Google’s September update spree: What you need to know

By Sav Szymura
20th September 2022

We all know by now that Google has been springing quite a few updates on us recently – most notably the Helpful Content update that finished rolling out on Friday 9th, and now we have the September core update to consider.

Helpful Content update

This update came with no real warning from Google, and given it has site-wide implications a lot of people were scrambling to try and understand what it could mean.

For some websites, it has potentially huge ramifications, especially those who have been trying to game the ranking system instead of simply writing high quality, interesting, and engaging content for visitors over algorithm.

Google has always prioritised people-first content, and this update has revised their algorithm to keep in line with that – but realistically there doesn’t seem to have been much of a change immediately following this roll out, at least for reputable sites that you might visit daily.

This does not mean that there was no point to the update or that it won’t have a further effect down the line – the update is weighted, meaning the combination of this with future core updates may be more significant to some sites.

Additionally, as it uses a machine-learning model it may just take some time to impact “unhelpful” sites, such as those created only to capture visitors from search engines in an attempt to gain revenue from on-site advertising, or in similar ways. Such sites often take advantage of the rapidly developing (and improving) AI-powered text generation, so interestingly we are in an AI arms race.

Danny Sullivan, public liaison from Search, Google tweeted that “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….”

September core update

Perhaps in light of this it is unsurprising that there has been another core update in September.

This is only the second core update of 2022, but with it coming so close on the heels of the Helpful Content update it’s extremely important for businesses to keep monitoring performance throughout this time, but also be prepared for some potential volatility.

In the past, core updates have caused big shake ups in certain industries and as marketers we have to stay on our toes and be prepared to shift gears as and when new information comes through.

As with previous updates, we do not know at this time which areas in particular are being targeted and we likely won’t know until the end of the roll out (anticipated to take around 1-2 weeks).

The main points to note about these two updates are:

  • The algorithm update builds on Google’s core objectives to be as helpful to the customer by returning the most useful answer to their query.
  • Follow Google’s long-standing advice and guidelines. They are quite clear on what constitutes a high-quality site.
  • Focus on people-first content and don’t to write for search engines.
  • Focus on your intended audience.
  • Focus on your website’s purpose.
  • Ensure the content helps the customer fulfill their goal.

Regarding the things Google is telling people NOT to do:

  • It looks like these updates will target a growing number of sites that take advantage of AI written content, based on easily available lists of topics – e.g. People Also Ask, in an attempt to produce content at high volume, hoping the shotgun approach might lead to some pages ranking. As costs of producing content this way is negligible, these types of sites have managed to gain traction in the search engine results of late.
  • We predict that since this is not a page- but site-wide update, sites that cover a lot of disconnected topics are likely to be penalised.

Ultimately, so long as you keep producing useful content for consumers in your niche and not prioritising search engines, you will be fine. But if you’re a bit confused or want to have a chat about your content and SEO strategies then make sure to get in contact.


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