Impact Analysis of the Google Algorithm Update in October 2023

Impact Analysis of the Google Algorithm Update in October 2023

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On the 5th of October, 2023, Google announced the rollout of its latest Core Update. This significant algorithmic change was introduced amid a turbulent period, closely following the Spam Update that had been implemented just the previous day. Additionally, this Core Update succeeded the Helpful Content Update of September 2023, which had only recently concluded its own deployment.

Remarkably, this flurry of activity in Google’s algorithm updates occurred in rapid succession, with the October Core Update launching a mere few weeks after the completion of the August 2023 Core Update. This close succession has sparked curiosity within the SEO community regarding the potential connections and cumulative effects of the August and October 2023 Core Updates.

Let’s delve into the details.

The October 2023 Core Update: Resuming Traditional Update Patterns

The deployment of the October 2023 Core Update marked a reversion to the expected pattern of Google’s algorithm updates. Typically, a core update is characterized by a distinct and noticeable surge in ranking volatility, a “peak” that signals the algorithm’s adjustments taking effect.

In contrast, the August 2023 Core Update deviated from this norm. Due to an already unstable search environment, the anticipated sharp increase in ranking shifts was muted and less apparent.

Nonetheless, the October update restored the pattern to which SEO experts are accustomed. Despite the close proximity of several preceding updates, the October Core Update demonstrated the characteristic spike in rank volatility that is the hallmark of a Google core update.

Photo by Semrush

Visual evidence of this return to form was captured by the Semrush Sensor, which recorded the highest volatility on October 10th. This was followed by another notable increase in fluctuations as the update neared its completion on October 20th, underscoring a return to the recognizable ebb and flow of search rankings during a core update period.

Photo by Semrush

Evaluating the Effects of the October 2023 Core Update

Now that the October 2023 Core Update has been fully implemented, it’s time to assess its impact on search rankings. A key metric in this analysis is “Peak Volatility,” measured on a scale from 1 to 10, as per the Semrush Sensor’s scale. This metric helps gauge the extent of the update’s influence on ranking volatility.

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The data reveals that the August 2023 Core Update exhibited significantly higher peak volatility across various sectors. However, the August update’s rollout was unusual due to the high level of surrounding volatility, making it challenging to determine how much of this peak volatility was directly attributable to the update itself versus other concurrent algorithmic changes.

A more insightful metric in this context is the relative increase in rank volatility. This involves comparing the increase in volatility against a baseline. Here, the August 2023 Core Update showed a more substantial increase in volatility compared to the baseline than the October 2023 Core Update.

Photo by Semrush

However, this trend wasn’t uniform across all sectors. For instance, sectors like Finance, Shopping, and Arts and Entertainment experienced higher volatility increases during the October update than in August.

To understand the impact of the update more clearly, we also need to consider the actual shifts in ranking positions. On average, the October 2023 Core Update resulted in a movement of about 2.5 positions, slightly less than the average movement of just over 3 positions seen in the August update.

Photo by Semrush

Additionally, an analysis of the top 20 search results revealed that a significant portion of these results, post-update, were previously not ranked as high. Specifically, about 10.5% of URLs in the top 10 results after the October update were not in the top 20 before its rollout. These figures are in line with those observed during the August 2023 Core Update.

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In summary, while the overall impact of the October 2023 Core Update might seem less significant than that of the August update, the degree of fluctuation and ranking shifts observed in October were comparably dramatic. This suggests a continuing trend of more pronounced ranking changes in recent core updates.

Addressing the Question: Was the October 2023 Core Update a Counteraction to the August 2023 Core Update?

A burning question in the SEO community is whether the October 2023 Core Update served as a countermeasure to the changes introduced in the August 2023 Core Update. It’s important to note that only Google could provide a definitive answer to this query.

From Mordy Oberstein’s perspective, a renowned contributor to the SEO industry, based on a limited analysis of available data and a decade of experience in SEO, he offers some insights, though they are largely anecdotal. It’s not uncommon in the aftermath of Google’s official updates to observe what appears to be a reversal in ranking fortunes for certain keywords or websites.

For instance, consider the keyword “direct lenders for bad credit installment loans.” The ranking dynamics for this keyword suggest that the losses incurred during the August 2023 Core Update were somewhat mitigated by the subsequent September 2023 Helpful Update, with the October 2023 Core Update appearing to slightly reverse that trend again.

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A similar pattern is observed with the keyword “business loans australia,” where the ranking decline following the September 2023 Helpful Update seems to have been partially reversed by the October 2023 Core Update.

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It’s not unusual for a website or page to benefit from one type of update (like a core update or a helpful content update) but be negatively impacted by another. This phenomenon, often referred to as “dueling machine learning systems” by experts like Glenn Gabe, highlights the complex nature of Google’s algorithm updates.

Moreover, there are numerous instances where ranking patterns remained unaffected by the August 2023 Core Update or the September 2023 Helpful Update, but showed significant changes with the October 2023 Core Update. This was evident in cases like the keyword “colon cancer stage 3” and “lower back injections.”

Photo by Semrush 

At a broader domain level, some websites experienced a reversal in their fortunes post the August 2023 Core Update, while others only saw changes during the October 2023 Core Update. There are also instances where the ranking trajectory remained consistent across all recent updates, including the October 2023 Spam Update.

Photo by Semrush

Google has stated that the August and October 2023 Core Updates are unrelated, and this assertion aligns with the typical patterns observed in these updates. While reversals from the effects of the August 2023 Core Update are evident, such occurrences are standard in the cycle of Google’s core updates. There’s no clear evidence to suggest a direct and intrinsic link between the August and October 2023 Core Updates.

Navigating Through the Turbulent Waters of SEO

As a final point, for those who have noticed fluctuations in their search rankings in recent months and suspect they are linked to Google’s updates, it’s crucial to pinpoint which specific update might be responsible. The objectives of core updates often differ from those of a Helpful Content Update or a Spam Update. Each type of update targets different aspects of a website’s performance and content quality.

Particularly, if your site has been affected by the October 2023 Spam Update, it may be a clear indication to reevaluate your content strategies, especially if they lean towards spammy practices. Understanding the specific update that influenced your site’s ranking, and the timing of this impact, is a key factor for any SEO professional or website owner. This knowledge is essential for effectively steering your SEO strategy in the ever-changing and often volatile sea of search engine optimization.

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