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SEO 13 min read August 22, 2022

The history and impact of recent (2021-2022) Google Algorithm updates

Google Algorithm Updates


Content Manager at Serpstat
Google constantly strives to improve its ranking algorithms and provide users with better, more relevant search results.

The Google Search Algorithm is a complex, wide-reaching technology powered by artificial intelligence and a multitude of ranking factors.

The website ranking system keeps evolving as the changes are made daily. Most pass relatively unnoticed, while others may cause an "earthquake" in SERPs and leave website owners, SEOs, and everyone involved scratching their heads.

Let's go over the Google's history of recent (publicly announced) algorithm updates and see how they impacted the industry:

Google Algorithm Updates in 2022

September 12
September 12
September 2022 Core Algorithm Update
Shortly after the Helpful Content Update, Google announced the new September 2022 Core Algorithm Update on September 12th. The rollout was completed two weeks later, on September 26th.

Since it's a broad core update, it will significantly impact content in all languages and regions.
September 10
September 10
September 2022 Product Reviews Update
On September 10th, Google released yet another Product Reviews Update, aimed at improving the quality of reviews online, and fishished rolling it out on September 26th. According to Google Search Central, it will affect content in English.
August 25
August 25
August 2022 Helpful Content Update
On August 18, Google announced the new sitewide algorithm update called "Helpful Content Update."

According to Google Search Central's Twitter, the primary purpose of the new update is to "ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, rather than content made primarily for search engine traffic."

So how do you avoid getting hit by Google's Helpful Content Update?

In the official statement, Google recommends making your content as helpful as possible to users rather than writing low-value, uninformative texts for the sole purpose of ranking higher in search results.

The main goal should always be providing the users with the information they came for.

At first, this update will impact content in English, and in the future, it's expected to expand its reach to other languages.
May 25
May 25
Google Core Update May 2022
Being the first Core Algorithm update in 2022, it has shaken things up in a major way, as it has extremely broad coverage.

Rather than targeting a specific type of content, language, or region, it focuses on “improving Search overall” by “increasing the overall relevancy of search results and making them more helpful and useful for everyone,” according to Google’s Official Statement.

During the algorithm rollout and after its completion on June 9th, many SEOs in all areas reported significant fluctuations in website rankings, traffic, and featured snippets.
Mar. 23
Mar. 23
March 2022 Product Reviews Update
This update, released in March, is the third one in the series of product review updates. It aimed at helping the search engine identify high-quality product reviews more efficiently and rank them higher in SERPs.

Initially, it focused solely on product review content in English; however, Google states that they "plan to open up product review support for more languages."

Along with that, Google updated its product review guidelines.
Feb. 22
Feb. 22
Desktop Page Experience Update
In February, Google started implementing page experience signals for desktop ranking. It's a follow-up to a previously released Page Experience Update for mobile.

Google Algorithm Updates in 2021

Dec. 1
Dec. 1
December 2021 Product Reviews Update
With this update, Google urged people to enrich their product review content with "insightful analysis and original research", proof of hands-on experience, and links to various retailers.
In return, the algorithm is supposed to boost the rankings of such in-depth review content in search results.

At that point, it only involved product reviews in English.
Nov. 30
Nov. 30
November 2021 Local Search Update
On Twitter, Google Search Central announced the conclusion of the Local Search Update on December 8, during which they "rebalanced" local ranking factors.

What are those local ranking factors?

  • Relevance: how well a local Business Profile fulfills the user's search intent;
  • Distance: how close the business is to the location mentioned in the search query;
  • Prominence: how renowned it is among users and across the web.
Nov. 17
Nov. 17
November 2021 Core Update
This broad core update caused significant "make or break" volatility for all types of websites and regions. Google didn't go into much detail (as usual) and linked to their official guidelines for site owners.

Google takes into consideration the overall quality of the website, its security, page experience, content quality, E-A-T factors, etc.
Nov. 3
Nov. 3
November Spam Update
This Google Spam Update is yet another part of Google's constant battle with low-quality malicious websites in search results, the fourth one in 2021.

In the Google SearchLiaison's Twitter announcement, webmasters are encouraged to follow the standard guidelines to ensure the website's security and not get claimed as spam.
Jul. 26
Jul. 26
Link Spam Update
As links are one of the most crucial ranking signals, Google warns webmasters to use them wisely. In July's Link Spam Update Google made improvements to its link spam identification algorithm, across different languages.

Make sure to qualify your outbound links according to Google's recommendations, e.g. correctly mark them as "sponsored", "nofollow", "ugc", and avoid participating in link schemes. As it goes against Google's guidelines, using such black-hat techniques to manipulate the search rankings can get your website penalized.
Jul. 1
Jul. 1
July 2021 Core Update
The second Core Update of 2021 was released soon after the previous (June) one and completed on July 12. According to Google SearchLiaison (Danny Sullivan) on Twitter, some improvements were not ready for the June release, so they did a follow-up the next month.

It didn't seem to target any specific area but rather the Google Algorithm as a whole. As usual, Google's official recommendation on how to not get knocked down by the algorithm update was to stick to the webmaster's guide.
Jun. 23
Jun. 23
Spam Update
Google divided the June Spam Update into two parts: the first one came out on June 23, and the second one the following week, on June 28.

According to Danny Sullivan, this spam update is "global and currently covers web page and image results". Apart from that, Google didn't go into many details, and in the usual fashion, linked to their Webmaster Guidelines.
Jun. 15
Jun. 15
Page Experience Update
The purpose of this update was to introduce the page experience signals to Google's ranking system.

Google came out with Core Web Vitals, new metrics for measuring users' page experience, as follows:

  1. LSP → Largest Contentful Paint. It is one of the most significant Core Web Vitals, and measures how long it takes for the main page elements to load.
  2. FID → First Input Delay. It tracks how long it took the browser to respond to the first user's interaction with a web page. It is measured in milliseconds, and according to Google, a good FID is below 100 ms, whereas above 300 ms is a poor one.
  3. CLS → Cumulative Layout Shift. It measures page loading stability. The more layout shifts during loading there are, the higher the score (a good one is supposed to be below 0.1). Neither users nor search engines are "big fans" of jumpy websites with chaotically moving elements.
All these important metrics and many more you can analyze in Google Search Console → Page Experience Report. More info on this update is in Google Search Central's post.
Jun.
Jun.
Multitask Unified Model (MUM) Update
Announced back in May 2021, this update is one of the most groundbreaking algorithm changes since BERT. Apparently, it's thousand times more powerful than BERT, according to The Keyword.

"MUM is a multi-modal algorithm designed to answer complex queries by simultaneously evaluating the information on the multilingual text, images, video, and audio" — Mert Erkal, experienced marketer and SEO specialist, states.

Get more insights on the MUM update in our interview with Mert Erkal.
Jun. 2

Jun. 2

June 2021 Core Update
This broad Core Update was revealed by Danny Sullivan on Twitter.

It didn't target any specific types of websites but focused on extensive improvements to the algorithm. As usual, some website owners have noticed positive spikes in rankings, while others have been hit hard.

Here's what Danny Sullivan had to say about it:

"Of course, any core update can produce drops or gains for some content. Because of the two-part nature of this release, it’s possible a very small slice of content might see changes in June that reverse in July".
Apr. 8
Apr. 8
April 2021 Product Reviews Update
The first Product Reviews Update in the series seeks to provide top search result rankings to the most insightful review content out of the bunch.

What does Google consider a high-quality review? Well-researched, unique, authentic, and comprehensive pieces that include expert knowledge, evidence of hands-on experience/testing, and links to multiple merchants that allow the users to select one based on their needs and preferences.

More insights in Google's official guidelines.
Feb. 10
Feb. 10
Passage Ranking Update
During this update, Google started considering passages as additional ranking factors. At this point, it's going to impact around 7% of the content in all languages.

Usually, the algorithm evaluates the whole page for its relevance to the search query. However, the internet is filled with long-form comprehensive content.

When the page is long, it often happens that some section(s) of the text does actually answer the user's question, while the rest revolves around completely different aspects of the matter.
Such pages are technically relevant to the user's search request, but is scrolling down for a while just to find one passage worth it? It's like looking for one small note in a huge pile of documents.

That's what this Google Algorithm Update tries to get rid of. Here's how Danny Sullivan puts it:

"With our new technology, we’ll be able to better identify and understand key passages on a web page. This will help us surface content that might otherwise not be seen as relevant when considering a page only as a whole".

FAQ:

What is the latest Google algorithm update?

The latest confirmed algorithm update is the May 2022 Core update. It was officially announced on May 25 2022 and finished rolling out on June 9th.

Did Google update its algorithm?

Yes, the last broad Core Algorithm Update was released on September 12 2022 and continued rolling out within the next 2 weeks.

What is a Google Core Algorithm Update?

Google Core Update is a broad, wide-reaching change in Google’s overall approach to search result rankings. As Google constantly strives to improve users’ searching experience by providing them with the most relevant results, it develops new ways to detect the most high-quality and trustworthy websites.

How often does Google update its search algorithm?

Google updates its algorithms thousands of times a year. According to Google itself, 4,887 improvements were made to the Search Algorithm in 2020, and if we compare the statistics from previous years, the numbers are only growing. Some algorithm updates bring about major changes in search rankings, while others tend to go unnoticed.

How to prepare for a Google Algorithm Update?

The answer is simple: to strictly follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, as the company links to them during each Core Update for a reason. The most fundamental rules for surviving the Google Core Update have remained the same over the years:
1. Create high-quality, relevant, and original content.
2. Avoid keyword stuffing, don’t participate in link schemes and any other ways to manipulate your search result rankings;
3. Improve Page Load Speed;
4. Make sure your website is secure, use HTTPS, and conduct regular checks for viruses and malware.
5. User-friendly and search engine-friendly website structure.
6. Regularly monitor and fix technical issues on your website.

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