Search Updates – December ’22 Changes

Search Updates – December ’22 Changes

December is here with Christmas cheer for all to hear. As we wind down for the festive period, there’s no sign of search updates slowing down. In fact, December has seen two major algorithm updates: revamps of how search is written about and adding another E to EAT?

If you need a reminder of what happened last month, read our November round-up, and when you’re ready, scroll down for December’s search antics!

A Second Helpful Content Update

The first helpful content update was rolled out in August 2022. It was Google’s way of ensuring that content ranking well in the search results was written by people, for people and not simply for SEO.

Since August, there haven’t been many major developments on how the update affected websites and some users assumed it was a “one and done”.

However, on December 5th, Google announced a December 2022 helpful content update. With this came more guidance on what the helpful content updates affect. At the time of publishing (January 3rd), the helpful content update is still rolling out.

Google now classifies a Helpful Content System, which is a core algorithm of Google, and these updates will now be specific to the helpful content system.

Essentially, any updates referred to as helpful content updates will be to a system dedicated to making search more helpful for all.

Man holding human sized highlighter

December Link Spam Update

Google’s a huge fan of a link spam update December’s link spam update essentially begins further rollout of AI spam prevention.

SpamBrain is Google’s AI spam-prevention system, which now not only detects direct spam but can detect sites buying links with the intention of manipulating rankings and sites used for the purpose of passing outgoing links. Credit passed by these spammy links will be neutralised, so if you’ve bought links with the intention of manipulating your position in search in the past then watch out, Google’s coming for you.

Remember, if you’re buying links with the intention of manipulating Google’s ranking algorithm, then you are going against their guidelines and you are making yourself liable for manual actions. Disavowing links is an option if you have significant backlinks from spammy sites, but bear in mind that this is advanced SEO, and without expert guidance, you could unintentionally damage your site’s performance in search.

E-E-A-T

If you know SEO, then you may already know E-A-T (Expertise, Authority, Trust). This is Google’s way of ensuring that what people write about on the web are topics they actually know about, and have authority in. E-A-T was introduced in 2015’s release of Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. These guidelines serve as guidance for Google’s real search evaluators (users who rate how well Google’s algorithm is working). E-A-T was one of three core factors in how Google identifies high-quality content:

There was:

  1. Beneficial Purpose
  2. EAT – stands for “Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness”
  3. YMYL – stands for “Your Money or Your Life”.

Google’s latest update adds an “E” for Experience to the beginning of E-A-T, making it E-E-A-T. Their new addition ‘Experience’ means that Google wants to see proof of your experience – it wants to see that you’ve actually used a product you’re reviewing, have tried the 57 juices you list as the best tasting, or like living in America.

Google understands that in some areas, having experience is just as valuable as expertise. Using the 57 juices as an example, drinking fruit juice every day and trying a new one each time gives you better authority on the 57 best juices than someone with a PhD in understanding the chemical properties of fruit juice.

So, what does this mean for you? Well, you should make sure that at least one person involved in the production of your blog posts is an expert or has experience in the topic you’re writing about. For YMYL sites, this is incredibly important. Sometimes experts aren’t the best communicators but making writing a team effort can ensure the best outcomes for everyone, including Google!

Visual Elements Gallery

In a new piece of documentation, Google blessed us with a visual breakdown of Google Search’s different elements.

Aside from the beautifully done illustrations, Google names and lists out what each search element does in the search results. For example, did you know “People Also Ask” is officially called the “Related Questions Group”?

It might not affect how you do SEO but it’s worth a read, just to make sure you’re up to date on the lingo!

Google Search Status Dashboard

Ever wondered if it’s just you that a Google product isn’t working for? Maybe it is, but now you can check with Google’s search status dashboard.

Covering crawling, indexing and serving, Google will tell you whether a service is available, if there’s service information, service disruption or a service outage. At the minute, there’s no outage history because search hasn’t gone down.

However, if search goes down over a weekend and you’re wondering why your new site hasn’t been crawled, you’ll be able to see any problems.

We’d recommend using an RSS update service to get alerts in case search goes down. Microsoft Teams has a search RSS feed that can be plugged into chats and channels if you’re a Teams user!

Testing Search in Video

Say you’re watching a video on the intricacies of juice (yes, there is a juice theme in this article), you’ll want to see if they talk about your favourite juice ingredient, chicory root, but have to watch the whole thing in case it gets mentioned.

Google’s new update on YouTube (only seen in India or the US so far) allows you to search within a video and jump to the point a term is mentioned.

It’s quite an exciting bit of technology, and will definitely play a part in multisearch, Google’s multimedia search function that they’ve been investing heavily into.

At the minute, it’s hard to pinpoint an action, as we can’t really test it. If you do make YouTube videos though, invest in a good-quality microphone and triple-check your transcripts to ensure they match what you’re actually saying, as this might help once the update gets released.

Continuous Scrolling on Desktop

Continuous scrolling has been in place on mobile for a while, but at the beginning of the month, Google announced they were rolling out continuous scroll on desktop, initially for US search only. For those who ranked on the second page currently, this will provide more visibility, but doesn’t guarantee better click-through.

It’s not infinite scroll, it’s just up to six pages without going to a new page. This doesn’t affect position reporting, your AdRank or how often your ads appear for PPC. Google’s official stance on how it affects advertisers reflects how it would affect them on mobile. This stance is:

  • Text ads can show at the top of page two and beyond, with fewer text ads at the bottom of each page
  • Ads can still show multiple times for the same query, based on AdRank
  • The only metric changes may be more impressions and a lower CTR on Search, Shopping, and Local Ads.

If you’re trying to work out where your ads are showing, Google recommends filtering your performance data by “Top vs Other” and reviewing prominence metrics.

Hands holding the numbers 1 2 and 3

Mozilla Bringing Out a Social Media Platform in Early 2023

Mozilla, the non-profit owner of Firefox, has decided to create an “open, decentralized, and global social service that puts the needs of people first.”

It’s worth keeping an eye on this, as it could prove an interesting alternative to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the privacy-concerned out there.

Twitter: All the Changes

We wouldn’t normally cover things like Twitter, but so much has happened on Twitter in the past month that it made sense to cover it! It’s actually easier to bullet point out the core changes rather than write up every single one. So, without further ado:

  • Twitter Blue was relaunched with account checks before handing out the blue tick. iOS costs more due to Apple’s 30% of all in-app revenue policy.
  • Elon Musk suspends certain high-profile journalists under Twitter’s new ‘doxxing’ policy (also released in December). Two days later, some of the accounts are reactivated.
  • Profiles that were previously suspended under old rules are reinstated as part of Musk’s free speech for all (unless you’re anti-Elon) rule.
  • Twitter bans people from tweeting links to rival social platforms:
    • Facebook
    • Instagram
    • Mastodon
    • Truth Social
    • Tribel
    • Nostr
    • Post
  • Twitter deletes all record of the rival social media policy happening as anti-competition watchdogs raise flags.
  • Elon Musk tweets a poll about stepping down as CEO, Yes gets 57% of the votes and then Elon says that he will look at making only Twitter Blue subscribers eligible to vote in policy related polls going forward. He has stuck by his word, but he still wants to run the software and server teams.
  • Twitter makes official company accounts appear different by giving them a gold tick and a square profile picture. Government organisations or multilateral organisations get a dark grey tick.
Newspaper with coffee

A Bonus BingBot

If you’re one of the 9.61% of UK people who use Bing (unless you only use it to search for Google), then the way that Microsoft crawls your site is about to change.

Announced in 2019 but only rolling out January 2023, the new BingBot will now say the version of Microsoft Edge (the Internet Explorer replacement) that the crawler is looking for.

Unless you have advanced bot detection on your site, you don’t need to do anything. It’s just worth remembering this when you see a different user agent in your crawl history.

Happy New Year! Let’s Get Your SEO off to a Great Start  

Last year experienced a rollercoaster of updates to search, so if you want an agency to guide you through the next year, then drop us an email at [email protected].

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