After a quieter start to the year, the search and SEO world is going out with a bang. Google’s released a few big things we need to note in our October SEO update recap. And we’re continuing to see the growth and impact that AI is having on the search and marketing world in general. Let’s start out with two back to back releases in early October that shook things up and truly made the SEO feel like spooky season had started out with a bang.
Google Releases October 2023 Spam Update
Released on October 4th, Google kicked things off with a new Spam update. It’s the first one this year, but one of many since 2021. This was a broad update aimed at improving Google’s spam detection capabilities across multiple languages. While many previous spam updates hit on primarily English, this one focused on addressing spam issues in Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hindi, Chinese, and other languages.
The update focused on several specific spam tactics that were prevalent in non-English languages. Things like:
- Cloaking – Where a website shows different content to search engines versus users. Website devs mostly do this to manipulate rankings and hide malicious content that would otherwise be flagged and blacklisted.
- Hacked websites – Websites that hackers use to distribute malware or spam.
- Auto-generated content – Content created by computer programs with no human input. This kind of content is usually low quality and can be spammy, and usually filled with incorrect information. This is different from AI-generated content that usually has a human element behind the scenes.
It took about two weeks for this update to roll out. We haven’t seen a wide impact from this update at this point. But the impact for black hat SEOs or those who use malicious means to get ahead, comes from Google directly targeting these bad practices.
Google Launches October 2023 Broad Core Algorithm Update
And coming in hot right behind the Spam update, the very next day Google released it’s October 2023 Broad Core Algorithm Update on October 5th. This is the third Core Algorithm Update of 2023, meaning the most impactful kind of update to search results has come in 3 times, the first in March, then another in August.
Google releases October 2023 broad core update https://t.co/Vrggyx0LGW
— Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) October 5, 2023
Because it’s a core update, the algorithm changes don’t target any specific kind of website or industry, but it affects a wide range of websites, search queries, and encompasses all types of content. Also because of its broad nature, it was not intended to penalize any specific website or content type, but to continue to reward high-quality content.
Website owners can take several steps to improve their chances of ranking well after a broad core algorithm update:
- Create high-quality, relevant, and helpful content that meets the needs of their target audience.
- Make sure their website is mobile-friendly and easy to use.
- Use technical SEO best practices to optimize their website for search engines.
- Build backlinks to their website from high-quality websites.
- Monitor their website’s analytics to track their performance and identify areas for improvement.
Google Testing More Subtle Search Generative Experience Design
We talked a little bit in last month’s update about Search Generative Experience (SGE) as being the potential future of Google search. In October, they started to test a more toned-down version hailed as SGE lite. Essentially it shows a couple lines of text from the AI-generated answer with the ability to expand the results to continue reading.
SGE continues to evolve. I’m now seeing what I’m calling “SGE lite” in the SERPs. SGE doesn’t trigger a large block by default anymore… it’s now much smaller with a large “Show more” button. Again, IMO SGE will not roll out unless it’s revenue-neutral or positive… Stay tuned: pic.twitter.com/JSlUJ7V7ef
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) October 7, 2023
Previous looks at SGE, the content results took over the entire above the fold screen. The normal blue links and UI that we expect would show much further down the page, discouraging many people to scroll since a majority of clicks go to the top 3 sites anyway.
This is certainly not the last we’ll hear about SGE, and we’ll keep updating you as Google continues to iterate and develop this potentially huge tool for the SEO world.
Google Completes Switch To Mobile-First Indexing
After years and years and YEARS of talking about it, Google has FINALLY fully transitioned to mobile-first indexing. Meaning, it prioritizes mobile versions over desktop pages when crawling and indexing content.
In its announcement, Google said “Over the years, mobile web traffic has continued to grow; in the same regions, people almost exclusively use their phone to access the internet. Thank you – site owners, SEOs, web developers, designers, and everyone who works on websites – for helping make the mobile web a success!”
Worldwide, mobile now suprasses desktop in internet usage. But that doesn’t mean that Google won’t crawl your site if you still only have a desktop version, the Google bot will still continue to crawl desktop pages, but it might not be as frequently.
Testing Ads Between Organic Searches
The last bit we want to talk about could also shake up organic search results. Since the creation of Google Ads and PPC in general, we all got used to seeing those paid ads at the top of search results. Then you scroll to get to the organically ranking sites. It’s the base of SEO! BUT, Google is testing showing ads within the organic search results. After getting several questions, Google Ads Liaison Ginny Marvin confirmed on X (formerly Twitter) “We’re regularly experimenting and don’t have anything more to share at this point.”
Take a look at these examples posted on X.
Did I miss a memo and there are now ads mixed in with the organic results, or is this a test?
Just went through a couple queries that had ads where the 5th and 3rd organic positions normally are. Example screenshot. pic.twitter.com/YergCg6ekM
— Patrick Stox (@patrickstox) October 24, 2023
I just found an ad in the middle of the SERPs!
1. Google shopping
4. Organic result
5. People Also Asked
6. Organic result
7. Organic result
8. Organic result
9. Ad@rustybrick is this new? pic.twitter.com/HJ7vWgcXyt
— Lidia Infante (@LidiaInfanteM) October 24, 2023
A lot of people are pretty upset at this one, understandably. It completely changes what it means to rank organically. But we will see if this becomes more permanent or just a test to measure response and click through rates. If this experiment ups advertising revenue for Google, it’s nearly a sure thing that ads interspersed in the organic results will become the new way to view search results worldwide.