Google began rolling out its third core algorithm update last week, but some search experts at agencies NP Digital and CSP are finding certain nuances driving changes.
The Google October 2023 Broad Core Update was initiated on October 5, 2023, and targets all types of content across all regions and languages, according to Mike Gullaksen, CEO at NP Digital.
Announced last week, this third update is expected to take about two weeks to fully roll out. The other two releases occurred in March and August.
“Unlike a penalty-based update, this update aims to reward high-quality web pages, having a broad and swift impact similar to typical core updates,” Gullaksen wrote in an email to Search & Performance Insider.
The update also affects Google Discover, and comes less than one month after Google's Helpful Content Update, which was released on September 14 -- one of the more impactful recent updates.
Although Gullaksen says it is too early to tell what drives the impacts from this core update since it has been live for less than a week, these core updates have many commonalities.
For example, they are focused on content that is “useful” to humans and create a positive user experience. Does the push for useful content for humans make sense when the industry talks so much about creating content with help from artificial intelligence.
Google doesn't really push people toward AI-assisted content, they just can't come out against it because for most articles they can't yet reliably tell what is AI generated vs. just AI-assisted vs. just human to any meaningful degree," added David Shapiro SVP of Earned Media at NP Digital.
"Everyone is using these tools whether they publicly admit it or not, so almost all content today is AI-assisted," he added. "In the next one-to-three years nearly all content will be run through some sort of AI tool before being published."
The concept of “information gain” is likely driving impact. If content adds new information to a topic, it's likely to be rewarded. If it doesn't, Google may demote it in favor of more authoritative sites that have similar information.
This may be why many forum sites that were “authoritative” like Reddit, and Quora were rewarded with more visibility, since many sites just regurgitated content from them.
User experience continues to be a big factor. Many sites that have been negatively impacted by recent updates had high ad loads that can create a poor experience for users.
Chris Rodgers, SEO expert and founder of 12-year-old CSP, a specialized search agency, believes this update involves artificial intelligence (AI).
Rodgers said it is normal to experience fluctuations in search rankings during this time, but it's also important to have subject-matter experts to prevent the update from disrupting performance of the site and rankings. Search rankings can fluctuate during this time.
“We had updates years ago that were not as AI-driven and it was easier to identify specific changes,” Rodgers said. “This update had to do with links or content, but this core algorithm update affects large volumes of websites across the web.”
The content update that occurred in September 2023, took 14 days to roll out, starting on September 14, 2023 and ending on September 28, 2022.
“We had a helpful content update in September, and that had a pretty big impact,” Rodgers said. “It will be interesting to see if this core update has an effect on sites that were impacted during the last one. This is what we will look at in the coming weeks. You can have an infinite number of algorithmic factors running in search. They can be different in all types of keywords.”
Companies spend a lot of time and money building content to rank high in search engines. “Content leads to traffic, eyeballs, business and audiences,” said Rodgers. This is why companies need to build an authoritative brand and have subject matter experts that interact with consumers and clients. Surprisingly, many companies do not want that.
Some companies have a CEO who prefers not to be in the limelight. These days with AI-generated content, companies need to find a way to connect back to real people, experts, in whatever industry the company supports.
Google wants a human authority to at least help produce the content, despite it digging deeper into AI, he said.
There is a dependency between Google and content creators. “If Google doesn’t provide benefits to content creators, they will not continue to create content for Google,” he said. “I’m not sure what that will look like. I think Google will push the envelope and see what they can take away. SEOs might take that to social media, other platforms like Reddit.”