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The Most Important Google Algorithm Updates for Your Business (2019 to 2022)

by Bryndis Lisser - October 25, 2022
Google has launched 17+ major updates since 2019—defined as any update that significantly alters the search engine results page (SERP) after a search. Furthermore, as the top global search engine, Google has permanently changed how the world does business. Notably:

Search engine optimization (SEO) experts need to stay on top of Google's search algorithm updates if they want to stay on page one. Additionally, Google's algorithm updates often build on past developments. So, reviewing Google's algorithm update history is vital.

Our team of SEO experts has collected the 17 most important algorithm updates Google released between 2019 and 2022.

October Spam Update (2022)

The October Spam Update refines how Google's 'Spam Brain' executes on AI-based spam prevention. If your site currently follows Google's search essentials guidelines (formerly webmaster guidelines), you should be safe and most sites will not see a dip in ranking. 

Still, spam updates give SEO experts important insight into what Google's 'SpamBrain' is thinking. 

September Product Review Algorithm Update (2022)

The September Product Review Algorithm Update corrects bugs and issues in the previous product review updates. It also works in tandem with the Helpful Content Update to further define what constitutes a 'good review' on English-language sites.

This means that many eCommerce sites not affected by the previous product review updates may feel the impact of this one. 
A Search Result Following the Product Review Update
A Search Result Following the Product Review Update

September Core Algorithm Update (2022)

The September Core Algorithm Update affected many parts of the Google algorithm across most languages. Specifically, the September Core Algorithm Update seems to have boosted the Helpful Content Update from August.

Not many other specifics of the September Core Update are known at this time.

August Helpful Content Update (2022)

The Helpful Content Update is intended to boost content written 'by people, for people.' Google defines 'helpful content' as content that speaks to a targeted audience within your niche.

The August Helpful Content Update seems to target sites that scrape content from across the web instead of developing their own. Sites that create original, optimized, and curated content will likely be unaffected.

July 2022 Product Review Update (2022)

The July Product Review Update focused on giving a leg up to detailed product reviews over product summaries and manufacturer opinions. Many sites did not see a change following Google's fourth product review update.

The July Product Review Update is just another signal from Google that multi-media reviews and links to multiple sellers are encouraged for the most impact on SEO.

May Broad Core Update (2022) 

The May Broad Core Update affects all content globally in all languages. Currently, it seems as though informational keywords have seen the most positive volatility on eCommerce sites, video hosting sites, and sites that serve a very specific niche. Generalist news and informational databases seem to have taken the most significant hit in rankings. 

Mitigate the May Broad Core Update's effect by checking your content against the standards set by the Panda Update in 2011.

The March Product Review Update (2022) 

The March Product Review Update of 2022 comes a year into the original product review update's launch. Google's team further refined how Google search defines honest, first-hand reviews based on user feedback and bumps rankings for sites that adhere to their new standards. 

Find Google's suggestions for high-quality reviews here

The December Product Review Update (2021)

The December Product Review Updates in 2021 were the first of their kind. These updates targeted English content, specifically product reviews.

Before the Product Review Updates, a product review could be irrelevant but still appear on SERP. The Google Product Review Updates prioritize in-depth, detailed product reviews over product summaries and manufacturer opinions.

Page Experience Update (2021)

The Page Experience Update introduced a new key performance metric for desktop rankings called Core Web Vitals. Core web vitals establish a baseline to define what Google considers a 'high-quality website'—heavily influencing rankings on the SERP.

The page experience update affects SERP by assessing site quality based on many things, such as:

  • Accessible Web Design
  • Page Load Times 
  • Code Optimization 
  • Link Quality

If you would like to learn more about your website, reach out to us for a website audit.

November Core Update (2021)

The November Core Update expanded the algorithm's ability to identify quality content. According to SEM Rush, the November core update mainly affected niches within health care and mobile site rankings — reminding us to keep good mobile design in mind.

June/July Core Update (2021)

The 2021 June and July Core Updates are unofficial parts 1 and 2 of the same core update. Both core updates continued the trend from 2020 to refine the ranking systems to ensure top-quality content was being returned to the SERP. The June/July Core Updates mainly affected what Google refers to as Your Money Your Life (YMYL) websites. YMYL sites usually feature advice on sensitive subjects such as education, health, finance, law, and reviews.

December Core Update (2020)

The December Core update continued to refine the SERP based on content quality. The December core update challenged marketers and website owners to bring the relevance of their content to the next level. According to SEM Rush, notable winners included business/Industrial, internet/telecom, and beauty/fitness websites. Notable losers included online communities, shopping, and news sites.

This update also continued to build on the changes deployed in the May Core Update for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

May Core Update (2020)

The May Core Update was a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Upheaval during the pandemic changed the intent behind user searches. The May 2020 Core update seems to have promoted news sites and demoted sites that focused on in-person events. 

The May Core Update made it more efficient for users to find the answers they wanted in the new digital landscape.

January Broad Core Update (2020)

The January Broad Core Update impacted search results worldwide. According to MOZ, the January 2020 update seems to have prioritized healthcare sites but still affected all content fairly evenly across the board. 

Google recommended SEO that focuses on expertise, relevance to your website's niche, and trustworthiness (E.A.T.) when creating content to rank higher on the SERP. 

Site Diversity (2019)

The Site Diversity update's goal was to limit multiple listings from the same domain—reducing repetitive results. According to the Search Engine Journal, no search post-update returned more than three results from the same domain. Additionally, this update seems to have heavily influenced searches for products—giving consumers a broader choice.

The Site Diversity Update gave smaller sites a chance to rank and search engine users a diverse list of choices. 

September Core Update (2019)

The September Core Update was designed to lower a site's ranking if that site had low-quality content. Additionally, it seems that the September Core Update also re-evaluated how Google's search algorithm valued links as they influence domain authority and SERP position. 

BERT (2019)

'BERT,' or the Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers, is one of the most impactful Google updates in the last five years. According to Search Engine Journal, BERT is a 'deep-learning' algorithm with a focus on natural language processing. BERT made searching for longer, more conversation-like phrasing for search queries easier for their users. Implementing Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers required Google to invest in better processing equipment before implementation. 

How to Determine Update Importance

Google's search algorithm is updated approximately 500-600 times a year—roughly two daily changes. However, most of these changes would not be considered 'major' and often have zero effect on the average website owner. 

Before you start feeling anxious the next time you hear about a new Google algorithm update, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Has Google Named It?

Google names updates it views as significant. Even if an update isn't named like it will target your niche, JTech's SEO team recommends paying attention to anything Google deems significant. Every update affects the digital marketing landscape for many businesses, introducing the potential for updates to affect you indirectly.  

2. Is it a 'Core' Update?

According to Google, a 'core' update is a comprehensive, wide-reaching adjustment to the algorithm as a whole. Core updates affect the globe and can take multiple days or weeks to implement.

Google usually implements 2-4 core updates per year, with no set release schedule. Core updates usually cause shifts in rankings, changes in traffic, and dips in analytics. Your position on the search engine results page (SERP) should level out within days of launch.

3. Does it affect the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)?

The search engine results page (SERP) often is the most important aspect of understanding Google rankings and a successfully optimized website. An update can change how the SERP ranks sites, causing a shuffle that may push your site down the list. 

Dropping one or two spaces on the search engine results page may not seem like much. However, click-through rates drop from 28.5% to 15.7% between the first and second results. Eventually, click-through rates reach 2.5% by the tenth position on the SERP.

Bear in mind that Google is actively trying to produce the best results for every query. Most of their updates revolve around minimizing low-quality sites and content. So, you shouldn't have anything to worry about if you maintain a high-quality website and content.

If you have a website from JTech, you're likely okay. Our sites are built around the most recent data from Google we have access to at the time of building. Additionally, we write our copy with Google's current SEO best practices in mind.

Still, a constantly changing algorithm means that all sites will eventually need updates to the code and content. For this reason, the best solution is to treat SEO as a marathon, not a sprint. JTech's SEO experts would be happy to help you take your next steps.

Let JTech Keep Up With Google's Algorithm Changes for You

JTech's Bozeman-based team of search engine optimization (SEO) experts have been learning and adapting to Google for years—looking for ways to stay ahead of Google's evolving search engine algorithm. 

If you want to skip the headache of trying to determine what Google deems 'high-quality', you can sign up for a fast, free SEO Audit with our Bozeman-based team of SEO experts.

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