Creating helpful, value-driven content should be your north star for every piece of content you create. It is a surefire way to weather any Google update, regardless of its impact on your rankings or traffic.

Helpful Content Update: Rewards sites that provide visitors with a satisfying experience. Demotes those that try to manipulate users through cloaking, rewriting dates or other spammy tactics.

1. It’s a core update

Core updates are periodic adjustments to the algorithms that power Google’s search engine and search results pages. They restructure SERP features like People Also Ask (PAA) listings, featured snippets and Knowledge Graph panels. Google typically announces core update changes on its Webmasters blog.

Unlike the many hundreds of minor algorithm changes that occur every day, core updates are a bit more significant and can cause major shifts in search rankings. They are designed to improve the quality of search results by ensuring users get relevant, helpful and reliable material for their queries.

A core update can be as broad or narrow as you’d expect, depending on the subject matter it focuses on. The May 2021 broad core update, for example, was aimed at helping Google understand the meaning of search queries more effectively. A more recent example of a broad core algorithm change is the BERT update, which focused on natural language processing and how Google interprets webpage content.

As a general rule, if you’re not engaging in spammy practices, it shouldn’t be too hard to weather a core update. But it’s always wise to review Google’s core update guidance if you’re concerned about traffic or ranking volatility. Google recommends keeping a close eye on the quality of your content and continuing to create helpful, authoritative and reliable pages for your audience.

2. It’s a minor update

Google occasionally rolls out small updates to the algorithm that may not affect search results significantly. These may include tweaks to the underlying code, a data refresh or other minor changes.

This update, which was rolled out over the course of a few weeks, allowed Google to display up to six expanded links beneath a result. These expandable snippets were intended to help users find specific “needle-in-a-haystack” information.

In this unconfirmed update, Google shifted the emphasis of its ranking algorithm to favor pages that provide helpful, comprehensive content. It was also aimed at reducing the prominence of websites that contain too many ads. It’s been dubbed the Dewey update because Matt Cutts asked webmasters for feedback via a form and included the word “Dewey” in their responses, giving the update its name.

In August 2012, Google demoted rankings for sites that violated its quality guidelines. This algorithm change prevented sites from ranking well simply because they contained keywords in their domain names. It was dubbed the Pirate Update because it also demoted sites that received too many DMCA takedown requests. This update is also considered one of the most significant steps against black hat SEO techniques.

3. It’s a spam update

When you hear the term “Google Spam Update,” it’s typically used to refer to a search algorithm change that is designed to reduce the visibility of spammy content. These updates are typically released on a regular basis and can have a significant impact on rankings.

Google relies on a mix of automated and human review to identify and demote pages and sites that violate their quality guidelines. They also release regular spam updates to keep up with changing tactics and to improve their detection capabilities.

The October 2023 Spam Update was rolled out to combat various forms of spam including cloaking, hacked, auto-generated, and scraped content in numerous languages such as Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hindi, and Chinese. This update was prompted by feedback from the community and is meant to help Google deliver more valuable and relevant results.

Other recent spam updates include the Florida Update (December 2022) which was aimed at fighting link spam and preventing websites from being penalized for buying links. The Product Reviews update (October 2022) was a change that aimed to reward helpful, high-quality product reviews while demoting spammy or low-quality content. Lastly, the Speed Update (August 2022) was an official ranking signal that is supposed to reward fast-loading websites while demoting those that don’t offer a good user experience. This was a significant shift that caused a lot of Visibility fluctuations for many businesses.

4. It’s a hidden gems update

The hidden gems update is a ranking improvement Google has rolled out that helps searchers discover content that highlights personal insights and experiences. It aims to promote more authentic information from places like online forums and social media, as well as blog posts and other web pages that share first-hand knowledge.

This announcement has been conflated with the Helpful Content System and other core updates, but it’s not actually a new update. It was introduced several months ago, and Google has been quietly ramping it up since then. We’re not sure what exactly it means for enterprise brands, but it seems that it’s promoting content that might have been overlooked in the past. Online forums like Reddit seem to be a big winner of this change, for example.

As a result, businesses should be paying more attention to how their consumers talk about them online. They should also be encouraging their customers to post positive reviews on websites and social media, so that Google can find those and show them in search results. After all, word of mouth is still the best advertising there is. Just remember to make it genuine, and don’t spam or buy fake reviews. If you do, Google may penalize your site. That’s just not cool.

By Manish

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