While some folks look back at their photos from the past year and revisit special memories, the marketing nerds at Gemini are busy looking back at all the updates Google made in 2023. To continue to position our clients for success, we need to understand the changes Google makes and how they affect our organic search results.
We don’t know for certain how often Google updates its algorithms but we know they make over a dozen tweaks daily. In 2022 they made over 5,000 changes, or an average of 13 per day. Along with these small, constant updates, Google rolls out larger algorithm updates that require days or weeks to complete. Let’s look at these major changes from 2023 and how they might have impacted your users’ online experience.
Product Reviews Update
The Product Reviews Update seeks to better align Google’s search algorithms with user-based review content that shows expertise and knowledge. Its goal is to promote in-depth reviews that demonstrate a greater level of detail and understanding so that users can make an informed decision about the products and services they’re considering.
Given that Google had three product review updates in 2022 and would have three total in 2023, shows that they take review content seriously. If you post reviews and customer testimonials on your website, make sure that you select the most comprehensive reviews to feature. If you don’t have quality review content, consider reaching out to customers and asking them to provide feedback or create links to existing reviews.
Google’s second update of the year was a core update. According to Google, these updates make “significant, broad changes to our search algorithms and systems” and are “designed to ensure that overall, we’re delivering on our mission to present helpful and reliable results for searchers.”
The algorithm changes that come with core updates can shake up rankings. According to Semrush, this particular core update was more volatile than previous versions. They gave it a 8.2 or “very high” volatility rating. This can impact rankings and search engine results page (SERP) features like Featured Snippets and People Also Ask, causing your content to suddenly increase or decrease in traffic. According to Thrive Agency, the industries most affected by the March update were arts and entertainment, shopping, internet and telecom and business and industrial.
To stay on top of these fluctuations, be sure that you’re tracking your content’s performance. If your rankings suffer during a core update or any other update, it’s important to identify where you were penalized and optimize the content that showed the biggest decline. If your top ranking content suddenly isn’t getting clicks, it can cascade into your overall traffic performance and diminish your online authority.
To help, Google has provided a guide to creating helpful, reliable, people-first content. It’s important to note that Google stresses to not panic after an update, rankings will likely stabilize and that improvements don’t guarantee recovery.
Product Reviews Update
It didn’t take long for Google to roll out their second product reviews update. During this update, Google reminded users of its guidelines for writing high quality reviews. Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind:
- The person writing the review matters. Google prefers a merchant, an independent blogger or an editorial member of a publishing site.
- Reviews should always come from a user’s perspective.
- Reviewers should demonstrate their expertise.
- Quantitative measurements are important along with details that set something apart from its competitors.
- Descriptions of different product applications are valuable.
- Links to additional resources are helpful.
- Links to multiple purchase options help rankings.
The Google core update in August 2023 was even more volatile than the March update. The March update fluctuated whereas the August update showed near constant high volatility. This time retail and financial industries were hit the hardest. However, the consensus was that it wasn’t as jarring because of the near-constant volatility across the 16 days it took to roll out.
If you lose rankings after an update, see Google’s content and quality questions and optimize your content accordingly.
Helpful Content Update
Google’s 2023 Helpful Content Update is designed to help users find content that is original and useful based on their search query. The focus here is on promoting the sites that provide helpful and unique content to users.
A notable change with this update is that Google removed “content written by people, for people” from its parameters and changed it to “helpful content written for people.” This provided insight into growing concerns over content generated by artificial intelligence (AI). With this change, Google sent a clear signal that it wouldn’t penalize AI-generated content in principle; however, if the content failed to provide value to readers, it would.
Search Engine Land points out that this update was impactful within the SEO sector and felt more substantial than previous helpful content updates. They suggest that this update targeted SEO-first content—content that uses keywords and other SEO tactics to obtain rankings—rather than content that is valuable.
There was only one spam update in 2023. These updates are designed to identify and reduce visible spam from appearing in search results. In this instance, Google sought to improve its ability to do this in multiple languages including Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hindi, and Chinese.
Ranking Bug Fix
Google detected a bug in how their October core update was applied to Discover—a feature that shows users results related to their original query. With this fix, some sites may have seen a change in their Discover-related traffic.
The third core update of 2023 came on the heels of several issues:
- Legal allegations that Google manipulated organic search results to boost ad traffic.
- Quality concerns around the previous month’s helpful content update.
- Preparation for increased holiday traffic online.
Overall, this update was less volatile than the previous core roll out in August and affected finance, shopping, and arts and entertainment the most.
The fourth and final core update of the year was a surprise to many as it came directly after several other updates. So why so soon? According to Google: “We have different systems that are considered core to our ranking process; this month’s core update involves an improvement to a different core system than last month.”
As usual, Google doesn’t give away much behind-the-scenes information and we have yet to fully absorb the impact of this update.
The final update of 2023 is a third Product Reviews Update. Google’s regular updates around reviews tie into their push towards more first-hand content produced by independent experts. They view reviews as an important online resource and continue to tweak their algorithm to reward websites with quality reviews.
What We’ve Learned
Google’s algorithm updates are an attempt to improve search relevance and quality. This means that if you want to rank well in search results, you need to provide Google with high quality content that it deems both helpful and relevant to the search query. This may not be as easy as it sounds when you consider hundreds, if not thousands, of other web pages competing for the same result.
Positioning your company at the top requires professional guidance. You need experts who study the competition, track how Google rewards websites and know how to create helpful. traffic-driving content. Contact the digital marketing pros at Gemini to learn more about how you can elevate your business’ digital presence in the midst of volatile and unpredictable Google changes.