Google algorithm updates 2022 in review: Core updates, product reviews, helpful content updates, spam updates and beyond
Google introduced a brand new ranking algorithm this year, the helpful content update but pushed the same number of official updates in 2022 as it did in 2021.
This year had different stresses accompanying the Google algorithm updates, fewer pandemic stresses, and more recession-related stress. We had ten confirmed Google algorithm updates this year, the same number of confirmed algorithm updates we had in 2021. This year, we had a brand new ranking system named the helpful content update, and we had two of them.
Also similar to last year, Google rolled out two big algorithm updates at the end of the year.
Google confirmed algorithm update summary
We whipped up this timeline documenting all the confirmed Google search algorithm updates in 2022, so you can visualize the updates over the year.
Google’s May and September core updates were big updates
May 2022 core update. On May 25, 2022, Google released the first core update for the 2022 year, the May 2022 core update. That update took 15 days to roll out, ending on June 9, 2022. This update was a big update and rolled out quickly for many queries the data providers track. We did see some “tremors,” shifts in volatility, after the initial update, the largest tremors were around June 5th and that should be the final sets of volatility you would see from the initial broad core update release.
September 2022 core update. On September 12, 2022, Google released the second core update for the 2022 year, the September 2022 core update. That update took two full weeks to roll out, ending on September 26, 2022. This update hit fast, but was less impactful than previous updates. While there was some rank volatility, the consensus was that it was weaker than past Google core updates.
At least we are not expecting any additional core updates by year’s end.
Google’s new two helpful content updates seemed tame
Google released a new algorithm update named the helpful content update, which aim to demote content that is written to rank on search engines and not written to help people.
August 2022 helpful content update. On August 25, 2022, Google released the new helpful content update. The helpful content update will target websites that have a relatively high amount of unsatisfying or unhelpful content, where the content has been written for search engines rather than humans. This update took 15 days to roll out, ending on September 9, 2022. This update did not feel tremendously widespread, but Google did say it was a big update that did not cause a huge shakeup.
December 2022 helpful content update. On December 6, 2022, Google released the second helpful content update, the December 2022 helpful content update. This update took 38 days to roll out, ending on January 12, 2023. This update also did not feel widespread or all that impactful compared to core updates or product review updates.
Google’s March, July and September product review updates shuffled the shelves
While Google only had two core updates in 2022, it pushed out three product reviews updates in 2022. That is one more product reviews update than in 2021.
March 2022 product reviews update. On March 23, 2022, Google released the first product reviews update for 2022, the March 2022 product reviews update. This update took 19 days to roll out, ending on April 11, 2022. Technically, this was the third product reviews update in history with the first product reviews update was launched on April 8, 2021, and the second was launched on December 1, 2021.
With the third release of the product reviews update, Google said this update “builds on” the work of the first two product review updates to enhance Google’s “ability to identify high quality product reviews.” “This will make it easier for us to get sound purchasing advice in front of users, and to reward creators who are earnest in being helpful,” Alan Kent of Google said.
July 2022 product reviews update. On July 27, 2022, Google released the second product reviews update for 2022, the July 2022 product reviews update. This update only took six days to roll out, ending on August 2, 2022. We saw very limited changes from the tracking tools and honestly, while some sites seemed to get hard by this update, it does not seem there was a lot of SEO community chatter around ranking changes due to this update. In fact, we saw a spike on August 3rd but that was after this update was complete.
September 2022 product reviews update. On September 20, 2022, Google released the third product reviews update for 2022, the September 2022 product reviews update. This update also only took six days to roll out, ending on September 26, 2022. This update did not feel as big as the two previous ones but it also overlapped with a core update.
Google’s spam and link spam updates sparked fear
Like with any spam updates, SEOs and content creators become scared and nervous that their sites or content may be hit.
October 2022 spam update. The first spam update of the year was released on October 19, 2022, the October 2022 spam update. This update took only 48 hours to roll out, ending on October 21, 2022. Google used SpamBrain, a form of artificial intelligence, to better detect spam and not rank it in Google Search. This spam update did not feel huge, but it was targeting spam and not content written by normal people for normal purposes.
December 2022 link spam update. Then on December 14, 2022, Google released a link spam update named the December 2022 link spam update. This update took 29 days to roll out, ending on January 12, 2023. This is the first time Google used SpamBrain AI to detect and neutralize link spam. It did seem to have an impact on links and rankings.
Google’s page experience update for desktop
We only had one-page experience update this year, and it was to bring the page experience signals to desktop. This page experience update for deskop was launched on February 22, 2022, and took nine days to roll out, completed on March 3, 2022. This update will include all the current signals of the mobile version of the page experience update, outside of the page needing to be mobile-friendly. Google said all of the page experience factors for mobile would be included, with the exception of the mobile-friendliness requirement, which is obvious.
Other Google algorithm changes, updates, tweaks or topics
Another busy year for the Google Search team, with over 5,500 changes in 2021 alone, and I suspect that number will be higher for the 2022 year.
We learned that the Panda update eventually evolved into the Coati algorithm, although both are now baked into the core algorithm. We actually learned a lot from speaking with Hyung-Jin Kim, VP Search at Google, at SMX, a lot. Google also started to use MUM in more areas, like for featured snippets and more. And Google also updated its title algorithm for multi-lingual or transliterated pages.
Google replaced the Webmaster Guidelines with Google Search Essentials, revamped the quality raters guidelines by adding “Expertise,” an additional E to E-A-T.
Also, we did a deep dive on how Google uses artificial intelligence in search.
Are you all excited for 2023, I know I am.