Google’s Algorithm Updates 2023: What You Need to Know to Stay Ahead of the Game
Changes are always occurring in SEO, which means being on the ball is a non-negotiable. In fact, it’s estimated that Google updates its algorithm daily – and while some aspects may be so minor you don’t even need to be aware of them – it’s the major updates that need to be addressed accordingly. Why? Because the bigger the change, the more likely it’s going to affect the search engine results page, i.e your web pages and how they rank on Google.
While we’re still only in March, we’ve taken a look at some of the biggest updates of 2023 so far. From the February product reviews update to the March core update, here’s EYNTK so you can stay ahead of the game.
February 2023 product reviews update
On 21st Feb, Google dropped its sixth release of the product reviews update. It took two weeks to roll out and added new languages, including English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Vietnamese, Russian, Indonesian, Portuguese, Dutch and Polish.
The “focus overall is on providing users with content that provides insightful analysis and original research, content written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well,” Google said of the update.
It aims to promote content that is highly detailed and thorough, which means lower-quality product reviews could be penalised. According to Google, the update isn’t a punishment for less intricate reviews, it’s simply a reward for those that are more insightful, plus have higher rankings.
For those who want to go into more detail and make sure their product reviews tick all the right boxes, Google Search Central has published a whole blog on the product reviews system.
“The product reviews system works to ensure that people see product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products,” they explain.
It goes on to say that it “primarily evaluates product review content on a page-level basis.”
However, “for sites that have a substantial amount of product review content, any content within a site might be evaluated by the update. If you don’t have a lot of product reviews (a really substantial not-single-digit-percentage part of your entire site is made up of them), a site-wide evaluation is not likely to happen.”
So, to avoid being affected by the update, take a look at your content and adjust so that it:
- Shows expert knowledge about the product
- Consumers can physically see what the product is like and how it is used – video content is great here
- Explains what sets the product apart from similar ones/competitors
- Explains the pros and cons in detail
- If necessary, how it has evolved from previous models/versions
- Amp up the authenticity of the review by including other content types like audio and visuals
In terms of what the update means for website owners and how they can create content that’s successful and compatible with the product reviews system, the Google Search Central blog has also created a help page.
With tips on how to write top-notch reviews, it also explains how quality content can help shoppers learn more about the product before they purchase.
Plus, Google has also clarified that they periodically improve how the whole system works, and when done in a “notable way,” share it as a “product reviews update” on the Google Search ranking updates page.
Site owners note: if you’ve made improvements to your product reviews, the release of the next update might be when content that has been impacted will recover.
March 2023 core update
This is Google’s first core update of 2023 and the first in over six months. Announcing the news on Twitter and updating the search updates page, the search engine said: “Today we released the March 2023 core update. We’ll update our ranking release history page when the rollout is complete.”
Apparently, like the products reviews update, the roll out could take up to two weeks to complete.
Google drops these updates several times a year, and they’re pretty important, as they implement significant changes to search algorithms and systems. Basically, core updates are designed to make sure that Google is consistently delivering reliable and helpful results to its searchers.
During a core update, Google won’t target specific websites or pages. The changes made focus on improving how the systems assess content overall. Which can cause some previously under-compensated pages to perform better in the search results.
(Google has said that while you might notice some recovery during/between updates, you’ll see the major changes once another core update has been completed.)
If your pages freak out during the roll out, Google has provided some advice about what to do. Including a help page that provides insight on how to create “helpful, reliable people-first content.”
The page even includes questions that you can ask yourself when reassessing your own content, plus things to consider if your website has been affected by a core update. Some examples of these questions include:
- “Does the content provide original information, reporting, research, or analysis?
- Does the content provide a substantial, complete, or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond the obvious?
- Does the main heading or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?”
Alongside these suggestions, Google also encourages you to do an audit on your site so you can see where it may have been affected during the process. For example, what pages have suffered the most, and what kinds of searches were impacted?
Once you’ve analysed these areas, you can then compare them against the questions and see if there are any changes you need to make. You might find that the reason certain pages are performing better/helping searchers more is that they contain in-detail, first-hand knowledge on the subject and vice versa.
It’s super important to be aware of the update schedule, as you’ll be able to point out whether your website’s search results changes were the result of Google changing its ranking algorithm or something that you did differently on your site. So, knowing there’s an update coming means you can check up on your rankings and analytics over the course of the process and address any issues accordingly.
Best practices for staying up to date with the latest algorithm updates
From avoiding penalties from Google to generally keeping in the loop with the latest trends and updates, we’d recommend upping your game in the following:
Monitor industry news:
If you’re aware of an update as soon as the plan for one is announced, you’re already in a solid position. Sign up for industry newsletters, subscribe to websites, follow SEO experts and Twitter hashtags (#GoogleUpdate, #GoogleAlgorithm, etc.) and all that jazz. By following relevant industry news, you’ll constantly keep yourself updated – plus find out what the major players are focusing on and how they approach Google updates.
Conduct regular website audits:
We already spoke about conducting site audits for the core update. Regular audits help to optimise your site for both search engine results pages (SERPs) and users. Once you’ve completed one, you’ll be able to identify things that need changing due to an update and improve your site based on your findings.
Invest in ongoing SEO training and education:
Like we said, the SEO world is constantly changing and evolving, so there’s always something new you can learn. Which is why it’s worth enrolling in training and education so you can stay up to date with the latest trends and updates. There are plenty of courses and informative literature online to check out, the majority of which are in-line with exactly what’s going on/the changes that are continuously being made.
Use Google Alerts/other third-party tools:
If you don’t use Google Alerts, literally why not? It’s basically a tool that keeps you ahead of the competition and up to speed with search results changes. When in use, it’ll scan the internet and provide you with info on the top results of your keywords. This lets you find out what conversations are happening on any topics, so you can gauge what might be trending or important at the time. It also lets you follow other brands/competitors in your industry to see what they’re up to. Not to mention allowing you to customise your alerts based on things like topics, phrases, sources, frequency, etc.
In terms of third-party tools, SEMrush is really good for keeping up with the latest Google Algorithm updates. For example, the SEMrush Sensor tracking tool monitors daily ranking changes and alerts you to updates.
Create high-quality content:
This is a given in general, but it’s also an easy way to prevent your website from being negatively impacted by a Google algorithm update. Creating high-quality, user-friendly content at a consistent level will always land you in Google’s good books. Why? Because it enhances user experience, which is one of the main things search engines focus on when undergoing updates.
Don’t make loads of changes at once:
When you’re optimising your site, the smallest of changes can sometimes make a huge impact, so it’s advised you make adjustments one at a time and at a slow pace. When too many things are changed at once, it becomes hard to locate which revisions have been the most effective and which have been the opposite. Instead, it’s best to adopt the cliché ‘slow and steady wins the race’ moniker and change things on your site one at a time. This prevents time wasting and allows you to create new, enhanced content that will actually make a difference.
Have a recovery strategy:
You can never be too organised, we say. Just in case an update messes up your site when you weren’t expecting it, having a recovery strategy in place can save you heaps of time and save your website! A lot of businesses enlist the help of SEO specialists (like us) who have all the skills and experience to reverse any negative effects updates have caused. Plus, just generally make sure that your site is aligned with the latest changes.
Are you clued up?
Of course, we’re only a quarter into this year, but already there has been some major Google algorithm updates that have rolled out thick and fast into the SEO landscape.
Whether you were already aware, prepared and equipped, therefore have optimised your site with any necessary changes or you’re yet to jump on the update train, the facts remain the same: Google waits for no one. So, you can either keep up with the search engine and be rewarded for staying ahead of the game or you can fall behind and lose your rankings.
We know which one we’d rather choose…