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Algorithm updates worth paying attention to

So many sits are reactive after their organic traffic drops after an algorithm update is announced. My goal is to highlight the foundational Google algorithm updates that marketers and SEOs should be paying attention to and riding the wave up and to the right. If you’re doing content and technical SEO in a sustainable, white-hat, helpful way you shouldn’t be worried every time an update is confirmed.

Considering that every year, Google changes its algorithm around 500-600 times (equal to nearly two changes every day), not all updates are significant. But, some of the larger ones, listed here, are worth understanding.

Below are some of what I consider to be the systems and updates that matter for long term success. These are confirmed Google updates.

Helpful Content System

September 2023 Helpful Content Update

Google Search Status Dashboard.

Marie Haynes has a great write up on this.

Source: X/Twitter

Why is the HCU (Helpful Content Update) important? Consider the following SEO statistics (expertly consolidated by John Doherty and the Credo team) of consumers looking for helpful content:

  • 16-20% of keywords searched on Google in any given day have never been searched before.
  • As of 2021, 53% of all website traffic (worldwide) clicks on organic results.
  • In the last year alone, there has been a 1.3x increase in searches for “where to buy/find/get.”

Broad Core Updates

August 2023 Core Update

Confirmed on the Google Search Status Dashboard, the August Core Update is focused on the fundamentals. Google’s documentation of guidelines and recommendations of this update have not changed much over time.

The pattern that’s emerging is that broad, Core Updates are being released (or at least announced) every 6 months, sometimes very closely together:

  • August 2023
  • March 2023
  • September 2022
  • May 2022
  • November 2021
  • July 2021
  • June 2021
  • January & May 2020

Why Broad Core updates are worth noting: the amount of and consistency of confirmed core updates indicates the continued investment Google Search is making to mine the web for quality, trustworthy sites.

Product Reviews Update

This particular update was first announced in April 2021 as the Google Search reviews system. Over time, it has become known as the Product Reviews Update.

  • April 2021
  • December 2021
  • March 2022
  • July & September 2022 (for English-language product reviews)
  • February & April 2023

Why it’s important: Google has published a list of guidelines on creating high quality review content in line with their E-E-A-T signals. Affiliate sites beware, it’s not enough to label yourself as an “influencer” and post links to purchase your products.

Why should I trust you? What kind of first hand experience do you have with the product you’re recommending? To the degree that you can, is your opinion unbiased? Have you disclosed if you’re receiving compensation for what you’re talking about?

That additional “E” is for “Experience.” Google added it in December 2022 to the Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG) for a reason; patterns that merit publishing updated guidelines of what not to do. The search quality guidelines were updated twice in 2022 with substantial changes to E-A-T, most notably including the second E.

Not only is the Product Reviews update in effect, it ties into the Helpful Content system which promotes people-first content.

The content in this post represents my personal, professional views, not those of my employer.

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