A Guide to Google’s Algorithm Updates and Changes in 2023
Protect your web traffic by staying up to speed with Google's algorithm updates and changes in 2023
Reports of Turbulent Web Traffic Following Google's March 2023 Core Update
Google has just released its first broad core update of the year. The search engine announced the March 2023 update on March 15. As with most updates, it’s expected to take two weeks to fully roll out.
Initial indications suggest that the March 2023 core update has had quite an impact on web traffic, with significant changes being seen across both SEO chatter and tracking tools, according to search expert Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable. It’s important to remember that the effects seen in the first few days after an update may not be where things eventually settle, so it’s best to wait for the rollout to finish before jumping to conclusions on the true impact.
According to Schwartz, the March 2023 update may have a greater impact on the black hat SEO community than the white hat side, although this has yet to be confirmed. Black hat SEO is a type of search engine optimization that focuses on manipulating and bypassing search engine algorithms to gain higher search engine rankings. It involves techniques such as keyword stuffing, hidden text, and link farming, which are in violation of search engine guidelines. These techniques are used to generate quick, short-term results, but can result in penalties and a website being removed from search engine results pages.
Schwartz put together a brief list of what he knows so far about the March 2023 core update:
- Name: Google March 2023 Broad Core Update
- Launched: March 15, 2023 at around 10:30 a.m. ET
- Rollout: It will take about one-to-two weeks to roll out.
- Targets: It looks at all types of content.
- Penalty: It’s not a penalty, and it promotes or rewards great web pages.
- Global: This is a global update impacting all regions, in all languages.
- Impact: Google would not tell Schartz what percentage of queries or searches were impacted by this update, but so far this seems to be a typical core update that reaches wide and the impact is fast.
- Discover: Core updates impact Google Discover and other features, including featured snippets.
- Recover: If you were hit by this, then you will need to look at your content and see if you can do better by reviewing Google's latest core update advice.
- Refreshes: Google will do periodic refreshes to this algorithm, but it may not communicate those updates in the future.
What Is a Core Update?
According to Google, core updates are significant, broad changes to its algorithm and systems.
These updates happen several times a year, but always make publishers and site owners nervous because they can cause web traffic volatility. Google says that core updates are implemented to increase the overall relevancy of its search results.
To better understand the nature of core updates, Google uses the following example:
“...imagine you made a list of the top 100 movies in 2015. A few years later in 2019, you refresh the list. It's going to naturally change. Some new and wonderful movies that never existed before will now be candidates for inclusion. You might also reassess some films and realize they deserved a higher place on the list than they had before.
The list will change, and films previously higher on the list that move down aren't bad. There are simply more deserving films that are coming before them.”
Historically, the search giant will not divulge details about its core updates, and will only confirm the existence of a core update in anticipation of some sites experiencing changes in traffic patterns.
The best way to make sure that your site is ready to weather a core update is by focusing on your content. Google has site quality guidelines that site owners can reference to make sure their content meets its classifications for high-quality content.
Never Stress About Core Updates
The last core update from Google was in September 2022. But since then, the search engine has been anything but quiet. Google is frequently launching and completing updates that could impact your site’s search performance.
But you don’t have to let Google’s flurry of updates disturb your workflow. RebelMouse is a modern publishing platform that anticipates major changes from Google, like the March 2023 core update, before they even happen. Our holistic search strategy makes sure that the sites within our network consistently rank highly on search and crush industry standards on site performance.
Request a proposal today to learn more.
Google Rolls Out February 2023 Product Reviews Update
The latest product reviews update sparks increased volatility in web traffic
February 27, 2023: On February 21, 2023 Google announced the rollout of its February 2023 product reviews update. These updates refer to changes made by Google to its search algorithm that affect how product reviews are evaluated and displayed in search results. Product reviews updates aim to provide users with more accurate, trustworthy, and helpful product reviews when they search for a specific product or service.
According to Google’s official announcement, the update applies to sites across the globe in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Polish. The rollout could take up to two weeks to complete.
\u201cToday we released the February 2023 product reviews update, which applies to these languages globally: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, Polish. It'll take ~2 weeks to fully roll out. More here: https://t.co/YpNnK97G3O\u201d— Google Search Central (@Google Search Central) 1677016946
Google product reviews updates are designed to reward websites that publish high-quality, detailed, and informative product reviews, while simultaneously penalizing websites that publish spammy, low-quality, and/or fake reviews. The updates may include changes to ranking factors used by Google to evaluate product reviews, changes to its guidelines for product reviews, and other changes to its search algorithm.
Google’s product reviews updates will occur periodically throughout the year. However, the February 2023 product reviews update has caused a bit more volatility across the open web than usual. SEO Expert Barry Schwartz reported in Search Engine Round Table that this latest product reviews update has caused significant traffic turbulence across the web, resulting in major ranking shifts in search results. The SEO community has been abuzz with discussions about the impact of this update, which appears to be more far-reaching than previous product reviews updates.
\u201cGoogle Feb. 2023 product reviews update is showing wild and wide volatility in the search results - more at https://t.co/OX6PW8aCPh\u201d— Barry Schwartz (@Barry Schwartz) 1677512760
Google first launched the product reviews update in April 2021. In that announcement, Google said the update aimed to favor product reviews with in-depth research instead of “thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products.” This update is not a core update, but rather an ongoing effort to specifically optimize product reviews in search results. Since it first launched, Google has rolled out additional product reviews updates in December 2021, March 2022, July 2022, and September 2022.
The best thing you can do to ensure your site is ready for any Google product reviews update is to review Google’s product reviews guidelines to make sure your content meets Google’s high standards for quality reviews. Also, Google notes that using structured data may help its crawler identify product reviews, which can be helpful for indexing. Click here for more information.
RebelMouse is an enterprise CMS platform that powers the fastest sites on the web. We take a holistic approach to search that consistently puts the sites in our network at the top of Google Search’s results. Get in touch today and let’s start working together.
Another Google Update in the Works? Here’s How to Prepare Your Site for What’s Next
February 8, 2023: As we enter February 2023, Google has been uncharacteristically quiet about updates, especially after a flurry of algorithm changes made headlines during most of 2022. In fact, updates from December 2022 were still lingering into January of the new year. Those updates — the December 2022 helpful content update and the December 2022 link spam update — completed their rollouts on January 12, 2023.
Still, that doesn’t mean Google isn’t working on updates that we will learn about in the coming days. SEO Expert Barry Schwartz said that there may have been an unconfirmed Google Search algorithm update that started around February 3 and continued into February 4. Reports from both the SEO community and SEO tools suggest that significant changes were made to Google Search’s ranking algorithms, according to Search Engine Roundtable.
Periodically, Google will roll out core updates that can be wide-reaching and impact sites of all kinds. Core updates are released to improve the overall quality of Google's search engine results, and can have an impact on a website's overall rankings, traffic, and visibility.
There hasn’t been a core update since September 2022, so it’s likely that we are due for another one in the coming months. So how can you prepare for whatever updates Google may be cooking up behind the scenes? Here’s a quick checklist of five things that you can do to ready your site for whatever algorithm changes are on the horizon:
- Monitor Your Website’s Performance: Keep track of how your website is performing in search engine results, as well as how long it takes for a page to load. You can do this through managing your site’s Core Web Vitals. Click here to learn more.
- Optimize Your Content: Make sure your content is written for users and not search engine bots. This includes using keywords and phrases that are relevant to your target audience. One way is to follow Google’s E-E-A-T content strategy. Click here to learn more.
- Improve Your Website’s User Experience: Ensure that your website is easy to navigate and that all pages load quickly. On top of performance, your site should have a taxonomy that’s easy to understand. Click here to learn more.
- Take Advantage of Technical SEO: Make sure your website is optimized for mobile devices, uses structured data, and doesn’t have any broken links. Click here for a technical SEO checklist to follow.
- Stay Informed: Keep up with the latest news and updates from Google. This will help you stay ahead of any changes and make sure that your website is always up to date. At RebelMouse, we keep on top of Google’s updates so that you can focus on the tasks that move the needle most for your business. Bookmark this post to check back on all of the latest updates from Google in 2023.
RebelMouse is an enterprise CMS platform that powers the fastest sites on the web. We take a holistic approach to search that consistently puts the sites in our network at the top of Google Search. Get in touch today and let’s start working together.
Two 2022 Google Algorithm Updates Carrying Over to 2023
January 5, 2023: As we make our way into 2023, the ghosts of Google’s 2022 updates are still lingering. Google’s Search Liaison John Mueller confirmed via Twitter that the search engine’s second release of the helpful content and link spam updates in December 2022 are still ongoing.
\u201c@JohnMu seems like both the #helpfulcontent update & #linkspam update of December 2022 is still in-progress! \n\nIs the rollout over? \n\nor \n\n#Google is still in holiday mode (yet to update the blog)!\u201d— Manikandan N (@Manikandan N) 1672733209
December 2022 Helpful Content Update
Google’s second installment of the helpful content update began on December 5, 2022. According to the official announcement, the second release of the helpful content update impacts content globally across all languages.
To recap, the helpful content update launched in August 2022. In its announcement, Google said the update aimed to prioritize content that isn’t deemed “helpful,” including content that is unoriginal, low quality, and was created primarily for search engines, not for the benefit of users.
So how are you supposed to determine if your content is helpful in the eyes of Google?
The best way to make sure your content is ready for this update is to follow Google’s quality guidelines. Remember, the helpful content update is focused on prioritizing user-friendly content, not content that’s been manipulated to rank high in search engines.
Luckily, Google did provide some additional advice on how to make sure that your content employs a “people-first” approach. Click here to read more.
December 2022 Link Spam Update
On December 14, 2022, Google announced the rollout of its second link spam update. According to the official announcement, Google says it's using SpamBrain, its AI-based spam-prevention system, to “detect spam directly,” and that “it can now detect both sites buying links, and sites used for the purpose of passing outgoing links.”
Google lists link manipulation as an official type of spam. Any links that are intended to manipulate rankings in Google Search’s results may be considered link spam. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
Google said that the December 2022 link spam update impacts all languages, and some sites with links deemed “spammy” could experience changes in search ranking.
Spam updates from Google can happen occasionally throughout the year. Before this latest December 2022 update, Google released an October 2022 spam update and a November 2021 spam update. Before that, a link spam update was released in July of 2021.
When Will These Updates Be Complete?
Usually when Google rolls out an algorithm update, it will provide an estimated time for the update to be completed, and then will often let users know when the process is officially completed. However, Mueller recently said that the start and end dates projected by Google are not finite.
Mueller answered the following question posed by Search Expert Barry Schwartz on Mastodon:
Google updates are usually vague by nature, and knowing that not every update has a definite beginning and end adds to the mystery. This is particularly true when one new update seems to roll into another. In fact, Schwartz noted that web traffic volatility on January 3–4, 2023 was already indicating the possibility of another algorithm update. We will be sure to keep you updated on any new algorithm updates that Google releases in January 2023 and beyond.
Start the Year With Wins on Search
The team at RebelMouse is dedicated to keeping you abreast of every twist and turn that Google may throw at us this year. That’s because we’re a modern, enterprise CMS platform and web performance agency that’s built for consistent wins across search.
Our powerful platform has a rich SEO toolset that guides writers and editors to think about the right search phrase behind every story. It also empowers users to focus on small but meaningful modifications designed to improve organic search performance.
As far as keeping up with Google’s flurry of updates? We stay on top of those with frequent product updates that align with industry trends, and frequent communication on how to best update your content strategy to move the needle for your business.