Google Search Algorithm Updates: What You Need to Know

Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable recently highlighted a series of updates and changes affecting Google's search landscape. From algorithm volatility to CEO Sundar Pichai addressing quality i...
Google Search Algorithm Updates: What You Need to Know
Written by Rich Ord
  • Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable recently highlighted a series of updates and changes affecting Google’s search landscape. From algorithm volatility to CEO Sundar Pichai addressing quality issues, the world of SEO continues to shift. Here’s a comprehensive rundown of the latest changes and what they mean for businesses and search professionals.

    Google Search Ranking Volatility: May 9th and 3rd Updates Google’s search ranking experienced significant fluctuations around May 9th and May 3rd. According to Schwartz, volatility was especially noticeable on May 9th, when SEO tools like SimilarWeb and SEMrush detected increased chatter among webmasters and SEOs. Many reported both ranking improvements and declines.

    Similarly, on May 3rd, tracking tools indicated a spike in ranking changes, though not as extreme as the more recent update. SEO professionals like Glenn Gabe shared significant data reflecting these movements.

    Site Reputation Abuse Enforcement Begins Google started enforcing its new site reputation abuse policy this week with manual actions aimed at sites renting out their platforms for content they don’t own. This policy targets websites using their domain’s authority to rank external content, which violates Google’s guidelines. Google’s Danny Sullivan confirmed that while the current enforcement involves manual actions, algorithmic measures will follow soon.

    Major players like Forbes removed their coupon directories before the policy took effect, and those affected by the manual actions received notifications in their Google Search Console.

    Hope for Recovery After the Helpful Content Update Despite concerns from site owners impacted by Google’s Helpful Content Update, John Mueller assured that recovery is possible. He reiterated on X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn that while recovery could take months, affected sites can eventually regain their rankings and even grow. “Some kinds of changes take longer time to build up,” Mueller noted.

    Sundar Pichai Addresses Search Quality Issues In an interview with Bloomberg TV’s Emily Chang, Sundar Pichai responded to criticisms regarding declining search quality. He acknowledged that the rise of AI-generated content poses a challenge to maintaining quality. However, he emphasized Google’s commitment to delivering high-quality search results and improving search through new technologies like SGE (Search Generative Experience).

    Google Hides Search Results Count Google has now hidden the number of search results under the “Tools” menu, which users can access after performing a search. This count, often scrutinized by SEOs despite Google’s warnings against relying on it, is no longer visible by default.

    Disavow Link Tool to be Removed John Mueller hinted that Google’s Disavow Link Tool may be removed from Google Search Console at some point. While this has upset some SEOs, Mueller emphasized that most sites don’t need to use the tool unless they have a manual action related to unnatural links.

    Other Significant Changes:

    • Gemini Stops Linking to Sources: Google’s Gemini (formerly Bard) has stopped directly linking to most sources in its AI answers. Instead, it references sources by name.
    • Renaming AI Overview: Google renamed “AI Answers” back to “AI Overview,” possibly to avoid implying that AI responses are definitive answers.
    • New Notes Button: Google is testing a smaller Notes button in search results, simplifying its user interface.
    • SGE and Kidney Stones: Google’s SGE generated controversy by suggesting users “drink urine” to pass kidney stones. This misleading recommendation, later corrected, highlighted the risks of relying solely on AI answers.
    • Product Review Summary Labels: Google has introduced new summary labels in product review snippets.
    • Marketplace Purchases Data: Google may start showing searchers how many people purchased from specific e-commerce sites using data from Google Merchant Center.
    • Performance Max for Marketplaces: Google Ads launched new Performance Max campaigns specifically for marketplaces.
    • Google Ads Audit Rumors: Rumors of 25% of Google Ads accounts being audited are false, according to Google’s Ginny Marvin.
    • Bing Tests Clearer Search Result Distinctions: Bing is testing a clearer distinction between paid and organic results, responding to criticisms about confusing ad labeling.
    • Local Service Ads Proximity Factor Removed: Google removed proximity as a ranking factor for Local Service Ads. However, location remains relevant for these listings.
    • Google Analytics Adds Conversion Performance Reporting: Google Analytics now has a beta feature for tracking Google Ads conversion performance.
    • StatCounter Fixes Market Share Data: StatCounter corrected its market share data, which inaccurately showed Google losing significant ground to Bing and Yahoo.

    Conclusion: Navigating the Ever-Changing Google Search Landscape Google’s frequent algorithm updates and policy changes present both challenges and opportunities for businesses and SEOs. Staying informed about these changes, adapting strategies accordingly, and maintaining high-quality content can help websites remain competitive. As Sundar Pichai noted, search quality remains a top priority for Google, and evolving technologies like SGE are poised to redefine the search experience.

    Get the WebProNews newsletter delivered to your inbox

    Get the free daily newsletter read by decision makers

    Advertise with Us

    Ready to get started?

    Get our media kit