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.
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.
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:
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.
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 page experience update is now slowly rolling out for desktop. It will be complete by the end of March 2022. Learn more about the update: https://t.co/FQvMx3Ymaf— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) February 22, 2022
The page experience update is now slowly rolling out for desktop. It will be complete by the end of March 2022. Learn more about the update: https://t.co/FQvMx3Ymaf
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.
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.
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.
“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:
Google also added three new points of advice for the third version of this update:
You can find the updated documentation for the third version of the product reviews update on this Google Search Central Blog page.
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.
Today, we're releasing a broad core update, as we do several times per year. This update is called the May 2022 core update. Learn more: https://t.co/7kFklwdkAb— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) May 25, 2022
Today, we're releasing a broad core update, as we do several times per year. This update is called the May 2022 core update. Learn more: https://t.co/7kFklwdkAb
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.
On 27 July, Google announced another product reviews update on Twitter, this time simply refining the update previously rolled out in March.
Today we released the July 2022 product reviews update. We'll update our ranking release history page when the rollout is complete: https://t.co/sQ5COfdNcb— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) July 27, 2022
Today we released the July 2022 product reviews update. We'll update our ranking release history page when the rollout is complete: https://t.co/sQ5COfdNcb
As a refinement, Google didn’t provide any new info or guidelines for this update but simply referred website owners to existing guidance:
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.
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.
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.
Today we released the September 2022 core update. We'll update our ranking release history page when the rollout is complete: https://t.co/sQ5COfdNcb— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) September 12, 2022
Today we released the September 2022 core update. We'll update our ranking release history page when the rollout is complete: https://t.co/sQ5COfdNcb
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.
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.
Today we released the September 2022 product reviews update for English-language product reviews. We'll update our ranking release history page when the rollout is complete: https://t.co/sQ5COfdNcb— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) September 20, 2022
Today we released the September 2022 product reviews update for English-language product reviews. We'll update our ranking release history page when the rollout is complete: https://t.co/sQ5COfdNcb
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.
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:
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 is head of SEO at Vertical Leap. He joined in 2010 as an SEO specialist and prior to that worked with international companies delivering successful search marketing campaigns. Dave works with many of our largest customers spanning many household names and global brands such as P&O Cruises and Harvester. 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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