Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is an aspect of digital marketing that probably sparks more debate, discussion, and disagreements than any other. Given that the search engines do not publish the exact means by which they calculate rankings, it means SEO experts, agencies, and others trying to improve their rankings have to rely on not so much guesswork but more an evidence-based approach.
What we mean by that is the improvement of a website’s rankings takes the form of a series of individual optimisations, with each one monitored to determine if their implementation has had a positive or negative impact on rankings.
What complicates matters further is that Google, which is by far the dominant and most influential search engine, will regularly alter its ranking algorithms and create updates that can impact SEO to an extent ranging from minor adjustments being required to wholesale, whereby the entire rankings landscape changes. When the latter occurs, it has not been unusual to see entire websites and/or online businesses disappear from search results.
Thankfully, Google’s updates more recently, whilst important, have not ripped up the SEO ‘manual’ completely. Nevertheless, they still require those who rely on SEO for online traffic to take heed and make the necessary changes to protect or enhance their rankings. As for what the most recent Google updates have been, here are the most important of them.
Core Algorithm Updates 2023
Google’s algorithm is effectively how they evaluate and then rank not only websites but every page that every website online has. The fact that it does so almost instantly each time a search is entered has to be admired.
The first core algorithm updated in 2023 was not so much anything new that Google introduced but more a strengthening of its desire to see high-quality content being made available to its users any time they click on a search result. As such, this update again saw websites deemed to have low-quality content penalised with a lower ranking and websites with high-quality content given a higher value in terms of rankings.
Google did admit that this update led to some dramatic rankings fluctuations, which caught out many marketers. However, this soon settled down. The result was that high-value pages with excellent content soon saw the benefit of better ranking positions. So, if you wish your website to benefit from this update by Google, the simple message is to ensure that any and all content you publish on that website is optimised for quality.
The second core update from Google in 2023 relates to online product reviews. These product reviews can appear in many forms, such as blog posts, articles, or entire pages that review one or more products. They can be created as lists ranking similar products, side-by-side comparisons, buyer’s guides, or single product reviews with a comprehensive insight into each one.
Whilst Google is not against product reviews, it does want them to be of value to those who read them in much the same way they want all other content to be high-quality. In this case, Google seeks to reward those product reviews which are genuine, provide balanced opinions, and show proper pros and cons of the product, with higher rankings. Conversely, poorly written and clearly biased reviews, which are obvious promotions disguised as reviews, are likely to be penalised.
If you rely on product reviews, either for your own products or as an affiliate for someone else’s products, you must take account of this latest Google update. By all means, recommend products, but do so in a way that shows clearly that you have a genuine knowledge of the products you are reviewing. Within those reviews, provide information that those reading can use to help them make a buying decision. Other ways to improve your product reviews include:
- Review Product From A User’s Perspective: Instead of reviewing as an expert ‘third person’, put yourself in the shoes of those who will be using the products and write from that perspective.
- Show Expertise: Demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about the products or enlist the help of someone who is, to help you write the review.
- Include Supporting Evidence: To back up what you are saying in the review, provide supporting evidence, such as industry reports. You should also use videos to show the product being used.
- Highlight New, Enhanced, Or Unique Features: Make the products stand out by focusing on those features which are likely to be the most appealing.
- Make Comparisons: Where there are other alternative products, include these in product reviews so that readers have an opportunity to compare them.
- Mention The Negatives As Well As The Positives: Product reviews that highlight only positives are likely to be deemed biased by both the reader and Google. Therefore, you should include some drawbacks to the product.
Increased Focus On Authority
In its quest for improved user experience for its users, in 2023, Google is placing even greater emphasis on authority to the extent that it is now a key ranking metric. Authority can be measured in several ways by Google, which includes content quality, the number of backlinks a website receives, the authority of the websites those backlinks come from, and the level of engagement with both the website and its social media pages.
Featured snippets are a relatively new element of Google’s search results, and you will see them appear near the top when you enter a search. They are a series of boxes that provide a descriptive piece of text rather than simply the page title. Those searching often click on a featured snippet because it appears to give them a more detailed answer to their search query. Here are four ways you can rank for featured snippets:
- Provide a 40 to 60-word text that answers a specific question
- Create a table such as a price list or list of data
- Optimise the page for specific long-tail keywords
- Use all three of the above to appear for multiple featured snippets