When Google changes its algorithm and makes changes to its platform, you need to pay attention.
You must be able to adapt your SEO strategy accordingly to stay relevant. Most Google updates won’t drastically change your site traffic or search position. But others have a considerable impact.
So far in 2022, we’ve seen a mix of both scenarios. Google has rolled out two core algorithm updates, along with minor platform changes along the way.
Continue below to find out what these changes mean for you and your business. You’ll be able to identify if a change had an impact on your site traffic or SERPs and how to adjust if you’ve been affected.
September 2022 Core Algorithm Update
The September 2022 core algorithm update was announced via Twitter on September 12th.
This notice is just days after Google’s helpful content update finished on September 9th (which I’ll cover in greater detail shortly).
Like most core algorithm updates, we’re expecting the changes to affect content-heavy websites and search engine marketers. It means that multiple parts of the Google search algorithm are changing. While Google always makes tweaks and adjustments, the core algorithm updates are usually big enough that sites may notice traffic fluctuations.
While it’s still too early to know how these algorithm changes will affect your business, you need to stay vigilant and monitor your traffic carefully. There’s a chance that the algorithm change could amplify the importance of the helpful content update—although that’s mostly speculation amongst the SEO community.
Helpful Content Update
As mentioned above, the helpful content update was officially completed on September 9th after its initial release on August 25th.
Google wants to make sure that publishers are writing content for human consumption as opposed to bots. The idea here is that websites with helpful content geared toward humans will be prioritized above the ones written for search engines.
In short, low-quality content that is unauthentic probably won’t rank well.
Google shared a list of questions that you can ask yourself to help determine if you’re publishing people-first content:
- Does your website have an intended audience that would find the information useful?
- Does the content demonstrate first-hand expertise and depth of knowledge?
- Is there a primary purpose or focus of your site?
- Will reading your content make someone feel as though they’ve learned enough about a topic to achieve their goal?
- Will your readers be satisfied when they finish reading your content?
- Are you applying Google’s core updates guidance and product review guidance?
Using automation to produce content or just re-purposing other articles isn’t really helpful to anyone. Adding fluff to hit a pre-designated word count won’t help you too much either.
New Structured Data For Product Reviews
If your website contains product reviews with a list of pros and cons, this is important for you. That’s because Google might decide to highlight some of those pros and cons in the SERPs.
You can use Google’s pros and cons structured data to identify the pros and cons in your reviews. If you don’t do this, then Google may try to find pros and cons by scanning the page—but it may not pick up the right information.
After adding this structured data to your site, you can use this Rich Results Test tool to see if it’s working correctly and is valid for searches.
Video Indexing Report in Google Search Console
Google Search Console launched a new report in July 2022 for video indexing.
If you have videos on your site, you can find the report on the left side of your dashboard. If you’re not seeing this report Search Console, it means that Google has not detected any videos on your site.
The report helps you answer these questions about your videos:
- How many pages have a video?
- Which videos were successfully indexed?
- What are the problems that prevented videos from being indexed?
If a video hasn’t been successfully indexed, you need to address the problem, so your videos have a chance of being featured in search results.
Reasons why your video might not be indexed include:
- No thumbnail
- Invalid video URL
- Unknown video format
- Video too large
- Video too small
- Thumbnail could not be reached
This report should make it easier for you to understand how your videos are performing on search and how you can fix any problems.
Updated Item Classification in Reports
In June, Google announced its plans to simplify the way pages, items, and issues get classified in reports. The idea here is to help you get the most out of Search Console—making it easier to identify critical issues and address them first.
This rollout is taking place over several months and is yet to be completed as of the time of this writing.
The idea for these changes came when users complained about the confusing status of items in reports. For example, certain items had a “warning” label, but it was unclear what the warning meant.
Google responded by grouping reports into two categories—pages and items. Everything now will be categorized as either “valid” or “invalid.”
For invalid items, Google will have an explanation for what the problem is. Here’s an example that shows the old report vs. the new report:
To be clear, this update does not have anything to do with Google’s algorithm or the way pages are crawled and indexed.
It’s simply designed to improve your experience reading reports in Search Console.
May 2022 Core Update
The May 2022 core update was officially completed on June 9, 2022. This is arguably the most significant Google update of the year.
So if you’ve noticed some changes to how your site is performing in recent months, it could be related to this broad core update.
Similar to what we discussed with the September update and helpful content updates, Google is prioritizing content—and high-quality content.
Google published a list of questions across different categories to help you make sure you’re writing content for the right reasons. We’ll summarize them in greater detail below:
Content and Quality
- Are you publishing original information or research?
- Is there a comprehensive description of the subject?
- Is there insightful information that goes beyond obvious statements?
- Are you adding value and originality when referring to other sources?
- Do headlines and titles provide a descriptive summary?
- Are you avoiding headlines that are shocking or exaggerated?
- Would you bookmark this page or recommend it to a friend?
- Do you think the content would be referenced in a magazine or book?
- Is the content trustworthy?
- Does it show the expertise of the author that’s clear?
- Are there links to the author’s bio or About page?
- Does the site give an impression of a well-trusted and widely-recognized source on the subject?
- Has an expert written the article?
- Can you verify factual errors?
- Would you trust the content’s suggestions with your money or life?
Presentation and Production
- Are there spelling errors or style issues within the content?
- Is the content well produced?
- Does the content look sloppy or put together haphazardly?
- Is the content mass-produced and outsourced to a large number of content creators?
- Are there excessive ads that distract from the main content?
- Is it displayed well on mobile devices?
- Does your content provide real value when you compare it to other pages in the SERPs?
- Does the content genuinely serve visitors?
- Or is the content solely produced in an attempt to please search engines?
To truly answer these questions, you may want to have someone unaffiliated with your website provide an honest evaluation. If you notice pages that lost traffic after the update, compare them against these questions to see if you can identify the reason.
More Context Added to Structured Data Reports
In March, Google rolled out reporting updates in Search Console. The purpose here is to help you identify issues with structured data by adding more context to the error reports.
For example, let’s say your website doesn’t have the author’s name in the review snippet schematic markup.
Prior to the update, the error simply said that a “name” field was missing. But now the update adds more detailed context, saying the “name” is missing from the “author” field.
Here’s an example that shows the difference between the two reports:
This update does not impact how Google detects errors. It just adds more context to the reports—helping you solve the problem faster.
Google Search Console and Inspection API Update
Google launched a new URL inspection API update to Search Console earlier this year.
This makes it easier to access data using external apps that are outside of the Search Console. Developers can use these APIs to create custom solutions to run advanced queries or remove sitemaps. It can also be used for debugging and optimizing pages.
The average website owner won’t be leveraging this update. It’s designed for in-house developers, SEO agencies, and developers that build plugins or work in CMS platforms.
Google has imposed some usage limits to the API of 2,000 queries per day and 600 queries per minute.
In my 25+ years working in digital marketing, I’ve seen my fair share of Google updates.
As always, some are going to be more impactful than others. But it’s always in your best interest to keep a close eye on these changes and how they’ll affect your business.
If you have any questions about these updates or if you think an algorithm change has impacted you, reach out to our team for a consultation.