2023 Official Google Search Algorithm Updates (so far)

March 10, 2023

Laura Berry

In the battle to keep your site on the first page of the search engine results page (SERP), it takes more than simply providing relevant and well-made content. You need to stay on top of updates so that you’re armed with the information you need to effectively tweak your site.

With Google cornering almost 85% of the search engine market, as of January 2023, it’s not rocket science that you need to pay special attention to Google’s updates. The market leader rolls out thousands of changes per year – in 2021, more than 5,000 improvements were made to Google Search. Whenever a new update is released, it can affect your search visibility almost overnight.

To help you maintain a higher ranking, we’ve compiled a list of all the algorithm updates of 2023, thus far, including the winners and losers. We’ll keep this list updated throughout the year, so be sure to check back often!

December 5th 2022 – Google Helpful Content Update

The much-delayed Google Helpful Content Update finished rolling out on 12th January 2023, which is why we’ve included it here. Originally scheduled to take 14 days to rollout, the final day count was a whopping 38 days.

The Helpful Content System was first launched in August 2022 and was designed to promote valuable content, rather than material that’s written to perform well in the search engines. The August update impacted English searches globally, while the December update sought to expand the Helpful Content System to all languages across the globe.

Targeting websites with content that’s written for search engines rather than people, the Helpful Content Update is a sitewide signal which helps Google to detect more forms of low-quality content. It seeks to promote pages that provide a quick, direct response to a query raised by a searcher and downgrade superfluous content that is often added to help articles hit keyword goals.

At the time of the rollout, the update only impacted Google Search, but Google doesn’t rule out expansion to Google Discover or other Google surfaces.

Winners and Losers

Barry Schwartz noted that there had been several traffic peaks and troughs during the rollout period, particularly in the days running up to Christmas. While the update didn’t target specific sectors, Google said that the impact would be “felt more for online educational materials, entertainment, shopping and tech-related content”.

Site owners who’d already implemented improvements to their content in response to the August launch are likely to reap the benefits and see their rankings climb post-December. Content that promptly answers a direct question is likely to perform better than an article jam-packed with information and asides. As the December update is much more extensive than the previous release, site owners who’d felt a limited impact previously may find they’re adversely affected this time around.

Site owners impacted by the Helpful Content Update should review Google’s advice to improve their content, and consequently, their search engine rankings.

December 14th 2022 – Google December 2022 Link Spam Update

In parallel to the Helpful Content Update, Google also rolled out the December 2022 Link Spam Update. Again, the update was expected to complete within 14 days, but the holidays caused inevitable delays and the rollout finished on 12th January 2023.

The Link Spam Update is designed to improve Google’s SpamBrain, a machine-learning system that was launched in 2018 to detect spammers and low-quality websites. The latest update “neutralises” links that SpamBrain detects as spam, which means that they won’t be counted when calculating rankings. Like the Helpful Content Update, the Link Spam Update was launched globally and affected all languages.

In modern SEO, there’s nothing more important than building trust and authority between your site and your audience. This fundamental principle now underpins most ranking factors. The Link Spam Update detects and blocks incoming and outgoing links that are considered “unnatural links”. In other words, the update identifies and discourages link building and link farming.

Winners and Losers

Overall, everyone’s a winner as no one particularly wants spam pointing at their site. The Spam Link Update “neutralises” the offending link, which simply means that the algorithm will not count it in your search ranking. In short, the link won’t hurt your rankings, but neither will it help you.

Having said that, it’s always best practice to review your site on a regular basis to ensure your links are natural and follow Google’s webmaster guidelines. Any links used on your site should be related to your content and add value to the reader. Block any links pointing to your site from low-quality content sites to ensure your site remains trustworthy.

February 21st – Product Reviews Update

Google’s latest update to its Product Reviews System has just completed on 7th March, following a two-week implementation period. While not a Core Update, the February Product Reviews Update is nonetheless an important release, particularly for e-commerce and product review sites.

The first Product Reviews Update was released on 8th April 2021, and the current update is the latest improvement to the underlying algorithms. It applies globally to a few select languages, including English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese and Polish.

The Product Reviews System evaluates product review content by page rather than site (unless your site is predominantly made up of such material). Rather than penalise “thin” content, the update seeks to promote high-quality pages that answer the reader’s enquiry and provides an in-depth analysis of the product in question. Under the revised algorithms, sites that offer insightful information that exceeds the original manufacturer’s basic data will fare better than articles that merely list a group of products.

Winners and Losers

At the time of writing, the update was completed mere days ago, but the impacts have been noticeably volatile. According to Barry Schwartz, significant ranking changes have been observed and there’s been plenty of chat within the SEO community. The Product Review Update was only expected to impact sites offering product reviews, but it appears that some sites with relatively little content of this nature have also been affected. At present, it’s not clear whether this update is the culprit or whether Google is working on something else in the background.

Site owners will likely want to take a look at their product review content to ensure that it complies with Google’s latest best practices and doesn’t just list products with re-hashed manufacturer data. Most notably, Google recommends that sites include more visual media in their product reviews and offer a variety of e-commerce sites for people to make their purchases. Overall, accurate content from a trustworthy site will appear higher on the SERP.

March 15th – Core Update

The latest core update was released on 15th March 2023 and will take at least 2 weeks to be fully rolled out. We will keep you up to date as we learn more over the coming weeks.

In Summary

So that’s it in a nutshell – all the official 2023 Google Search algorithm updates as they stand today. If you’re struggling to combat the effect of recent algorithm changes on your website, get in touch with us at Fibre Marketing for a steer in the right direction.

Don’t forget to watch this space as we’re sure that won’t be the end of the updates for this year. In recent weeks, we’ve seen several reports of unconfirmed updates which may be causing some traffic fluctuations. Could Google be gearing up for its first Core Update of the year? Stay tuned!



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