Published on February 15th, 2024 SEO roundup 2023

SEO Roundup: The 2023 Rewind

Hey there! Today, we are here to help you get all caught up with Google in 2023 with an SEO roundup. By the end of this blog, we aim to ensure that you are in the loop to create strategies for the new year of 2024. 

With 2023 came Google’s 25th birthday! So they were very busy with their celebrations. However, that was not the highlight – at least in our opinion. 

The highlights were the crazy updates that kept webmasters and SEOs running around like a chicken without a head! 

Let’s dive in without further ado!

First of all, we will talk about the nine updates by Google that impacted volatility. These are:

  • 4 Core Updates
  • 3 (product) Review Updates 
  • 1 Helpful Content Update
  • 1 Spam Update

Core Updates

The first of the core updates was in March. There were a couple of changes, however, compared to what the future held, they were quite tame. The August one shows a good comparison here as it had a bigger impact on the websites’ volatility.

Volatility trends comparison august and march
Source: SEMrush

This chart clearly shows that the volatility of the March Update stood below 8. However, that is mostly an average. Some sites did see bigger changes in volatility.

Peak Volatility comparison, Aug and Mar
Source: SEMrush

In August, the volatility environment was already high, which is probably why several niches were a target. While we can say that the volatility was higher, we can most definitely not determine which update had a bigger impact. 

A few months later came the October Core Update and then the November Core Update. Now these caused huge turbulence in the SERPs. 

SERP volatility in Oct/Nov
Source: SEMrush

The SEMrush volatility meter scored 9.3 – which is very high! You can see this in the image above. This update took almost a month to fully roll out. 

Marie Haynes says:

“The October and November Core updates have been devastating for many sites. Core updates are rarely about one specific thing. Sometimes the losses sites experience after a core update are difficult or even impossible to fix. The good news is that in many cases recovery is possible.”

We even found Lily Ray’s insights very helpful. She iterates indirectly on the added E to E-A-T which stands for experience. Turns out, it subtly implemented it throughout 2023.

Lily Ray Tweet
Source: Twitter

(Product) Review updates

Google released three updates in February, April, and November called the Review Updates formerly known as product review updates. The reason is that now these updates are not only for products but all kinds of businesses and services too. 

The former product review update in 2022 seemingly found its extension in 2023. 

The first update – when it was known as a product review update, was in February of 2023. 

In the last update, we explained how Google is changing the way it sees product reviews that do not follow E-E-A-T standards. Check out this video of ours to know more about it.

The February 2023 update became an extension and seemingly implemented high-quality reviews with all the necessary criteria met. Hence, with the update, the volatility was higher. 

On March 1st, 2023, the volatility range peaked at ‘very high’ on the charts as you can see. 

Volatility in March
Source: SEMrush

It took two weeks to roll out the update and it did not take time in showing its impact. The update also included new languages. 

Google was quick to emphasize that apart from the basic guidelines it was now important to 

  • Provide evidence of your experience with the product
  • Include links to multiple sellers

According to Google, this is how you can create high-quality reviews. 

The next update was something that Google implied in 2022. Google said that services, businesses, destinations, and media reviews were all added in the update. Hence, they named it Reviews Update. 

After the April Update, this was the volatility that varied from niche to niche.

Volatility by Niche
Source: RankRanger

The last Reviews Update was in November. With this update, Google announced that the reviews system is constantly updating and improving, which is why there will be no future updates on the status dashboard.

Spam Update

There was one Spam Update in 2023 in October and it was quite big and impactful. It made people rethink their strategies and content to ensure that the spam update does not hit them. 

The October spam update completed its rollout in 15 days and 12 hours.

Google said:

“We’re releasing an update to our spam detection systems today that will improve our coverage in many languages and spam types.

This spam update aims to clean up several types of spam that our community members reported in Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hindi, Chinese, and other languages. We expect this to reduce the visible spam in search results, particularly when it comes to cloaking, hacked, auto generated, and scraped spam.”

The spam update scored a whopping 8.6 out of 10 in the volatility meter – which pretty much sums up the effects of the update.

SERP volatility Sep/Oct: SEO roundup
Source: SEMrush

Helpful Content Update

Last but not least on the list is the Helpful Content Update. This update rolled out on September 15th and was completed on September 28th. 

The helpful content update rewards people-first content that provides unique value and comprehensive information to users. This means that this update targeted the SEO industry more than individual websites. 

The most impact of this update was shown between September 20th and September 26th. The volatility meter stood at 7.8 out of 10.

SERP volatility september: SEO roundup
Source: SEMrush

Here is what Glenn Gabe had to say about this update

“First, Google explained the HCU has an improved classifier, and that is clearly obvious. The sheer number of sites getting impacted is infinitely larger than previous HCUs. Second, and this is the heart of my post today, Google updated its documentation in April of 2023 about page experience, and specifically included that information in its documentation about creating helpful content.”

Google Guideline
Source: Google
Google Guideline
Source: Google

He moves on to say what the victims wanted to hear – a pathway to the solution; 

“…This might have been the warning about what the September HCU was going to target. With that update to the documentation, Google took the emphasis away from core web vitals and wanted site owners to focus on the user experience overall.”

Google emphasizes that a better page experience will definitely align with the page’s presentation. 

Unknown updates

In 2023, there were some unknown updates from Google as well that impacted the SERPs. 

The first of them was noticed on July 12th, there was no announcement on the Search Central Page, but tools did track it. 

The volatility was tracked at a whopping high range of 7.7 out of 10.

SERP Volatility June/Jul
Source: SEMrush

Once again, there was another unnamed, unannounced update in May and June.

SERP Volatility May/June: SEO roundup
Source: SEMrush

The discover glitch

In October 2023, Google announced that ranking was experiencing an ongoing issue because of a glitch in Google Discover. This issue took about 26 days to resolve. 

Google Discover is a part of Google Search that shows the users content that they may be interested in, based on web activity. 

Lily Ray was tagged on Twitter regarding this issue.

Lily Ray tagged on Twitter: SEO roundup
Source: Twitter

What else was Google up to?

Google seems to have had a very busy year. There were so many known and unknown updates that shook the SERPs. 

Apart from updates, there is plenty more that Google did. 

May 2023

In May 2023, Google introduced ‘Search Generative Experience’ through Search Labs. Search Labs is a program by Google that helps in accessing early experiments from Google. 

May 2023 was also when Google rolled out a very thoughtful and needed initiative. Google said: 

“Now we’re adding additional resources for people in crisis. When someone is in a vulnerable situation, it can be difficult to put this experience into words and know what to say to ask for help. To better support people reaching out to someone they trust, starting soon in the U.S., when someone searches for suicide-related terms, they’ll see a prompt with conversation starters they can send via text message. These pre-written prompts, developed in partnership with the expertise of the International Association for Suicide Prevention, reduce the stigma of reaching out to ask for help, which is shown to help people get support in moments of crisis. The prompts will appear below the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.”


This initiative aimed to help people in crises and needs promptly with minimal effort.

July 2023

In the July SEO updates, Mueller announced that the Google Core Web Vitals in helpful ranking systems will no longer include mobile usability reports or mobile-friendly testing tools within its API. By the end of the year, this change was to be made. 

Moreover, Google was now adding Interaction to Next Paint (INP) in the core web vitals. INP is a performance metric that measures user interface responsiveness like how speedy is it when a user clicks or presses a key on a website. 

To be more granular, it measures the time between an action and the result of the action on the page. 

Moreover, in regards to the Search Console, Mueller said that they launched an update to the rich text result. This update allows code editing and fixes to markups easier. Search Console Insights also supports users without Google Analytics from this point onwards. 

Last but not least, the 1st of July was also when Universal Analytics shut down officially and retired (peacefully). This was the last day for users to switch to GA4 before UA stopped collecting data after that. 

October 2023

In October 2023, Google announced that FAQs will now only be shown on official government or health websites. Additionally, In August, Google announced that How-To-Rich results were only visible to desktop users only. However, in September, Google completely removed these results on both, mobile and desktop searches. This means that this type of result is not completely deprecated.

What does that mean?

Google announced that it now shows FAQs only on official government or health sites. Moreover, How To Rich Results are only visible to desktop users only. 

So, do you have to make major changes to the structured data on your website? Well, this is the answer from Google. 

“While you can drop this structured data from your site, there’s no need to proactively remove it. Structured data that’s not being used does not cause problems for Search, but also has no visible effects in Google Search.”

December 2023

December was the end of the year and Google ended it with a bang with Gemini. Gemini is Google’s most capable AI model. This multimodal AI can read pictures to text, do data coding, and practically more than that. It is considered stronger than ChatGPT because of its reasoning, multimodality, and advanced coding ability. 

In December, Google announced Gemini Pro in Bard-English ready to try. Until now, this is considered the biggest update of Bard – but we’re looking forward to bigger things. 

Gemini Pro in Bard makes Bard more capable of reasoning, understanding, and planning. 

Updates of Bard were also summed up in this infographic by Google itself.

Bard Timeline: SEO roundup
Source: Google

Wrap Up!

And that’s the wrap-up for a pretty busy year for Google. Overall, people were baffled but eventually learned that Google is becoming smarter and more user-intent-centric. 

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Published on February 15th, 2024
Updated on February 29th, 2024

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