Every year Google rolls out hundreds of new algorithms across its platform. Most of these are tiny tweaks and adjustments, like the background noise on a seismograph. However, every now and again there’s an update that affects sites in a more tangible way, a tremor that gets everyone’s attention. One of these ‘tremors’ occurred in March 2018, a core update designed to increase the relevancy of search results. This was later nicknamed Google’s ‘Brackets’ Update.

Why is it called Brackets?

Google has long abandoned the practice of naming its core algorithm updates, instead leaving it to the public to decide which ones are worthy of their own name. The brackets update just so happened to coincide with ‘March madness’, a month that brings together sixty-four American college basketball teams in a knock-out style tournament that grips the country. Before it begins millions of Americans fill out their own predictions, or “Bracket” hoping to guess the outcome of sixty-three of these games. It just so happens that the temporary movement of sites on SERPs was equally unpredictable, and thus the name stuck.

An update to promote the best content

Although the precise details remain undisclosed, it’s believed that the brackets update was a further attempt to increase the rankings of the highest quality content. The idea was to give a boost to previously undervalued content, meaning that shifts were seen as companies rose from the depths to overtake more established sites. Although this relative movement caused initial consternation, it should be noted that sites were not demoted per-se, they were merely being judged on a fairer set of criteria.  

Can companies regain their rankings?

Google maintains that the only way to rise up the SERP rankings is through the production of high-value content, relevant to the search of the user. More than ever, this is being viewed through the prism of user-intent, not simply keywords. A good SEO strategy should therefore look to create rich content that understands what the user hopes to achieve, whether that’s finding information, using an online service or taking part in a transaction.

How to make the most of the Brackets update

If you’re implementing an effective SEO campaign then you don’t have to change a thing. Any drop in rankings simply means that Google has identified competing sources that provide a better answer to a users search query, a reminder that your content can, and should, always be improved upon to provide the utmost value.

In summary, brackets can be described with a rather fitting basketball analogy. To think of it one way, the rules of the sport remain the same but now you’ve got a better trained referee, able to spot when fouls are really fouls or if the ball has just crossed the line. As a player, all that matters is you play the best game you can, safe in the knowledge that the winning team lifts the trophy based on merit, and nothing else.