In the world of SEO, keeping up with Google’s latest tweaks is key to staying in the game. Recently, Google dropped two big updates—the Helpful Content Update and the October 2023 Core Update. Both have stirred the SEO pot a bit. Let’s examine what these updates are all about and what they mean for those in the SEO and content creation realm.
Helpful Content Update: Aug – Sep 2022 & Sep 2023
Google rolled out the Helpful Content Update on two separate occasions, emphasizing the importance of valuable, user-centric content in search rankings. The first rollout began on August 25, 2022, and concluded around September 9, 2022. The aim was to prioritize content that not only ranks well but also provides substantial value to the readers12.
Fast forward to September 2023, Google launched a second iteration of the Helpful Content Update, which ran from September 14 to September 28. This update further honed the search engine’s ability to discern and prioritize genuinely helpful content over superficially optimized web pages34.
If your site experienced a traffic drop following this update, here are steps to align with the update and recover:
- Content Evaluation:
- Relevance: Ensure your content is relevant to the keywords it’s targeting and meets user intent.
- Value: Provide useful, informative, and original content that offers value to the reader.
- Depth: Create comprehensive content that covers the topic in-depth.
- User Engagement:
- Monitor user engagement metrics like bounce rate and time on page. Improving these metrics could indicate to Google that your content is valuable.
- Content Updates:
- Update outdated content to reflect the most current information.
- Internal Linking:
- Utilize internal linking to guide users to other relevant content on your site.
- Feedback Collection:
- Collect feedback from users to understand how you can improve the content.
October 2023 Core Update: Semantic Search Enhancement
On October 23, 2023, Google unveiled its third core update of the year, dubbed the “October 2023 Core Update.” The focal point of this update was on semantic search techniques. By refining how the algorithm understands user queries, Google aimed to improve rankings, user experience, targeting, and engagement, thus making the SEO landscape more challenging yet rewarding for professionals and content marketers56.
Should your site have lost traffic due to this update, the following steps can help in recovering and improving your site’s performance:
- Keyword Optimization:
- Long-tail Keywords: Target long-tail keywords that are more specific and closer to what users might be looking for.
- Semantic Variations: Use semantic variations of your target keywords to cater to a broader range of search queries.
- Content Structure:
- Structure your content in a way that helps Google understand the context and the topics covered.
- Entity Optimization:
- Ensure that entities (people, places, things) mentioned in your content are well-defined and contextually relevant.
- Schema Markup:
- Utilize schema markup to provide Google with more information about the content and structure of your page.
- User Experience:
- Mobile Optimization: Ensure your site is mobile-friendly.
- Page Load Speed: Work on improving the loading speed of your pages.
- E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness):
- Demonstrate expertise in your field, ensure content is authored by credible individuals, and build high-quality backlinks to enhance your site’s trustworthiness.
- Continuous Monitoring and Adjustment: Monitor the impact of the changes you make and be prepared to make further adjustments as necessary.
Tips for Navigating Google Updates While Keeping Your SEO Game Strong
1. Stick to the Basics:
- Quality Content: Keep pumping out useful, original, and engaging content. It’s the cornerstone of good SEO.
- Keywords: Do your keyword research and use relevant keywords naturally within your content.
- Meta Tags: Don’t overlook your meta titles and descriptions; they’re your first handshake with searchers.
2. Be User-Friendly:
- Mobile Optimization: Ensure your site looks good and functions well on mobile devices.
- Load Time: Speed matters. Work on reducing your site’s load time.
- Navigation: Keep your site’s navigation intuitive. It helps both users and search engines move around easily.
3. Build Trust:
- Backlinks: Work on earning quality backlinks from reputable sources. They’re like votes of confidence in your site.
- Secure and Accessible: A secure (HTTPS) and accessible website is SEO 101.
4. Stay Informed:
- Algorithm Updates: Stay updated on Google’s algorithm changes. Knowledge is power when it comes to SEO.
- SEO Communities: Join SEO forums and communities. They’re great for learning, sharing experiences, and staying updated.
5. Analyze and Adapt:
- SEO Tools: Use SEO tools to monitor your site’s performance and gather insights.
- Feedback Loop: Collect feedback from your audience and make necessary adjustments. It’s a loop of continuous improvement.
6. Technical SEO:
- Schema Markup: Implement schema markup to help search engines understand your content better.
- URL Structure: Keep your URLs simple, readable, and keyword-rich.
7. Local SEO (if applicable):
- Google My Business: Keep your Google My Business listing updated and gather positive reviews.
8. Prepare for the Long Haul:
- Patience and Persistence: SEO is a long-term game. Stay patient, keep learning, and persistently work on improving your site.
By sticking to these steps, not only will you weather the storms of Google updates, but you’ll also build a strong, user-friendly, and search-friendly site that stands the test of time.
Here’s a rundown of what not to do:
1. Keyword Stuffing:
- Overloading your content with keywords can make it unreadable and will harm your rankings.
2. Ignoring Mobile Optimization:
- With mobile searches dominating, ignoring mobile optimization can significantly hurt your site’s performance.
3. Using Outdated SEO Techniques:
- Old tricks like cloaking, link farms, or doorway pages will do more harm than good.
4. Ignoring User Experience:
- If your site is hard to navigate, slow, or not user-friendly, both users and search engines will not favor it.
5. Neglecting Content Quality:
- Publishing thin, duplicate, or low-quality content can negatively impact your rankings.
6. Buying Links:
- Purchasing links to improve your site’s ranking is against Google’s guidelines and can lead to penalties.
7. Ignoring Algorithm Updates:
- Not staying updated with the latest Google algorithm updates can catch you off guard.
8. Failing to Analyze and Adapt:
- Not reviewing your SEO strategy and making necessary adjustments based on data can lead to a continuous decline in performance.
9. Ignoring Technical SEO:
- Neglecting aspects like site speed, secure connections (HTTPS), and clear URL structures can hurt your SEO.
10. Not Having a Long-Term Strategy:
- SEO is not a one-time task; it requires a long-term strategy and continuous effort.
11. Ignoring Local SEO (if applicable):
- If you have a local business, ignoring local SEO and not optimizing your Google My Business listing can be detrimental.
12. Negative SEO:
- Engaging in negative SEO tactics like hacking competitor sites or building spammy links to them is unethical and can lead to severe penalties.
13. Ignoring Social Signals:
- While not a direct ranking factor, social signals can contribute to your online visibility. Ignoring them can be a missed opportunity.
14. Unnatural Anchor Text:
- Using unnatural or overly optimized anchor text in your internal or external links can look spammy to Google.
By steering clear of these pitfalls and focusing on ethical, user-centric SEO strategies, you’ll be in a much better position to improve your site’s visibility in search results and withstand the ever-changing nature of Google’s algorithm updates.
Circling Back Around
These updates show how Google is always tweaking the game to make search better, nudging SEO folks and content creators to focus more on helping the user. Rolling with these changes, sticking to SEO good practices, upping the content game, and making your site user-friendly are solid moves to keep up in the digital race.