Google constantly modifies and enhances its search ranking algorithms to provide users with the best quality and most relevant results. In fact, Google makes an average of nine changes a day to their algorithm, which equals approximately 3,200 changes in a year. These changes can be small query updates or major algorithm changes, the latter of which roll out several times a year as core updates.
Marketers must remain up to date on these algorithm shifts. They must ensure that their organization’s website remains optimized for the latest search engine requirements brought about by the updates. And, their site must remain visible for potential customers. A decrease in website traffic after an update is certainly undesirable.
The intent of this article is to summarize 2023’s Google Core updates, what implications they can have on your SEO, and how you can ensure your website benefits from each core update. You’ll find that some of the most basic SEO principles apply, such as creating engaging, quality content and establishing credibility and authoritative visibility with a strong backlink profile.
What are Google Algorithms?
Google’s algorithms make up a complex system used to retrieve data from its search index and instantly deliver the best possible results for a query. The search engine uses multiple algorithms and ranking factors to deliver webpages ranked by relevance on its search engine results pages (SERPs).
In the beginning years, Google only made a few algorithm updates. Currently, Google makes thousands of changes every year. Most of these updates are so slight that they go unnoticed. However, the search engine occasionally rolls out major algorithmic updates that significantly impact the SERPs. These core updates are listed below.
Summary of 2023 Updates
The following is a summary of the year’s core updates.
November 2023 Reviews Update
The Reviews System update finished rolling out on December 7, 2023. Google’s Reviews System is part of a group of algorithms that produce search results. The Reviews System kicks in when ranking review-related search queries and content. The system aims to rank people-first content per Google’s guidelines for publishers. The guidelines assist publishers in understanding what kind of content the Reviews System ranks.
As of this writing, the update hasn’t been in effect long enough to study the impacts of this latest rollout. Therefore, best practices include acquainting yourself with Google’s offered guidelines and assessing if or how your sites could be affected by this update.
November 2023 Core Update
Google announced this core algorithm update on November 2 and is still rolling it out as of this writing. It falls in with the other periodic adjustments to the search algorithms, which are implemented to improve the quality and relevance of search queries.
As always, Google recommends reviewing the published guidance to understand more. However, content creators focusing on developing quality content will not likely experience any impact.
October 2023 Core Update
This update of 2023 began on October 5 and was completed on October 19. This update is predicted to significantly shift search rankings, which is typical for core updates. Core updates enable Google to improve search quality and block attempts to manipulate rankings through black hat SEO tactics. As a result, they help bolster authoritative, trustworthy content.
To help understand how these updates impact SEO, it’s wise to review the content and user experience for sites negatively impacted by the update. Using your own experience, as well as other organizations’ successes and failures, you can create strategies for improving your SEO with more quality content and other website fortifications.
Some of Google’s recommendations are:
- Focus on helpful, factual content that strengthens your authority.
- Focus on quality content and sites; those reap long-term rewards.
- Monitor search analytics and performance.
- Make incremental improvements over time, not just during updates.
- Optimize sites for positive user experience.
October 2023 Spam Update
The Spam Update was completed on October 19. This global update aims to improve coverage in several languages. One focus is to target thin or misleading content often indicative of spam. Google reports that this update was based on user feedback, as users reported increased spam results in the search queries.
Google uses automated systems and human reviewers to spot and demote spam pages and websites. One system they employ is SpamBrain, which uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning to keep abreast of emergent spam tactics.
Google recommends that site developers and SEO professionals focus on delivering a transparent, satisfying user experience. Those who already focus on these goals tend to fare well after spam updates.
As always, keep current on Google’s guidelines. Also, review your content for thin affiliate pages, scraped content, hidden text, and excessive ads. Anything Google may find overly promotional or misleading should be removed immediately.
Monitor backlinks regularly and conduct periodic website audits to identify issues and react promptly. Finally, prioritize user experience and transparency, which build customer relationships and fare well in Google’s review.
September 2023 Helpful Content Update
Google launched its Helpful Content Update on September 14 and completed it on September 28. Google’s Helpful Content system signals automated ranking systems to ensure people see original, relevant content in search results. It provides visitors with a more satisfying experience by identifying content with little value or relevancy.
If you suspect you may be caught up in the new update changes, review your sites and remove any content that may not be helpful or relevant to your audience. Any drops in your traffic should improve in a few weeks.
August 2023 Core Update
Google announced a core algorithm update, which began on August 22 and was completed on September 7. Like the later updates, the goal is to improve user search results. Feedback was favorable.
April 2023 Reviews Update
This algorithm update focuses its review of content on a page-level basis. The same best practices apply here as they do for the November Reviews update.
March 2023 Core Update
Google’s first core algorithm of 2023 began on March 15 and finished on March 28. The same best practices apply here as they do for all core updates.
February 2023 Product Reviews Update
Google launched its Product Reviews Update on February 21 and completed it on March 18. The update applies globally to the following languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. As always, Google provided best practice guidelines for writing product reviews.
How Google Core Updates Impact SEO
All of Google’s updates are intended to improve user experience. Websites with solid SEO see increased traffic and visibility after an update. If other websites experience a drop in traffic, it indicates problem spots in their SEO that go against Google’s recommended guidelines for that update. Either way, both scenarios illustrate how important it is to maintain strong SEO strategies, especially in the areas of content and link building.
Google core updates often cause fluctuations in website rankings. Some sites will enjoy improved visibility, while others will experience a notable drop in traffic. Because Google’s search algorithms are refined to provide better search results, those sites that meet the desirable criteria are rewarded. In contrast, other sites should take some time to upgrade their content.
Often, a decrease in website traffic and visibility is due to multiple factors, including the following:
- Poor content quality
- Substandard user experience
- Lack of established credibility
- Lack of mobile-friendly design
- Too much spammy content (which gets flagged by spam updates)
For example, the November 2023 core update brought a significant change to Google’s search algorithm. It focused on high-quality, authoritative content for improving search results. Several strategies address all of the above challenges.
Conduct scheduled website audits to identify and mitigate potential SEO issues such as technical errors, content quality issues, and problems with backlink profiles. Doing this challenges you to keep abreast of the latest SEO practices that keep your website competitive as well as on the favorable side of Google updates.
Enhance Overall User Experience
Google uses user-engagement metrics in its algorithms. Thus, user experience is an essential factor in SEO rankings. User experience involves creating a website that contains all of the following elements:
By paying attention to user experience, you’ll do more than match your content to user intent. You’ll provide a superior web browsing experience that ensures your website will perform well after an update.
Optimize On-Page SEO Elements
Optimizing on-page SEO elements include title tags, meta descriptions, headers, and internal linking. All of these play a role in boosting your site’s search rankings. They assist search engines in understanding your content, which in turn boosts your site’s search visibility.
Keywords play a role here as well. The more effective your keywords, the more significant the impact on your website’s rankings. When your on-page elements are targeted and well-placed, your website’s ranking will likely improve after a Google update.
Focus on High-Quality Content
Perhaps one of the most critical SEO practices is creating high-quality content that targets user needs. Not only does it make a robust website, it’s critical for improving and then maintaining search engine rankings. Content should be engaging, informative, and optimized for user search intent.
The old adage of quality over quantity comes to mind here. Your goal is to avoid spammy tactics that will stuff your website with irrelevant and lower-quality content that does not match the user’s search intent. Quality content is defined by how relevant, useful, and engaging your content is for your audience. It must be well-presented, well-researched, and tailored to your audience in order to meet their needs.
Content quality is more than just words. To create it, you must understand the topic, the audience you’re speaking to, and the industry you’re representing. Quality content also means incorporating other media as applicable, whether that be images, video, or audio.
Build a Diverse Backlink Profile
What is a diverse backlink profile? It’s one that consists of high-quality backlinks from relevant and authoritative websites. Backlinks perform interrelated functions that, when done right, help you increase your website’s visibility in the SERPs.
Backlinks increase your website’s credibility. When your site begins to gather backlinks from reputable sites within your niche or industry, Google recognizes that. It serves as an indicator that you are delivering trustworthy, quality content. Thus, your credibility as an expert within the field becomes more recognized. Going back to our earlier point about creating excellent content, websites that hold the most value regarding content will continue to collect more backlinks.
More backlinks also lead to more traffic coming to your website. Google’s goal is to bring users what they are looking for as quickly as possible, and established credibility will rank you higher in the SERPs. Higher SERPs mean more visibility and more visitors to your website. Finally, having such formidable credibility will guarantee your site continues to perform well after a Google update.
What Not to Do After a Google Update
After Google implements an update, content developers and SEO professionals often overreact and make some common mistakes. While they intend to improve post-update rankings, they can inadvertently do more damage. Once you see your traffic drop off, it can be tempting to make immediate changes. Just remember, taking a deliberate, informed approach to SEO applies to any situation, including this one. Taking a moment to make strategic adjustments will yield better results now and in the future.
Another mistake is ignoring Google’s provided guidelines. Google announces each update and provides guidelines for best practices. Disregarding these guidelines after an update could result in lower rankings, indexing challenges, and penalties. Adhering to the guidelines ensures your site is in step with the newly updated algorithm.
In summary, each of Google’s Core Updates is rolled out with the goal of improving user search. Those websites that are fortified with solid SEO thrive after each update. Other sites do not and often see a drop in website traffic. When this happens, consider it an opportunity to run some analytics and devise a plan to enhance SEO. Basic SEO principles tell us that higher rankings can be achieved through two primary factors: quality content and the links pointing to it.
This article presented the 2023 Google core updates in review. For every update, Google publishes guidelines for success. In almost all cases, their recommendation is to be sure your pages are full of quality content. The core updates focus on content and relevance; therefore, if you already have engaging content, an optimized website, and the credibility that comes with a strong backlink profile, you should enjoy increased traffic and visibility to your website with each core update.