Google’s March 2023 Core Algorithm update has been a hot topic in the SEO world lately, and many organizations are wondering how it may affect their website traffic and keyword rankings. Google began rolling out this major update on March 22 and completed it on March 28, but it may take some time for its effects to be fully obvious.
Here is a closer look at everything you need to know about this important core algorithm update.
What Does A Core Algorithm Update Mean?
A few times each year, Google implements widespread changes to the signals and factors within the search algorithms it uses. Known as core updates, these continuous changes to their rankings systems help Google ensure it is providing searchers with results that are high in quality and relate strongly to their queries.
When a core algorithm update takes place, many sites will note changes in their traffic and rankings. In many cases, this will level out a few weeks or months after the update has been fully rolled out.
However, if the algorithm favors qualities their site possesses, some sites may end up in a much different position than they were before the update. Google may also start penalizing sites in the rankings for a quality that was not previously assessed, leaving some sites performing much worse as a result.
Google likens this to a list a person might make of their top 100 movies. If you revisit the list a few years later, you will almost certainly want to revise it to include movies that have been released in the meantime that you enjoyed.
You may also decide that some films you had placed lower in the list deserve a higher spot in retrospect or after repeated viewings. This is how Google’s search algorithm works, ensuring that the results it presents users are truly representative of the best matches to their queries that the internet has to offer at the time.
A Look Back At Notable Core Algorithm Updates & Their Impact On SERPs
The best practices in SEO are constantly changing, and they are guided largely by the algorithm updates that are implemented by Google. While some updates may be relatively minor, others can leave a lasting influence on how search engine optimization is conducted. Here is a look at some of the most notable core algorithm updates seen in recent years and how they impacted SEO in the long term.
The Panda update was the first Google algorithm update of the modern era, shaking up the SEO world back in 2011. It took decisive action against websites that were created for the sole purpose of ranking in search engines and earning ad or affiliate revenue, which was a popular approach at the time.
It sought to determine whether sites offered genuinely useful information about the search terms, and it focused on a series of on-page factors. Websites which had thin content and affiliate sites were hit particularly hard by Panda, and it quickly became clear that those who wanted to “game” the system with tactics such as keyword stuffing would be facing an uphill battle moving forward.
Just a year after Panda changed SEO dramatically, Penguin caused another shakeup by closely scrutinizing the links that websites receive from other sites. At the time, the quantity of backlinks had been a more important ranking factor than the quality of backlinks, and link “farming” was a common practice.
This update found ways to distinguish between genuine backlinks and those that had been purchased solely to trick search engines into ranking sites higher. The update saw Google assigning a negative value to websites that had artificial links, and it was incorporated into the main algorithm in 2016.
Websites that had a lot of artificial links were hit hard by this update, with many of them disappearing from search results entirely as the impact of their artificial links swung from being positive to negative. Its effects are still being felt today; sites can no longer benefit from paid and low-effort backlinks as Google favors relevant links from high-quality sources.
Google’s 2015 Mobile Update is often referred to as “Mobilegeddon” within SEO circles on account of the major search results changes it caused. More than half of search queries on Google were stemming from mobile devices at that point, so the search giant gave sites that were mobile-friendly an edge in the rankings.
These days, websites have little chance of success without ensuring they display and function flawlessly on mobile devices, and this has become a major ranking factor.
Medic was another significant core algorithm update that was implemented by Google in 2018. It hit medical sites particularly hard, although the update did not appear to target them specifically.
Google did not release much information about the update, but it appears that commercial sites got a boost from it. Some experts believe that the Medic update was largely about displaying results that better matched a searcher’s intent as it coincided with an update to Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines that instructed raters to start considering whether a page has a beneficial purpose.
One recent game-changing update was BERT, which Google touted as the “biggest change of the last five years” and warned would impact around 10% of searches. The name BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, Google’s neural network-based machine learning algorithm for natural language processing.
BERT is capable of determining the full context of a term by assessing the words that are placed before and after it. All the words in a particular sentence are used to determine the intent of a search rather than looking at terms one by one in the order in which they are entered. This resulted in significant improvements in interpreting searchers’ intent.
What Can We Most Likely Expect From The March 2023 Update?
It is still too early to confirm the effects of the March 2023 update, but we can make some educated guesses about it based on what was seen in previous updates.
It is widely expected that the new update will favor high-quality content that adheres to the EEAT approach (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness). Sites that provide an excellent user experience – with a quick page speed, excellent navigation and superior mobile experience – are likely to be favored.
Prepare Early 2023 Data Sets To Compare In The Latter Half Of 2023
Website owners and SEO companies will be monitoring their sites’ data closely to see how the algorithm update ultimately affects them. Now is a good time to prepare early 2023 data sets and have them ready to compare during the latter half of the year to identify changes and trends.
Closely Monitor Search Result Rankings & The Fluctuations
Closely monitoring a site’s rankings in Google for various keywords and tracking its fluctuations can help site owners determine where their site will end up once the new algorithm has fully settled.
It may also be helpful to perform a competitor analysis, with SEO tools or manually, to see how any competitors who outrank you are faring compared to your site. Whether they have higher-quality links, better keyword coverage, or higher-quality content, there may be some clues about what this core update was designed to address.
Continue Producing High-Quality Content
One way to stay ahead of core algorithm updates is by continuing to produce high-quality content. At a time when some sites are taking shortcuts and letting AI write their content, your site can stand out by providing a human touch and adhering to the features Google has identified as being signifiers of quality.
You can self-assess your content using Google’s guidelines. Some of the questions they suggest asking yourself include whether your site offers original reporting or information, if it provides a comprehensive view of the topic, and whether it offers value and originality.
If it is the type of page that you would be willing to recommend, bookmark or share with a friend or colleague, there is a good chance that Google will feel the same way about it. Clear sourcing and expertise on the part of the writer can help as well.
Maintain Consistent Technical SEO Optimizations
It is also important to maintain consistent technical SEO optimizations. This means using SEO-friendly site architecture, ensuring mobile-friendliness, and finding and fixing any broken pages on your site as soon as possible.
Your site should also be optimized for Core Web Vitals, which are metrics related to speed that are used by Google to assess the user experience. This involves Cumulative Layout Shift, First Input Delay and Largest Contentful Paint. Improving page speed is also important, and Google offers a PageSpeed Insights tool to help with this aspect of SEO.
Get In Touch With 321 Web Marketing To Take Advantage Of The Updated Algorithm
Google is constantly adjusting its algorithm to ensure it delivers users a superior experience. While this can be incredibly helpful to searchers, it can pose significant challenges to any business that operates a website.
Staying on top of the latest changes and adjusting your site and its content strategy to align with them is a major undertaking. At 321 Web Marketing, our SEO professionals are well-versed on how the latest update will impact your site and how to make sure it works in your favor.
We offer a range of national and local SEO services that are tailored to the objectives of your business, and conducted by experienced and knowledgeable professionals. To find out more about how our team of experts can help you improve your rankings, contact us today to schedule a consultation.