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Analysing the August 2023 Core Google Algorithm Update

Written by Glen Allsopp | +452 this month
August 23, 2023

This report has received 127 updates. The last was made on August 23rd, 2023

– Google have announced the August 2023 core update, today August 22nd
– Added the numbers for May
– Included a new YTD chart for May

Today Google announced the August core update has started rolling out. It’s going to take a week or two for us to update our stats below, but please know that we’re on it.

In the mean time you can see the original post referencing updates that were made in April of this year.

Recently, the April 2023 reviews update finished rolling out. At Detailed we track 191 independent affiliate sites to track their rankings and how they’re affected by Google updates.

We Track the Rankings of 188 Specifically-Chosen Websites During Each Google Update

We picked these independent affiliate sites by looking at the top websites ranking across 10,000 keyphrases.

All of these websites are independent, meaning they’re not huge news organisations and they’re not part of the Digital Goliaths like Hearst, DotdashMeredith and Future. If you don’t recognise those names, then you’ll definitely recognise the sites they’re behind. Just 16 companies are behind 500+ websites dominating Google’s search results.

Then every few months we check the initial 10,000 keyphrases again to find new, independent sites that are in the top 500 domains overall which weren’t ranking previously. Our most recent check took us from 165 domains up to 188 domains (as of Friday, May 12th) to see how they’re affected by Google algorithm updates.

As an agency with clients and our own SEO training program it’s important that we’re on top of who is winning and who is losing out during each update.

Let’s get into the specific numbers…

188 Sites We Track Affected by the April 2023 Reviews Update (April 2023 vs May 2023)

Comparing May 2023 search traffic with april 2023

For the table below we are looking at traffic estimates, thanks to Semrush, for 188 websites looking at their traffic in May of 2023 compared to April, 2023.

  • Sites that gained search traffic: 73 (38.83%)
  • Sites that lost search traffic: 115 (61.17%)
  • Sites that gained 20%+ search traffic: 1
  • Sites that lost 20%+ search traffic: 1
  • Biggest gaining site by %: 23.9%
  • Biggest gaining site by raw visit numbers: 478,685
  • Biggest site loss by %: -85.5%
  • Biggest site lost by raw visit numbers: -648,791
  • Niche that gained the most traffic across all sites: 🪅 Arts & Entertainment
  • Niche that lost the most traffic across all sites:👨‍💻 Computers & Tech

While most of the sites we track lost traffic during this update – at least in the last 30 days – literally only one saw traffic decrease by more than 20% month-over-month.

A single site saw traffic decrease by 85%. The site was built on an expired domain and later pivoted to writing ‘best’ style content which is how it came up in the review-focused search results we check. The reason for the huge drop? It looks like it has been hacked or just entirely rebranded to focus on a niche I would rather not write about here.

The Same 188 Sites And How They’re Performing Year-to-Date (January 2023 vs May 2023)

Comparing May 2023 search traffic with January 2023

  • Sites that gained search traffic: 110 (58.5%)
  • Sites that lost search traffic: 78 (41.4%)
  • Sites that gained 20%+ search traffic: 83
  • Sites that lost 20%+ search traffic: 46
  • Biggest gaining site by %: 1,663.79%
  • Biggest gaining site by raw visit numbers: 9,747,016
  • Biggest site loss by %: -99.13%
  • Biggest site lost by raw visit numbers: -7,534,352
  • Niche that gained the most traffic across all sites: 👨‍💻 Computers & Tech
  • Niche that lost the most traffic across all sites: 🦮 Pets and Animals

January tends to be a low point when it comes to traffic for sites, which is why it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that most of them (58.5%) have seen traffic increase since the start of the year. That said, it’s nice to see 83 have grow traffic by more than 20% in that timeframe as well.

While the Computers & Tech space might have had the worst month, sites in this niche are having the best year so far.

Knowing the sites that are doing well (and aren’t doing well) is only part of the equation.

Inside SEO Blueprint We Have a 9,000 Word Report Analysing Each Algorithm Update in Detail

SEO Blueprint is our own fully-fledged training program which we’ve been updating for over four years now.

Even if you’re not a member we’ll keep sharing insights on this page, but SEO Blueprint is really where we take things to the next level.

For independent affiliate sites alone, we have over 9,000 words of exclusive content on who is winning and losing during Google algorithm updates.

We cover things like:

  • Whether the top sites rely on redirecting expired domains
  • How much design and usability plays into their success
  • How they handle authors: Are they real? Do they have many? Do articles have in-depth author bios?
  • What kind of links they are primarily building their sites on

And so much more.

The doors to the training are very rarely open (usually just 2-3 weeks per year) so depending on when you read this, you’ll either be able to join us or join the waiting list.

You can learn more about SEO Blueprint over here.

Analysing Who Thrived Month over Month and Year over Year

The reason we’re so focused on the winners of algorithm updates is to see if we can learn from what they’re doing successfully.

Keep in mind that these suggestions aren’t algorithm update specific, but moreso best practices to keep in mind when looking at your site as a whole.

First of all, do you have any messages in Google Search Console?

If you haven’t set-up Google Search Console for your website yet, that’s what I would do immediately after reading this page.

If you have any kind of penalty against your site, you’ll see a message in here letting you know about it.

It’s honestly very unlikely that you have any warnings, even if your website has lost a lot of search traffic, but it’s worth ruling out to be safe.

Do ‘new elements’ appear in search results for your target terms?

It may be the case that Google haven’t “devalued” your site, but simply have introduced new elements in search results that have either pushed your rankings down, and / or they’ve resulted in you getting fewer clicks.

Things that might now appear in search results for your top keyphrases include:

  • Featured snippets
  • Video carousels
  • People Also Ask boxes

There might be a more logical explanation to some of your traffic losses, especially if just a few key pages made up the majority of your overall search traffic.

Did you recently make major on-site changes?

Though it’s not that common, I have looked at some websites that make major changes – whether moving from non-secure to secure, or updating internal linking – around the same time as a core algorithm update.

Is it possible you did something similar?

Though rare, make sure you haven’t accidentally made your website uncrawlable, or removed key navigational links that point to pages you’re looking to rank.

Are you the best result for a user?

I really don’t mean to be insulting, but it’s a genuine question.

Quite a few people who email me for help have admitted they probably aren’t the best result for a user, but still expect to be in the top three results of Google for their target term.

I certainly don’t get to decide who ranks where, of course, but if you can’t honestly say that you’re the best result for a specific query, then that probably goes a long way to why your top pages aren’t ranking where you want them to be.

Please note that this article is a work in progress, and we’re constantly updating our advice.

If you would like me to take a look at your website, please send an email to [email protected]. Though I can’t promise my current availability, I’ll try and recommend someone who is available.

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