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
Google Rolls Out April 2023 Reviews Update With a Major Modification
On April 12, Google released the April 2023 Reviews Update, following the rollout of the March 2023 Broad Core Update. While this may seem like another routine update from Google, there’s been one important change. Interestingly, the update has dropped "Product" from its name since it now encompasses reviews related to services, things, and products.
\u201cReleased the April 2023 reviews update, which now covers reviews about products, services, and things. Learn more about how to write high quality reviews:\nhttps://t.co/tdM0JhyyTG\u201d— Google Search Central (@Google Search Central) 1681316023
“The reviews system is designed to evaluate articles, blog posts, pages or similar first-party standalone content written with the purpose of providing a recommendation, giving an opinion, or providing analysis. It does not evaluate third-party reviews, such as those posted by users in the reviews section of a product or services page.”
The Google Product Reviews Update was an algorithm update that was first released in April 2021, aimed at improving the quality of product review content that appears in search results. The update is designed to reward websites that provide high-quality, in-depth product reviews with better visibility in search results, while demoting low-quality product reviews that are deemed unhelpful to users.
It is going to be worth tracking how this latest Google review system update affects websites that feature reviews beyond products. These sites are now subject to evaluation by Google’s review system, and could potentially experience significant fluctuations in traffic performance. In the past, Google has indicated that updates like these could impact sites that focus heavily on product reviews, and the impact could be site-wide. However, sites with only a small amount of review content are more likely to be evaluated on a page-level basis.
How Will This Update Impact My Web Traffic?
The impact of the April 2023 Reviews Update on search rankings and visibility is expected to be significant, particularly for websites with substantial review content.
Gabe has been monitoring web volatility since the April 2023 Reviews Update launched, and has reported seeing traffic dip on sites that do not host product reviews. Check out his Twitter thread for more analysis:
\u201cOK, here we go. I'm seeing the first movement based on the April Reviews Update. Remember, this is beyond just product reviews now. Here's a site focused on restaurant reviews that's seeing a big drop. Checking the SERPs for those queries, it has dropped out completely for some:\u201d— Glenn Gabe (@Glenn Gabe) 1681385523
Even though the meaning of "reviews" has changed within Google's algorithm, the search engine powerhouse still suggests following its guidelines for writing high-quality reviews as the most effective strategy to safeguard your website against potential traffic fluctuations resulting from this and similar future updates.
In addition to following Google’s quality reviews guidelines, it’s important to remember that ratings and reviews for product pages are populated with structured data. When inputted correctly, it can be a powerful way to provide more information to Google about your product pages, which improves your search rankings in return. Click here to learn more.
It’s a full-time job to make sure your content is up to Google’s rigorous, ever-changing standards. RebelMouse is an AI-enabled platform that anticipates major changes from Google, like the April 2023 Reviews Update, before they even happen. Our holistic search strategy makes sure that the sites within our network consistently rank highly on search and outperform industry standards on page performance.
Want to make sure your website is always crushing it on search? Request a proposal today and let’s start working together.
Measuring the Impact of Google’s March 2023 Core Update
Google announced that its March 2023 core update concluded on March 28. Shortly after its rollout on March 15, it became obvious that this update was significant in scale and resulted in notable ranking fluctuations across numerous industries in Google Search results.
SEO expert Barry Schwartz looked at how the March 2023 core update differed from other updates in the past. Here are a few visuals to help illustrate how big of a splash the March 2023 core update had on web traffic.
Semrush Data: According to Semrush's Sensor data, the March 2023 core update reached a peak volatility of eight out of 10. In comparison, the September 2022 core update only reached a peak of around five on the same scale. The graph below illustrates the peak volatility for both updates during their respective rollout periods.
From Search Engine Land.
In addition to Semrush's data, Schwartz also looked at data from RankRanger. Rank Ranger's Rank Risk Index Tool indicated significant volatility on the day following the initial rollout of the March 2023 core update update, highlighting its magnitude.
From Search Engine Land.
Be sure to check out more data snapshots that illustrate the impact the March 2023 core update had on web traffic over at Search Engine Land.
What to Do If Your Site Was Impacted by the March 2023 Core Update
Recovering from an algorithmic hit that your website may have incurred can be a challenging process, particularly when it comes to Google’s core updates. These updates are notoriously vague, and tend to be comprehensive and encompass various quality concerns.
SEO expert Lily Ray examined the traffic of more than 7,000 sites across the web to uncover details about the March 2023 core update. Click here to check out her findings over at Amsive Digital.
If your website has been affected by a core update, experts typically advise taking a holistic approach to evaluate the overall state of your website and identify areas that can be enhanced to improve its quality. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure your content follows Google’s site quality guidelines.
Another Google Update in the Works?
Google may still be making meaningful changes to its algorithm. On April 3, 2023, Schwartz observed initial indications of a potential Google Search ranking algorithm update. He reported that other experts in the SEO community have commented on significant fluctuations in their website rankings and traffic. Some have even reported possible reversals from the March 2023 core update, while others are experiencing general instability.
At RebelMouse, we understand the impact that Google’s algorithm updates can have on your website's search performance. That's why we always keep a watchful eye on any algorithm changes to ensure that your website remains optimized and unaffected.
Our powerful publishing platform takes an integrated approach to search that combines content creation, technical SEO, and traditional SEO strategies to enhance your website's search performance. We make sure every website in our network is aligned with Google's latest algorithm updates and best practices so that our clients can concentrate on other vital aspects of their business.
Interested in learning more about RebelMouse? Let’s chat today.
Google Roundup: The Slow Rollout of Bard, Web Traffic Turmoil, and Countdown to GA4
Here’s a rundown of the latest headlines from Google, and how they could impact your business.
Bard Rolls Out to Select Users
On March 21, 2023, Google began the slow rollout of Bard, its new AI language model and answer to OpenAI’s widely popular ChatGPT. The name "Bard" is inspired by the term used to describe poets and storytellers in ancient times. For now, Bard has been made available to a select group of reporters, but the wait list is now open to citizens in the United States and United Kingdom.
\u201cToday we're starting to open up access to Bard, our early experiment that lets you collaborate with generative AI. You can use Bard to boost your productivity, accelerate your ideas and fuel your curiosity. Learn more, including how to sign up \u2193 https://t.co/4zDI5RD1fr\u201d— Google (@Google) 1679414573
Google Bard is based on the T5 (Text-to-Text Transfer Transformer) architecture, which is a state-of-the-art deep learning model for natural language processing. It was trained on a wide range of text data, including books, websites, and articles. This is different from ChatGPT, which is based on the GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) architecture. Both models are based on deep learning and natural language processing techniques, but their architectures and training techniques are different.
ChatGPT is primarily used for generating conversational responses to user inputs and can handle a wide range of topics. On the other hand, Google Bard is focused on generating creative and imaginative content, such as poetry and stories, and can also generate responses to user inputs. Click here to learn more about Bard’s capabilities.
Bard’s interface, from Google.
Earlier this month, Google made a clear distinction that Bard was not part of its traditional search product, but rather an experimental, collaborative AI service.
Google’s March 2023 Core Update
Google started to roll out its first broad core update of 2023 on March 15, predictably called the March 2023 core update. Google said the update should take two weeks to complete, but as SEO Expert Barry Schwartz points out, disruption to web traffic can continue after the update is done.
Schwartz reported that there have been larger-than-normal tremors and fluctuations as a result of this particular update. This kind of turbulence usually causes quite a stir in the SEO community, but leaves many just speculating about the details of the update.
That’s because Google’s core updates are notoriously vague. The best you can do to protect your site traffic is make sure your content follows Google’s site quality guidelines. Click here to get caught up on what we do know about the March 2023 core update.
Less Than 100 Days Left Until Google Sunsets Universal Analytics
Google will stop reporting data to Universal Analytics properties on July 1, 2023. That means there are less than 100 days left for users to make the switch to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Google recommends that all users upgrade to GA4 as soon as possible.
GA4 offers a more advanced tracking system and provides better insights into user behavior across different devices and platforms. It also includes new features such as machine-learning-powered insights and predictive metrics.
Click here for a great Q&A with Steve Ganem, Director of Product for Google Analytics, on the advantages and challenges of switching to GA4, from our friends at Search Engine Land.
Stay On Top of Google Updates
It feels like we could write a roundup on the latest moves from Google every day. That’s why we aim to stay on top of the search engine giant at RebelMouse, so that you can focus on meeting and exceeding your business goals.
RebelMouse is an enterprise CMS that’s AI-enabled and well known for its high-performance site network. Here are a few ways we’re handling these latest updates from Google:
✔ Customized ChatGPT experience: RebelMouse already has a suite of AI tools available to enhance the natural content workflow. This includes a private AI data model that can customize the ChatGPT experience exclusively for your website. Click here to learn more.
✔ Stress-Free Core Updates: At RebelMouse, our team of traffic experts is constantly monitoring Google's algorithm updates and making proactive adjustments to our clients' websites. By staying ahead of the curve, we can safeguard against major updates, such as the Google March 2023 Broad Core Update, even before they’re officially launched.
Our comprehensive search strategy takes into account various factors that influence search engine rankings, including content relevance, website structure, and user experience. By approaching SEO holistically, we’re able to consistently deliver high search engine rankings for our clients. Click here to learn more about how we optimize websites for search.
✔ Migration to Google Analytics 4: RebelMouse is more than prepared for the switch to Google Analytics 4. We’ve already created a comprehensive guide on how sites in our network can easily migrate to the new platform long before the July 2023 deadline.
Interested in joining RebelMouse? Let’s chat about how we can help you grow your web traffic and stay ahead of industry curveballs.
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.