‘The new Google Core Update has turned the SEO world upside down’

When, Why and How?

During the 4th week of September 2019, the most significant news in the world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was Google’s new Core update. This update took place on September 24, 2019, and as expected, this update came with questions such as “What does this new update include?” and “How does this affect me as a webmaster?” which we are here to help you answer!

First things first… What does this Google algorithm do and what does a core update help with?

A Google algorithm is used to help the researcher find what he’s looking for by sorting out websites and presenting him the best results after searching websites for keywords. This core update readjusts its core search ranking algorithm to present to the researcher better and more relevant results. These core updates can take place up to 3 times a year.

What’s included in this new core update? 

The previous algorithm only allowed the usage of text snippets by webmasters for a preview of their website, while the new update allows them the usage of snippets and other media to have better control over how Google will present their websites in search results. This feature can come in handy if you want to increase your click-through rates. How does Google let them do this? With the introduction of 2 new settings: A) a set of robots meta-tags and B) an HTML attribute.

A) What is a set of robots Meta tags and how do you use it? 

Meta tags are lines of HTML code on a web page that do not change in any way the appearance of the page to visitors, however, it can contain extra information, which could be useful to search engines or coders. The robots Meta tag is a tag designed to have direct contact with search engine programs [=robots] as they scan the web page for the said keywords to present it to the researcher.

B) How can an HTML attribute help?

The HTML attribute is designed to help limit the parts of a website which are eligible to be presented as snippets. By using these attributes, you can avoid irrelevant parts of an HTML page from appearing in a text snippet of the page preview.

What made Google do this update? 

European countries such as Germany and Spain had been trying to make Google pay publishers for copyrights after using snippets of their articles on Google search previews. This, however, was not the tipping point for Google to make this drastic change. What made Google find and present these new settings to avoid the usage of text snippets, was the recent passing of the new French copyright law. This change means French users will only be able to see the headlines and not the first few lines or a thumbnail image for news content unless European publishers request to show these previews.

Taken directly from the official Google Blog of France:

“At the moment, when we display news results, we show a headline, which links directly to the relevant news site. For some results, we also show you a short preview of the article, such as a few lines of text (also known as a “snippet”) or a small “thumbnail” image. Together, these headlines and previews can help you decide whether a result is relevant to your search and whether you want to click on it.

When the French law comes into force, we will not show preview content in France for a European news publication unless the publisher has taken steps to tell us that’s what they want. This applies to search results across Google services.”

All of the above sound incredible for advocates of copyrights and one would assume that all the new settings introduced by Google would only make the life of webmasters easier and their ratings higher, right? Well, let us take a quick look at what the SEO community has to say. The following 5 texts were cut out of a thread from https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4962430.htm :

1) “I’ve seen a comparable drop to the first of June. Like a lot of people on here (I’m becoming increasingly frustrated) I feel like a lot of the drops are down to the size of our brand and not the state of our SEO. Conversations internally in the business mean that i am going to have to lean away from some of the principles that i have leaned on and tweaked for maybe 10 years. I’m going to redesign the site.
We have a high proportion of non indexable pages. Whilst these obviously don’t rank, I’m starting to wonder whether the high numbers of these pages proportionally across the site are maybe having an impact on our indexable pages. I know that might sound crazy. In my head, I don’t understand how that would be an issue, but maybe Google thinks I’m trying to hide something? – Sept 25, 2019”

2) “Amazing stretch of zero sales. We’ve had no sales from Google since this update began. Adwords spend has risen through the roof and nothing from that either. Seems as though all visitors with buyer intent are being redirected since our traffic volume is about the same. –Sept 25, 2019”

3) “Same here update impacted conversions which should not be the case. Especially what ads got to do with updates?
The problem is the continuous disappearance of buyers searching with Google and that impacts negatively ad rank formula. The formula I think needs at least 3 committed players to pay the high bid so for that reason all personalised buyer traffic goes to them 3 first.
But this game will not last forever, Amazon will make them starve.- Sept 27, 2019”

4) “Entertainment news site which has seen big traffic growths thus far in 2019 except this update. We were flattened by an update that came out around the same time in 2017, hopefully this doesn’t go the same way again. Around 10-20% down as are the majority of my competitors in favor for big tabloid newspapers. – Sept 28, 2019”

5)“I have major dropped in SERP by this September core update. My keyword dropped from 5 to 40. My traffic get down approx. -75% since last update. – Sept 30, 2019”

It seems, however, that not everyone agrees with these negative recent results of the September 2019 core update. Examples on twitter such as the following have proven that not everyone was affected negatively:

While others have not noticed any significant changes at all:

We can only hope that you’ve been noticing gains and no losses so far. How were you affected by this Google core update? We would like to hear your thoughts on this matter, so don’t hesitate and leave a comment letting us know!

Bibliography and Further Reading:

https://www.seoblog.com/seo-news-you-can-use-googles-algorithm-update-includes-new-snippet-settings-for-search-listings-display/?hootPostID=5d3504422e7d741476789e21423728fc&fbclid=IwAR1qdiM7AWk50EwBp7l0TcQOU_VEbCSa37GSqaxeSlDiybUpHq7Qkw0YLAk [Google’s Algorithm Update Includes New Snippet Settings, Published Sep 30, 2019 by Brandon George in SEO News You Can Use]

https://www.eversparkinteractive.com/robots-meta-tag/ [What is a Robots Meta Tag and How Do You Use It? Published Mar 6, 2013 by Chris Watson in SEO Tools, EverSpark Interactive]

https://developers.google.com/search/reference/robots_meta_tag [Robots meta tag, data-nosnippet, and X-Robots-Tag specifications, Published in Google Reports]

https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2019/09/more-controls-on-search.html [More options to help websites preview their content on Google Search, Published Sep 24, 2019, in Webmaster Central Blog]

https://www.sigmalive.com/news/scitech/technology/589711/oi-ekdotes-sti-gallia-kai-germania-enonontai-gia-na-apantisoun-stin-google, [Οι εκδότες στη Γαλλία και Γερμανία ενώνονται για να απαντήσουν στην Google, Published Sep 27, 2019 in SigmaLive]

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-alphabet-google-france/google-to-change-how-news-results-appear-in-search-for-french-users-idUSKBN1WA1FK [Google to stop showing news snippets for French users, Published Sep 25, 2019, in Reuters]

https://france.googleblog.com/2019/09/comment-nous-respectons-le-droit-dauteur.html [Nouvelles règles de droit d’auteur en France: notre mise en conformité avec la loi, Published Sep 25, 2019, in Le blog officiel de Google France]

https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4962430-13-30.htm [Google Updates and SERP Changes, Webmaster world thread on Google’s core update, started on Sep 24, 2019]

https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4965610-4-30.htm [Webmaster world thread on Google’s core update, started on Sep 24, 2019]

https://www.seroundtable.com/google-september-2019-core-update-live-28275.html [Google September 2019 Core Update Is Live But Seems Slow To Roll Out, Published Sep 25, 2019, by Barry Schwartz in Search Engine Roundtable]

https://www.seroundtable.com/google-september-2019-core-update-impact-28283.html [Google September 2019 Core Update Impact Now Being Noticed, Published Sep 26, 2019, by Barry Schwartz in Search Engine Roundtable]