Search Engines constantly update their algorithms for several reasons. Trying to keep up with these updates can become tedious and somewhat tricky. More significant updates are being rolled out more frequently especially due to the increase and influx of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
This being said; search engines like Google have provided us with SEO best practices and guidelines on how to ensure that our websites are not negatively impacted by updates. Algorithm updates are set in place to assist the overall performance of good websites and provide search engine users with the most helpful possible results.
What are Google Algorithm Updates?
An algorithm update refers to how Google processes, indexes, and offers results to users. Google updates its algorithm multiple times every year which are often insignificant. These are generally referred to as updates. When Google makes significant algorithm updates, these are referred to as Core Updates.
Most websites will see and feel, at a glimpse, the effect a core update has had on performance – whether positive or negative.
Let’s have a look at the latest Google Algorithm changes and trends and how you can future-proof your SEO.
February 2023: Product Reviews Update
This update rewarded content that contains insightful analysis and original research and is written by experts or enthusiasts who know and understand the topic. With the increase in AI-generated content, this update was fundamental in ensuring Google users are served up-to-date and reliable content. The update was not targeted at third-party or user reviews but rather on article and blog-type content.
March 2023: Core Update
The March Core Update served only to improve and update Google SERP results. Think of it as a Google index refresh. For example, what was relevant on a topic a year ago may necessarily no longer be as relevant. Opinions may have changed, or something new and fresh may have emerged. Rule of thumb after a core update is – Do not panic!
April 2023: Reviews Update
The April Review Update was just an expansion of the February 2023 Product Reviews Update. The focus was to reward content that is properly thought out with extensive research and analysis on a topic. Google also rewarded first-hand account content as opposed to light summarised content.
August 2023: Core Update
This was the 2nd Core update for 2023. Its impact was a mixed bag depending on several factors including industry, website type, etc.
For websites that were negatively affected by this Core Update, Google offered the following tips on reviewing content:
- Does your content provide unique information, reporting, research, or analysis?
- Does your referenced content provide a unique view or opinion on the topic as opposed to copy and paste?
- Does your content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is not obvious?
- Does your page heading or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the page content?
- Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerative, or shocking?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share, or recommend?
- Would you reference this content as authoritative or authentic on a different platform?
If the answer to all of these is “Yes”, Remember the rule of thumb – Do not panic. Give your website a couple of days to recover, continue to produce the best possible content, and wait for the next core update.
September 2023: Helpful Content Update
The Helpful Content Update aimed at loosening the stringent guidelines on AI-generated content. AI is and will continue to be an integral part of content generation and it has improved drastically over the past few months.
AI tools are now able to complete the following almost seamlessly:
- Data gathering
- Natural Language Processing (NLP)
- Fact-checking and verification
- Contextual understanding
- Continuous learning
This being said; we are yet to come across an AI tool that can generate content that is 100% factual and contextual. Quality content will always trump low-quality content. It is easy to spot AI-generated content with the naked eye as it usually has some tells.
This update tied back to the Product Reviews Update in the sense that Google ranks pages based on how helpful their content is to users.
Unhelpful, redundant, and thin content pages saw the largest negative impact post this update.
While we embrace AI Technology and encourage using it to scale your content, we do not encourage website owners and content creators to rely on it fully. Sense check your content and humanise it. Write for humans first.
October 2023: Core Update
The October Core update focused on promoting quality content and demoting websites with poor content – expanding on previous core updates and the Helpful Content Update.
November 2023: Core Update
This update focused on the following:
- Content quality ranking improvements
- Local SEO focus
- User experience
Now that we’ve covered all the last Google updates, we’ve determined that they’re not done to sabotage our SEO efforts. All websites that follow Google’s best practices and guidelines seldom find themselves in the red.
Always ensure that your website is technically sound and that you have a solid content strategy. This will ensure that your website meets the User Experience criteria set out by search engines and that you have helpful, reliable content on your website at all times – Thus future-proofing your SEO.
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