Cutting through the noise: key takeaways from Google’s latest algorithm updates for ecommerce brands

Google is constantly evolving to remain the market-leading search engine, continuously adapting to try to deliver the best results for its users. This evolution is achieved through core algorithm updates, where Google makes significant changes to its algorithm and systems to ensure that it consistently provides reliable search results. 

Google typically makes hundreds of updates to its algorithm each year, but most of these changes go unnoticed and are not officially confirmed by Google. However, unlike minor updates, core updates are substantial and often cause many websites to experience fluctuations in their rankings and traffic. 

So what exactly are these algorithm updates, and how do they impact ecommerce brands? In this article, we will examine some of the more recent updates in greater detail. We’ve also provided takeaways for each update so you can understand their implications for ecommerce brands.

Google algorithm updates 2023

Let’s take a quick look at some of the key updates in 2023, when Google released a total of four core algorithm updates in March, August, October and November.

March 2023 Core Update (launched 15th March 2023)

The March broad core algorithm update was the first core update of 2023,  which targeted all content types across all regions and languages, aiming to reward high value web pages. It took a total of 13 days to roll out.

There are few specifics about the March update, however Google said:

“The changes are about improving how our systems assess content overall. These changes may cause some pages that were previously under-rewarded to do better in search results.” Source

SEMrush awarded the update with a volatility score of 8.2, indicating a significant shift in rankings. 

Takeaway: The update continues to reward and promote high quality content that provides value and great user experiences.

August 2023 Core Update (launched 22nd August 2023)

Google marked the second core algorithm update of the year with an announcement on X and updated their search updates page in line with the new update. The update took 16 days to rollout. As normal, Google didn’t release any specific information regarding the update. But what we do know is that:

  • The August update was launched worldwide, affecting all regions. 
  • The update was not limited to any particular type of content; it impacted all content categories, all types of websites, and spanned across all industries.
  • Instead of penalising lower quality sites, it prioritised high quality content, potentially pushing down pages considered to have lower value, in favour of better ones. 
  • Both Google Discover and featured snippets were affected by this update, while auto-suggest remained unaffected.

Takeaway: Nothing huge to learn here, as this is Google continuing to reward sites with valuable content that matches a user’s search intent.

September Helpful Content Update (launched 14th September 2023)

Google significantly updated its algorithm in September 2023, with a change known as the ‘Helpful Content Update.’ This was following two previous helpful content updates, which were first rolled out in August 2022. These reduced visibility for content that was primarily created for ranking in search engines, rather than to help or inform users.

In the September update, Google said they’d introduced an ‘improve classifier’ for the helpful content system, ranking websites based on the quality and usefulness of the content.

The update focused on:

Changing Publishing Dates

Google added two more additions to its guidelines about publishing older content:

  • “Are you changing the date of pages to make them seem fresh when the content has not substantially changed?”
  • “Are you adding a lot of new content or removing a lot of older content primarily because you believe it will help your search rankings overall by somehow making your site seem ‘fresh’?” 

Before this, if an article’s publication date was changed to a more recent time, indicating it to be more fresh, it might occasionally help its search visibility. So it’s something Google is now clamping down on.

Takeaway: Only change the publishing date of content if it warrants it and only do so after content has been substantially updated. If you want to update content, it’s not necessary to remove it,  just add new information so it is more informative. 

AI generated content

During this update Google softened their previous recommendations around AI content, where they preferred and favoured content written by people. They hinted that if the quality and relevance is strong, it’s OK to use machine generated content. They changed their guidance from:

  • “Google Search’s helpful content system generates a signal used by our automated ranking systems to better ensure people see original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.”


  • “Google Search’s helpful content system generates a signal used by our automated ranking systems to better ensure people see original, helpful content created for people in search results.”

This adjustment was implemented to align with the ongoing AI revolution and the surge in AI-generated content. (More on this and changes to this provided below in the 2024 updates).

Third party content

Google is continuing to value original content and taking specific measures to better identify content that is not original to the website. If a site hosts third party content, this will be included in site-wide signals, like the helpfulness update.

Takeaway: Any websites that do house third-party content should block it from being indexed in search results with a no-index tag.

October 2023 Core Update (launched 5th October 2023)

Google continued to deliver more relevant search results with the continued improvements to its core algorithm in October 2023. It refined its algorithm further to enhance results for content quality, relevance and authenticity whilst reducing visibility for websites trying to manipulate SERP rankings.

In comparison to the core update in August, this update seemed slightly less volatile.

Takeaway: As with previous updates, keep creating content with the user in mind. Ensure your content and web pages provide a fantastic user experience from page load speed through to quality images, through to detailed content.

November 2023 Reviews Update (launched 8th November 2023)

Google announced an algorithm update targeting review content on a page-level basis, affecting how reviews impact online visibility. This update underscores the significance of review updates in determining SERP visibility and trust. Google adjusted its algorithm to give more weight not just to the quality of the reviews, but also to their recency.

This update was the last time Google will confirm an update to their reviews algorithm. 

Takeaway: Google advised sites offering reviews to follow its quality guidelines (see here). Focus on review quality, not quantity as well as timeliness. The more recent the better.  Also ensure you’re actively engaged in responding to reviews.

Openness Update (launched 30th November 2023)

This algorithm update began on 30th November 2023, focusing on updating Google’s algorithm for local search rankings. Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liaison, said:

“We’ve long used ‘openness’ as part of our local ranking systems, and it recently became a stronger signal for non-navigational queries”. Source

This effectively meant that if your local business is open when someone is searching, it would rank you higher in results. For example, if it’s 11am on a Sunday morning and a searcher needs a haircut, barbers open at that time are more likely to be surfaced in SERPs. 

Takeaway: This does not mean local businesses should change their opening times  misleadingly – just reflect your true business opening hours using your Google Business Profile.

November Core Algorithm Update (launched 2nd November 2023)

This update was another move from Google to shift to quality content.

After announcing the update, Google released an updated Q&A addressing frequent questions around how search updates work. Here is a synopsis:

  • Core updates differ from Google’s ranking systems. While updates modify the algorithms, ranking systems produce the search results. 
  • Thousands of updates occur annually, though only a few significant ones are publicly announced. 
  • If your site is impacted by a core update, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a penalty for spam. 
  • Google generally aims to avoid major updates during the busy holiday shopping season, but this isn’t always possible.

Search Generative Experience

This wasn’t a core algorithm update, but is definitely something worth mentioning as it’s been one of the biggest changes to search results we’ve seen in years. 

In May 2023, Google announced it was testing experimental AI-powered search experience. Leveraging the use of generative AI, Search Generative Experience provides users with a summary of a search query, without having to click on specific results to find the information.


You can ask follow up questions, forming a conversation and using AI, it will provide detailed answers. It can help through:

  • Locating solutions
  • Exploring topic summaries
  • Highlighting main points
  • Obtaining step-by-step instructions

This means Google has better capability to provide detailed results when a long conversational query is searched for, improving both accuracy and user experience.Takeaway: This will mean potentially less organic traffic, as users are finding the information they need within the results pages. As SGE becomes more integrated, it marks a shift toward a more intuitive search experience, requiring adjustments in your content strategy to ensure continued visibility and relevance through high quality content.

Google algorithm updates 2024

March 2024 Core algorithm update (launched 5th March 2024)

This algorithm update started rolling out on 5th March and completed on April 19th 2024, taking a whopping six weeks to roll out, indicating the size of the update. This update ties in with the helpful content update, rolled out in 2022.

Google said that, because of the update, there would be a 45% reduction in websites that provide unhelpful content for their users. Off the back of this, they also stated they would no longer announce helpful content updates going forward, as it had been incorporated as part of their core algorithm.  

Any websites found violating Google’s guidelines or undertaking underhand tactics could not only be penalised by Google but also completely deindexed from their results. This means any sites that are full of errors and include outdated information might well see a drop in visibility.

Takeaway: It all comes back to creating quality content, which is a key ranking factor. Ever heard the expression E-E-A-T? This is something that should be at the forefront when creating quality content. It stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. Essentially, it means your content should be created by experts who completely understand their subject matter and the content should be completely accurate. So when you’re creating your content, consider the following:

  • Ensure the person creating the content is either an expert in the field or is very knowledgeable about the topic.
  • Understand your target market and create content that you know will fulfil their needs.
  • Use trustworthy sources to create the content and ensure you cite those sources.
  • Fact check everything to ensure the content is completely accurate.
  • Use a tone that resonates with your target audience and ensure the tone you use is reliable and trustworthy.
  • Credit the author, consider putting together an author page that lists all their credentials so readers understand it’s created by a human.
Image Source

March 2024 Spam Update (launched 5th March 2024)

With this update Google addressed the following:

Scaled Content

With the use of AI and ChatGPT, the content creation process can be scaled easily and content creation can be much faster. This has meant a huge increase in new pages for Google to crawl and index, often faster than Google can actually process. Google is trying to distinguish the content that is AI generated between the content that is unique and original. Again, rewarding sites that have spent time creating researched content and limiting visibility for sites adopting AI-created content.

Takeaway: If you do use AI to create content, don’t. Consider using it instead to inform your content creation. Ensure you create content considering the above E-E-A-T signals.


Google is continuing to reward sites that use legitimate authors to create content, again stressing the need for creating quality and well researched content. Again, it is clamping down on sites that use third-party content to produce articles. 

Websites in highly competitive industries like health and finance that fail to meet these standards might face negative impacts from algorithm updates, resulting in significant drops in rankings and traffic.

Takeaway: Cite authors for your articles and create author pages for your writers. Link back to the author pages from any articles they produce. Ensure the author pages include a bio, credentials, achievements, a professional photo, links to other published articles and links to social profiles. This all demonstrates their expertise, experience, authority and trustworthiness.

Expired Domains

Google is stamping down on the use of redirecting expired domains to pass value. This can easily mislead users into believing the content is from an older website, which may not be true.

As part of the March algorithm update, Google said:

“There’s nothing new or special that creators need to do for this update as long as they’ve been making satisfying content meant for people. For those that might not be ranking as well, we strongly encourage reading our creating helpful, reliable, people-first content help page.”
Source: Google

Takeaway: Keep creating content with the user in mind. Google is always refining their algorithm to ensure the best results for a given query.

Continual evolution

Over the years, we’ve seen Google continually refine and tweak its core algorithm to enhance search experience. Their ultimate goal is to ensure users receive the most relevant and appropriate results for their queries. Google is clamping down on underhand and manipulative tactics, and providing visibility for content that has strong E-E-A-T signals with reputable authors. Going forward, this will be the way Google will surely continue.

If you’ve suffered from a drop in visibility following an update, or would like more information about optimising your ecommerce website, contact us today.