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Search engine optimisation mug full of pens sitting on a desk in the Uprise Up office - SEO News and Updates

We want to share the latest SEO news and updates with you to help you stay at the cutting edge of the Search landscape. You can discover all of the latest developments here with our added expert commentary so you can get a more in-depth view of how they may impact you and your business.

Google to Crack Down on AI-Written Content in Search Results

12/03/2024

Last week, Google announced their latest Broad Core Update, and the message it’s enforcing is clear: If you want to rank, your quality better not be rank.

These latest algorithm changes, currently being rolled out, are intended to purge sites “using automation to generate low-quality or unoriginal content at scale” (read: AI-written bilge). 

Google hopes to improve the quality of search results by 40%, as declining relevance in recent years has left many users feeling increasingly discontent.

Google are also updating their spam policies to crack down on the following:

  • Scaled Content Abuse (mass autogenerated content, whether AI or programmatic)
  • Site Reputation Abuse (otherwise known as parasite SEO)
  • Expired Domain Abuse (buying and repurposing expired sites purely to boost the search ranking of low-quality or unoriginal content – effectively the necromancy of the SEO world)

It’ll be interesting to see how this affects sites using programmatic SEO to deliver templated content, such as product descriptions and property listings.

It’s also worth noting that Google is caught in a slight conflict of interest here: they’ve been eager to brand themselves as an AI-driven company, making strides to develop their own generative search. Just last month they paid news sites to test their unreleased AI platform. How serious can their efforts to ban AI-generated content afford to be? Only time, and profit margins, will tell.

Crucially, this update should help elevate your rankings above highly optimised but ultimately vacuous content you may have been competing with before. If you’re concerned, or even just mildly curious, throw us a question on LinkedIn or Twitter. We’re always up for a good discussion.

Google Completes Switch to Mobile-First Indexing

31st October 2023

Since 2015, Google started to shift its focus and monitor the performance of mobile devices considering the upward trend of searches being conducted via mobile opposed to desktop. This trend has continued, and the use of desktop has gradually faded out for a lot of websites. In light of this, Google has been working hard to transition its indexing process to look at solely the mobile version of sites and have announced that this switch over is not complete.

With Google now prioritizing mobile versions when crawling and indexing web pages, it is crucial that all websites are mobile friendly and ensuring this is a focus for their online strategies. In most cases, websites have adapted their site to become accessible by mobile but there are websites that exist that do not function on mobile. Google has said, for now it will keep crawling desktop versions but hasn’t given a clear indication of when this will end.

For Charities, it is crucial that your site is mobile friendly to ensure you are visible in the SERPs and not missing out on potential traffic. If you have a mobile friendly website, our top tips for maximum performance would be to make sure page speed is optimised, images are an optimal size, and you think about things such as button sizes and the placement of these to ensure the website doesn’t have that cluttered feel.

You can read more about the mobile first announcement on Search Engine Journal.

Google Releases A Spam Update and A Core Update Consecutively – October 2023

October 4th, rollout complete as of 20th – The Spam Update
October 5th, rollout complete as of 19th – The Core Update

Google continues to refine its algorithms and systems to ensure that users receive the most relevant and high-quality search results. In recent updates in October, Google has doubled down on two key areas: spam prevention and quality content.

What does it mean for websites: This definitely put more emphasis on useful, unique and quality content that is promoted without the frowned upon tactics. Let’s take a look at what each update means for the websites.

  • Spam Update: Google’s ongoing efforts to combat search spam have resulted in notable improvements to their automated systems. Violations can result in lower rankings or exclusion from search results. However, implementing necessary changes can lead to improvements if the site complies with the policies over time – usually seen after a following algorithm update.
  • Core Update: Google’s periodic updates that aim to enhance the overall quality of search results to provide helpful and reliable information to users have been much more common in the past few years – thanks AI revolution. Unlike spam updates, core updates do not target specific pages or websites for punitive actions. Instead, they improve how Google’s systems assess content as a whole, allowing previously under-rewarded pages to perform better in search results. This might mean that as long as you have a solid digital marketing strategy, you are not expected to get hurt from these updates and even benefit from them if your industry is par standards.

Applicable Steps After Algorithm Updates

To adapt to these recent Google updates and improve your website’s performance, consider the following steps:

  1. Comply with spam policies head on.
  2. Periodically review your content to make sure it provides value and remains relevant.
  3. Keep an eye on the updates on the updates and Search Quality Rater Guidelines

Google’s Helpful Content Update Rollout – September 2023

September 14th – 28th

September saw Google roll out another helpful content update which altered AI and third-party guidelines. This update took place between September 14th – 28th and was aimed at promoting people-first content and demoting content specifically written for search engines such as Google.

The key changes Google made during this update are the following:

  • Guidance on machine generated content – Google has softened its preference on human generated content and made AI generated content more consistent with other advice on creating helpful content.

 

  • Updated rules for hosting third part content – Google is now suggesting that if this content isn’t related to the mains website purpose, then to no index it to avoid the domain getting penalised.

 

  • What to do if you’re hit by the update – Google is now hinting to review all content on our websites and if the content isn’t helpful, to consider removing it or replacing it with content that will benefit the users.

Next steps for website owners:

Audit content on your website. Decide if your content is useful and helpful to your users – if not, improve it or remove it. And if you host third party content such as guest blog posts or articles, consider the connection to your website and if useful and relevant, keep and if not, no index it.

Google Releases Broad Core Update

22/08/23

Google has announced their second core update of 2023, the last one having been in March. Core updates affect the search ranking algorithm on a fundamental level, so could have a positive or negative influence on your site’s ranking.

Like all core updates, this is expected to take 2 weeks to fully roll out. During this period, we recommend monitoring your website’s analytics and ranking to see whether performance has been affected.

The specifics of the update are yet to be released – however, we suspect it will be related to content and the experience users will have when landing on your site.

Google Research Proposes New Search Ranking Model

08/08/23

Google has announced a potentially important development in its search ranking optimisation research. A new ranking framework called TW-BERT (the first two initials standing for Term Weighting) has been developed, which improves search results and is easily deployable in existing ranking systems.

The model works by assigning scores (or weights) to words within a search query, to more accurately align with the user’s intended meaning and hence deliver more accurate, relevant results.

Google’s research paper gives the example of the search term ‘Nike running shoes’. Emphasising the ‘running’ part of the search would return search results from brands other than Nike, which are clearly irrelevant to the user’s interests. The challenge, then, is to ensure that ‘Nike’ is weighted sufficiently highly while still providing running shoes in the returned results.

TW-BERT resolves this problem by using n-gram (probability-based predictive language) modelling to ensure that ‘running shoes’ is upweighted when scoring pages.

TW-BERT improves ranking processes across the board, including in query expansion, which refers to the process whereby the search engine restates a search query or adds words to it to better match the search query to pages. Adding scores to the query helps the search engine determine the intent of a given search term.

Although this new ranking framework has not been implemented yet, the fact that it can be deployed easily does increase its likelihood of seeing active duty.

Google's Search Generative Experience

15/06/23

Google has opened up access to it’s new AI-powered search engine experience that it announced as part of Project Magi. 

This new Search Generative Experience aims to make search results more “visual, snackable, personal and human” for users. From what we can see so far, it seems to be able to generate answers for most topics, including local searches, ‘how to’ queries and shopping.

It even provides answers for some YMYL content relating to health, finance and legal searches, although this is limited in some cases and also comes with many disclaimers about the accuracy of information. One area it doesn’t seem to touch on as much are queries for extremely sensitive, controversial or political topics.

It’s now also uses data from Google Business Profiles, such as photos and reviews, to include in its AI generated summaries.

You can discover more about the Search Generative Experience here.

Google Bard adds citations to responses

15/05/23

Google have been developing citations to add into the responses and summaries it generates for users.

Many site owners have been concerned about content being scraped from their site by generative AI systems, such as Bard of ChatGPT without being referenced or having links to their site in place.

Google Bard is now showing sources using numbers, like true citations, and is making use of ‘learn more’ links. Users can follow these links to find the exact source for specific pieces of information.

This is a welcome feature to see – and it would be great to see it roll out across other AI and chatbot systems, such as ChatGPT.

April 2023 Reviews Update

25/04/23

Google rolled out a reviews update, which started on April 12th and finished on April 25th.

A key point to note about this update, is that it expanded well beyond the realm of just product reviews. This update also focussed on reviews for non-product content, including:

  • Services and business reviews
  • Destination reviews
  • Media, such as games of movies.

This was quite different from previous review updates, which focussed mainly on products. Google has since changed the name of its ‘product reviews system’ to ‘review system’ and has updated language throughout.

This focus on reviews means sites should ensure their review content is truly useful and valuable to users. You can read more about Google’s reviews system here.

March 2023 Core Algorithm Update

15/03/23

Google began rolling out another core algorithm update on March 15th.

It is as yet unclear as to exactly what elements Google is updating. However, we know there are a few elements that are key to get right such as user experience, quality content and showing you are an authoritative source. If you are focusing your marketing efforts around these key areas, we would hope your website remains stable during the update rollout.

It’s normal to see ranking fluctuations throughout this time which is why we recommend holding off on any changes you wish to make to your site until the update is fully rolled out and rankings have stabilized.

Read more here.

Nesting Structured Data

20/03/23

Nesting your structured data to better demonstrate to Google what the page is about.

As we know, structured data is a format that provides information about a page and its page contents. For example, product schema is going to tell Google information such product name, price, and stock levels. This helps it to understand the specifics of the product and able to display some of this in the search results.

Nesting structure data is where one page may have more than one type of structured data. For example, if you have a recipe on your website and this recipe contains a review, which structured data are you going to list first? With nesting, you combine both structured data’s so Google knows the review is of the recipe.

Discover more about nesting structured data.

OpenAI release GPT-4

14/03/23

GPT-4 is the latest evolution of artificial intelligence chatbot developed by Open AI. This is the most advanced system to be produced and allows you to ask more complex question and receive more accurate responses. The AI is multimodal which means it can process our natural human language as well as process sound and visual.

It also works across multiple languages too meaning you can ask a question in one language and ask for the answer to be in another.

This tool looks as if it could come in very useful to support marketing channels such as SEO, but we would always recommend a human to read over and make tweaks before it is used!

Updated Desktop Search Design (Google)

08/03/23

Google have announced updates to how desktop search results will be displayed. The new results will display brand favicons and site names above the search result.

This is in addition to providing clearer labelling of ads with the word ‘sponsored’ in bold above paid ads.

Google’s overall aim is to help make the source of search results simpler and quicker for users to identify, and to improve distinction between organic and paid search results.

You can discover more about their new desktop search design here.

Feb 23 Product Review Update.

21/02/23

Between 21st February and 7th March 2023, Google ran an update to product reviews.

The aim of this update was to further promote product reviews that are above and beyond. This meaning the more detailed and insightful product review, the more likely Google will show it.

Research conducted by Semrush and Rank Ranger shows this update was more significant than the same update in July 2022. This update was deemed more volatile with the average ranking change of 3.63%. You can read more about their research here.

Google Maps Becomes More Immersive and Sustainable

08/02/23

Google has started using AI to bring an intuitive navigation experience to its users by adding features such as Immersive and Live view. These views us AI and computer vision to create a digital model of the towns in a whole new level of detail so people can explore locations virtually before they arrive at their destination.

There has also been updates rolled out for those users who drive electric vehicles pinpointing where charging stations are located on maps so users can effectively plan their routes and go via charge stations where needed.

Say hello to E-E-A-T!

15/12/22

Google announced significant changes to the Quality Rater Guidelines. There have been many updates made to their guidelines, however, there is one key update we all need to take notes of…

E-A-T as we knew it, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness has been updated and given an additional E!

  • Experience
  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness

Experience shows the content creator has their own experience with the topic so is a trusted source. This really shows how important the trust aspect is and that Google really needs to be shown that the content creators really know what they are talking about and that they are able to give out this advice, especially for sites in YMYL industries.

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If you’d like to have a chat about any recent updates or about how we can support your changing SEO needs, we’d love to hear from you! You can visit our contact page or drop us an email at hello@upriseup.co.uk.

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