If you’ve been noticing abrupt changes in your site’s search engine rankings, Google’s recent September 2019 Core Update may be responsible.
Google announced the September update on its official Webmasters blog, the third update to be announced in 2019 (after the March and June updates). In response to panic from users experiencing ranking drops, the blog advises that there “might not be anything to fix at all” because the update changes how the Google algorithm assesses content, as opposed to changing specific quality guidelines. In short, the purpose of this update is to reward great sites that may have been overlooked by past versions of the algorithm and penalise low-quality, harmful or deceptive content.
While it hasn’t completely overhauled the existing algorithm, the update has caused some noticeable changes in search rankings, while website traffic for impacted sites dropped on average by 20%. Long-tail keywords were more significantly affected than single keywords, in an effort to more closely match user intent and provide search results that relate best to the query.
Google hasn’t released specifics on how the algorithm works, but users have speculated that the recent algorithm update increased the impact of E-A-T guidelines in YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) rankings, meaning that for websites dealing with users’ health or finances, demonstrating expertise, authority and trustworthiness in the subject is essential.
As a result of these changes, healthcare and financial websites have been most impacted by the update, especially loan websites, with in-depth informative content now being favoured over more marketing-focused content and aggressive calls to action. Alternative and holistic health websites have also been negatively impacted by the new algorithm, likely because their content often contradicts the scientific consensus on certain subjects, thus making them vulnerable to E-A-T guidelines.
Another significant change in the algorithm update is the increased relevancy of video content, which now frequently takes up the first 3 positions in the search results for informational keywords, making those spots on the first page even more coveted. As ranking tracker tools don’t take into account carousel videos, this loss in rankings may not be immediately visible to many users. And while numerous websites’ rankings are suffering after this update, the biggest winner is YouTube, as it occupies over 90% of video carousel results.