27 February 2023
Shopify Commerce Report 2022: 5 Key Takeaways
From core updates to product reviews, the helpful content system to combating spam, Google was a very busy bee in 2022.
In this article we’re going to run down what changed and why, along with how those updates are going to shape SEO in 2023. Let’s dive straight in:
Google is constantly making changes to its algorithm to improve the quality of search results and ensure that users are getting the most relevant and useful information possible. In 2022, Google rolled out several confirmed algorithm updates, each with the potential to impact website rankings and traffic. Here’s a rough summary of what went down:
“We put this diagram together to illustrate just how closely together some of those updates were released, the dates range from when they began rolling out to when they were confirmed as ‘completed’. You can see how knowing which update had a positive or negative effect on your site around September might be difficult.”
22 Feb – Mar 3: Desktop Page Experience Update
Mar 23 – Apr 11: Product Reviews Update #1
May 25 – Jun 9: Core Update #1
Jul 27 – Aug 2: Product reviews Update #2
Aug 25 – Sep 9: Helpful Content Update #1
Sep 12 – Sep 26: Core Update #2
Sep 20 – Sep 26: Product reviews Update #3
Oct 19 – Oct 21: Spam Update
Dec 5 – Jan 12: Helpful Content Update #2
Dec 14 – Jan 12: Link Spam Update
Google released two core updates last year, one in May and one in September. The May update rolled out on 25th May and completed 9th June, hitting hard and fast, with some hefty peaks in SERP volatility on the 26th and the 5th. The September core update rolled out on the 12th and had finished by the 26th. There was actually less volatility reported from September’s update than May’s, but both were considered weaker than the core update of Nov 2021 (that was a beast).
Google’s May 2022 Core Update was a broad update that impacted a wide range of websites across multiple niches. As with all core updates, the goal was to improve the overall relevance and quality of search results. Some websites experienced significant fluctuations in rankings and traffic as a result, while others saw little to no impact.
One notable aspect of the May update was that it seemed to place greater emphasis on user engagement metrics such as bounce rate, time on site, and pages per session. This suggests that Google is increasingly focused on ensuring that websites are delivering a positive user experience, rather than simply targeting specific keywords or other technical factors.
Like the May update, the Sep ‘22 update impacted a wide range of websites, but some niches were hit particularly hard. Ecommerce sites saw some of the biggest increases in visibility, with some news and media sites losing the most visibility. One notable aspect of the September update was that it seemed to place greater emphasis on expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) signals.
This is consistent with Google’s ongoing efforts to prioritise high-quality, authoritative content in its search results. Websites that were able to demonstrate expertise and authority in their respective niches, through things like high-quality content, backlinks from reputable sources, and positive user reviews definitely cut the mustard better than those lacking one or all of the latter.
We’ve gone into the helpful content update in detail in this article, but there were two updates made in 2022 to Google’s new helpful content system classifiers. The updates were meant to penalise content written solely to rank, and not written by a person to help other people.
August 25th – Google released the new update with a lot of press fuss and bluster
Dec 6th – They rolled out HCU 2.0
The helpful content system as a whole was aimed at improving the quality of content that appears in search results. The HC system focuses on rewarding websites that offer high-quality, helpful, and informative content to users. In contrast, websites that offered thin content or content that was duplicated from other sources were penalised.
But what does this mean for you or me? Well, to make sure that your website is not negatively impacted by this update, focus on creating original, valuable, and informative content that meets the needs of your target audience. Google, as ever, has laid out “clear” guidance on the matter, worth checking out over at search central.
Google rolled out three product review updates in 2022, pair those with the two from 2021 and you’ve got a grand total of five updates within 24 months – quick maths.
But why? The cynic would say that they’ve not got it right yet, and bogus review sites still keep being rewarded with visibility despite their obvious bogusness. The more earnest among us might say, Google is perfecting the algorithm… Let’s take a look.
2022 Product Review Updates
These updates were designed to improve the quality and relevance of product review content in search results, and to ensure that users are getting accurate and trustworthy information about products they may be interested in purchasing. The updates targeted three ways websites manipulate and twist product reviews for better search visibility:
Schema has been around for years, but has recently curried great favour with SEOs the over the world, as Google shifts the weight of its value in their search algorithm. As part of the product review updates, Google stated that product review schema should only be used for content that was created by the website itself, rather than simply aggregating reviews from other sources.
They also made it very clear that they would be placing greater emphasis on factors like accuracy, trustworthiness, and expertise in its evaluation of product review content. Websites that were able to demonstrate niche expertise and provided detailed, well-researched reviews of products, saw some real gains. Check out Amsive Digital’s detailed analysis for a full analysis.
Affiliate marketing is a contentious topic within SEO, but whatever your opinion, product review sites built for affiliate purposes aren’t going anywhere. With the PR reviews of last year, Google aimed to penalise websites that were using affiliate links in a deceptive or manipulative way, and looking for signals that websites were prioritising affiliate revenue over providing accurate and trustworthy information to users.
Goes without saying that, if you’re approaching SEO the right way, (which is to say; user-centric) and not adopting any outdated or ‘spammy’ tactics – the spam updates of 2022 shouldn’t have been of any concern for you. However, if you’re a legacy domain with a rich and detailed history, any update that looks to criticise your link profile is likely to cause your SEO’s blood pressure to rise. Let’s take a look at what we know:
October 2022 spam update
December 2022 link spam update
In October 2022, Google rolled out a spam-related update aimed at cracking down on a range of spammy practices. This update targeted websites that were using techniques like keyword stuffing, cloaking, and hidden text to manipulate search rankings.
The December 2022 Link Spam Update focused on websites that engaged in manipulative link-building practices. This update penalised websites that used link schemes to artificially boost their search rankings, such as buying links or participating in link farms. Google’s goal with this update was to promote natural and organic link building practices and to ensure that search results are not manipulated by spammy links.
To avoid being negatively impacted by this update, focus on building high-quality, relevant, and natural links to your website. This can be achieved by creating valuable content that is worth linking to and by reaching out to other websites in your industry to build relationships and earn links.
I think it’s safe to say that the updates we saw in 2022 turned the search lens back on SEOs and marketers, with an emphasis on putting a stop to ‘gaming’ search engines and instead, providing quality content to answer users’ queries.
The SERPs shifted across the year as they always do, with some gains or losses more predictable than others. In their annual wrap-up of 2022, SISTRIX laid out the key trends of the last year in search:
In 2023, SEOs and marketers will need to heed the changes we saw last year and factor that into their strategy and approach over the next 12 months. Before we go, here are five takes we’ll be applying in 2023 that you might want to consider as part of your strategy:
And that’s it! Search in 2022, in miniature. If you have any questions about Google algorithm updates in 2023, or if you’re looking for help with your SEO strategy in 2023, get in touch with the team for a chat.
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