Understanding Google Core Updates In 2023
March’s Google Core Update was released halfway through the month, creating some large ripples for those eagerly monitoring for changes to the company’s all-important search algorithm. And while the rollout was completed on March 28, it will take weeks to analyze and work out the full effects of what has been adjusted and changed.
Based on recent chatter, the latest Core update has been impactful, with a broad realignment of keyword rankings and traffic dips across many of the biggest business niches. SEO experts say that now is an excellent time to start looking through your data to see how your website has been affected.
In this week’s episode, Dwight and Gary discuss the impact of Google Core Updates and what they mean for those planning their website growth strategy in 2023.
What Are Google Core Updates?
A Google Core Update is a significant update to the company’s search algorithm that affects many websites. These updates are designed to improve the quality and relevance of search results and significantly impact a website’s visibility and traffic. Google typically releases several core updates per year, and each update can have a different focus or objective. For example, some updates prioritize mobile-friendly websites, while others focus on improving search results’ accuracy for specific topics.
It is important to note that the impact of the March 2023 Google Core Update will vary depending on various factors, including the specific niche or industry that a website operates in and the quality and relevance of its content. Every core update provides new opportunities and a good time to take a step back and review your online presence and strategy. If you find yourself dealing with a dip in traffic, take the time to look through your own Google Analytics and Search Console information and try to spot an emerging pattern.
Is one set of pages doing better than another? Does your website need to catch up regarding quality content output or design? April 2023 will be the month to start reviewing your pages and see if there are any improvements you want to make before the next core update arrives. Want to learn more about Google and its SEO practices? Hiring an agency that can help build a winning strategy may be your right choice! For more information about our SEO services, social media maintenance, and development maintenance programs, contact PA online or call us at (248) 582-9210 to get started.
Read the full transcript from Episode 41: Google Core Updates & What Comes Next, below.
Oh, it’s such a happy sound. I think we’re in springtime now too. Ironically, just so happens it’s spring, and Google does its first big core update of the year. What does that mean to your business? If you’ve been following chatter online and if you’re wading all of your way through all of the ChatGPT and Bard and all these other aspects of AI generation of everything, that means Google does these updates, some large ones, on a regular basis. They announce them.
This is one of the big ones. It’s going to take a little time for it to play out. But today we wanted to talk about what this core update is and what’s going to be coming next and how to look at things and how to sort through it all. We were able to just get some time together from the busy person, Mr. Gary Jones, who manages the SEO department for us here. Gary, are you there? Are you snowed in?
I am. Yeah. Pleasure. Pleasure to be here. For once, not snowed in. No.
Well, pretty soon it’s all going to melt and be nice and sloppy and muddy for you, as it is going to be here in the land of Detroit. This March update has kind of been a shaker and I think I want to start off… We’re going to go into a little bit, what it’s about and what we’re seeing and what it means. But I think the important part for everybody here is, it was released on the 15th. Stay calm because it does take at least a good two weeks, as we’ve seen historically, for the rankings to shuffle and truffle around.
Meaning, I like to say water, sediment water, maybe like in a fish tank. It gets all muckied up and it takes a little time for all that sediment to fall through. Then you can actually see what the results are, so to speak. On my end I’m seeing a lot of doom and gloom. A lot of people are having a lot of changes over, but I think we’re going to walk a little bit through about different things, of how to view doom and gloom and what really to get realigned with your goals.
So Gary, why don’t you spit out some of the things I was listening to you talk about the other day?
Yeah. I think this has been kind of a brutal realignment for a lot of industries. It’s hard to say how many, to make a list of those industries that have been affected, but I think it’s a broad sense. I don’t think it’s really been-
Not industry specific, as has happened in the past.
Yeah. I think this is very broad. It’s very expansive. I think for me, from what I’ve seen, from the information I’m gathering from it, it’s an update that is looking to… I don’t know if it’s looking to keep people in their places, but I think this is going to be an update that really affects companies that focus in on a lot of different items. So, I think if you’re-
Define items. What are items? Parcels of land?
I think if you’re a company that offers lots of different services, say. So, if you’re a company that offers a lot of different items or if you… Say, a great example would be-
Yeah. I mean, this is an example, but say you’re a media outlet and you cover lots of different subjects. I think you’re going to see, just as an example, you may be up on your breaking news section, but be you might go down on your film or your movie review section because Google doesn’t want such broadness. It wants you to rank for a collection, like a cluster of keywords. These changes started, I think years ago. This latest update is just the next thing in line to streamlining that, if that makes sense.
I think a lot of people have seen some brutal realignments connected to their keywords, simply just being cut out of some keywords, but being boosted on others that are more core to their main business.
Okay. Well, I think there’s a number of ways to really view this in a lot of ways. As I started off in saying that I believe you need to just take a chill pill and that’s hard to do for some people. We have clients that were used to getting more sales or more lead generation. Some of that has dumped and dropped off. So, I think it’s important to know that, A, you’re not alone. Misery loves company or happiness loves applause.
But also to know that you need to have a strategy that’s ongoing. Everything is tactical beyond that point. Strategy really amasses to goals. What are my goals? What do I want to do? I have a website up because I want to rank number one and I want to get a ton of business because we sell the best product at the lowest prices and have the best customer service. Hence, that’s everybody out there.
I think you need to keep in mind data points that you want to be measuring. Look at analytics. Of course, you’ve already made that transition over to Google Analytics 4 because UA sunsets July 1st, as we’re told. I think it’s going to be held off a little bit too, but get used to GA4 and setting up your dashboard in there. So analytics, what is that telling you? Historically you can look over month over month, year over year and then over the past…
I like to go six to eight weeks, to look at some of the trends that are happening there. Then I like to overlap that in a third-party tool. Our agency prefer to work with Semrush. They collect a lot of data, as a good dataset for third party to have some comparisons with. They also track and annotate all the different updates that are happening. So, when you look at that data over your competitors in keywords that you are trying to rank for, it’s going to start to make a lot more sense to you.
So, you have that initial shock and awe reaction. Let’s say it’s positive for you, because I have talked to one or two people that they’ve had positive results from this, but positive means a number of different things. That’s subjective too. Is that just better ranking, more traffic that’s coming in?
I go deeper and say, “Are you getting conversions? Are you getting calls? Are you handling those calls or those sales? Are you meeting the desires of the outcome here to make it very positive for you financially, obviously?” That’s a whole entire business aspect that people need to wean and cull through. And then from there, I guess overlap that and look in Search Console. What is the health of the site? What has been the amount of impressions that you’ve been found for? What type of clicks are showing up? How’s those varied and changed?
You’re going to want to do this for a couple more weeks. So I would go that four, eight weeks in front of this update and then proceeding as many weeks as you can following it, to see where that’s shuffling and what’s making a difference there. Then that talks a little bit more about site health condition. So you have your overall code makeup of your site. What is that user experience that’s going on there? Mobile user experience, where are your users coming from? How do they interact with your site?
Are you playing into that, the speed of it, in which it’s being served to them? What am I missing, Gary? I keep talking here. You have ceased to interrupt me. Are you here?
I think this is like you were saying. I think it’s a really good time to assess or reassess where you are in terms of content quality, in terms of, like you’re saying, your user experience, your core user experience. We all know that Google’s really, really hot on how fast it takes a page to load. I think if you’re just a user yourself though, there’s just simple things that you need to make sure that you’re doing right and you’re doing in a quality way as well.
Things like if you’re a company and you’re appearing first on Google Search, but you don’t have that meta description under your link, is that going to affect people’s trust for that link? Because if everyone else has a meta description and you don’t, then you stand out. That’s not the way you want to be standing out. So, I think it’s a really good time to look at everything and like I say, reassess where you are and you’ll always be-
If that’s a flag to you as well, you have to sit there and think, oh, I’m actually getting some really good benefit to this. There’s a aspect here that’s blatantly missing. How much longer am I going to hold that position because this is a mark against me, with a missing meta description showing up in a serp.
Yeah. It’s a super simple thing to fix. It’s just an example. It’s a super simple fix, that you can have it done in a day. But it’s just little things like that, they add up. They might not be connected to your SEO strategy themselves, but they might just be things that maybe have flown under the radar for a little while.
This would be a great opportunity for you, like you were saying, to check all your data so that you know what’s going on, how you’re impacted in terms of GA4, Google Search Console. I mean, there is a lot of data to be swimming through as well. But say your impressions, they’re supposed to tell you how many times people are seeing your links and everything like that. I mean, that could be a really simple way over the next six to eight weeks, to see, have my impressions been affected badly by what’s happened in March with Google’s latest update?
Yeah. There’s a lot of facets that are going to play into that, things a lot of businesses don’t necessarily take in consideration.
Let’s use a metaphor. Let’s use a parallel. Let’s talk about accounting and business health. You have a bookkeeper or you have a trusted financial source that manages your payables and your receivables. All right? If you are doing any type of loans or any other type of financial management, you’re obviously going to be working with a trusted advisor, probably someone third party. You might have people inside your office that are helping with that, but you have a third party you’re hiring to look over those things.
Then, possibly on a yearly basis, you do some auditing and you do some reconciliation of how well those things are being handled and where you’re missing opportunities or tax advantages or where you could be changing the books around or where you could be billing different or where you could be adding charges here and there.
What is the financial health, and what are tactics to the overall strategy of making you more money? So, it’s a good time to probably think about doing an audit, even though you might have people internally that you trust. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re questioning their judgment or their capabilities or their knowledge base on doing so.
Maybe they need to work with a partner or they need to do some more training, to look a little bit deeper and again, point things out that, sometimes it’s hard to see the trees through the forest. Is that the saying? It’s something like that. But even as going into the aspect of, you might have lost some of the rankings of things that… some of the happiness you’ve been accustomed to, but maybe your crawl budget’s off. Maybe you don’t have a good page experience on mobile, where Google can see inside of the Search Console that you’re getting a lot more users that are coming in via mobile and they’re bouncing.
They have a different type of behavior on your site specifically. Maybe it’s time to get that considerations of that third party, that maybe it’s time to rebuild the site or modify it or clean it up and make it faster so that Google can index it better. Maybe you have a bunch of product pages that are continuously being indexed that are just very, very low margin. They don’t get enough orders. They don’t really add a bunch of apples to the barrel. You might want to trim and modify some of that and sculpt your indexing so that you can crawl some of the more happier pages or ones you’d like to be found a little bit more for.
That might tickle Google’s algorithm a different way to give you some positive outlook on things.
Sure. I mean, spring cleaning is something that apparently happens in this time of the year. I think it’s a good time to think about that for your website as well, because when you use a third-party tool and they’re calling your site and they’re seeing things like, basically you might’ve gone through the year and you’re picking up one or two errors, this page has a H1 tag when it shouldn’t or there’s a few images being uploaded without the alt text or the correct information.
It adds up and it adds up, and then one of these updates comes out. Maybe it’s a good time, if you have been impacted, to look at that information from an audit and see how many errors you’ve built up. Because it’s kind of inevitable that you will need to have a spring clean at some point for your site. Just rearrange the furniture and make sure it’s all pointing in the right direction and doing what it’s supposed to be doing.
Now Gary, well, a lot of people do have websites. That is a thing now, where a decade plus ago, 15, 20 years ago, it was kind of a luxury and a thing people wanted to have. A lot of people have a site. They’re wondering what they should do now. Do they jump right into ads? Obviously Google does this, public-facing. Alphabet will say, “We do this to ensure the integrity,” because as technology changes and new websites are added and new pages, millions upon billions of pages daily of new content is being added to Google Crawl. So, how do they sort through it all, and then how do you hold the test of time?
For someone that’s just a smaller business… maybe they’re doing a couple million dollars a year, that’s still a small business and they have a web presence but they got knocked off. So Google would probably suggest or a lot of agencies, we would suggest as well, digital marketing and looking to compensate with some type of paid ad campaign to start focusing on driving some more targeted customers or interest that comes from Google Search over to your site.
That also can happen inside of Meta, which is going to be Facebook and Instagram. You could even go further into other third parties as well.
Yeah. From my standpoint, I’m always going to be biased to, you’re going to want your best foot forward. I think spending on an ad budget makes sense, especially with Google because a lot of the time you’ll see that a lot of searches these days come with one or two, maybe three ads before the organic stuff pops up. But the thing is, you can never tell what’s going to happen next. You can never know what’s going to be the next step in Google strategy or things like how things will be redeveloped on a UI system or anything like that.
So, I think it’s always worth making sure that your website looks the best it can, is focused on the keywords that really matter and has quality content that is useful, because Google doesn’t provide a lot of feedback on all of its updates. But what it always says is, it wants your content to be useful and reliable. For me personally, I’m always going to say, make sure your website is useful and reliable. I think you can use all kinds of strategies as a band-aid, but you’re always going to want a core strength to your website.
So build content that your users actually want to read. If you’re, let’s say as an example, in the financial sector and it’s about commodities and changes that are happening with different currencies or weather with particular commodities, say like soybeans and buying futures and stuff on that. You’re going to want to probably read more detailed reports. There may not be a lot of volume for those things, but the type of user that you’re targeting, that’s going to be a better conversion because they’re really searching for that type of information. That might be a more higher ticket conversion item for you or someone that’s part of your newsletter, that you would be selling products to and whatnot.
So, you have to continuously put out the right produce for the season, for the time of year and the time of day that people want to come in and buy, that they’re looking for. Don’t make them dig for it. If you’re going to have a bunch of old fruit or old product on the shelves, obviously the people that are putting out the newer stuff, it’s going to have more attention. That is the way Google historically wants to show content to the world. They’re going to play for that.
We talked about digital marketing and advertising and buying placements. As Gary mentioned, you’re going to see in a lot of search results one, two, three. I’ve seen as many of four and then some on the bottom of the page, when it wasn’t limited with scrolling, that are encompassing organic results but then also the knowledge base.
So, you have questions that are being answered. You have map and local-based businesses. You might even have a shopping fee that’s inside of there with the merchant center. That’s a lot of decisions for people to make. Now turn that into a vertical screen as someone is scrolling along. What’s going to make yours stand out? So that title tag, that quick meta description that’s specific, that’s going to hook people on to stay over. Again, go back to your analytics. I think it’s time to do a deep dive. You can get deep into the ditches with it, but an overview on it’s going to probably be really big.
Look at where you’re getting in regards to organic, direct and then look at social referral email and so on and so forth. What type of engagement is that traffic doing on your site? Use a lot of your different sorters in there, like the channel group sorters. What are those referred to in analytics, Gary? I forget with GA4.
Yeah. You can use things like channel groups and stuff. Right?
That’s what I would use, is page titles and screen class.
Yes. I also encourage you to also look in Analytics at pages and screens and then landing pages and then also the types of devices. That’s going to give you a good idea of some different user personas or customers that are coming to the site and how each of them are interacting. I would imagine you’re going to see a lot of similarities, but some very distinctive differences on how each of those shop. Now you’re going to have to take that data and do something with it. But it should all be starting from the fact of, what am I publishing that is good and relevant and not over-optimized, that this type of customer base wants? That should help you win the race. So, continuous publishing of that really good, helpful content.
Something that Google points out as well is that different pages can be affected in different ways, say when you’re looking to review your own performance. They also talk about, look at the pages that are performing the best on your site. That can be, the engaged sessions are higher for that page, the bounce rate, things like that.
Yeah. I mean, it depends what metrics are most important to you. But it also says, look at pages. Are some of your pages doing better than others and if so, why? Basically try and replicate that. If you have a couple of different pages and some seem to be performing at a worse rate and there’s no reason for it, then you need to try and bring them all up to speed. But I think it’s interesting advice that they’re pointing out there, because obviously you would think that all your pages would run at a similar speed and everything in terms of quality. But it’s still worth checking to see, if one’s doing better than the other, how can you replicate that success for the rest of those pages as well?
Yeah, there’s going to be bias. It could be a team page and people are looking up at the CEO or they’re looking at the visually appealing office person, that is younger and has a lot of LinkedIn views and other things or is out there, very active and doing things.
It’s important to understand those sources that are inbound and why. If you’re looking to placate off of those, look at some type of a tactic to replicate that in a lot of different ways.
So again, it’s going to take a little time to figure out if you’re a winner or a loser in this scenario, but by all means, a lot of people are considering what’s going on. Another thing I would still advise to be aware of and look into a little bit more is AI generation of content.
You probably want to dip your fingers into that a little bit. We did a podcast a couple weeks ago in regards to that and kind of explained out the differences and how that’s being utilized in a number of different ways. You’re going to want to probably go back and listen to that a couple episodes ago, to get some better understanding on it.
We are participating in utilizing of that in a number of different ways, carefully and slowly, selectively. You don’t just want to be a college student, a freshman and just have the AI rewrite or write your entire 1,800-word story that you have to turn into your physics class about some type of a topic because there’s generators out there that are actually going to rate those to determine whether or not it’s AI, yes or no.
So, that’s not going to be the entire solution to publishing content, but I think it can be a helpful tool for you. I guess that it all in, be all too, if you’re at that point and you’re having more questions that are not being drawn into answers, then you may want to engage with an agency or a individual that’s out there, that can do an audit and point out a lot of these things to you and regurgitate it back to you with points that would be important for you to take in consideration, that are going to listen to the concerns that you do have, your wants and your needs and explain a little bit more back to you in a way that’s going to make sense, that are going to give you some actual items to jump into.