Several times a year, Google updates the way they rank the webpages on their search engine. You probably don’t notice these changes unless you’re an expert in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
Core updates are released several times a year, interspaced with minor updates to specific areas, such as spam identification.
Core updates are the most likely to result in a noticeable change in webpage order, as their main focus is to improve the way that Google assesses content. This can promote previously under-performing, quality content, to the heady heights of page 1.
How does Google decide the top-ranking web pages?
Google keeps their cards close to their chest, but we do know that over 200 algorithms scrutinise content and rank web pages according to varying factors.
Algorithms are designed to reward good, quality content and protect users from unsafe or unhelpful content.
The criteria can also change depending on your search query. For example, the age of the content is more important for a news story than for a baking recipe.
Google has been developing and improving their algorithms for over 24 years. Let’s look into the latest updates last year that changed the way you see information online.
‘Helpful content’ update: August 2022
Google has shifted to a ‘people-first’ approach. Their primary focus is to deliver the best user experience. They’re promoting sites which score well on reader satisfaction, compared to those who fail to meet certain standards.
So what does that mean for us?
This is a really positive update for Google users. The top results will provide helpful, well-written web pages, containing top quality content.
In a little more detail, here is what Google is looking for in their top results:
- First-hand expertise and credibility
- In-depth knowledge on the subject
- Unique content with a coherent focus
- Highly detailed, comprehensive content
- Top user satisfaction
Notice the trend? Top web pages must be written well.
Gone are the days where a website must simply be filled with SEO keywords and links to reach the top spot.
Removing traffic-generating content
Google’s ‘people-first’ approach condemns traffic-driving webpages. These webpages’ sole purpose is to entice as many clicks as possible. These irrelevant, vague, and dishonest pages will be condemned to the murky depths of page 100.
As a Google user, this is great news. Trash content designed to lure viewers with false promises and misleading titles will no longer be given the top viewing priority. Clickbait is a thing of the past. In theory.
Sep 2022- Product Reviews Update
As an online shopper, I’m encouraged to see this update last year. Fake or sketchy reviews are a big concern, so Google’s update about product reviews is certainly reassuring.
Google’s algorithms look for product reviews which demonstrate valid and first-hand experience of the products. It protects online shoppers by looking for photographs, product scores, pros and cons, as well as a detailed analysis and links to genuine retailers.
Although a minor update, it’s encouraging to see that the reviews we see online are vetted and deemed genuine.
Filter the Spam- October 2022
Google constantly fights spam websites with their AI superhero, ‘SpamBrain’.
SpamBrain has been Google’s guardian for the last 4 years, and is a powerful defence against unhelpful, malicious or inaccurate information.
Sites that don’t follow guidelines and violate spam policies rank lower in the results, or even not at all.
SpamBrain is constantly updating to recognise new types of spam, and shift through billions of webpages to sniff out the rubbish.
As a user, we might not even notice SpamBrain working their magic behind the scenes. But it’s comforting to know that users are protected against sneaky redirects, misleading titles, and scams.
As previously mentioned, Google’s ‘people-first’ policy is targeting worthless content generated purely for SEO purposes.
For example, low-quality webpages stuffed unnaturally with keywords (in a futile attempt to rank higher) are punished with a low ranking. Autogenerated content or cramming keywords unnaturally into lists is recognised by SpamBrain and demoted.
For users, this means that the content that is written to actually… well, be useful- is the content that is the top of the pile.
As one of the top 5 factors that determine ranking, links are very important (and helpful!). When researching a topic, I often find links extremely helpful when searching the internet.
However, links can also be abused. In steps our old friend, SpamBrain. It’s clearly very multitalented.
SpamBrain identifies when links are used to purely push up the rankings, rather than be helpful to the reader. For example, excessive link exchanges are banned (‘I’ll link to you if you link to me’), as well as buying links for ranking purposes.
This clears the way for genuine websites with credibility.
“Desktop page experience” update: March 2022
An update earlier last year in March improves the experience of desktop Google users, targeting intrusive ads and slow webpages.
I don’t know about you, but I find it very frustrating when I click on a link, only for an ad to pop up at the wrong moment and then suddenly, I’m on another website. Grr!
Google’s March update demotes websites with unstable layouts, which can result in a frustrating user experience.
It also analyses the speed metrics of the website, lowering sites with slow graphics and laggy links.
Generally speaking, a quality website will be well-built, so won’t suffer from any of these issues. However, this update will help reduce the number of frustrating-to-use websites which reach the top results.
It’s all about you
So to conclude, last year we’ve seen two core updates from Google, as well as the usual minor updates to the user experience and spam filters.
As AI technology advances, the information that we see online is more relevant, reliable, and most importantly, designed to be useful to you.
Thank you to our friend, SpamBrain, for protecting us against the sea of spam sites, and to the algorithms that stop me accidentally mis-clicking on an ad again.