Author: Gary Lilley | Date: 12 October 2023

Google’s Two October Updates: What Do They Do and How Could You Be Affected?

If you have been paying attention to major SEO publications in the past weeks, you may have heard news of Google launching two new updates to its organic search results.

Over the years, Google has been in an ongoing battle to keep websites they deem “unworthy” out of the SERPS. There are those that play by Google’s rules and those that don’t, and the latter are usually heavily penalised whenever Google catches them.

As the dust settles and Google finishes rolling out 2 major updates this week, let’s take a look at what the updates entailed exactly and also what this means for SEO in the legal sector.

October 2023 Spam Update

Launched: 4 October (Still ongoing)

The first update to be released was the October 2023 spam update. It was mainly targeted at non-English sites (specifically Turkish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Hindi and Chinese). Although it wasn’t primarily going after English sites, there is always a big overlap in these kinds of updates, and it’s possible a lot of English queries got affected as well.

According to Google, its purpose was to “reduce the visible spam in search results, particularly when it comes to cloaking, hacked, auto-generated, and scraped spam.”

Let’s break these down into layman’s terms

The process of showing a different version of your website to Google than you would to a human visitor.

This can be done for a variety of reasons, often to manipulate the search engine results.

A good cloaking example would be showing human visitors on your site a lead-generation form with nothing else around it, while feeding Google-Bot a page full of text that is targeting the keyword you want to rank for.

Hacked sites:
An example of this would be WordPress sites that have been hacked (most often due to outdated plugins having vulnerabilities or exploits). The hacked websites then begin inserting links into your already existing content, thus boosting the hackers’ sites elsewhere. Often new pages are also generated targeting things like crypto/porn/viagra. These articles will leech off your domain/website authority and redirect the visitors to an external landing page.

Auto-generated, and scraped spam.
This is where some law firms in the UK might be caught with their pants down. We’ve seen a big increase in the past months of people using chat-GPT to create an endless amount of pages. The problem with this kind of “copy-paste” AI content is that although on first glance it may read nicely, the information and depth of the articles is severely lacking and will most likely end up in Google’s pile of “useless junk pages”.

If you have been creating 50 pages a day with chat-GPT, now is probably the time to rethink that strategy and invest in thoroughly researched and helpful content.

Should I be worried? Will my law firm be affected?

  • If you have been following Google’s guidelines, you probably have nothing to worry about.
  • Law firms that have been creating pages created solely with AI with little to no human editing might see these pages get penalised.

Suddenly lost a lot of traffic or worried about your current SEO and/or content strategy? Feel free to contact us, and we can help you and your law firm get back on the right track.

October 2023 Core Update

Launched: 5 October (Still ongoing)

A day after the Spam update, Google launched one of its frequently recurring Core updates (The previous one having launched in August). This is the third core update this year and will run alongside the previously mentioned spam update.

What is a core update?
A core update is when Google has made significant changes to their algorithm and ranking factors. These are then rolled out into the search results over the course of 1-2 weeks. More often than not, this will shake up some of the positioning for certain search terms.

Generally speaking, there are two main factors that could lead to a ranking decrease:

  • Content that was first deemed worthy/helpful by Google has now been re-evaluated and devalued.
  • Websites that had links pointing to your site have lost relevancy or value in Google’s eyes, thus leading to ranking decreases.

What if my site loses traffic? Have I been affected?
If you feel like you have lost traffic in the past weeks, please contact us, and we will happily look into it for you and see how you have been affected exactly and what we can do to get your rankings and traffic back on track.