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Google Search Algorithm: Mastering the Latest Game-Changing Updates

The Google search algorithm updates can make or break your website’s visibility overnight. In 2023 alone, these changes have reshaped the SEO landscape, leaving many behind. Staying ahead means understanding these updates – your website’s success depends on it.

Imagine a new website owner, full of ambition and dreams, launching a sleek, content-rich website. He’s invested time, effort, and resources into creating an engaging platform, expecting to attract a flood of visitors. But there’s a critical oversight: he’s not keeping up with the latest Google Search Algorithm updates.

As weeks pass, his website languishes in the dark corners of search engine results. The blog, brimming with insightful articles, gathers digital dust, unseen by the audience it deserves. His online business, which he hoped would thrive on organic traffic, struggles to gain traction. The lack of visibility leads to missed opportunities, dwindling customer engagement, and, ultimately, a decline in revenue.

The consequences to not keeping track of the ever changing Google Search Algorithm can be severe, wouldn’t you agree? Without adapting to these changes, even the most well-designed websites can fail to reach their intended audience, losing out to competitors who keep in lock step with changes from Google.

Here’s a useful list of algorithm updates, including links to the tweets or blog posts where you can find more information about each update.

October 2023 Spam Update

This update was designed to reduce the visible spam in search results, particularly when it comes to cloaking, hacked, auto-generated, and scraped spam.

December 2022 Link Spam Update

This update was designed to improve the detection of unnatural links and neutralize any credit passed by them. Sites with spammy links pointing to them as well as sites linking out to other sites in an unnatural way can be affected. This update affects all the languages.

December 2022 Helpful Content

The second helpful content update enhances the helpful content system introduced by Google in August. It expands to all languages, and can introduce new ranking signals or adjust existing ones.

October 2022 Link Spam Update

The update was designed to improve Google’s automated systems’ ability to detect spam and catch new types of spam.

google bot

September 2022 Product Review Update

Update to ensure people see product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products.

August 2022 Helpful Content Update

Massive update that heavily rewards people-first content.

The Helpful Content system is explained below in this article.

Google Search Algorithm: world with a magnifying glass on it

Google Search Algorithm: Google Helpful Content System

Among the latest and most significant updates to the Google Search Algorithm is the advent of Google’s Helpful Content System. This innovation employs a signal to prioritize helpful, original content in search results. The core idea? To guarantee that content is crafted by humans, for humans.

The system generates a site-wide signal that we consider among many other signals for ranking web pages.

Our systems automatically identify content that seems to have little value, low-added value or is otherwise not particularly helpful to those doing searches.

Google Helpful Content System

How does the Helpful Content System Work?

The helpful content system, which is part of the Google Search Algorithm, operates by rewarding content that people find valuable and satisfying. Content that fails to meet visitors’ expectations will not perform well.

If you believe your website could be affected by this update, you should take the following actions:

  • Remove unhelpful content from your site
  • Eliminate low quality content from your site
  • Remove content with low value, such as articles with fewer than 400 words for example

The signal is weighted, meaning that content considered unhelpful from a site that already contains a significant amount of unhelpful content will have a stronger negative impact.

Your content should be created for other people to read. Sure, you can optimize for search engines but the intention should be to help other people, not to rank highly in Google.

Read more from Google on how to create this type of content: Creating Helpful Content

Site Recovery Time After Removing Unhelpful Content

How soon will your site bounce back after removing unhelpful content? Well, it’s not an overnight process.

Typically, it can take several months to fully clear the site-wide signal of unhelpful content. The key is ensuring no new unhelpful content pops up. Once Google’s system, which updates periodically, recognizes the change, that unhelpful content signal should eventually lift from your site.

Google Search Algorithm: How Google Detects Spam

Google tries to detect spam content and links. If your site is found with this kind of content expect your site to be impacted.

Check out Google’s spam policy here: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/essentials/spam-policies

Some things you should not do if you don’t want to get penalized by Google:

  • Cloaking
    • Presenting different content to users and search engines with the intent to manipulate search rankings and mislead users
    • Examples: showing a page about travel destinations to search engines while showing a page about discount drugs to users, inserting text or keywords into a page only when the user agent that is requesting the page is a search engine
  • Doorways
    • Sites or pages created to rank for specific, similar search queries that lead users to intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination
    • Examples: multiple websites with slight variations to the URL and home page, multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page, pages generated to funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of a site(s), substantially similar pages that are closer to search results than a clearly defined, browseable hierarchy
  • Hacked content
    • Any content placed on a site without permission, due to vulnerabilities in a site’s security
    • Examples: code injection, page injection, content injection, redirects
  • Hidden text and links
    • Placing content on a page in a way solely to manipulate search engines and not to be easily viewable by human visitors
    • Examples: using white text on a white background, hiding text behind an image, using CSS to position text off-screen, setting the font size or opacity to 0, hiding a link by only linking one small character
  • Sneaky redirects
    • Redirecting users to a different page than the one they intended to visit
    • Examples: redirecting users to a page with a different language or country, redirecting users to a page with malware
  • Spamming
    • Using techniques or tactics that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to try to improve a site’s ranking in Google Search results
    • Examples: keyword stuffing, link schemes, cloaking, scraping content from other websites and republishing it, creating pages with little
  • Thin affiliate pages: pages with copied product descriptions and reviews from original merchants without added value
  • User-generated spam: spammy content added to a site by users through channels intended for user content
    • Spammy accounts on hosting services
    • Spammy posts on forum threads
    • Comment spam on blogs
    • Spammy files uploaded to file hosting platforms

Other reasons for demotion or removal from Google’s index are:

  • Legal removals: High volume of valid copyright removal requests can result in demotion of other content from the site in search results
  • Personal information removals: High volume of personal information removals involving a site with exploitative removal practices can result in demotion of other content from the site in search results
  • Policy circumvention: Actions intended to bypass spam or content policies for Google Search can result in restriction or removal of eligibility for search features
  • Scam and fraud: Automated systems seek to identify pages with scammy or fraudulent content and prevent them from showing up in search results

Google Search Algorithm: Final Thoughts

Updates to the Google search algorithm can have massive consequences for your website, upto and including a complete loss of organic search traffic. I know this firsthand. Staying informed of changes and updates will keep search traffic coming to your website or blog.

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