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Google completes rollout of August 2023 Core Update: Winners, losers, and analysis

Google has confirmed the completion of its August 2023 Core Update, which commenced on 22nd August 2023 and concluded on 7th September 2023. This marks the second core update of the year and had significant implications for search rankings across various sectors.

Core updates by Google are essential for website owners to monitor, as they can significantly impact a site’s performance in search results, affecting organic traffic, conversions, and revenue. These updates can also help website owners understand whether changes they made or alterations in Google’s ranking algorithm influenced their site’s rankings.

Now that the August 2023 Core Update has concluded, it’s an opportune time for website owners to delve into their analytics and identify potential areas for improvement in their web pages and content.

Comparing August 2023 Core Update with March 2023 Core Update

The August 2023 Core Update presented unique characteristics when compared to the previous March 2023 Core Update. Data from various sources shed light on the differences:

  • Semrush Data: Semrush Sensor data revealed that the August 2023 update had a peak volatility of 9.3, surpassing the March 2023 update’s peak of about 8.
  • RankRanger Data: RankRanger’s Rank Risk Index indicated substantial volatility during the August update, making it one of the most significant updates since December 2020.
  • seoClarity Data: seoClarity’s Rank Fluctuation tracker recorded a spike to 51% volatility on the final day of the August update.
  • Sistrix Data: Sistrix’s analysis highlighted that the August Core Update was quieter than some previous updates but had its notable winners and losers.
  • Moz Data: Mozcast reported peak flux during August 23-24, with this core update being particularly challenging to decipher.

Key observations from the August 2023 Core Update

Several notable trends and observations were made by SEO expert Lily Ray:

  • AI-Generated Content: The rise of AI-generated content presented challenges for Google in distinguishing between AI-generated and human-written content. While Google asserted it doesn’t differentiate between the two, the challenge of manipulating rankings with AI content remains a concern.
  • Experience Matters: Google’s introduction of “E” for experience in its Search Quality Rater guidelines signifies the growing importance of user experience in rankings, particularly in areas where firsthand experience adds value, such as product reviews and travel blogs.
  • Winners and Losers: The update saw significant shifts in visibility for various types of websites. Reddit emerged as a big winner, while sites employing “Parasite SEO” tactics saw rapid declines. Health websites, government, education, and real-experience-focused review sites experienced gains.
  • Music and Lyrics Sites: Many music and entertainment websites saw declines in visibility during this update.
  • Government and Authority Sites: Official government websites, both in the U.S. and internationally, gained visibility.
  • Education Sites: Universities and educational institutions also saw substantial increases in visibility.
  • News Category: The news category, including major publishers with high E-A-T scores, saw a decline in visibility, possibly indicating a shift in the query deserves freshness (QDF) approach.

Next Steps for Website Owners

Google emphasises that pages affected by core updates are not necessarily flawed; these updates aim to enhance overall content assessment. Website owners are advised to focus on quality content and conduct audits to identify the most impacted pages and the types of searches affected. Improvements may not lead to immediate ranking changes.

As Google’s algorithm continues to evolve, businesses relying on online visibility should stay updated on Google algorithm changes and monitor their effects through website analytics.

In summary, the August 2023 Core Update brought significant changes to search rankings, highlighting the importance of quality content and user experience in Google’s ranking criteria. Website owners should adapt to these updates to maintain their online visibility effectively.

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