I’m looking for sites to analyze as I review the October 2023 core update. This update was devastating to many sites. 

There is a form you can use below to submit your site. You can choose whether or not I can use your site’s content as I study the update.

site impacted by October core update

What do you get out of submitting?

While I can’t reply to you individually, I will send a summary of my analysis of this update and my general recommendations to each who submit. It may take several weeks or more for me to complete this analysis. It all depends on how crazy the world of AI and Search is as there is only so much I can do in one day! Still, this is a priority for me. I have stopped taking client work and speaking engagements so that I can focus completely on understanding Google’s systems and sharing that knowledge. 

Note: If you submitted your site for my September Helpful Content analysis, I will have your summary to you within the next couple of weeks.

Why am I doing this?

The more sites I can study, the more I can understand how Google’s ranking systems have changed. They have changed a lot over the years. Today’s Google ranking system is a complex mixture of hand coded algorithms and machine learning systems, all firing as needed to meet the searcher’s needs.

It is impossible to reverse engineer Google. But, we can learn so much by looking at content that Google’s new ranking systems are starting to prefer. 

For many years my main reason for reviewing sites impacted by Google updates was to learn more to help my clients. My focus is shifting slightly. I realized that while I can help people immensely by working and brainstorming with them one on one, I can help more people by creating content. As I review sites impacted by the October core update, I'll be creating videos for my YT channel, articles for my blog and podcast episodes

Want to hire me?

You can’t. 🙂 I’m not taking clients, but if you need someone to work with you individually, I’ve put together a list of companies and individuals I recommend.

Submit your site:

A few things to know about the October core update

A core update signifies a substantial overhaul of Google’s ranking systems. If you were impacted, it’s not a penalty. It means that the new, improved ranking system prefers other sites’ content over yours. 

However, there was also a Spam update happening at the same time as the October core update. I’ll be keeping this in mind as I review sites.

We never know what Google changed in a core update, but each update gets them incrementally closer to creating a helpful, reliable web. Personally, I think Google’s goal from the beginning has been to work towards having a web that is good enough to use by an AI assistant that can perfectly answer any question. Here’s Larry Page talking about that in the year 2000.

Much of what you have been taught about how to do SEO was good advice in the days before AI was used heavily by Google. Some of it still is. However, with each update, we see Google use more and more AI and less of the legacy algorithms we are all optimizing for. By far the most important thing you can do is make your content the most helpful for your audience when compared to competitors. This is what the AI systems are built to reward.

While we don’t know what Google changed in this core update, I expect we will see the same thing we have seen with previous core updates and that is that Google improved upon their ability to reward sites that fit their model of helpful content.

If you were impacted by the October core update, this is my current advice:

  • Look at who Google is ranking for your queries and ask yourself why searchers may find that content more helpful than yours. Consider whether that page demonstrates experience. Do they have customers they advise on this topic in real life? It may be difficult to compete. Do they have content from real people (comments, forum, etc.)? Can you provide even more helpful information? Use the helpful content criteria given by Google as a guide. This is what their machine learning systems aim to reward.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of a searcher. This is hard to do. What are they really wanting to know? How does the content Google elevated above you meet that need better?
  • Remove or greatly improve any content that isn't the most helpful of its kind. Some of the helpful content criteria to consider include:
    • Does the content provide original information, reporting, research, or analysis?
    • Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond the obvious?
    • If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources, and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
    • Does the content provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • Sites impacted by core updates can recover. Especially sites that are real businesses with real customers. You generally need to wait until another core update in order to see recovery. They happen every few months or so.
  • Google wants to show searchers content that’s the most helpful of its kind. We have been trained as SEO’s to write comprehensive content. That’s not enough. Consider this Google patent on information gain.

More resources

Google's documentation on creating good, helpful content

My previous podcast episodes on Google core updates and assessing traffic drops

Google documentation on core updates

Google documentation on E-E-A-T discussing the extra E, Experience.

The Quality Raters' Guidelines

Google's documentation on how the raters are used

My long article on how Google's AI systems work and how they have radically changed how Google ranks results

My article on the September helpful content update: Why you were affected and what you can do

How Google's Helpful Content System Has Radically Changed Search (podcast episode)

Analyzing some sites impacted by the September helpful content update (paid newsletter episode)

I'd also recommend this workbook I created that gives you exercises to do where you read what the QRG says and try to apply it to your site. It will help you better understand user intent, create more helpful content, and understand more about what it is that Google's systems are trying to reward: