- 2022 witnessed nine confirmed updates (including two core upgrades), five unconfirmed instances of volatility in page rankings and one data outage that created chaos for 48 hours
- The May core update was a huge success for video and commerce sites, but not so much for news and reference sites, particularly those that aren’t industry-specific.
- This theme was largely maintained and saw ripple effects due to the helpful content update
- These ebbs & flows were what made the difference between who won and who lost. Let’s find the answer!
- Joe Dawson walks us through another roundup post, which gives you a complete overview of Google’s moves
There are only three things that are certain in life: death, taxes, as well as a general industry hubbub when Google releases an algorithm update. As with any year, 2022 saw significant changes in the way Google ranks pages and manages traffic. Some businesses won, while others lost.
The most important change in 2022 will be awareness of AI’s rise in content creation. This topic is becoming a hot topic within the marketing software industry. “Helpful content” updates are intended to improve content written by humans, with consumers in mind, rather than auto-generated articles that game the SEO system.
Is this a success or are we in for an era of increased automation in online marketing? Let’s look at the Google algorithm updates for 2022, similar to my column last year. I hope you find this helpful and that it helps you to make an informed decision.
Complete list of 2022 Google Updates
In 2022, nine updates were made to Google’s algorithm. Influential content marketers across the year noticed five more instances of volatility and shared their findings. One major data outage caused panic and short-term panic. Let’s look at each update individually.
1) Unconfirmed, suspected update (January)
The November 2021 core update was notoriously volatile. Just as web administrators were getting to grips with the new status quo in November 2021, more fluctuations were observed in January 2021. Google was not open to discussing whether any adjustments were made to the algorithm. However, sharp changes to SERPs were recognized across industries.
2) Unconfirmed, suspected update (February)
Webmasters again noticed a sudden shift in page rankings early February, right after January’s changes. These adjustments, though not confirmed by Google, may have been used to prepare for the page experience update later that month.
3) Page experience update (February).
Google released a page experience update in 2021 to improve mobile browsing. The same update was expanded to desktop browsing in February 2022.
Although the consequences were not catastrophic, a few sites that had previously ranked at the top of page 1’s SERPs experienced a drop in their rankings. The driving force behind the page experience update was performance compared to Google’s core web vitals.
4) Unconfirmed, suspected update (March)
Mid-March saw fluctuations in traffic and page rank. There was enough talk around the industry that Danny Sullivan (Public Liaison for Search at Google) felt compelled confirm that he and his colleagues had not been aware of any conscious updates.
5) Product reviews update (March).
March was the first of three product reviews updates that would take place throughout the year. We’ll soon discuss how ecommerce sites felt a real boost throughout 2022 following the core updates. This would be a significant adjustment.
This product review update had the primary purpose of promoting sites that offer more than a simple template review of consumer goods, especially when they link to affiliates to encourage purchases. This update outlines the best practices for product reviews:
- Additional specifications beyond what is in the manufacturer’s description. Includes pros and cons, and comparisons with previous versions of the same item.
- To support the authenticity of the review you will need to provide evidence of personal experience with the product, such as a video or audio recording.
- Multiple links to multiple merchants will increase consumer choice over the traditional model of linking directly to Amazon.
- Comparative analysis of rival products to show how the reviewed product compares with the competition, for good or bad.
Sites that did not follow these policies were not penalized or punished in the product review update. Instead, we listed a few items with short copies (and perhaps thin) to discuss their merits. Sites that provided more detailed information in their assessments quickly rose in the rankings.
6) Core update (May).
It is nerve-wracking to see the industry’s first core update of the calendar year. As always, there are winners and losers in May’s adjustments.
This update had the most remarkable outcome, particularly in the realms of ecommerce. It was a huge win for ecommerce agencies all over the globe. Due to the two-month-old product review update, sites like Amazon, eBay and Etsy saw significant increases in traffic and prominence after the update.
After the May update, video sites saw an increase in their viewers and better positioning. YouTube videos started to rank higher than text articles, while streaming services like Disney Plus and Hulu rose up to the top in many searches. After the May core update, health sites saw a steady and slow recovery. This was the first time since 2018’s Medic update.
The core update of May was devastating for news and reference sites. News and media outlets were the worst affected, particularly those that have a general focus such as the online arm for newspapers. Dictionary.com and Wikipedia were also dropped from the top of the list. Although specialist sites that focus on a particular area of interest saw some improvement, they still suffered from low visibility and traffic.
7) Unconfirmed, suspected update (June)
When a major core update is complete, minor nips and tricks often follow. Many webmasters began to compare notes about the dramatic changes in page rank and traffic late June. Google did not confirm any updates. These could have been delayed by aftershocks following May’s core update. However, the most significant adjustments were made to the following industries:
- Real estate and property
- Hobbies and leisure
- Animal care and pets
8) Unconfirmed, suspected update (July)
Late July saw more websites experience a drop in traffic, particularly blogs without a strong social media presence. This unconfirmed update saw the largest drop in traffic for smaller websites via SERPs.
9) Product reviews update (July).
An update to the March product review update was made and implemented in July. However, it had little effect – although some review sites saw their traffic drop, many were unaffected, especially when compared to the changes made at the beginning of the year.
10) Data center outage August
This is not an update, but it is a noteworthy event in the 2022 SEO calendar. Google Search suffered an overnight outage in August. The outage was caused by a fire at a Iowa data center. Three technicians were hurt, but there were no fatalities.
This outage created panic and chaos for web administrators over 48 hours, with page rankings experiencing huge, unexpected fluctuations and a failure to index newly-uploaded pages. Evergreen content was also lost from Google Search.
Normal service was restored within 48 hours and the sudden changes were reversed. It caused a lot of confusion in the industry, however.
11) Helpful content update (August)
The 2022 helpful content update saw major changes in the SEO landscape. This may have an impact on how websites will operate in the future.
This update, as the name implies, is designed to ensure that only the most useful, consumer-focused content ranks at the top of Google’s search results. These were some of the elements that were targeted and penalized in this update.
|AI content||Sites are increasingly relying on AI for content creation, repurposing and amalgamating existing articles from other sites with SEO in mind. The helpful content update was a clear indicator that human-generated content outperformed computerized text.|
|Focus on a subject||Websites that covered a wide range of topics were most likely to be affected by the helpful content update, as was the case with the May core update. Google has taken steps to ensure that every website indexed under a niche sector is filed so that a targeted audience can find it.|
|Expertise||Since long, the EAT algorithm has been driving page rankings. The helpful content update has increased this. Pages that provide firsthand knowledge of the subject matter they are focusing on will usually rank higher than pages that rely on external research.|
|User behavior||Google is increasing its attention to user behavior as part of the helpful content updates. This includes the amount of time spent on a site. In a world with post-helpful content updates, high bounce rates will face even more severe penalties.|
|Titles of bait-and-switch||Your site’s ranking could be affected if your content doesn’t match your title and H2 headings. Avoid speculation, too. This update is based on speculation.|
|Word stuffing||Google long denied the influence of word count on page ranking. They also advised against keyword stuffing and elongating articles. This has become more important with the helpful content update. 1000 words of relevant content will quickly answer a question better than a rambling missive with 3,000 words.|
12) Core update (September).
In September, the second core update for 2022 took place. This was right after the helpful content update.
This update fixed some of the damage that reputable reference sites suffered in May. However, those affected by the unconfirmed June update continued to experience fluctuations in visibility. Some saw sharp uptakes while others experienced traffic hemorhaging.
This update continued to be a success for the biggest ecommerce brands, while visibility for news and media outlets fell. CNN and the New York Post were among those that were most affected.
Sites that are medical, particularly those owned by government domains, have seen their fortunes improve. It was interesting to note that the trend of promoting videos over prose was reversed by September. YouTube was the largest loser overall.
13) Product Reviews Update (September)
The core update included a final modification to the September product reviews update. It proved unpopular with smaller sites and saw a significant drop in traffic and conversions. It seems that the core updates of 2022 have benefited the most prominent players in the market.
14) Spam Update (October)
Google released a 48-hour spam fix in October. This update was part of the helpful content updates and was designed to filter out inexpert search results as well as sites containing malicious malware or phishing scams.
Sites that were identified as spam in the update were penalized severely in terms of page rank and in some cases removed entirely from Google Search. The update had the most impact on:
- Particularly if the search term is auto-generated, thin copy may be irrelevant
- Sites that have been hacked with malicious redirects or sites that do not follow security protocols
- Hidden links, pages or affiliate links that are not related to each other
- Traffic generated artificially or by machines
15) Helpful content update (December)
Google started rolling out an update for August’s helpful content update in December. It’s still too early to know what this will have on the user base. It promises to be an exciting time.
The August update was criticized for being too sluggish and not taking enough action against offending websites, particularly those using AI content or black-hat SEO techniques.
Site owners will be hoping that the update increases genuine, human-generated content created by and for their target audience. It will be evident in 2023.
The summary of the 2022 Google algorithm updates is now complete. It has been a fascinating, but often turbulent twelve months. This may be the beginning of many years.
Google will continue to tweak and refine its policies. Attempting to predict what Alphabet will do next can be dangerous. It’s still a good idea to look at Google’s priorities to see which direction the wind is blowing.
Joe Dawson is the Director of Creative.onl, a UK-based strategic growth agency. You can find him on Twitter @jdwn.
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Search Engine Watch’s first post, The ultimate roundup of 2022 Google updates appeared first on Search Engine Watch.