S-E-I Don’t Know: Keeping Up with Google’s Never-Ending SEO Algorithm Changes
SEO algorithm changes 2024

key takeaways | seo algorithm changes

2024 digital marketing trends

All of Google’s most recent core SEO algorithm changes have underscored the importance of high-quality, unique E-E-A-T content intended for HUMAN readers, and NOT search engines.

digital marketing trends

Google’s Search Generative Engine (SGE) is expected to launch in 2024, which could have major implications for your business’s SEO strategy.

social media marketing trends 2024

Adapting to recent SEO algorithm changes—and preparing for future changes in the SEO landscape—will require thoughtful content generation following E-E-A-T principles, as well as attention to technical SEO considerations, like user experience and core vitals.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the avocado of the marketing world: it’s cool and all, but maybe not cool enough to have earned such immense popularity? Business owners come to us all the time saying, “I need SEO,” but—just like millennials aren’t going broke on, say, almond butter toast—business owners don’t seem at all interested in social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, or pay-per-click advertising…even though these strategies could help them reach their business goals faster and more affordably.

There are some huge misconceptions about SEO that make business owners think this marketing discipline is the end-all-be-all. It’s not. It’s an important part of the overall marketing mix, sure. But—as we’ve said before—SEO alone does not a marketing strategy make.

Some of the most common SEO myths and misconceptions are:

  • Using the right keywords in the right places is enough to improve your website’s search rankings
  • SEO is a one-and-done effort that doesn’t require a lot of time and energy to maintain
  • New business will come in droves once you get that top spot in Google

The truth about SEO is that it’s a lot of work. Like, a lot. Like, a lot a lot. It requires constant maintenance and effort, from regularly posting useful and original content, to building high-quality, high-value backlinks, to addressing technical issues, like website speed and mobile performance, to collecting plenty of authentic Google reviews, and the list goes on (and on, and on…). All this work ain’t cheap, and even if you succeed in earning a top spot in Google, there is no guarantee that you’ll actually generate leads, never mind drive sales or increase revenue.

The other major challenge with putting all of your marketing eggs in the SEO basket is that Google’s algorithm changes all the time—especially since AI-generated content has become so pervasive. In fact, Google has released more core algorithm updates in the last year than it has in the three prior years combined, and experts estimate that the search engine makes an average of nine updates a day in order to provide users with the best search experience possible.

Key Takeaways from Google’s 5 Most Recent Core Algorithm Updates

We’ll make this crystal clear for you: the last 5 core algorithm updates have underscored the importance of developing authentic, high-value content with HUMAN readers in mind—not search engines. SEO is becoming so much more art than science, and while choosing the right keywords is important, it’s much less important than generating high-quality content that asserts your experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, and hosting it on a user-friendly, high-performing website.

Essentially, content marketing and SEO have become one and the same…

March 2024 Core Algorithm Update

Coupled with several spam policy updates, Google’s latest major core update, which includes updates to the Helpful Content System, aims to reduce the surfacing of AI-generated or low-quality content written for the sole purpose of search engine optimization. Here’s what changed:

Backlinks, which were once a critical ranking factor, aren’t even in the top three most important ranking signals anymore.

It’s the same old story: instead of producing quality content that organically earns high-quality backlinks, businesses took the easy way out and started using shady backlink building services—oftentimes posting your content to “fake” websites built specifically for the purpose of generating backlinks. This is called “link manipulation” and Google isn’t having it anymore. In fact, they are going to start penalizing websites that sell outbound links!

Stop buying expired domains and repurposing them for the sake of SEO.

A common SEO tactic was to purchase an expired (yet valuable) domain, and try to repurpose it to host SEO-driven content that provides no value to internet users. Google is de-indexing these websites (and any websites that use spammy or manipulative tactics to gain improved SEO rankings), with the goal of reducing low-quality content by 40%.


November 2023 Core Algorithm Update

Everybody loves a hidden gem…

Known as the “Hidden Gems” update, this shift was designed to find and promote high-quality content that may have been overlooked in the past. Google recognized that there was a lot of great content buried in blogs, online forums, and on social media, but it was being overshadowed by bigger, badder websites employing a wider array of SEO tactics.

This update is great news for small businesses, who may post incredibly valuable content, but can’t compete with the digital footprint of a Fortune 500 company.

This update also reinforces the importance of writing valuable content for the sake of writing valuable content, and not for the sake of SEO.


October 2023 Core Algorithm Update

Another core update coupled with a spam update, this release also served a selfish purpose for Google: covering its ass after allegations that executives were manipulating organic search results to drive advertising revenue.

In addition to reputation management, this update focused on targeting the following types of spam:

Cloaking and hidden text/links:
This includes showing different pages to search engines than to users, or hiding keywords on webpages so that only search engines can see them. This was one of the first deceptive SEO tactics that Google started to crack down on back when SEO first became a thing. We have no idea why businesses keep trying to do this…

Websites developed for the sole purpose of ranking for specific SEO keywords or phrases, but that offer little value to the consumer.

Hacked websites, websites with malware, or sneaky redirects:
Websites displaying unauthorized content which was inserted maliciously by hackers, or redirecting users to different webpages than the one they clicked on.

Keyword stuffing:
Gone are the days when you could stuff a page with as many SEO keywords as possible, or include lists of the cities or regions you service. This was once a popular and effective strategy for improving local rankings, but businesses got greedy and started listing areas outside their service range. So Google is shutting it down.

Link spam:
Buying or selling backlinks, rather than earning them the old-fashioned way.

Duplicate, low-value, or “scraped” content:
This is any content copied and pasted from another site, AI-generated content, or content from another website that is simply re-written and re-purposed for your own site.


August 2023 Core Algorithm Update

This broad update aimed to improve the prevalence of valuable content created for humans—not search engines. Here were the key takeaways:

Content created for humans, not for Google

E-E-A-T has become a buzzword in the marketing world. Standing for experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, this acronym embodies the type of content that will rank best in search engines. Authentic content created for the end user—and NOT for search engines—will now rank higher than low-value content generated solely for the sake of SEO.

Technical SEO is still important

While it’s not the only factor that goes into a website’s SEO ranking, this update reinforced the importance of technical SEO: Core Web Vitals, page speed, mobile performance, and more.

The Helpful Content System got even more helpful

Google’s Helpful Content System was designed to find valuable content in hard-to-find places, which is huge for small businesses who regularly post quality content! What is helpful content? Well, was it written for real people? Does it include unique content that showcases your expertise and experience? Does it go in-depth about the main topic, or does it just brush the surface? Helpful content is valuable to the end-user—it’s that simple!


March 2023 Core Algorithm Update

Coming 1-1/2 years after the last major core update, this update shifted focus to prioritize websites that were offering higher-value content following E-E-A-T principles.

So, Does SEO Even Matter Anymore?

Yes, ranking well in search engines still matters. But, how you get there is much less of a science and much more of an art these days. Generating real, authentic, unique, and valuable content is more important than ever, and the SEO strategies that used to work—backlink building, directory listings, posting over-optimized, keyword-flooded content…none of that is gonna cut it anymore.

Furthermore, Google is preparing to launch its Search Generative Experience (SGE)…and that is going to impact the importance of SEO even more!

What is Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE)?

In short, Google’s SGE will present AI-generated content in response to user queries. Soon, when you ask Google a question—for example, “Do small businesses need SEO?”—you’ll receive a thorough AI-generated answer, negating the need to scroll through pages of results, clicking into and off of websites that may or may not actually answer your question (which, by the way, is another reason why Google is cracking down so hard on poor-quality content).

Here are a few interested statistics from Search Engine Journal about how Google’s SGE will be received:

  • Search is the #1 AI-powered tool that American consumers want
  • 25% of internet users would trust AI-powered search results
  • 29% of adults would switch exclusively to AI-powered search

And why are humans so ready to let AI power their search activity? Because they are so. damn. sick and tired of poor-quality SEO content and suboptimal user-experiences. They are tired of clickbait, and being tricked into clicking on your website because you used the right SEO keywords…but failed to deliver quality information on the topic.

Put yourself in the user’s shoes. Don’t you get annoyed when you search for something, and the first 5 results you click on are completely irrelevant? Last year, I was searching for a specific type of summer camp for my teenage daughter. I went to Google and typed in, “specific-type-of-summer-camp in Massachusetts.” Pages of results came up, all titled something similar to my query. Not one of the results was for a summer camp based in Massachusetts.

THAT is why consumers are annoyed by SEO, and why Google is doing everything it can to improve the user’s experience and reduce frustration.

And that is why YOU need to do everything in your power to adapt to Google’s recent algorithm changes, and prepare for their SGE, which is expected to launch in 2024.

How Can Small Businesses Adapt to Recent Algorithm Changes & Prepare for Google’s SGE?

In terms of adapting to recent algorithm changes, the best strategy is to focus on generating high-quality content that provides real value to human users, and cleaning out any low-quality content that you curated just to capitalize on an SEO trend. Stop generating keyword-first content and create content you feel inspired to write! Create content about topics that you have unique insight on. Share stories and anecdotes to add a personal touch—this is the “experience” that Google’s E-E-A-T principle wants you to highlight, and the type of content that AI simply can’t replicate.

Address technical issues preventing your site from delivering a seamless user experience. Of course, you’ll want to make sure your website is well-designed and easy to navigate, but you’ll also want to check in with your Core Web Vitals and consider using a website performance plugin or content delivery network (CDN) to increase site speed and improve performance.

In preparation for the rollout of Google’s SGE, well…move some of those marketing eggs out of the SEO basket and put them into some other baskets: content marketing (duh), social media marketing, email marketing, advertising, reputation management, public relations…

We always talk to our clients about what we call the “Cookie Dough Philosophy.” Think of your marketing strategy as a batch of cookie dough. First, you need all the right ingredients: butter, sugar, vanilla, brown sugar, flour, maybe even some chocolate chips. If you’re missing any of the ingredients, the quality of your cookie dough is going to suffer. Likewise, if you use low-quality ingredients, the quality of your cookie dough is going to suffer.

Well, the same is true in marketing. You need all the right ingredients: branding, SEO, social media, content, email, advertising, etc. And without any one of these ingredients, your marketing strategy is going to suffer.

Let Us Help You Make a Delicious Batch of Marketing Dough

At Birdhouse Marketing, we help small businesses stretch every dollar of their marketing budget to generate the results they need to grow and scale. We know which ingredients to use to generate a return on your marketing investment. Get in touch with us today—or schedule a free 30-minute discovery session with an expert on our team— to start baking up a delicious batch of business success!

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Written by Robin Agricola

Robin is the founder and CEO of Birdhouse Marketing & Design. She holds an MBA with a focus in Marketing from UMass Boston, as well as undergraduate degrees in Marketing Communications and Creative Writing from Emerson College. She founded Birdhouse Marketing & Design, LLC in 2012, and the rest is history.

March 27, 2024

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