Google’s August 2023 Core Update: Riding the SEO Roller Coaster

Remember the thrill of riding a roller coaster for the first time? Google’s August Core Update was a bit like that –surprising turns, some ups, some downs, and a whole lot of SEO professionals gripping their seats. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with a smooth breakdown of this core update.

On August 22, 2023, Google announced its second Core Update of the year. It took two weeks to roll out globally. While the update significantly rattled news and retail domains, core updates take no prisoners and affect all websites and industries.

Even the giants weren’t spared from Google’s far-reaching update. Intel witnessed a staggering drop in traffic by nearly 70%. On the flip side, behemoths like Apple, Amazon, and Facebook navigated the changes rather successfully. Apple’s traffic surged by over 40%, while Amazon and Facebook enjoyed increases of 12.46% and 16.21% respectively.

While the impacts were broad and far-reaching, there were some surprising commonalities among websites impacted by this update…

Winners and losers analysis.

I analyzed the websites that experienced the most gains and losses in traffic from this update and here’s what I uncovered:


  • Websites with their main content buried low below the fold on both desktop and mobile.
  • Websites with sparse info about the actual entity behind it in the footer (e.g. no legal name, address, or contact details).
  • Design elements clashing and overlapping in mobile views.
  • Ads playing the lead role of the website, occupying the top half of the screen.
  • Multiple popups layered on top of each other like a bad lasagna, obscuring the main content.
  • Homepages that sneakily redirect to landing pages.
  • Cookie notices so huge they could probably have their own website.
Google's August 2023 Core Update Losers
Google’s August 2023 Core Update – Websites that lost traffic


  • Mobile layouts where headers, navigation, and content align neatly and fit just right on the screen.
  • Mobile navigation that’s clear, simple, and easy to use.
  • Content headers and banners that stay where they should be: above the fold on both mobile and desktop.
  • Banner graphics that use real text for headings.
  • Main content with genuine substance—headings, paragraphs, and images.
  • Ads just chilling at the bottom of the screen, on mobile and desktop, and not taking up more than 10%-15% of the window.

Google's August 2023 Core Update Winners
Google’s August 2023 Core Update – Websites that gained traffic

Action steps if affected.

If your site took a nosedive, don’t fret! Here are some steps to get back on track:

  • Re-evaluate your mobile design and optimize your mobile design for friendliness and ease.
  • Minimize popups and ensure your main content is visible and accessible.
  • Check ads’ placement and size, reduce their size and placement if they’re hogging the screen.
  • Ensure your content is rich, valuable, and easy to navigate.
  • Clearly state who you are, especially in the footer.
  • Avoid homepage redirects.

Further reading.

For those who love to dive deep, check out Google’s official guidance on core updates.

Google’s Search’s core updates and your website – Google Search Central

About the author – Adam Clarke.

Adam Clarke, author of the #1 best-selling SEO book and certified by the Digital Marketing Institute and the American Marketing Association, has 10 years experience as an SEO director. With a passion for building businesses and teaching digital marketing, Adam has helped companies achieve significant growth through SEO. In his spare time, he enjoys motorbike rides, exploring exotic locations and travel photography.

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🤔 Wait. Aren't popups bad for SEO? Not always. They're only bad for pages you want to rank in Google (they're fine on this page).

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