Rounding out the summer months, we had a quieter month in the SEO and search world. Even with a rare Core update from Google, we didn’t see a ton of volatility or changes to the search landscape this month. Of course, there’s still much to talk about, so we’re just going to dive right in.
August 2023 Core Update
We’ll start out with the biggest SEO news we can cover: a Google Core Algorithm Update released on August 22nd. Dubbed the August 2023 Core Update, this is only the second Core update of the year, the first coming in March. Google didn’t say anything specific about what was entailed in the release. Other SEO experts seem to agree that this Core update didn’t seem to cause as much volatility as other core updates. We also believe it’s looking at rewarding and promoting good content and good web pages. It does not seem to be a penalty toward poorer quality content. It took about two weeks to roll out, finishing on September 7th.
As with all Core updates from Google, the point is to improve its algorithm. With the ultimate goal to provide the best search results possible for users. Core updates do not target any specific websites or pages.
And while most SEO’s around the world didn’t see a lot of shifts in the rankings with this update, the week prior saw a lot of volatility. Google didn’t confirm if the changes in SERPs were a test or a preview of what was coming. But those changes in rankings in mid-August could have meant the Core update started a week earlier than announced. Or Google tested to see how these changes could affect the SERPs before pulling the trigger on the full update.
Like with every Google update, if your site was hit with lower rankings, check Search Console and the pages no longer ranking. Compare your content with the content now currently ranking, and see what you need to do to improve what you have on your site. Everyone should always be looking to improve the content they already have on their site to stay relevant and up to date with the most recent guidelines.
Google Test Features
Google Algorithm can Read .csv files
Without fanfare, Google updated its Search Central documentation that they are now indexing .csv files. CSV stands for Comma-Separated Values. These text files save data as a table and display information as a spreadsheet. The fact that Google can now crawl these types of files means greater capability of structured data and datasets. This mostly matters for sites like the government or education sites that might store large tables of reference data that a user might want to search.
Google Privacy & Online Safety in Search
Early in August, Google released new tools to protect your privacy and information that shows up in search results.
Today, we’ve announced some important new features in Google Search to help you stay in control of your personal information, privacy and online safety.
1) Results About You will be gaining a dashboard that will let you know if web results with your personal contact information…
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) August 3, 2023
As you can see, it comes in 3 stages.
- The Results About You tool makes it easier to find and request the removal of any search results that contain your personal phone number, email, or address, right from the Google app or desktop. The tool will now alert you to any changes so you can make the request quickly through a new dashboard. The tool is still in beta, but is available to anyone who clicks the link.
- New elements to SafeSearch mean explicit imagery like adult or graphic content can be blurred by default when it appears in search results. Any user globally can now see these SafeSearch settings. They can turn on these settings on or off any time, unless part of parent or school browser settings. This also makes parental controls easier to access and update.
- Google has allowed someone to request removal of any explicit images of themselves for years. But now, people can remove any of their personal, explicit images they no longer want in search, themselves. This policy does not apply to any images currently commercialized.
OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, released its new web crawler in August called GPTBot. The point is to crawl the web absorbing information in order to provide AI-generated answers to questions or user prompts. There’s some mixed opinions out there on if you even want GPTBot to crawl your site. You can block it with your robots.txt file if you choose to go that route. But counter arguments suggest that Google already crawls your site and knows the content for its AI tool Bard, so why not let GPTBot crawl it as well? Otherwise, because GPTBot is so new, and AI technology is evolving so quickly, many are adopting a wait and see approach. These tools can mean a new source of traffic to your site as the AI tools also provide sources to the answers they provide. It also could mean additional links to your site if people use your content as inspiration for their own writing.
But if for whatever reason you decide to block GPTBot from accessing your site, you should add the following information to your robots.txt file.
User-agent: GPTBot Disallow: /
To allow GPTBot to access only parts of your site, you can add the GPTBot token to your site’s robots.txt like this:
User-agent: GPTBot Allow: /directory-1/ Disallow: /directory-2/
GPTBot documentation. You can read the documentation on GPTBot.