How Important are Backlinks for SEO?

Google has launched its latest core algorithm update – aptly named the October 2023 Core Update.

As always, the news came from the Google Search Central Twitter account:

“Today we released the October 2023 core update. We’ll update our ranking release history page when the rollout is complete:”

Following on from the March 2023 Core Update and August 2023 Broad Core Algorithm update, the October 2023 core algorithm update marks the third core algorithm update of 2023.

Key points

  • Google launches October 2023 Core Update
  • Expect ranking fluctuations over the coming weeks
  • This is the third broad core update of 2023
  • The update will take around two weeks to complete
  • Google will update ranking release page when update is finished
  • Webmasters are advised to wait until the roll out is complete before making changes

Other recent algorithm updates

How broad core updates work

Core updates typically occur 3-5 times each year. In fact, we had a counter going ahead of the previous core update in August that counted out a median time between core updates as ~150-days over the last two years.

Core updates underpin Google’s ongoing efforts to ensure that users are presented with helpful and reliable results that provide the best possible search experience.

Key points to remember about the October 2023 core update

  • Pages move up or down based on merit
  • Pages that lose traffic after a core update have not “violated” any policies
  • Core updates are universal – they do not target a single niche or site
  • Changes experienced through the October 2023 Core Update are not a result of any manual actions.
  • The goal of all core updates is to improve the quality presented to users in search results.
  • Pages that were previously “under rewarded” may see significant improvements

What to do if you’re affected by the October 2023 core update

Websites that notice changes to ranking and search visibility during a core algorithm update may jump to the conclusion that there needs to be a “fix”, however, it’s important to remember that this is not always the case.

Points to remember about Google’s core algorithm updates

  • Websites that see negative changes to traffic or visibility may need to change tact when it comes to their content strategy.
  • Refer to Google’s self-assessment documentation when reviewing content
  • Audit your website for performance drops and try to draw correlations between your website, as well as websites that are performing well in SERPs.
  • Pages that are outperforming your website may come back to the fact that they have greater experience or expertise (think E-E-A-T) on the topic.
  • Pages that are impacted and “fixed” by changes following a core update may need to wait until future core updates to see the full effects/rewards of these improvements.

Self-assessment can be inherently difficult. It is a good idea to have your content assessed by a third party against your competitors to get a better idea of where you may be missing the mark.

What now?

For now, we wait.

Google’s October 2023 broad core algorithm update will take two weeks to fully roll out.

During this time, we can expect to see notable changes to SERP results. The Semrush sensor (as well as other third-party tools) are a good way to gauge volatility during this time.

Once the update is complete, we recommend referring to the points above to self-assess website content, competitors, and better understand where your website may be falling short. It can take time to see improvements and webmasters that take the necessary steps may still need to wait until the next core update to reap these rewards.

Note: 20-10-23

The October 2023 Broad Core Algorithm update concluded on the 20th October 2023.

As far as core updates go, this was a big one. We saw broad shifts and volatility over the two week update which turned many industries upside down. We did write recently that Google’s ongoing pursuit for high quality content has resulted in (seemingly) a lower emphasis on backlinks than in years gone by.

Based on the outcome of this latest core update, we strongly recommend that sites that experienced a negative impact on search visibility revisit their content strategy. Now, more than ever, sites that prioritise high-quality content with unique insights from authoritative sources are seeing the best results in SEO.

Note: 03-11-23

Google announced the November 2023 core update four weeks to the day since this update.

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