As a marketer, the big mystery behind Google’s regular algorithm updates can be both frustrating and intriguing. Google usually announces major algorithm updates in advance, which in turn leads to discussion and speculation among SEOs and website owners. This can lead to misinformation, confusion and incorrect instructions.
It’s important to determine exactly how these updates affect your organic search visibility to ensure you’re getting the most out of your site’s reach.
While we can’t know which algorithm update will come next, we can revisit the plethora of previous updates to identify common patterns and predict how Google search will evolve.
Our friends at NP Digital helped us demystify how updates to the Google search algorithm work and why Google updates its ranking systems frequently during a recent live webinar. During the webinar, we examined the latest high-impact updates over the last few years, including the numerous product rating updates, helpful content system updates, spam updates, and core updates.
In this post, we share the key takeaways discussed during the webinar on each update.
Read on to find out more.
The latest core updates tie together similar themes, placing great emphasis on content quality and relevance, user experience, EEAT (Experience, Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness), and backlinks.
This should come as no surprise to marketers and business owners, as Google has consistently stated that it prioritizes content that is helpful, informative, and valuable to users over simple keyword stuffing to boost search rankings. As such, marketers must continue to focus and prioritize creating relevant content that addresses the needs of their target audience and provides a unique perspective.
It’s no longer enough to regurgitate existing content, thin or low-quality content, and write content just with search engines in mind. Nor will it help you win in the ever-increasing competition in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Defining a good user experience
Another important aspect that Google has highlighted in recent core updates is user experience. That means SEO professionals need to ensure their website is optimized for fast loading times, easy navigation, and mobile-friendliness. Visual stability, removal of intrusive interstitials, and other page experience cues also play a role here.
Google positively rewards websites that provide the best user experience. In turn, marketers should invest in improving their website’s usability to increase their chances of ranking higher in search results.
Understand the extra “e” in EEAT
Content quality and user experience aren’t the only important areas Google is emphasizing, EEAT is also gaining importance. More than a catchy acronym, this refers to the level of experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness possessed by a website and its content.
Ultimately, Google wants to ensure that it is providing users with reliable information from credible and trustworthy sources. To achieve this, marketers can focus on establishing themselves as thought leaders in their respective industries. This can be accomplished by creating original and well-researched content, getting backlinks from reputable sources, and building a strong online reputation.
Helpful content update
The first Helpful Content update (now classified as a Helpful Content System) was released on August 25, 2022, and addresses many of the same concerns that Google has explicitly addressed in its guidance for years: Avoid creating unhelpful content and focus on quality content instead of content. Sounds easy enough, right? Marketers and SEOs are aware of the fact that duplicate content, content farms, missing original content and spam websites continue to exist.
This update makes it clear that websites that don’t comply with Google’s content guidelines can experience negative ranking changes. If the content isn’t helpful or doesn’t match the user’s intent, Google will make it clear that that content will no longer be tolerated or rewarded.
The second Helpful Content update was released on December 5, 2022 and continued to refine the way Google detects unhelpful content. We may see updates to helpful content and further clarifications from Google regarding AI content generation in the future as it becomes more popular.
Some of the factors Google considers when rating helpfulness
- Let’s stay on topic
- Demonstrate first-hand experience
- Providing sufficient answers to searchers’ questions
- Make sure your content is responsive to user requests
- Understand user and search intent
- Avoid combining multiple topics on one site to allow for keyword stuffing
- Ensuring a good reading experience
- Follow Google’s guidelines for other important updates
- Avoid unnatural links in your content
You are on the wrong track if…
Now that you know exactly how to tell if you’re on the right track about Google’s helpful content update, here are a few reasons you might be on the wrong track:
- Excessive use of keywords: If you stuff your content with keywords to rank higher in search results, you’re not providing much value. In Google’s helpful content update, quality content becomes more important than keyword density.
- Ignoring User Experience: If your website is difficult to navigate, slow, or not mobile-friendly, you are not providing a positive user experience. To get more insight into how your website is performing, you can gain more insight into what’s possible in Google Search Console’s Page Experience Report. The Page Experience Report provides an in-depth summary of your website’s performance from a user experience perspective.
- Poor-quality content: If your content is poorly written, uninformative, or lacking in originality, it doesn’t meet Google’s standards for helpful content.
- Lack of EEAT: If your site or content lacks experience, expertise, authority, or trustworthiness, you don’t meet Google’s standards for quality content. Google prioritizes sites and content that come from credible sources and have a high level of expertise in their respective fields.
- You focus on word count: If you’re writing content to hit any number of words you think Google wants you to see, chances are your focus is on achieving a goal rather than creating meaningful content . Quality content doesn’t necessarily mean longer content.
Link spam updates
Google’s link spam updates are simple; They aim to combat the use of manipulative link building practices to improve a website’s search rankings. These spam link building techniques include buying links, using link farms or networks, and engaging in excessive link exchanges. The updates aim to ensure that website rankings are based on the quality of content and user experience, and not the quantity or quality of backlinks pointing to the website.
One of the main goals of the Multi-Link Spam updates is to improve the user experience by promoting quality content and reducing the visibility of low-quality spam websites. By reducing the impact of manipulative link building practices, Google aims to create a level playing field in which websites can compete based on the quality of their content and user experience.
Unnatural links can confuse the reader and lead to a negative experience. Remember that 96% of dissatisfied customers don’t complain, but 91% of them just leave and never come back.
The link spam updates also aim to promote fairness and transparency in the SEO industry by penalizing those who engage in manipulative link building practices. This can help prevent the spread of spam and low-quality content, which can tarnish the reputation of legitimate websites and undermine their credibility. By promoting healthy link building practices and reducing the impact of manipulative link building practices, Google aims to create a better search experience for everyone.
Put everything together
These top Google algorithm updates have predicted the future. Notwithstanding the numerous algorithm updates, the end goal is simple; The search giant aims to please its end user. If you don’t provide your users with a positive experience, you won’t win with those search updates.
Remember that search rankings are not linear. You may notice a drop in search traffic during one of these refreshes, even if your SEO is top-notch. Rankings can fluctuate with each of these updates, only to return to a normal baseline a few weeks later.
What you can do is focus on quality, avoid outdated techniques, and develop a strategy that aligns with the direction Google’s algorithm updates are taking. You will reap the rewards.