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Welcome to our September 2023 SEO News Recap! Last month, we shared the latest on core algorithm updates, generative AI for organic search, new options in GA4, and more.

In this month’s update, we have the latest on ChatGPT, title tags and meta descriptions, and the core algorithm updates that have happened since last month.

Jump to each September 2023 SEO news topic using the links below:

A Tale of Two Google Algorithm Updates: August 2023 Broad Core & September Helpful Content

Google has been very active, with two noteworthy algorithm updates in the span of a month.

In August 2023, Google completed the rollout of the Broad Core update, which ran from August 22nd-September 7th. This global update affects all types of content, aims to reward high-quality web pages, and doesn’t impose penalties.

A week after the Broad Core update completed, Google introduced its September 2023 Helpful Content Update. This system update features an improved classifier to address content primarily created for search engine ranking rather than user benefit.

This update has a sitewide impact and is designed to reward genuinely helpful content while demoting unhelpful material. It expands its reach to all languages and regions and aims to be particularly meaningful for online educational materials, entertainment, shopping, and tech-related content.

Recovering from this update may require several months and adherence to Google’s content guidelines. Google suggests that webmasters perform self-assessments of their content to gauge its helpfulness to visitors.

Google’s advice encourages the removal of unhelpful elements while retaining valuable content. The search giant also emphasized the importance of improving content quality and relevance.

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Reminder: Quality Matters for Ecommerce Category Page Blurbs

Gary Illyes warned against using low quality and/or repeated blurbs of text on ecommerce category pages in a recent Google SEO office hours session.

Our experts have heard similar advice from experts in the past, reminding us to avoid adding too much content or “stuffing” pages in the hopes of gaming search engine rankings. But this new advice against low-quality, repetitive category copy is especially important as more website owners lean into AI-generated content.

Each category page’s main content should be helpful to the user, concise, and unique. You can check out Google’s SEO best practices for ecommerce sites for more advice on optimizing content for your site.

Title Tags Are Still Important for SEO

Title tags have always been an important part of a website’s SEO since they’re a known ranking factor. SEO platform BrightEdge recently confirmed that title tags with relevant keywords show up in the top 5 positions of SERPs 85% of the time.

They also provided the following research:

  • 95% of the top 10 ranking pages have a meta description.
  • 90% of pages ranking in the top 5 use proper sentence/title casing in meta descriptions and title tags.
  • 25% of pages ranking lower in SERPs are more likely to have grammar issues in their metadata (though grammar is not a likely ranking signal).

If your average position has dropped or if your click-through rates are down, take a look at your metadata and see if it could use a refresh!

What Google Says About Meta Description Length

Google’s John Mueller said on Twitter that the length of a meta description does not matter to Google algorithms. It’s also true that meta descriptions in general do not influence rankings.

However, the length of your meta description can absolutely impact click-through rates. They should be written in sentence format and include a strong call-to-action verb to encourage clicks to your site.

Meta descriptions that are too long (over ~165 characters) will likely get truncated, which reduces their readability and can therefore reduce clicks to your site.

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A Site Revamp Will Always Affect Rankings

In a recent Twitter thread, John Mueller told a user that they should not expect to go “back to the same” traffic and visibility after revamping a website.

Rankings and visibility may improve or decline after any major changes to a site. The hope is always for improvement, but to expect to return to what they were prior to the revamp is naïve.

To have the best chance of improvement after a replatform, it helps to have experienced SEO experts guide you through the process. To discover how you can achieve your next website update with ease, book a meeting with our team!

Pew Research Reveals Surprising Insights Into ChatGPT’s Public Perception in the U.S.

A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in July 2023 sheds light on the public perception of AI chatbot ChatGPT among U.S. adults.

Despite the buzz, most Americans (82%) remain unfamiliar with ChatGPT and don’t anticipate significant job impacts.

Among those who are aware of ChatGPT, roughly 24% have used it. Adoption rates vary by age, education, and gender. Interestingly, while respondents believe that chatbots could affect traditionally safe job categories, only 19% of employed adults foresee a substantial impact on their own careers.

The study also highlights growing concerns about government regulation. 66% of respondents are worried about inadequate regulation, though Democrats are inclined toward stronger oversight more than Republicans.

Google Boosts User Experience With Enhanced Search Generative Experience (SGE)

Google is enhancing its Search Generative Experience (SGE) by introducing more webpage links within AI-generated summaries.

This improvement gives credit to site owners with helpful articles that SGE uses to generate the summaries. It allows users to simply click an arrow icon in the topic overview to explore relevant content.

Google emphasized that SGE is meant to complement traditional search rather than replace it, and the company is committed to addressing concerns about misinformation by connecting users to reliable sources.

While this feature has received positive feedback, it’s currently limited to the United States. Google is also expanding the reach of SGE to India and Japan after successful testing in the U.S., offering users in these countries the opportunity to access generative AI capabilities.

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Google Drops How-Tos & Drastically Reduces FAQs

In August, Google announced impending changes to how-to and FAQ rich results, saying that far fewer of these would be displayed in search results moving forward “to provide a cleaner and more consistent search experience.”

We didn’t see these changes in action until mid-September, when how-to results were removed from both desktop and mobile SERPs entirely. On top of that, FAQ instances dropped drastically – from roughly 10% of first-page desktop results to less than 1%.

Although FAQ rich results haven’t completely been done away with, they’ll now be reserved for highly authoritative sites (like government and health entities). For most ecommerce brands, it’s likely no longer likely worth the effort to target these as part of an SEO strategy.

However, we still recommend using relevant schema markup on your How-To and FAQ pages in case Google changes direction again.

Google Adds Merchant Center Reporting to Search Console

Two new reports are available in Search Console that show Merchant Center visibility issues and changes.

One report alerts merchants when products stop appearing in the shopping tab for any reason. The other report shows ways merchants can improve product rankings and increase their clicks.

To access these new reports in the Shopping tab listings of Search Console, a Google Merchant Center account must be associated with a Google Search Console property.

Google announced these reports on September 11th and said it may take a few weeks for them to fully roll out to all users.

Use Hreflang Tags for International Sites

Hreflang tags are commonly misunderstood and are sometimes forgotten about completely. If your sitelinks in Google Search show the wrong country URL or display content of the wrong country, make sure you’re using bidirectional hreflang tags to tell Googlebot when to serve the variations of your site.

For example, if you have a US version of your site and a UK version, you may have different spellings of words. Use hreflang tags on both versions of the site so Google will display the correct one based on a user’s location and/or language settings in their browser.

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Book a Meeting to Start Achieving Your Potential With SEO

The ever-evolving nature of organic search trends quickly becomes overwhelming for brands – even the most established.

At ROI Revolution, our SEO experts are committed to staying on top of these changes to ensure our clients outperform their competitors.

Imagine having a team of experts to keep you ahead of your competition. To explore the heights you could reach with a guide by your side, book a meeting with our team today.