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7 min read

December 2023 Google algorithm and search industry updates

This article was updated on: 05.06.2024

Following a few turbulent months of numerous Google Algorithm Updates and Google Core Updates, things appeared to wind down in December as we saw the completion of the final Reviews Update of the year which began in November.

Ranking volatility was still a subject of discussion at both the beginning and later part of the month with a suspected New Year’s Eve Search Algorithm Update. There were also reports of delayed indexing issues in certain regions which mirrored a similar issue that occurred back in October. We’ll look at each of these in more depth below. 

Alongside the more substantial algorithmic changes, we have also seen Google testing a range of new features on their interface including new site link formats, site preview overlays and longer search results snippets. These have yet to be rolled out wider or made permanent features but they are still interesting to be aware of nonetheless. 

Allow our traffic light system to guide you to the articles that need your attention, so watch out for Red light updates as they’re major changes that will need you to take action, whereas amber updates may make you think and are worth knowing but aren’t urgent. And finally, green light updates which are great for your SEO and site knowledge but are less significant than others

Keen to know more about any of these changes and what they mean for your SEO? Get in touch or visit our SEO agency page to find out how we can help.

 In this post, we’ll explore:

Google November 2023 Reviews Update completed after 29 days

On 7 December 2023, after 29 days, the Google November 2023 review update finished rolling out. This will be the last time that Google will confirm updates to the reviews system, but according to the search engine, updates are regularly happening.

The Google November 2023 review update was a global update that impacted sites in the following languages: English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, Portuguese, and Polish. Its primary aim is to reward websites featuring genuine, high-quality reviews.

This review coincided with the November 2023 core update, making it hard to determine its exact impact. Some speculate that the update had its most significant impact around 13th November 2023.

Notably, Google’s decision to stop announcing review system updates on its status dashboard means that any changes to your site due to these updates will likely occur in real-time, rather than being tied to Google’s periodic update releases.

Google New Year’s Eve Search algorithm update

There has been a significant amount of discussion in the SEO community regarding extreme ranking volatility observed in Google Search results around New Year’s Eve. Although there is no confirmation of a new algorithmic update from Google during this time, multiple tracking tools detected substantial fluctuations in rankings.

Interestingly, these fluctuations seem to be recurring during weekends, reminiscent of patterns observed before Christmas and now before New Year’s Eve.

Whilst no official announcement of an algorithm update has been made, some discussions within the community suggest the possibility of reversals from the last confirmed Google update. This heightened activity underscores the unpredictable nature of Google Search results, even in the absence of officially confirmed algorithmic updates.

Confirmed or not, Google tracking tools across the board appeared to confirm very similar findings:

Confirmed: Google local search algorithm “openness” now stronger signal

Earlier in December, it was reported that Google’s Local search ranking algorithm now considers a business’ opening hours when determining the ranking position at any given time. 

This change has now been confirmed by Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, who stated that “openness” has been a long-standing component of Google’s local ranking systems. However, it recently became a more pronounced signal for non-navigational queries.

For queries that trigger a local pack in the search results, it appears that Google is now more likely to prioritise displaying locations that are currently open rather than those that are closed.

Danny Sullivan mentioned that this adjustment is particularly relevant for non-navigational queries, such as searches for general topics like lawyers or web design companies, as opposed to specific brand names or businesses.

Concerns were raised by those in the SEO community as it is feared that businesses might consider labelling themselves as open 24 hours to capitalise on this ranking signal. However, Sullivan cautioned against this strategy, noting that the ranking signal may continue to be adjusted.

Google Search is investigating reports of delayed indexing issues

There was an influx of Indexing issues first reported around 1:30 am ET on Thursday 21 December, with initial speculation that it may be impacting sites in India or those offering both HTML and AMP versions. This follows similar indexing issues that were reported and fixed back in October. 

Although initial thoughts were focused on specific regions or site structures, it appeared to be a broader issue. However, Google has assured that the problem is affecting only a small number of sites.

Webmasters and site owners experiencing this indexing delay were advised to wait for Google to resolve the issue. At approximately 5:30 pm ET on the same day, Google posted an update confirming the issue had been identified and fixed and advised that some sites may still experience some delayed indexing until the previously affected URLs are reprocessed.

No additional updates on the matter are expected, however, it is advised that if you are still experiencing indexing and ranking issues, it is likely due to an issue with a Google algorithm update.

Google continuously tests and experiments with the design and formats of sitelinks and December was no different. During this period, some users noticed that site links were appearing in a bubble or pill format.

It’s not yet clear if this will be a permanent change that is rolled out for all users. Nevertheless, it does show Google’s commitment to the continuous improvement and optimisation of their search results.

Google tests longer search result snippets again

While there were no algorithm updates during the festive period, it did appear that Google was using this time to test out a variety of changes. The first of three experiments which we will cover in this article involves Google testing longer search result snippets.

Google choosing to show longer than usual search result snippets is something we are familiar with as the search engine seems to sporadically introduce this feature. In December, some users noticed the emergence of longer snippets in the SERP results, although we have not been able to replicate this.

Before rushing to change your meta-descriptions, it’s important to understand that these longer snippets are dynamically generated based on the user’s query and the content present in both the meta-description and page content. If Google opts to display longer snippets, they are likely to extract content from the page so there is no immediate need to make any adjustments.

Google tests search snippet overlay with site preview

Following a long list of tests Google appears to be making this month, a new search result snippet interface was spotted by members of the SEO community. This new feature provides additional details about a search result in an overlay preview when users hover over it.

This feature is reminiscent of Bing’s search result previews, and Google has previously employed a similar concept for image search result previews. 

It is not clear which region this has been released in or if it is expected to be rolled wider, but it is still an interesting development in the Google search interface.

Keep up-to-date with our dedicated algorithm and search industry round-ups. For any further information about these posts – or to learn how we can support your SEO – get in touch today.