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Google Algorithm Updates and Changes

Google changes the way its algorithm works and how users interact with SERPs (search engine results pages). Here is are some of the details of recent changes, updates and impacts to help you understand how to work important website features and elements into your website.

Google Releases October 2022 spam update – 19/10/2022

Google announced on Wednesday 19th October 2022 they had released an update to their AI spam detection algorithm.

While stating that updates and tweaks to the detection systems happen frequently, they went on to say they “occasionally make notable improvements to how they work.”

Google go on to urge sites that see changes in their ranking performance to review their spam policies.

Here is where you can find out about the October 2022 spam update which could take up to two weeks to fully roll out.

Google Releases the product reviews update – 20/09/2022

Google announced on 26th September that they had released an update to product reviews written in the English language.

These updates are aimed at improving the overall quality of search results where product reviews are critical to users searching.

Within this update, Google attempted to make sure that product reviews surfaced to users are of high quality, provide insightful analysis and original research that is written or created by experts or enthusiasts who know the product and sector well.

If you run a website that reviews products or your website contains reviews of products and has been affected by the update, then check into the quality of your reviews if you have noticed that the site has seen performance changes.

Here is more about Google’s product review updates.

Google confirmed on twitter that this update completed rolling out on 26th September 2022.

Google Releases September 2022 core algorithm update – 12/09/2022

As Google does several times each year, they’ve recently released their September core algorithm update. This update usually comprises a broad set of changes to how the search engine algorithms and systems work and can lead to extensive fluctuation in search engine results for some time after their release.

Google suggests that pages which drop aren’t being punished, it’s more likely that either content which is a better fit to the search query or content that is better quality has been moved up the list.

If you’ve noticed a drop in performance on your website or specific pages since the announcement of this update, then you may want to consider checking through the content on your pages and making tweaks or improvements where performance has dropped.

Here is where you can find out more about Google’s advice for understanding and optimising for core search algorithm updates.

Google tweeted to confirm the September core algorithm completed rolling out on 26th September 2022.

Google Announces the Helpful Content Update – 18/08/2022

Google announced via their developers blog the pending release of the “helpful content update” that aims to surface more helpful content for Google users.

Part of the aim of the content is to help users find content “written by people, for people” which appears to be almost directly aimed at those using AI content generation as part of their SEO content strategy.

As part of the release notes, Google have included some guidelines and do’s and don’ts to help webmasters, SEOs and content creators understand what they should prioritise and how to approach web content.

What is Google’s advice?

Google’s advice is broadly similar to whenever they mention content quality and content production.

Focus on people first content; i.e. create content that draws upon your knowledge, keep your site focused on the niche you’re in and ensure that users can learn something useful from reading your piece.

However, Google recommend that you continue to utilise “SEO best practices to bring searchers addition value.”

Avoid creating content for search engines first; content primarily created for search engines is their target with the update, specifically; lots of content produced together, content that relies upon extensive automation, are you summarizing existing pieces without adding value?, are you chasing trending topics, will users need to return to search to find more information after reading your piece?, Are you hitting a specific word count because you think you must? , Are you writing about topics you have no expertise in?,

The update is due to be released next week and could take up to 2 weeks to complete rolling out.

A key passage from the how the update works section is;

Any content — not just unhelpful content — on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search, assuming there is other content elsewhere from the web that’s better to display. For this reason, removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.

So, if your site has a high proportion of unhelpful content, that doesn’t help users achieve their goals or learn something new, then you entire site could be in jeopardy. Speak to us today about how to identify unhelpful content if you’re concerned.

If this is the case, you may wish to consider removing or improving unhelpful content that you have on your website, that doesn’t meet the needs of users visiting your site.

Globally, English searches are affected, with expansion to include other languages hitting in the future.

There’s a fairly detailed guide on the Google developers blog, which is highly recommended reading.

Google Search Outages, Issues and Downtime – 09/08/2022

Google has been experiencing issues with search for sometime. Between the evening of the 8th August and the morning of the 9th August 2022 search results have been impacted by widespread page noindex issues, where indexable pages are suddenly and inexplicably removed from the index.

Sites have also experienced traffic issues since Google.com has been offline, returning 502 errors when users try to access the search engine.

As far as we’ve seen, there’s been no official mention of any issues but will keep this page updated if Google do make a statement.

If you are concerned, it might be worth checking pages on your website manually to make sure they’re appearing for your valuable search queries.

Google Announces Pros & Cons Schema – 05/08/2022

Pros and cons have been a big but underutilised part of on page SEO strategies for some time, however, they’re likely to see a surge in popularity with the news that Google now supports pros and cons schema for editorial product reviews.

Marking up product pros and cons on editorial review pages on your website will make your pros and cons information eligible for highlight in search results pages within the product review snippet when you use the pros and cons schema.

The rich results test tool has been updated to cover pros and cons schema so you can test the accuracy of your mark up.

It’s worth noting that only editorial reviews are eligible for pros and cons enhancements (so this excludes merchant pages or customer reviews).

Multiple languages are support too. Check out the full Google developers blog here.

Google Announces Ongoing Indexing Issue with Google Search – 15/07/2022

Today, Google Search Central announced via Twitter that there’s an “ongoing issue with indexing in Google Search that’s affecting a large number of sites.”

The tweet was published at 3:50pm.

The tweet also went on to warn; “sites may experiencing delayed indexing”.

This is bad news for websites who’ve published new pages or new sections recently and are yet to see the pages being added to the index.

Google have scheduled an update within the next 12 hours.

You can read the original tweet and Twitter users responses.

Responses here are interesting as some claim that issues have been persisting for months. Google is yet to confirm whether the issue is affecting pages that are or previously have already been indexed.

Google announced these indexing issues were fixed on July 16th 2022 with an additional tweet.

Google Announces Search Console Video Index Report – 11/07/2022

Google has announced the launch of a new video indexing report that will be available within search console reports.

The report will help you identify;

  • the number of pages where Google has identified video content
  • successfully indexed videos
  • issues where videos are being prevented from being indexed

In addition to the index status, there will be reasons why videos aren’t indexed if they cannot or haven’t been. Examples of the types of reasons include;

  • unsupported video formats
  • no prominent videos on page
  • video is too large or too small
  • no thumbnail
  • unknown video format

These are just some examples of the issues of which there are many more.

You’ll also be able to inspect video content in the URL inspection tool which can help you understand whether this page should be included in the video report.

You can read Google’s release notes around the video indexing report here.

Google Creates a Page to Track it’s Own Search Ranking Updates – 07/07/2022

Google have published a page on their developer blog that documents the dates of release and subsequent completion of search ranking updates.

The page contains search ranking update details dating back to January 13th 2020 and includes the latest confirmed Core update, released on 25th May 2022.

As well as the dates of release and a brief description of the algorithm update there’s also a link to the page where the original blog post was published detailing the change.

You can find the page and read the details of Google updates for yourself here.

Google Crawls and Indexes Up to 15Mb of HTML Content from Web Pages – 24/06/2022

Google updated their webmaster guidelines page about Googlebot to include how much of the HTML of a webpage Googlebot will crawl and index. The guide was updated on the 24th June 2022 to specify that the search engine bots will crawl the “first 15MB of an HTML file or supported text based file…. After the first 15MB of the file Googlebot stops crawling and only considers the first 15MB of the file for indexing.”

The guide also specifies that “files referenced in the HTML, such as images, videos, CSS and JavaScript are fetched separately” so presumably aren’t included in the 15MB limit.

You shouldn’t be too alarmed by this. The average size of webpages currently published on the web, according to statistics on pingdom.com is 1,400KB (1.4MB), including all transferred resources like CSS and images, so well inside the limit.

Having said that, I have tested webpages that come in at a hefty 9.2MB in size (although this includes all resources) however, you should be careful to ensure that your website is well below the upper limit and loads as efficiently as possible.

Here’s the blog post where Google posted the update and explain more about Googlebot.

Google Confirms Content Not Visible on Pages Is No Longer Considered Less Important – 22/06/2022

Google has confirmed that content only has to be available within the HTML of a page or within the immediate JavaScript to add full value to a page.

Speaking in a Google webmaster hangout Gary Illyes of Google said content items not immediately available on the page is no longer less valuable or down weighted.

There’s a more detailed summary of this on seoroundtable.com.

Mobile first indexing, implemented by default by websites from 1st July 2019, meant tough decisions for many site owners on which content to prioritise and how to display detailed content on smaller screen sizes and led many to implement content behind carousels, interactive widgets or offscreen on load.

Some in the SEO industry also believed that hidden content or content that wasn’t immediately shown to the user was down weighted by Google’s ranking algorithms.

However, this was initially explained by Google as false in 2020 and has since been reiterated in a Google Webmasters hangout.

What does this mean for your website?

You needn’t worry so much whether content on your pages is indexable because of the way that your website is coded.

If you can see the content in the HTML of your page.

Recommendations that you thoroughly check how your pages render with and without JavaScript enabled remain. JavaScript can cause far larger problems than just slowing down access to content for search engines and users.

Google to Simplify Search Console Coverage Reports – 15/06/2022

Over the coming months, you may see changes in your Google Search Console coverage reports. In an effort to offer more transparency around what “warning” status means against URLs Google are making some changes.

The previously yellow tab, within the Google Search Console coverage report is being dropped.

Rather than Error and Valid, you’ll now see “Valid” and “Invalid”. i.e. if pages contain critical issues keeping them or elements of the page out of the index, they’ll be marked as invalid.

It appears as though these changes will be applied to all reports including; structured data, coverage and mobile usability.

Here’s where Google announced the change on their blog.

SEO Tool ahrefs Launch Search Engine – 03/06/2022

The popular search engine optimisation tool ahrefs, well known for it’s backlink tracking software has launched a search engine to rival that of Google, Bing and even Yandex.

As a suite that offers backlink tracking, technical SEO insights, keyword discovery tools, content quality and rank tracking services, there are few SEO tools better placed to launch a website that could rival the world’s biggest search engines.

Despite their understanding of search and their prominent position within the search engine marketing realm, few believed they would seek to compete with established search engines.

However, on 3rd June, news broke that ahrefs had launched their own search engine. Yep.com.

Yep.com was originally founded way back in 1999 as a quality and popularity based search engine backed by WebSideStory, on HitBox software, so at least they’ve picked an aged domain on which to launch the search engine.

From early interactions with the search engine, results, especially here in the UK seem very mixed with few search queries returning relevant or useful pages, especially compared to the established results many would expect from Google and even Bing.

If ahrefs are going to make a return on their healthy $60M investment in the platform, they are going to have to make rapid gains and prioritise constant iterations in the usability and quality of the system.

The search engine promises to offer 90% of ad revenue generated through the platform back to content creators, so some may see this as a good opportunity to establish a market share in a more evenly distributed search platform, even if initial volumes are likely very low.

Here’s more about Yep.com’s profit share scheme.

We will watch with interest to see if yep.com can break away from the search marketing niche and capture the broader appeal of the general population that it will need to grow.

Confirmed Google May 2022 Core Update – 22/05/2022 – (09/6/2022)

Google have today confirmed that they are releasing a core algorithm update.

Google claim to release core updates several times each year with the aim of making search better for users.

Updates have historically caused fluctuations in search engine results with websites quickly gaining visibility and traffic or dropping rankings.

The May update will take around 1 – 2 weeks to fully roll out, so you may see some fluctuations in your ranking performance and website traffic from organic search over the next fortnight.

Here’s everything that Google have published about the May core algorithm update so far.

Google Core Update – New Information – 08/06/2022

On day 14 of the May 2022 Google update, Google’s search liaison representative Danny Sullivan confirmed that the Google core update had not entirely rolled out yet.

Danny tweeted yesterday that Google Search official twitter would confirm once the update had fully completed.

Google Confirm Core Update Has Finished Rolling Out – 09/06/2022

Via the Google Search Central twitter account, Google have today (09/06/2022) confirmed that the core update released on 22nd May has finished rolling out.

The tweet is included below.

This particular update has seen widespread traffic changes for many online businesses. If you’ve been affected by the drop contact us to find out how we can help you understand why and recover your traffic.

Possible Google Search Ranking Update – 01/05/2022

Ranking tracking tools and SEO specialists aligned over the May bank holiday weekend observing fluctuations in search engine results pages.

This meant a greater, more obvious shift in the rankings of particular websites for specific keywords was more obvious to spot than normal.

Fluctuations seemed to continue throughout the week with larger changes observable in news, arts & entertainment and computers and electronics.

Did your site gain or lose traffic?

Google Removes the URL Parameter Legacy Tool from Google Search Console – 26/04/2022

Today, 26th April 2022, Google has officially removed the Google Search Console URL parameters tool from search console. Previously accessible through Legacy tools and reports > URL parameters the report helped SEO’s and webmasters manage the indexability of URLs without robots.txt and without meta robots rules in the <head>.

URL parameters tool now expired in Google Search Console

If you load the URL parameters page and select your property, you’ll see the above message.

Like robots.txt that blocks crawling, URL parameters allowed you to block crawling of URLs with certain parameter values. i.e. you could make URLs that included the parameter ?products=low-to-high eligible for index (and target “cheapest teapot” terms) while excluding the ?products=high-to-low parameter selection from crawling and therefore the index.

If your site relies heavily on custom parameter options and gains organic traffic from some specific URL parameter configurations or were using the URL parameters tool to block pages then you may want to review traffic to pages on your site and translate your URL parameter rules into robots.txt equivalent rules.

Search Natural can help you understand and translate URL parameter rules into robots.txt rules with our technical SEO packages.

Here’s Google’s full explanation on why they’ve removed the URL parameters tool.

Google Confirms & Explains the Value of Alt Text in Images for SEO – 01/04/2022

Google has confirmed the continued importance of alt text on images in SEO. This means, you should still be using alt text where your use images on your website.

Google’s representative John Mueller suggested that there’s no word limit on alt text, the question suggested that 16 words was the limit.

John goes on to explain that both the intent and relevance of the image were important to deciding what kind of alt text you should use for images.

For example, if you’re adding alt text to an infographic embedded within an article that explains how the cost of living has increased food prices year over year, you could use “infographic with food prices costs from 1982 to 2022”.

Another example might be where you’re running a review website, you may take a picture of your breakfast at Hotel Sunshine and say; “my breakfast at Hotel Sunshine”. According to John, adding this type of context is important for Google helping to rank your images in relevant search results.

Check out the full Google SEO office-hours from 1st April for the full snippet.

Google Swapping Search Terms on “See More” Button – 21/03/2022

When searching via chrome on a desktop pc, Google can sometimes change the user inputted search query to a differing query.

In the example, searching for “best menopause supplements” then clicking the “see more” button at the foot of page 1 of the Google search results takes you to page 1 of a search for “foods that help with menopause naturally”

For anyone optimising content for the user inputted search query, this can drastically change the overall search impression count of the query.

This makes desktop search results different from mobile where clicking “see more” loads additional results relating to the same query. Replicating this on desktop is through selecting the pagination at the foot of Google pages.

Check out the video below for the full example.

How to Deal with Changing Search Queries

This is a difficult one as we do not know when this went live, whether it is an intentional change that will remain live or if it is a test.

We first noticed the change on 21/03/2022 when the video above was recorded.

For my clients, I’ve been comparing impression levels prior to this date with impression levels after this date where there have been only minor positional shifts to try to understand if this is impacting organic traffic performance of my client’s sites.

Focusing on desktop impression volumes, you should be able to isolate which of your page 2 or below ranking pages ae being impacted by the change and the specific queries.

With this information, you can optimise your pages to rank on page 1 of the related query that Google sends users to.

Google is Retiring Universal Google Analytics – 16/03/2022

Google has confirmed in a blog post, published on 16/03/2022 that they’ll be retiring Universal Google Analytics (GA) by July 1st 2023.

Universal analytics has been used by website managers to measure traffic, engagement since November 2005.

Google has replaced universal analytics with GA4, an updated version released back in October 2020.

Find out why Google is retiring Universal GA.

What you need to do

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to configure GA4 on your web properties and digital apps now, so that you can start collecting data ahead of the end of universal GA in July 2023.

If you’re not sure how to do this or where to start then contact us via email or whatsapp and we can help.

by Ben Ullmer

Ben Ullmer seo specialist

About Ben

SEO Director

Ben is the founder and SEO director of Search/Natural. He spent 8 years working in SEO at some of the biggest comparison sites in the UK before setting up his own business to work as an SEO specialist with clients around the world.

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