Google is constantly tweaking the algorithm that powers its organic (meaning not paid) search results. When I say "constantly," I mean all the time. There is built-in machine learning that makes minor adjustments in real-time, all day, every day. So, when the search giant announces a "Core Update," it means they are making more fundamental changes. The latest Google core update rolled out in late May of 2022 and finished its roll out a few weeks later on June 9th (read more with the Google Developers link in Resources at the bottom).
As Google notes in their release notes, "We confirm broad core updates because they typically produce some widely notable effects." For most legitimate websites, there is no prescribed action to take. Google's core update shouldn't hurt your website's visibility. As Google has been preaching for 20 years, create an easy-to-use website with high-quality content, and you should be fine (see more in Resources below).
Over the past few years, Google has focused more on reliable, trusted, quality content. Google and SEO nerds like me use two main acronyms for trusted quality content, YMYL (your money or your life), and EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness).
Your money or your life sites are what you expect - financial and medical content sites - really any high-stakes topics. Google wants sites that will not tell you to invest all your money in a scam or buy a pill that promises to cure you of stage 4 cancer.
Based on Google's algorithm, EAT looks for authorities in that field that are seemingly trustworthy. Although even we SEO nerds don't know exactly how the algorithm assigns trust. We have noticed a shift from "what the heck is this website?" to results for specific queries then we did ten years ago.
This shift has helped big, trusted brands, much to the dismay of scrappy startups and small businesses trying to make a name for themselves by earning top SEO rankings on key terms. You can read more about Google’s shift in Google's own guidelines for their quality raters (see the link in Resources).
Now back to the May 2022 core update. By any measure, May 2022 was a big update, meaning the update created lots of volatility in the SERPs (search engine result pages). Unfortunately, as more than one observer has noted, machine learning makes it impossible to know (never mind reverse engineer) these updates. Let me say that another way: computers and algorithms think and act much faster than mere humans.
The May SEO update rewards overall site quality rather than page-level or query-level content; as John Mueller, one of Google's main conduits to the broader SEO community, explained, "Quality" is more than just the textual content on the page. Quality, for Google, means:
Oh, and there are probably a hundred other things we'll never know for sure (such is the life of SEO).
If the May 2022 broad core update impacted your site, look at the pages that changed. Use your Google Search Console reports and identify significantly changed queries and landing pages. Then try to determine if the shift (loss or gain) is a relevancy adjustment, an intent shift, or an overall site quality problem. If you’re not sure if the Core Update helped or hurt your site, contact WTE to schedule a complimentary analytics and search engine conversation with us My next post for WTE will be about relevancy adjustments, intent changes, and overall quality, so stay tuned.