Google pounded SEOs hard in September with not just one, but 3 named updates. And one being a Core update that happens a few times per year. We’ll break down the updates in today’s SEO recap. Also, Google held its annual Search Address conference, and we’ll review some of the highlights and announcements.
Google Algorithm Updates
September Core Algorithm Update
The day after Google finished rolling out the Helpful Content Update (more on that in a minute), they announced the release of the September Core Algorithm Update on September 12th, only the second Core update of the year, although there have been dozens of others less-broad updates.
As per standard of the last couple Google Updates, they didn’t release anything specific around what was included in this update beyond the need for meaningful content that meets quality standards. But elsewhere in the search industry, we have many reports that this update had a big impact quickly, but might not be as significant as previous core updates.
Semrush Communication Advisor told Search Engine Land that the impact seemed to be far less than the May 2022 Core update, which also appeared less volatile in SERPs than the November 2021 Core Update. Also according to Semrush data, about 15% of top 20 search results changed as a result of the update, meaning 85% of sites ranking in the top 20 had already achieved those top rankings.
This update appeared to target all types of content on a website, and no one particular industry or niche. Web pages with good content appeared to jump in rankings rather than penalizing websites with bad content. It finished rolling out on September 26th. The same day the latest Product Reviews Update finished rolling out as well. (more on that in a minute as well)
Helpful Content Update Fallout
The Helpful Content Update released at the very end of August didn’t seem to cause as much of a stir as many people anticipated. It took over 2 full weeks to roll out, finishing on September 9th. But it’s timing seems to closely coincide with the September 2022 Core Update.
Google’s Danny Sullivan tweened that the effects of the Helpful Content Update would likely be more obvious during the Core update. But to the point from earlier, neither seemed to make a big splash in the SEO rankings. A poll on SEO Roundtable found that only 20% of people noticed ranking changes from it. Sullivan also mentioned that there is no connection between the Helpful Content Update and the September 2022 Core Update.
Maybe the helpful content signal alone wasn’t enough to tip the scales and produce a change in someone’s particular situation, but when we do other updates (core, product reviews), it might add into that and be more significant….
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) September 6, 2022
To me this says a couple things. First, that Google’s continued emphasis the past few years on Google content is making a difference. It could mean that not nearly as many websites are getting hit because they’ve dramatically improved their content. Or second, it means that the algorithm update is impactful, but more refined types of search queries are impacted. In other words, the update is hitting less broad qualifications and hits something more specific.
A quick recap on what’s included in the Helpful content Update:
- It’s a sitewide algorithm update rather than a page by page look at content.
- Focus on-people first content to rank better
- Use content to show first-hand experience and depth of knowledge on your subject matter.
September 2022 Product Reviews Update
As if two updates coming out back to back wasn’t enough, Google also released the September 2022 Product Review update and had it going at the same time as the Core Update. It’s believed that this update is to correct a few errors that happened in the last update. It looks at product review content (note another update about content), and does not penalize those with bad reviews. But promotes and rewards “insightful analysis and original research”. Right now the most recent Product Reviews Update is only targeting English-language websites, but will likely expand out.
Because so many algorithm updates hit at the same time, Google responded to questions on Twitter about how to know what to respond to if your site was affected in the last month.
For awareness, the September 2022 core update has not fully completed but it’s mostly done. We expect it will be fully complete within a week and will share on our updates page when it is done.
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) September 20, 2022
Search on 22 Recap
At the end of September, Google held its annual Search On address and gave its predictions, outlook, and planning on what the future of search will look like. Here’s a few of the key takeaways we got out of the conference.
Visual Search & Multisearch
Even just two years ago, voice search was the biggest innovation and thing that marketers needed to plan for. Now that’s a thing of the past making way for visual searches. You see something or have a picture you want to search for? Google is ready for those hard to describe items you want to search for.
Take a look at this tweet from Marie Haynes:
Google is really wanting us to use Google Lens to search with images.
Multisearch sounds useful. If it catches on, I bet this will be difficult for SEOs to track.https://t.co/Wd3K2dkPn9
— Dr. Marie Haynes🐧 (@Marie_Haynes) September 28, 2022
Right there it shows you the direction Google is taking. See a dress someone is wearing and you want to find one for yourself? Snap a picture, use that plus some keywords to try to narrow it down. This tool is known as ‘multisearch’ first introduced back in April at Google I/O. Currently Multisearch is available in English, and will be coming to over 70 languages in the coming months.
Another big update is what I’m going to call search suggestions or contextual search that provides new ways to explore information. And you type in a search Google is working to help you find or provide suggestions to your search queries. It means quickly finding the results you’re looking for. Google will provide relevant content before you even finish typing your query. This goes beyond search query suggestions it provides now. This means results will start to show before you even finish typing the query. This tool will likely make it very hard for SEOs to track keyword data and metrics. It will also likely mean more zero click search results.
Those were the two big announcements. Others included things like interactive and immersive Google Maps, menu and restaurant searching based on dish and location, 3D shopping, and the ability to request the removal of search results that provide personally identifying information about yourself.
Google also provided this nine minute video recap of all their main announcements from Search On 2022 if you’re interested in watching.
Does Word Count Matter for Good Content in SEO?
The last bit of search news we want to talk about today revolves around content and word count. We’ve talked for a while about good content that will get your site ranking by Google’s standards but also have a good user experience. It seems that good content that is ranking well has tended to be longer, or a longer word count. But this month, Google dropped the “article too short” and “word count” sections from its Search Console Content Errors section.
So what does that mean? Google’s Danny Sullivan said on Twitter that they may remove that message notification in Search Console because people really shouldn’t worry about word count. Good content is good content, no matter how long it is. If it answers a query, is well written, shows expertise of your industry or niche, and helps your website visitors, then there’s a good chance it will start to rank.
That page references an error message that Search Console might issue. If you’re not seeing these errors, you don’t have that issue. And no, I wouldn’t recommend padding up content to meet a word count.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) August 31, 2022
Additionally, Google’s John Mueller clarified “Word count is not a sign that a page has thin content. You’r the expert on your site’s topic (or you should be), you can make a qualified call on what’s helpful for users, and what’s fluff. Don’t use word count.”