What Do We Know About Google’s September 2019 Core Update?

If nothing else, Google loves to keep the SEO industry on its toes. We’ve lived through Panda, and Penguin, and Hummingbird, not to mention versions of Florida. Here we are in the tail end of 2019, facing our third big update since the start of the year, with each one as cryptic in details as the other.

What Should SEO’s Look Out For?

Google is notoriously vague about their core updates, so you should turn to respected SEO experts like Search Engine RoundtableSearch Engine Land or Search Engine Journal, who are usually at the forefront of anything to do with search engine marketing. Of course, the best way to monitor how updates impact your site is to investigate your own traffic for volatility. 

Google’s Webmaster Central Blog is a good resource for official news from the search engine giant on their latest changes. It seems like this latest update could be considered E-A-T-2.0, which solidifies the guidelines about making sure a site has unique content designed for searchers, not search engines. It’s simply no longer acceptable to crank out mediocre content and expect to rank for it. 

As such, these words are straight from the horse's mouth:

Content and quality questions: 

  • Does the content provide original information, reporting, research or analysis?
  • Does the content provide a substantial, complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does the content provide insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • If the content draws on other sources, does it avoid simply copying or rewriting those sources and instead provide substantial additional value and originality?
  • Does the headline and/or page title provide a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
  • Does the headline and/or page title avoid being exaggerating or shocking in nature?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Would you expect to see this content in or referenced by a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

Expertise questions: 

  • Does the content present information in a way that makes you want to trust it, such as clear sourcing, evidence of the expertise involved, background about the author or the site that publishes it, such as through links to an author page or a site’s About page?
  • If you researched the site producing the content, would you come away with an impression that it is well-trusted or widely-recognised as an authority on its topic?
  • Is this content written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well?
  • Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
  • Would you feel comfortable trusting this content for issues relating to your money or your life?

Presentation and production questions: 

  • Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
  • Was the content produced well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Does the content have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Does content display well for mobile devices when viewed on them?

A full Google User Content guide is available online.

Another announcement regarding features snippets was made by Google. This gives brands and agencies the ability to control the information that appears in the coveted premium space on page one.

As highlighted by Search Engine Journal, the following options are now available:

  • “nosnippet”: – This is an old option that has not changed, it lets you specify that you don’t want any textual snippet shown for this page. 
  • “max-snippet:[number]”: – This is a new meta tag that lets you specify a maximum text-length, in characters, of a snippet for your page.
  • “max-video-preview:[number]”: – This is a new meta tag that lets you specify a maximum duration in seconds of an animated video preview.
  • “max-image-preview:[setting]”: – This is a new meta tag that lets you specify a maximum size of image preview to be shown for images on this page, using either “none”, “standard”, or “large”

Before jumping on the snippet bandwagon, brands should really consider if the feature will do more harm than good to site traffic. The appeal of the snippet is inclusion on top SERPs, but it can be a double-edged sword. If searchers can satisfy their query from the snippet, they may not visit your site at all. Sure, searchers who are ready to buy will click through, but those who are still in research mode may not get the opportunity to go through your conversion funnel (if your site is optimised with a great user journey).

The SEO landscape is always in a state of flux, so marketers should be vigilant about the latest developments from Google, Bing, and newer emerging search engines like Duck Duck Go. If you are an e-commerce brand, this is crucial; if you are not an SEO expert or don’t have the resource to properly manage the oh-so-important technical or forensic SEO of your site, ActiveWin can act as an extension of your marketing team. Get in touch today.