmap for myself in the future as well as anyone else who finds themself in this same situation.
This site is a relatively small site with around 300 live posts when it got hit in May 2022.
When you compare May’s traffic to June’s traffic, you can see that this site experienced around a 33% drop in sessions.
For years, I’ve suspected that the problem with this site is that the brandable domain that I chose is confusing to Google’s machine learning bot.
But the last time it got hit, I shared the site with another SEO who advised me that Google was confused by all the titles with “best” in them that were informational articles.
He thought Google was clocking the site as a heavy affiliate site when it was only around 20% affiliate content.
These titles were along the lines of ‘best SEOs in Vegas’ …but the niche is not SEOs.
As I mentioned earlier, this was not a site that I was actively working on, so it was not getting fresh content or links.
For me, the worst thing about this algo hit in May was that I was prepping to sell this site as it has been bringing in an average of $300/mo for years.
This is also a small site with just under 150 posts live on it when the site got hit in May 2022.
Due to a day of referral spam, it’s difficult to tell the exact extent of the traffic drop, but it has to be at least 50%.
I think this is the very first time that this site has ever been hit by an update, but I’m not exactly surprised by the hit.
You see, I use this website for a lot of testing.
It’s got several random aged domains pointed at it.
It’s got some AI content on it.
It’s got some purposely duplicated content on it.
I think any of those could be the cause of the algo hit.
This site skews informational, probably 90% info and 10% affiliate.
It was running Ezoic ads before I removed them in June to do some testing.
It’s also a relatively broad site and I think more niched down sites are being rewarded these days.
This is a large site that is around 8 years old and has been a strong site for years.
Honestly, it getting hit by an update was quite a surprise and something that I was certain Google would reverse.
The drop started on May 16th (or so I thought) and was initially around a 30% decline in sessions.
I later discovered that things started dropping earlier than May 16th.
The site had around 900 live posts at the time of the May algo hit and most of those were written by me.
While this site has been strong for me for years, there have been some blips in its history.
Most recently one of the top posts was deindexed for a couple of weeks after I’d filed a DMCA for sites ripping off my content and one particular asshole, who published after me and copied some of my images, filed a counter claim stating that I ripped him off.
The DMCA process is a fucking joke, but that’s a rant for another day.
The sad reality is that this is not the first time in this site’s history that I’ve had this exact thing happen.
And it seems like every single time you file a DMCA in the Google dashboard that it negatively affects your site…when other people are the ones being bastards here.
I say this as someone with a large portfolio of sites who has experienced this across multiple sites.
But, I said I wouldn’t rant about the broken DMCA process…
Overall though, I was of the mind that this site was pretty strong for the most part.
My Initial May 2022 Core Update Observations
Whenever I have a site that has been hit by a Google update, the first thing that I do is check to see which sites are ranking now versus which ones used to be on page one.
As I did that for these three sites, I had immediately noticed a few things.
First, niched down sites seemed to get quite a boost with the update.
So, that explains the problem with site #2…assuming it was not all the random testing I’d been doing with it.
Second, old domains below a certain DR/DA no longer seemed to be getting a boost in the SERPs just for being old and with a strong backlink profile.
I thought this might be the culprit for site #3 and maybe even site #1.
Third, scraper sites really won the update because there were suddenly more of them on page one that I’d ever seen.
To me, that seemed to point to Google using content velocity as a trigger, which is odd since AI sites tend to have insane content velocity.
But what was curious here is that site #3 had pretty good content velocity at the time.
In the next update, I’ll share how I diagnosed the real problem with site #1 and what I did to fully recover it.
I’ll also share what I’ve done with site #3 and my findings there, which is where the real meat of this case study is to be found. (No update on site #2 yet as I’ve done nothing.)
Hey, I’m Shawna. I make a living working from my laptop in places like London, Sydney, Dubai, Rome, Oslo, Bangkok, Las Vegas, Barcelona, and Amsterdam. I share how I do some of that on this website.
7 thoughts on “Road To Recovery Algo Hit Case Study: Beginnings”
Our site that was hit and is still going down has lots of “BEST” and its an entertainment site.
Definitely worth testing replacing ‘best’ with something else to see if you recover in the next update. Good luck!
Looking forward to your next update Shawna. I had a site with “Best of ” in the title. I would say close to +30% of the posts. Traffic sank like the Titanic and hasn’t recovered since. It’s frustrating but I have to regroup and figure out how to remedy it and get it back on track.
Interested to know what DR/DA number is that you notice no longer seems to be getting a boost. What DR should we be aiming to buy for aged domains now?
“old domains below a certain DR/DA no longer seemed to be getting a boost in the SERPs just for being old and with a strong backlink profile.”
I’m not yet sure what the cut-off point is yet as I haven’t seen enough sites in the DR40-59 range. DR 60+ seems to still get it. Below DR40, not so much. Hoping to get more data points to narrow it down though.
My site was hit on Google Oct update, it’s making $200/month on Ezoic, and currently, I’m fixing the on-page. It is a 1-year-old site that has more than 100 informational articles, no AI, fresh domain and I’m not building backlinks. I’m not sure if I need to sell the site or wait until it’s recovered. Do you have any advice on that?
You’ll get more for it if you can wait until it’s recovered, otherwise expect a very low multiple.