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Google Algorithm Updates – 2023 in Review

By piranha

26th January 2024

A Turbulent Year for SEO

2023 was a significant year for Google’s search algorithm updates, leaving a profound impact on the world of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Last year, Google announced several major updates (nine in total), including changes to the core algorithm, a focus on helpful content, and reviews. Let’s delve into these nine confirmed updates and their implications for digital marketers.

 The Core Updates: A Constant Evolution

Google’s core algorithm experienced several major updates in 2023, notably in March, August, October, and November. These updates aimed to refine the search experience by prioritising pages that met the intent of the search query, thus enhancing value for users. The August Core Update, launched on August 22, 2023, did not cause significant disruptions, but it still required attention from SEO professionals. Conversely, the October Core Update, coupled with a Spam Update, targeted improving search quality and reducing low-quality content in search results.

Google Algorithm Updates: Confirmed Dates of Core Update

  • March 2023 Core Update: 15 March – 28 March
  • August 2023 Core Update: 22 August – 7 September
  • October 2023 Core Update: 5 October – 19 October
  • November 2023 Core Update: 2 November – 28 November

Product and Reviews Updates: Quality and Experience in Focus

The year kicked off with a “Product Reviews Update” in February, affecting various languages globally. This update emphasised product reviews based on firsthand experience, penalising thin content pages and underscoring the importance of authentic, detailed reviews.

April 2023 marked the transition from product reviews to broader review updates, scrutinising all types of review-related content. This update, which extended to services, destinations, and media, among others, had a more widespread impact due to its broader scope. A second update that evaluated reviews of articles, blogs, posts and other standalone content rolled out in November 2023.

Google Algorithm Updates: Confirmed Dates of Reviews Update

  • February 2023 Product Reviews Update: 21 February – 7 March
  • April 2023 Reviews Update: 12 April – 25 April
  • November 2023 Reviews Update: 8 November – 7 December

The Pivotal Helpful Content Update

Perhaps the most significant of 2023’s updates was the Helpful Content Update in September. It sought to promote sites that offered informative, people-first content. This update was particularly impactful within the SEO industry, targeting sites designed to rank well in search engines more than typical sites focusing on broader considerations.

Google Algorithm Updates: Confirmed Dates of Helpful Content Update

  • September 2023 Helpful Content Update: 14 September – 28 September

The Continued War on Spam

The October spam update affected over 10% of the URLs ranking in the top 10 results by targeting sites that were against Google’s spam policies by using cloaking, hacked, auto-generated, and/or scraped spam. Sites in breach of the policy were hit with a penalty. Initially thought to only target sites in Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hindi, and Chinese, Google later confirmed this update was rolled out in all languages, including English.

Google Algorithm Updates: Confirmed Dates of Spam Update

  • October 2023 Spam Update: 4 October – 19 October

Spanning Beyond Core Changes

Alongside these major updates, 2023 witnessed advancements in various aspects of Google’s algorithm to identify poor-quality AI-spun content and link spam. These included the introduction of a ranking improvement aimed at surfacing ‘hidden gems’ from social media and blogs, the launch of a more personalised search experience, and the testing of ‘Notes’ on search results as a Labs experiment.

There are also a series of unconfirmed algorithm updates throughout 2023 that saw large spikes and flux in the Google rankings for many sites, which brings the potential total number of major updates to 12 for 2023. These fluctuations in ranking results were observed on February 15, July 17, and August 18. Google did not provide any details on these suspected algorithm update rollouts, and at this time, they remain unconfirmed.

Google has said it rolls out many minor algorithm updates on a frequent basis, but it does not provide any information on these smaller changes to its search ranking algorithm, which suggests that despite these updates having a significant impact, Google viewed them as minor updates to its core algorithm.

The Ever-Evolving SEO Landscape

The updates of 2023 underscored a critical shift in Google’s approach to ranking webpages. Links, while still relevant, became less significant compared to previous years. Furthermore, Google’s continued refinement in understanding keywords and penalising manipulative link-building processes revealed a drive towards promoting expert content that highlights Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).

Implications for Digital Marketing

These updates underscore the need for websites to focus on creating high-quality, user-centric content. As Google’s algorithm becomes more sophisticated, it’s essential for digital marketers to stay updated and adapt their strategies accordingly. Emphasising authenticity, expertise, and the value of content to the user is paramount.

For those seeking professional assistance in navigating these changes, Piranha Digital offers expertise in aligning websites with the latest SEO best practices. Our team of SEO professionals can help ensure that your site adheres to the ever-evolving standards set by Google, optimising your online presence for better performance in search results. Explore our SEO services at Piranha Digital and stay ahead in the dynamic world of digital marketing.

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