Search Engine Country » SEO » SEO 2022 in short: E-E-A-T, ChatGPT, Search Essentials and more
As 2022 proved once again, SEO is never boring.
Was 2022 the year of AI – or perhaps the official beginning of the AI era? Over the past month, it’s been hard not to read about or avoid the temptation to spend hours playing with ChatGPT.
We also had our usual share of algorithm updates, new tools and features, acquisitions, and many more changes.
One constant through it all? For 16 years, Search Engine Land has covered all the biggest stories, just like in 2022.
Here’s our look back at the biggest SEO news of 2022 – from Google and other search engines, tool providers and the community.
Google Search Essentials and more documentation changes
Google has made a major overhaul of its 20-year-old Webmaster Guidelines, also renaming it Google Search Essentials. The updated guidelines have been streamlined, simplified and updated “to make sure people have clear guidelines for building sites that serve people well.”
While Search Essentials was Google’s biggest documentation update in 2022, there were many more.
Google has updated several feature guide help documents:
Also, not long after a study by SEO tool company Ahrefs showed that half of GSC clicks went to hidden terms, Google removed the language in its Help document Performance Report (Search), calling hidden Search Console query data “very rare” .
In other documentation changes, Google:
E-E-A-T and the QRG
Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG) for search have been updated twice this year: once in July and then again in December.
Lily Ray gave her usual excellent breakdowns of what’s changed in both updates to the QRG.
For the July update (update to the Google Guidelines for Search Quality Reviewers: What’s Changed), Google reformulated the definition of YMYL, revised the definition of low-quality pages, and more
And as Ray covered in the December update (E-E-A-T and major updates to Google’s quality reviewer guidelines):
“The addition of ‘experience’ indicates that the quality of the content can also be judged through the lens of insight into the extent to which the content creator has first-hand experience with the topic.
With this rewording of E-E-A-T, Google also states that “trust” is central to this concept and is the “most important member of the E-E-A-T family”.
Before E-A-T became E-E-A-T, we learned from Google that E-A-T is synonymous with “good content quality.”
“E-A-T is a template for how we rate an individual site. We do it for every question and every result. It is pervasive in everything we do,” said Hyung-Jin Kim, VP of Search, Google, speaking at SMX Next in November. Dig deeper: In 7 lessons from the SMX Next keynote with Hyung-Jin Kim, VP Search at Google.
While this is by no means new, it’s always good for SEO professionals to understand why Google does the things it does.
Continuous scroll, multisearch, featured snippets and more search feature changes
Google is constantly testing its SERPs, all to ensure users have a great experience and find the information or answer they are looking for.
One of the biggest changes was Google bringing continuous scrolling (don’t call it infinite!) to the desktop earlier this month. Yes, it’s officially time to retire the term “Page 2 of Google” – and focus on position when you talk about rankings.
Another major change was multisearch – search by image and then add text to that specific image search.
Google played around with featured snippets this year, testing “From the Internet” and “Other sites say” in featured snippets, and also showing two or more featured snippets.
For feature snippets, Google now uses MUM to determine if there is general consensus for information. Google also reported that MUM helped reduce false premise results by 40%
Also noteworthy: a SERP analysis found that People Also Ask appears 10x more often than featured snippets. PAA was also in the news because People also ask appeared half as often on Google Search, but it later returned to normal.
FAQ-rich results also gained some significant Google SERP visibility.
Oh and if you ever have trouble keeping track of all the parts of Google’s user interface, Google has launched a visual gallery that documents 22 elements.
Here’s a look back at even more features added or tested in Google search results in 2022:
In 2022, there were 10 confirmed Google algorithm updates:
At SMX Next, we learned from Google’s Kim that Google’s Panda algorithm has evolved into a new algorithm called Coati. While this was new information about something quite old in Google’s algorithm world, it was still an interesting discovery.
Also, Google’s John Mueller confirmed that Google was no longer using the 2010 and 2018 page speed signals. They were replaced by Core Web Vitals.
We also learned, through a document released by Google to the U.S. Copyright Office that Google’s Pirate Update could cause an 89% drop in search traffic for objectionable sites.
In November, Google published a document about its notable ranking systems, which included algorithms that are no longer used for ranking or have been incorporated into new systems.
Google also introduced a new “algorithmic improvement” to the way it selects titles for its search result snippets for multilingual or transliterated titles or where the title element is written in a different language or script than the content.
Read Barry Schwartz’s summary to take a closer look at the year in algorithm updates. And be sure to check out our Google algorithm update history page for all our latest news and advice on the latest algorithm updates.
AI & machine learning
In the SEO world, ChatGPT was the topic of conversation in the last weeks of 2022. And you can bet we’ll be hearing more about the (and other) exciting AI technologies in 2023, especially with GTP-4 in the near future.
No doubt many sites will try to mass-produce content using AI tools. Be careful: Earlier this year, Google warned that Google doesn’t want your AI-generated SEO spam content.
That was a bit ironic considering you could theoretically use Google Docs to write your meta descriptions. And surprisingly, they weren’t that bad.
Google has also detailed how it uses artificial intelligence in Google Search. Another way Google considered using AI was to update opening hours in local listings. Google also formally introduced SpamBrain, its AI-based spam prevention system, which launched in 2018.
And despite the many positive and exciting ways to use AI, there is always a dark side, as we reported in Beware of bogus DMCA link requests by AI-generated lawyers.
Lots of local search news in 2022 – new attributes, rating issues, Google business profile changes and scams were some of the main headlines:
Google business profile, maps and reviews:
More Google news
Microsoft Bing continued its IndexNow initiative by adding joint URL sharing with Yandex, announcing in August that more than 16 million websites were using it (publishing more than 1.2 billion URLs per day to the IndexNow API), as well as adding multiple new integrations:
More Microsoft Bing news
If you have missed all the thousands of reminders to use Google Analytics 4 so far, now is the time to use GA4. Because Universal Analytics will cease to exist on July 1, 2023. I hope you’re ready.
In a strange rebranding, Google Data Studio was renamed Looker Studio. Google said it was “uniting” Google’s business intelligence products — including the popular Google Data Studio product — under the Looker umbrella.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console had plenty of new additions: tools, features, and reporting improvements. Here are links to our coverage:
In December, we reported on an experimental feature called Content Ideas. Days later, we learned that Question Hub is shutting down. Chance? Maybe we’ll find out in 2023.
SGR also had its fair share of reporting bugs and other issues in 2022:
We’ve also said goodbye to the URL parameters tool, which Google said was “low value”, the old message board, and the international targeting report.
And did you get any of those intrusive interstitials notifications from GSC?
Acquisitions in the SEO space
At the beginning of 2022, it looked like we were in for a busy acquisition year. Things slowed down a bit midway through the year, but take a look at the big changes we saw this year at some of the biggest SEO technology companies:
A DMCA request removed SEO tool Moz from Google Search for just under 12 hours. Getting kicked out of Google Search for your branded term is the stuff of SEO nightmares, no matter how long it takes.
Zero-Clicks: an alternative view
Semrush has done an interesting study on clickless searches. It found that 25.6% of desktop searches and 17.3% of mobile searches were zero-click, much lower than previous — let’s call it “suspicious” — zero-click research.
Other search engines
Ahrefs made big news when it revealed details about its own general search engine, Yep. While not a Google killer, more alternative search engines are a good thing.
Meanwhile, DuckDuckGo, the most well-known privacy search engine, seemed to continue its steady growth, finally passing the 100 billion search mark in January. Until April. Then DuckDuckGo fell below 100 million daily average searches per day. And in the months since, DuckDuckGo has failed to return to that level.
In 2022, we lost influential SEO pioneer and expert Bill Slawski on May 17th. He was best known for helping the community understand search patents, primarily on SEO By The Sea. Fortunately, that wealth of information lives on after it went offline for a while. In the aftermath of his passing, we also discovered some disturbing Google search results for [Bill Slawski obituary].
Another incredibly sad loss was that of Tatiana Perebeinis, SE Ranking’s chief accountant, who was one of four people killed in a Russian attack in Irpin, Ukraine.
SMX Advanced & Next
We organized two digital events this year: SMX Advanced in June and SMX Next in November. Both shows were packed with actionable SEO tips and insights.
Below are links to our coverage of the Advanced SEO track.
And you can expect a lot of coverage of SMX Next’s SEO track on Search Engine Land in the coming weeks.
SEO in 2023
Looking ahead, here’s what we know:
Unless you plan to leave Google Analytics, you should accept and fully apply GA4, as the current GA will disappear in July. And if you haven’t migrated yet? You’ll have an extra hard time comparing year-over-year data. Also, be sure to save any GA historical data you need, as Google will delete them all. And once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Should you be excited or terrified of ChatGPT? Yes. I mean it depends. Just remember that ChatGPT is only useful for things up to 2021. But GPT-4 is coming.
With the rise of AI tools, it will be interesting to see how Google responds to what could potentially be a deluge of duplicate AI-generated content. If it does, spoiler: things won’t go well for those sites. Because there are plenty of tools that are good at detecting AI content – and Google knows very well what’s happening.
We also know that there will be Google algorithm updates. Google has confirmed 10 major updates in 2021 and 2022. We know there will be core updates and probably more with the helpful content update. And when it happens, Search Engine Land will be the first to report on it.
Danny Goodwin is editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land & SMX. In addition to writing daily about SEO, PPC and more for Search Engine Land, Goodwin also manages Search Engine Land’s roster of subject matter experts. He also helps program our conference series, SMX – Search Marketing Expo.