SEO

Google algorithm updates 2023 in review: Core, reviews, helpful content, spam and beyond

Google launched nine confirmed algorithmic updates in 2023, as well as a new AI search engine, the Search Generative Experience.

In 2022 and 2021, Google had 10 confirmed algorithmic updates. Unless Google rolls out a new update this week, Google would have rolled out one less update in 2023 than it did in 2022 and 2021.

Google confirmed algorithm update summary

We whipped up this timeline documenting all the confirmed Google search algorithm updates in 2023, so you can visualize the updates over the year.

Google Updates Inforgraphic 2023 1

Four Google core updates in 2023

Google had a whopping four core updates in 2023, compared to only two in 2022. We had core updates in March, August, October and November.

March 2023 core update. The Google March 2023 core update started rolling out March 15, took 13 days to complete, and finished on March 28. Overall, the volatility was about the same as previous core updates according to some data providers.

Here is one chart we shared back then comparing that volatility:

Semrush March Core Data Compare

August 2023 core update. The Google August 2023 core update started rolling out August 22, took 16 days to complete, and finished on September 7. Overall, the volatility was generally less than previous updates, feeling more muted than what we expected according to data providers.

Here is one chart we shared back then comparing that volatility:

Semrush Aug Core Update Compare

October 2023 core update. The Google October 2023 core update started rolling out Oct. 5, took 14 days to complete, and finished on Oct. 19. Overall, the volatility was hard to measure because it overlapped with the October spam update, but the volatility was felt in a big way, according to several data providers.

Here is one chart we shared back then comparing that volatility:

Semrush

November 2023 core update. The Google November 2023 core update started rolling out on Nov. 2, took 26 days to complete, and finished on Nov. 19. Overall, the volatility was even greater than October spam update, according to data providers. But this update also overlapped with the November reviews update.

Here is one chart we shared back then comparing that volatility:

Semrush Trend

Product reviews update to reviews update

Google renamed the Product reviews update to the reviews update. That’s because Google is now looking at all types of review-related content, not just product review content.

We had three reviews updates this year. The November 2023 reviews update is the last update of its kind that will be confirmed going forward, Google said.

February 2023 product reviews update. The Google February 2023 product reviews update started Feb. 21, took 14 days to complete, and finished on March 7. Overall, the volatility showed that update was more significant that previous product reviews updates, according to some data providers. Also, this was the last product product reviews update before it was renamed the reviews update.

Here is one chart we shared back then comparing that volatility:

Semrush Pru Change Compare

April 2023 reviews update. Now we move into the realm of reviews updates with the Google April 2023 reviews update, it started on April 12 and took 13 days to roll out, completing on April 25. again, this update went beyond product reviews and included services and businesses, destinations, media and other review content. Overall, the volatility was more widespread that previous updates, simply because it impacted more categories of review content.

Here is one chart we shared back then comparing that volatility:

Semrush Compare By Niche

November 2023 reviews update. Now we move into the realm of reviews updates with the Google November 2023 reviews update, it started on Nov. 8 and took 29 days to roll out, completing on Dec. 7. Again, this update went beyond product reviews and included services and businesses, destinations, media and other review content. I was unable to get data that compared the volatility of this update to previous ones because the November core update overlapped with this update and the data was too messy to separate.

Helpful content update that shook the industry

The Google September 2023 helpful content update started on Sept. 14 and took 14 days to roll out, ending on Sept. 28. While we only had one helpful content update in 2023, this update was big. In fact, SEOs are still talking about this update today and how much of an impact it had on their businesses and clients.

The volatility was very big, especially if you zoomed into the SEO chatter (what SEO forums were saying). It seemed like this was the helpful content update we expected Google to launch in 2022 but never did.

I believe this update was felt more within the SEO industry niche, maybe sites designed to rank well in search engines, more so than typical sites that take into account more than just search engines. 

Here is one chart we shared back then comparing that volatility:

Rankranger Hcu Top Results Compare

A spam update in the middle

And we had a spam update in the middle of all of these updates, the October 2023 spam update. That spam update started on Oct. 4 and lasted 15 days, ending Oct. 20. Yes, this update overlapped the October 2023 core update, making tracking the volatility of this specific update nearly impossible.

Google said the October 2023 spam update “aims to clean up several types of spam that our community members reported in Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hindi, Chinese, and other languages.” Google added that update should “reduce the visible spam in search results, particularly when it comes to cloaking, hacked, auto-generated, and scraped spam.”

Other Google algorithm changes, updates, tweaks or topics

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About the author

Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry can be followed on Twitter here.

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