All the Google algorithm updates so far in 2022

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We look at all the major updates of 2022 and what they mean for your SEO strategy in 2023.

Last year was one of the most volatile for Google algorithm updates in a long time. We started 2022 wondering whether we would see similar volatility this year and many of the updates that shook the SERPs in 2021 have had refreshes at various stages this year.

In this article, we take a look at all of the algorithm updates that mattered in 2022, summarise the key takeaways from each of them and analyse what they mean for search marketing in 2023.

2022 has been a year for update cycles

Google releases ongoing updates throughout the year, most of which are small tweaks and it may announce half a dozen or so major updates. Some of these updates introduce new sections of algorithm or signals, such as last year’s page experience update, while others are ongoing update cycles – like the several core algorithm updates we see every year.

In 2022, we’ve mostly seen cyclical updates and not only the usual core update we’re used to seeing throughout the year. We’ve also had a second page experience update (this time for desktop) and two more product review updates with plenty of time for further updates by the end of the year.

So far, the only “new” update we’ve had this year is the helpful content update that was anticipated to be one of the biggest updates since Panda.

Unless something major happens before the end of the year, 2022 is far more relaxed than last year in terms of algorithm updates, which was one of the most disruptive in a long time.

The most important updates in 2022

In 2021, we had 10 confirmed algorithm updates and several unconfirmed updates for good measure. This year, we’ve had seven confirmed updates as of 20 September and, while there’s still time for more updates, the SERPs have been far less disruptive so far this year.

Here’s a summary of the key updates we’ve had in 2022 until now:

  1. Page Experience Update (22 Feb): The Page Experience Update previously released on mobile rolls out for desktop.
  2. March 2022 Product Reviews Update (23 Mar): The first product reviews update of 2022 and changes the naming conventions for the updates.
  3. May 2022 Core Update (25 May): The first core update of 2022 appeared to hit AI-generated content particularly hard.
  4. July 2022 Product Reviews Update (27 July): A second product reviews update had less impact then the first.
  5. Helpful Content Update (25 Aug): Google rolls out an entirely new update designed to reward content that helps users.
  6. September 2022 Core Update (12 Sep): The year’s second core update hits faster than the first but has a lower overall impact.
  7. September 2022 Product Reviews Update (20 Sep): The latest product reviews update starts rolling out before the September 2022 Core Update has finished.

All of the updates listed above were significant enough for Google to announce them – something it only does for major updates.

So let’s take a closer look at each of them and what they mean for SEO in 2023.

#1: Page Experience Update (Desktop) – 22 February

Google announced the desktop Page Experience Update on 22 February via Twitter, confirming the update would finish rolling out by the end of March.

The mobile version of this update rolled out in June 2021, which we covered in our review of the most important updates in 2021. The update combined existing usability metrics with a new set of Core Web Vitals for mobile results and Google rolled the same update for desktop in February.

New core web vital signals that affect page experience

If you want any more information on the page experience updates, we’ve covered them in detail on our blog and you can also use the official documentation from Google.

“This means the same three Core Web Vitals metrics: LCP, FID, and CLS, and their associated thresholds will apply for desktop ranking. Other aspects of page experience signals, such as HTTPS security and absence of intrusive interstitials, will remain the same as well. While the mobile-friendliness signal continues to be a part of mobile ranking, it won’t be a factor for desktop.

When a site has separate desktop and mobile URLs with an appropriate configuration, the desktop signal is based on the URLs that desktop users see.”

Google confirmed the rollout of the desktop update finished on March 3, significantly faster than the mobile version which took two and a half months to complete.

#2: Product Reviews Update – 23 March

On 23 March, Google announced the third version of the product reviews update after two previous updates in 2021. Once again, the update targeted content reviewing products (physical and digital) and guides promising to help readers choose the best products for their needs.

Best laptops for gamers in 2022

“We’ve regularly heard through user feedback that people prefer detailed reviews with evidence of products actually being tested. Over the past year, we’ve updated how Search ranks product reviews to prioritize in-depth and authentic content based on that feedback and our internal testing and evaluation processes.

Today, we’re launching another update that builds on that work to enhance our ability to identify high quality product reviews. This will make it easier for us to get sound purchasing advice in front of users, and to reward creators who are earnest in being helpful.”

Google said the third update built upon its predecessors enhanced its ability “to identify high quality product reviews” and separate them from dishonest and overly-promotional review content – especially short reviews where the publisher clearly hasn’t used the products they’re talking about.

If you’re in any doubt about the quality of your review content, refer to the questions where Google asks whether your reviews do the following:

  • Express expert knowledge about products where appropriate?
  • Show what the product is like physically, or how it is used, with unique content beyond what’s provided by the manufacturer?
  • Provide quantitative measurements about how a product measures up in various categories of performance?
  • Explain what sets a product apart from its competitors?
  • Cover comparable products to consider, or explain which products might be best for certain uses or circumstances?
  • Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a particular product, based on research into it?
  • Describe how a product has evolved from previous models or releases to provide improvements, address issues, or otherwise help users in making a purchase decision?
  • Identify key decision-making factors for the product’s category and how the product performs in those areas? For example, a car review might determine that fuel economy, safety, and handling are key decision-making factors and rate performance in those areas.
  • Describe key choices in how a product has been designed and their effect on the users beyond what the manufacturer says?

Google also added three new points of advice for the third version of this update:

  1. Are product review updates relevant to ranked lists and comparison reviews? Yes. Product review updates apply to all forms of review content. The best practices we’ve shared also apply. However, due to the shorter nature of ranked lists, you may want to demonstrate expertise and reinforce authenticity in a more concise way. Citing pertinent results and including original images from tests you performed with the product can be good ways to do this.
  1. Are there any recommendations for reviews recommending “best” products? If you recommend a product as the best overall or the best for a certain purpose, be sure to share with the reader why you consider that product the best. What sets the product apart from others in the market? Why is the product particularly suited for its recommended purpose? Be sure to include supporting first-hand evidence.
  1. If I create a review that covers multiple products, should I still create reviews for the products individually? It can be effective to write a high quality ranked list of related products in combination with in-depth single-product reviews for each recommended product.  If you write both, make sure there is enough useful content in the ranked list for it to stand on its own.

You can find the updated documentation for the third version of the product reviews update on this Google Search Central Blog page.

#3: May 2022 Core Update – 25 May

On 25 May, Google announced the first core algorithm update of 2022 on Twitter. As always, core updates don’t target specific signals or issues but the relevance of websites overall and Google’s ability to rank the best-matching pages.

As with all core algorithm updates, the usual advice applies:

“Core updates are changes we make to improve Search overall and keep pace with the changing nature of the web. While nothing in a core update is specific to any particular site, these updates may produce some noticeable changes to how sites perform, which we’ve noted in previous guidance on what site owners should know about core updates.”

That being said, a lot of people in the SEO industry noticed this particular update hit AI-generated content especially hard. Google says machine-generated content is against its guidelines but the tools are becoming more popular (and advanced) all the time so this could become a common theme in future updates.

#4: July 2022 Product Reviews Update – 27 July

On 27 July, Google announced another product reviews update on Twitter, this time simply refining the update previously rolled out in March.

As a refinement, Google didn’t provide any new info or guidelines for this update but simply referred website owners to existing guidance:

  • Evaluate the product from a user’s perspective.
  • Demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about the products reviewed – show you are an expert.
  • Provide evidence such as visuals, audio, or other links of your own experience with the product, to support your expertise and reinforce the authenticity of your review.
  • Share quantitative measurements about how a product measures up in various categories of performance.
  • Explain what sets a product apart from its competitors.
  • Cover comparable products to consider, or explain which products might be best for certain uses or circumstances.
  • Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a particular product, based on your own original research.
  • Describe how a product has evolved from previous models or releases to provide improvements, address issues, or otherwise help users in making a purchase decision.
  • Identify key decision-making factors for the product’s category and how the product performs in those areas (for example, a car review might determine that fuel economy, safety, and handling are key decision-making factors and rate performance in those areas).
  • Describe key choices in how a product has been designed and their effect on the users beyond what the manufacturer says.
  • Include links to other useful resources (your own or from other sites) to help a reader make a decision.
  • Consider including links to multiple sellers to give the reader the option to purchase from their merchant of choice.
  • When recommending a product as the best overall or the best for a certain purpose, include why you consider that product the best, with first-hand supporting evidence.
  • Ensure there is enough useful content in your ranked lists for them to stand on their own, even if you choose to write separate in-depth single product reviews for each recommended product.

Although Google played down the significance of this update, it considered it important enough to announce and many website owners reported an impact. The only advice we can give is that Google keeps raising the bar of quality for product review content and publishers will need to keep ahead of these updates by updating and improving their content.

Publishers that do this will actually benefit from the updates as Google rewards quality reviews and lower-quality pages fall down the SERPs.

#5: Helpful Content Update – 25 August

On 18 August, Google announced that it would launch the helpful content update the following week. The announcement was posted on Twitter, explaining that the update was designed to “better ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, rather than content made primarily for search engine traffic”.

Google also posted an announcement on the Google Search Central Blog offering more details about the update.

“The helpful content update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.”

The update started rolling out on 25 August with Google explaining the rollout could take up to two weeks. We published our own analysis of the helpful content update while it was rolling out and many industry experts were speculating it would be the most significant update since Panda.

As of yet, we haven’t seen anywhere near this level of impact and some have criticised Google for suggesting the update would be more severe. However, this wouldn’t be the first time an update has been overestimated by the SEO community (remember “Mobilegeddon”?) or that an update became more important over time, such as Hummingbird and, more recently, MUM.

#6: September 2022 Core Update – 12 September

On 12 September, Google announced the second core algorithm update of 2022 on Twitter, the week after the helpful content update finished rolling out. Google said the update would take roughly two weeks to finish rolling out.

As a core update, the usual advice applies and, in this instance, the September 2022 Core Update hit faster than we’re used to seeing but the overall impact was relatively mild.

#7: September 2022 Product Reviews Update – 20 September

Google announced the latest product reviews update on 20 September in a Twitter post. By this point, the September core algorithm update hadn’t quite finished rolling out although Google normally tries to avoid overlapping major updates as much as possible.

Google didn’t offer any additional advice for the latest product reviews update, which suggests it’s refining the algorithm rather than adding new signals or targeting new issues. The cyclical nature of product reviews updates also suggests we could see further updates before the end of 2022 and, possibly, into next year.

What does all this mean for SEO?

In last year’s algorithm update review, we pondered whether the hectic schedule of updates in 2021 was a one-off or if SEOs might have to get used to that kind of upheaval every year. Thankfully, 2022 has been far more settled and it would take something drastic at this stage of the near to match any of the volatility experienced in 2021.

Here’s a summary of what this year’s algorithm updates could mean for SEO in 2023:

  • Product review content should help users choose the right product for their needs, based on specs, price and other comparisons – and we could see more updates in 2023.
  • Page experience is now equally as important for desktop results as mobile.
  • The useful content update could have more impact on search results as time passes.
  • MUM will continue to have a stronger impact on the search experience and the SERPs over the coming years.
  • Cyclical updates could be more common if Google continues to refine updates for product reviews – could we even see cycles for updates like the useful content update?
  • 2021 may have been a one-off in terms of search volatility but Google always has the potential to surprise.
  • The core essentials mattered most in 2022 with quality content, value for the end user and the same principles of core updates being the key themes this year.

Struggling with Google algorithm updates?

If you’re struggling to cope with Google algorithm updates or attribute traffic fluctuations to specific updates/signals, our SEO and data science teams can help. Call us on 023 9283 0281 to speak to us about setting up a comprehensive SEO reporting system or fill out the contact form to arrange a chat with our team.

Dave Colgate profile picture
Dave Colgate

Dave joined Vertical Leap in 2010 as an SEO specialist. Prior to joining us he worked with international companies delivering successful search marketing campaigns, and had a 49% share in a web design company of which he was responsible for delivery. Having introduced SEO as a service to the company, he decided to specialise in SEO and sold the company in 2010 alongside the Managing Director. Dave works with many of our largest customers spanning many household names and global brands. Outside of work, Dave previously spent many years providing charity work as a Sergeant under the Royal Air Force Reserves in the Air Cadets sharing his passion for aviation with young minds. He can often be found in the skies above the south coast enjoying his private pilot licence.

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