As a marketer, the great mystery behind Google’s consistent algorithm updates can be both frustrating and intriguing at the same time. Google typically announces large algorithm updates in advance which, in turn, prompts discussion and speculation among SEOs and website owners. This can lead to misinformation, confusion, and false guidance.
It’s crucial to pinpoint how these updates impact your organic search visibility to ensure you maximize your website’s reach to its fullest potential.
While we can’t know what algorithm update will come next, we can revisit the abundance of previous updates to identify common patterns and predict how Google Search will continue to evolve.
Our friends at NP Digital recently helped us demystify how Google search algorithm updates work and why Google frequently updates its ranking systems during a live webinar. During the webinar, we explored the most recent impactful updates to take place over the past few years including the numerous product review updates, updates to its Helpful Content system, spam updates, and core updates.
In this post, we’ll share the top takeaways discussed during the webinar around each update. Read on to learn more.
The most recent core updates tie together similar themes, placing a heavy emphasis on content quality and relevance, user experience, E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness), as well as backlinks.
None of this likely comes as a surprise to marketers and business owners as Google has consistently expressed it prioritizes content that is helpful, informative, and valuable to users, rather than simple keyword stuffing in an attempt to improve search rankings. As such, marketers must continue to focus on and prioritize creating relevant content that addresses their target audience’s needs and offers a unique perspective.
Regurgitating existing content, thin or low-quality content, and writing content with only search engines in mind will no longer suffice. It also won’t help you win in the ever-growing competition that exists in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Defining a good user experience
Another critical aspect that Google has emphasized in recent core updates is user experience. This means SEO professionals need to ensure that their website is optimized for fast loading times, easy navigation, and mobile-friendliness. Visual stability, removal of intrusive interstitials, and other page experience signals also come into play here.
Google positively rewards websites that provide an optimal user experience, and, in turn, marketers are wise to invest in improving their website’s usability to increase their chances of ranking higher in search results.
Understanding the additional “e” in E-E-A-T
Content quality and user experience aren’t the only key buckets Google is placing an emphasis on, E-E-A-T is also gaining traction. This is more than a catchy acronym and refers to the level of experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness that a website and its content possess.
Ultimately, Google wants to ensure that it is providing users with reliable information from credible and trustworthy sources. To do so, marketers can focus on establishing themselves as thought leaders in their respective industries. This can be achieved through creating original and well-researched content, obtaining backlinks from reputable sources, and building a strong online reputation.
Helpful Content update
The first Helpful Content update (now classified as the Helpful Content system) was released on August 25, 2022, and addresses many of the same concerns Google has explicitly called out in its guidance for years: avoid creating unhelpful content and focus on high-quality content instead. Sounds simple enough right? Marketers and SEOs are well aware of the fact that duplicate content, content farms, lack of original content, and spammy sites continue to persist.
This update makes it clear that sites that disobey Google’s content guidance may experience negative shifts in rankings. If the content isn’t helpful or doesn’t match user intent, Google is making it clear it will no longer tolerate or reward this content.
The second Helpful Content Update was released on December 5, 2022, and it continued to refine how Google detects unhelpful content. We may see future Helpful Content updates and further clarification from Google pertaining to Ai content generation as it continues to grow in popularity.
Some of the factors that Google considers when evaluating helpfulness
Staying on topic
- Demonstrating first-hand experience
- Providing sufficient answers to searchers’ questions
- Ensuring your content matches user queries
- Understanding user and search intent
- Avoiding combining multiple topics into one site for the sake of keyword stuffing
- Ensuring a good reader experience
- Following Google’s guidelines for other major updates
- Avoiding unnatural links within your content
You’re on the wrong track if…
Now that you have a firm understanding of how to know if you’re on the right track regarding Google’s Helpful Content update, here are some reasons why you might be on the wrong track:
- Overuse of keywords: If you’re stuffing your content with keywords to rank higher in search results, you’re not providing much value. Google’s helpful content update values quality content over keyword density.
- Ignoring user experience: If your website is difficult to navigate, slow, or not optimized for mobile devices, you’re not providing a positive user experience. To get more insight into how your website is performing, you can gain more insight into opportunities in Google Search Console’s Page Experience Report. The Page Experience Report provides a robust summary of how your website is performing from a user experience perspective.
- Poor quality content: If your content is poorly written, uninformative, or lacks originality, it won’t meet Google’s standards for what it perceives to be helpful content.
- Lack of E-E-A-T: If your website or content lacks experience, expertise, authoritativeness, or trustworthiness, you’re not meeting Google’s standards for quality content. Google prioritizes websites and content that come from credible sources and demonstrate a high level of expertise in their respective fields.
- You’re focusing on word count: If you’re writing content for the sake of meeting an arbitrary number of words you believe Google wants to see, your focus is likely on meeting a goal rather than creating meaningful content. Quality content isn’t necessarily longer content.
Link spam updates
Google’s link spam updates are simple; they aim to combat the use of manipulative link-building practices to boost a website’s search rankings. These spammy link-building techniques include buying links, using link farms or networks, and participating in excessive link exchanges. The updates aim to ensure that website rankings are based on the quality of the content and user experience, rather than the quantity or quality of the backlinks pointing to the site.
One of the main goals of the multiple link spam updates is to improve the user experience by promoting high-quality content and reducing the visibility of spammy, low-quality websites. By reducing the influence of manipulative link-building practices, Google aims to promote a more level playing field where websites can compete based on the quality of their content and user experience.
Unnatural links can cause confusion for the reader which therefore leads to a negative experience. Keep in mind 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, however, 91% of those will simply 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 to prevent the spread of spam and low-quality content, which can harm the reputation of legitimate websites and undermine their credibility. By promoting healthy link-building practices and reducing the influence of manipulative link-building practices, Google aims to create a better search experience for everyone.
Tying it all together
The future has been foretold by these top Google algorithm updates. Regardless of the numerous algorithmic updates it makes its end goal is simple; the search giant aims to please its end user. If you’re not creating a positive experience for your users, you’re not going to win with these search updates.
Keep in mind search rankings aren’t linear. You may see a drop in search traffic during one of these updates even if your search engine optimization 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 create a strategy aligned with the direction Google algorithm updates are going. You’ll reap the rewards.