UPDATE NOVEMBER 2023
On November 2, Google announced yet another core algorithm update, and they expect the rollout to take two weeks. It is part of a series of updates that Google has rolled out in the fall and heading into the winter. (See original article below.)
It's rare for Google to release these updates this close together. In recent memory, major core updates would only occur two or three times in a single year. This is the second consecutive month with an update and the third in the past four months. Per the Search Central blog post from Google, this update is to a different core system than the one from October.
Regardless, with this core update, it's important to note that there may be some volatility in organic traffic and rankings during the rollout, and we go into the details of how to ride that wave in this article. Staying ahead of the trends isn’t fashionable; it’s vital. While there may not be much in terms of actionable next steps specific to this rollout, consider the trends from this update to guide moving forward with the new rules of engagement. Stay tuned, we’re always updating this page with breaking search news.
Panda. Penguin. Hummingbird. Pigeon.
No, this isn’t a zoo. These are just some of the most noteworthy Google algorithm updates.
Organic search is ever-changing, and how users interact with search engines constantly evolves. While a consumer’s purchase journey for a new pair of shoes or a backpack radically differs from what it was just a few years ago, there is also growing competition as everyone jockeys for position to be first in the search results, at the top of a local map pack, or the featured snippet to answer a question.
Some years, massive, sweeping changes completely alter the landscape: in 2020, Google announced a switch to mobile-first indexing. Even though it had been bubbling beneath the surface for years, many didn’t heed the warnings. Traditionally, many web design platforms, designers, and developers started with the desktop version, which had always been the main focus.
However, what we now know — with a few years’ hindsight — is that mobile is truly king. In May 2023, Google’s John Mueller confirmed that the final batch of sites moved over. The multi-year odyssey was finally complete, and if you weren’t focusing efforts on the mobile version of your site, you likely saw some turbulence in rankings and organic traffic.
SEO is like going in for your annual physical. It's all about a holistic approach.
That is just one in a sea of examples of the shake-ups that many in the SEO field face. Being able to interpret updates, formulate action plans, and execute them is all in a day’s work. SEO for any site is not all that different from going in for your annual physical or a car inspection. It’s all about a holistic approach, and no two websites or clients are exactly the same.
For Innovation Refunds, our mission was to help grow this premier payroll refund company into a thought leader in the highly competitive ERC (Employee Retention Credit) space. Creating trust with Google to get Innovation Refunds in the top SERP results meant crafting credible content and resources for small and medium business owners looking up ERC eligibility and advice. Our goal is to create organic-rich, helpful content to attract business owners searching for all ERC-related topics, becoming the go-to source in the industry.
We strategically crafted tailored content that resonated with specific industry verticals, including those in construction, health care, and hospitality. We bridged the creative content marketing strategy with critical technical work so that the site was performing optimally. As a result, we effectively increased their presence in the SERPs, expanded the keyword rankings and provided useful, helpful, relevant, timely content in the ever-changing world of the ERC.
On October 19, Google completed its third core update of the year, which lasted 14 days. These days, the updates aren’t named in a fun way; they’re just Core Updates.
Each rollout can last about two weeks, and the updates likely bring some volatility to organic channels as they roll out. It’s not uncommon to see rankings fluctuate wildly, and what is most important is to have a steady hand at the wheel. Going out and asking ten different SEO specialists what the updates in 2023 entailed may yield ten different answers or best practices.
Google leaves things open to interpretation and — like KFC’s original recipe — isn’t going to give you exact measurements on all of the herbs and spices. Google wants to deliver on its mission of providing the absolute best and most relevant content for any search query someone may key in. That’s why, when algorithm updates occur, you’ll see major shifts in tools such as the MozCast or SEMRush Sensor.
So, where are the #lifehacks for your SEO strategy at a time like this?
Talk through EEAT signals.
EEAT stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness; while it is not a ranking factor, it is a signal, and it is vital to keep these concepts in mind for content production. Using the guidelines as a checklist can ensure that the content on your site is positioned to delight users; by doing that, Google will likely see the value.
Go mobile first.
Focus on building any web product for mobile experience. Everything else will fall in line. And proactively audit, review, and understand your data using tools such as Google Analytics (or whatever data tracking) and Google Search Console.
Proactively auditing your data is critical to ensuring you aren’t ever caught on the back foot. Review, audit, and understand data insights. Good SEO takes time, and while there can be some quick wins, you likely need to give any strategy time to get indexed, climb the rankings, and see results — we’re talking months. When we say audit your performance, Search Console is a great place to start. You can see how pages and keywords perform, plus review technical performance and errors. If you see a sharp swing – good or bad – you can likely use Search Console to zero in on the specific keyword and/or page that led to that result.
The updates likely bring some volatility to organic channels. It’s not uncommon to see rankings fluctuate wildly.
Working from the beginning, here is a breakdown of the Google updates for 2023:
- Product Reviews Update. This update rolled out in 11 different languages globally: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Polish. It focused on product reviews to weed out thin content – think reviews that just say “Great.” Instead, Google wanted to surface more thorough reviews based on actual experience.
- Core Update. With this change, Google focused on improving how its systems assessed content. High-quality content and good user experience were the name of the game.
- Reviews Update. An expansion of the product reviews update that puts a focus on products, services, media, destinations, and other non-product items that have an active review base.
- Core Update. Another update focused on assessing the content on your site.
- Helpful Content Update. This was the first Helpful Content Update that Google had rolled out since December 2022. Hopefully, you were keeping up with those E-E-A-T signals Google talked about.
- Spam Update. Another routine spam update designed to target cloaked, hacked, auto-generated, and scraped content in many languages. Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hindi, and Chinese were explicitly called out.
- Core Update. This is the third core update this year and the second in three months.
- Core Update. While it still deals with rankings, this update concerns a different core system than the October update.
- Reviews Update. This update is noteworthy as it will be the last time Google releases notice of this type of update. Sites will now be regularly evaluated without additional announcements.
If you see a hit to performance or rankings in the wake of a Core Update, remember two important things: First, don’t panic. Second, work with a seasoned SEO expert who can diagnose what may have happened.
Generally, the best time to act is after the algorithm runs its course and you have a few days’ worth of data to review. Recovery is not an instant process, and it’s important to audit what pages took the most significant drops. It is crucial to have a partner along the way who can strategically apply their SEO knowledge to your business and uncover a challenge affecting your industry or a solvable problem specific to your domain.
This is the IQ in GlueIQ: we’re always learning, ears to the ground as the digital landscape constantly evolves. Bookmark this page as your own Core Update; we’ll continue to share our knowledge with every new development.