Every year, Google releases numerous updates in an effort to better search results and improve users’ experiences on the Internet. The updates’ impacts vary; the changes range from minor to significant.

September 2022 brought a wide range of algorithm updates, and many online communities speculated about the extent to which these affected visibility in the search results.

We are covering the most recent Google algorithm updates, as well as the most effective updates from the past. We also highlight some tips you can use to brace your site for future updates.

Helpful Content Update

The Helpful Content Update that finished rolling out in early September 2022 zeroed in on websites that write content primarily for search engines and not users. Users seek out web content to educate themselves, and to provide maximum value, sites need to tailor content to them.

Keep in mind that this update was created to focus on sitewide content efforts, so it’s essential to optimize (or deoptimize) or remove irrelevant, thin, or unhelpful content to push toward improved rankings. As such, it’s important not to delete this content, especially if you think you may want to revisit it and improve upon it later.

September Core Update

Core updates started in 2017, and they will only continue to roll out. Generally, core updates are known to be bigger updates that would result in ranking shifts. This September’s core update seems to be no different. It finished rolling out in late September, and it seems that it’s still a little early to pinpoint the effects from this update.

Regardless, we recommend reviewing data to devise a plan for regaining rankings. Additionally, check up on your competitors in the search results. If it seems that these other sites also experienced ranking fluctuations, then you may not have done anything to affect your rankings — you may simply have to adapt to the new search results.

September Product Review Update

Although commonly mistaken for a core update, the Product Review update should not be considered as such. It stands alone, or in other words, is separate from other updates. Like the September Core Update, this update finished rolling out in late September. Its main goal is to promote review content that thoroughly delves into product information such as specifications, features, and real customer experiences. Users can take away a ton of valuable information from well-written reviews, so Google will reward these accordingly. 

If your site showcases product reviews, it’ll be essential to continue staying vigilant and watching out for any additional information surrounding this update.

A person’s arm holding up a lightbulb

Past Google Algorithm Updates That Changed Search

In addition to the latest Google algorithm updates, we wanted to provide insight into algorithm updates from previous years. By educating yourself and your organization on past updates, you can better understand how to optimize your website going forward.

BERT

BERT, which stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations for Transformers, was an algorithm introduced in 2018 to better interpret and understand context in content and search queries. In fact, this update seemed to be created in part to get one step closer to how humans process information and language. In this way, Search appeared to be returning to its roots: providing the most applicable answers to people’s curiosity.

Because of BERT’s emphasis on more conversational or natural language, businesses can benefit and take advantage of this incredible technology. This means creating compelling, useful, and unique copy that can rise to the top, ahead of competitors who aren’t as in tune with Google algorithm updates.

Hummingbird

Google’s Hummingbird update came to the scene in 2013. Thanks to natural language processing that stemmed from this update, sites obtained the ability to rank for queries not mentioned within their content.

Today, it’s important to consider monitoring other features on the SERPs, such as the People Also Ask and Related Searches boxes. These sections can provide great insight into how users are searching, and by inserting these ideas into your copy, you can serve more relevant content to your audience. Plus, voice search is now more popular than ever before, so it’s critical to think about how voice assistants like Alexa and Siri can retrieve pertinent information from your website and share it with others.

Local

In late 2021, Google introduced their Local Search update to adjust factors that determined how the search engine produced local results. The update encouraged organizations — particularly brick-and-mortar businesses — to really think about how they could optimize their sites for local search.

Local search is still a large component businesses need to prioritize in their marketing efforts, and there are numerous tactics you can use to bolster your local SEO.

Medic

Despite its specific name, Google’s Medic update didn’t solely target medical sites. Barry Schwartz coined the name, and the Medic update signified a push for credible content that demonstrates expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness on topics such as education, finance, health, and law.

Truly, this update taught us all a valuable lesson: when creating your site’s content, you must take extra care as you plan. Whether you plan to retrieve your information from other sites, your team, or even your own personal knowledge, you will need to spend time compiling accurate research. Otherwise, you run the risk of providing users with false information that could jeopardize their livelihoods and your reputation.

Mobile

Google released their Mobile update to urge websites to provide exceptional experiences to users through mobile versions of their web pages. As we know today, mobile usability is a large consideration for Google when ranking sites. Thus, it’s crucial to monitor site speed and users’ interactions with different elements across pages.

Panda

Released in 2011, the Panda update reinforced reducing sites with duplicate and thin content in the search results. At that time, dozens of “content farms” were churning out spammy content. As a result, Panda caused sites to pay attention to black hat SEO strategies such as keyword stuffing and over-optimized content.

Panda certainly showed us that more doesn’t always mean better. As long as your content is conveying a clear message on a subject in which you have topical authority, and you offer a wide range of content pieces that are different from each other, you’re heading in the right direction.

Penguin

Google Penguin rolled out one year after Panda, and this update primarily focused on links as well as link anchor text. Essentially, its main goal was to crack down on unnatural links; often, sites will utilize shady link building practices to develop a more authoritative profile on the Internet. However, because the links aren’t earned organically, the site will appear untrustworthy to Google.

After Penguin’s arrival, organizations needed to heavily consider their link profiles. And even now, digital marketing companies commonly recommend backlink audits to identify unusual activity that could be influencing how Google perceives their clients’ websites.

RankBrain

RankBrain arrived in 2015. This update was a system to understand intent behind queries, using AI to sift through resources like related words and search history to string ideas together and produce meaning. 

So, as you can imagine, RankBrain had a huge impact on curating search results for users, and the biggest takeaway from it was that sites needed to prioritize user experience when creating copy and designing web pages. Relevant content that stands out from its competitors will, in turn, stand out in the search results.

A smartphone screen showing the homepage that has the Google app icon on itWhat You Can Do To Prepare for Future Google Algorithm Updates

Because Google releases algorithm updates frequently — and, at times, unexpectedly — keep an eye out for information from Google, and regularly check search results for relevant queries to your website. You can also partner with our team to ensure your site is prepared to navigate current and future updates. From comprehensive keyword research to thoughtful content recommendations, we’re here to help your business grow and thrive.

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