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SEO 22 min read October 7, 2022

What Did The Latest Google Updates Bring?

Industry-specific SERP research of 25 K domains
What Did The Latest Google Updates Bring?
Ekaterina Hordiienko
Customer Support & Education Specialist at Serpstat
The Helpful Content Update (HCU) ended on September 9th, and the Core Algorithm Update was announced on September 12th. Immediately following this news, SERP volatility started showing high and middle levels of rank fluctuations. We analyzed the positions of about 25 thousand domains and determined how the updates affected different industries.

Google September Broad Core Update: Quick Facts and Storm

The Broad Core Algorithm Updates, according to Google, can improve search results by updating the “list of sites” that have lost their relevance. It can also replace them with more relevant ones that deserve to be at the top of the search results.

Using the Serpstat Search Engine Storm tool algorithm (check infographic) we analyzed the changes in search results to determine the intensity of the update. You can see that there was an average storm rate during the update (up to 26% of the search results changed).
September Core Update
Our research was limited to the US region because the HCU was launched for English-language websites first.

Google Helpful Content Update: Quick Facts and Storm

SEO specialists predicted that the HCU would have a limited impact on a few website categories and industries. This one should have a relatively small impact compared with other algorithm updates.

However, by the intensity of changes in search results, according to the Search Engine Storm tool, the HCU in the US was about the same as Google Core Update (up to 26%).
The helpful content update
Let's take a closer look at how different industries fluctuated during the updates.

Google Algorithm Updates

The history and impact of recent (2021-2022) Google Algorithm updates

Industry-Specific SERP Daily Volatility during Updates

To determine which industries the latest algorithm updates affected, we selected over 25,000 domains from 24 sectors. Then we picked search queries based on the principle of “seed keywords” and tracked the positions of these domains throughout two updates, using the Google US rank tracking region. 

To study the daily changes, we checked SERP volatility, which refers to daily fluctuations (%), by analyzing website keywords ranking on Google's result page during both updates.
September Core Update vs Helpful Content Update

The average position of all sites from our sampling fluctuated daily, but the Core Update affected the sites more intensely only at the end of the update. Whereas the HCU had a greater amplitude throughout the entire update. 

Daily volatility in September was up to 5-7%. At the same time, the SERPs during the Useful Content fluctuated by 3%.
Let's combine all the daily charts of industry volatility to compare which industries changed more intensely and which changed less.
The Core Update
During the Core update, the following fluctuations stood out:

  • Adult Industry
  • Gambling
  • Jobs and Career
  • E-commerce and Shopping
  • News and Media
  • Home and Garden
  • Food and Drink
  • Law and Government
Position changes in the following industries were negligible during the September Core Update:

  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Hobby and Leisure
  • Lifestyle
  • Games
  • Computers, Electronics, and Technologies

How A Web Entity Can Grow Traffic And Lose Google Core Algorithm Update At The Same Time

The structure of an e-commerce website
More spacing in sectors by positions during the HCU:

  • News and Media
  • Adult Industry
  • Vehicles
  • Gambling
  • Computers, Electronics, and Technologies
  • Jobs and Career
  • Games
  • Pets and Animals
  • Arts and Entertainment
Lowest-changing industries:

  • Lifestyle
  • Heavy Industries and Engineering
  • Finance
  • Health
At the same time, the overall changes in positions and trends were less noticeable, and the average position over the update period rarely changed by more than 3%. It is also important to note that the update has greatly impacted the education, entertainment, and tech industries.
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Expert View
What is the primary purpose of updates like Google Core?
Myriam Jessier
SEO trainer & consultant PRAGM
Google's been dealing with many market hurdles. Social media platforms such as TikTok are bringing about a new way for humans to find information: we are headed towards information discovery instead of information search. On top of this, governments are setting up legal frameworks to restrict cookie usage but also asking for more accountability when it comes to disinformation online. As a result, Google is adapting and aiming to provide more qualitative, trustworthy content delivered in a way that suits new customer expectations.
Jon-Mikel Bailey
These updates are almost always made to improve the user experience of Google search users and fight irrelevant, spammy, and untrustworthy content.
Joseph S. Kahn
President and CTO, Hum JAM
To improve user experience with user search outputs. Google Core sole purpose is to improve the quality of digital outcomes.
Specialists from which areas should first pay attention to HCU?
Myriam Jessier
SEO trainer & consultant PRAGM
Content specialists, marketing specialists, digital PR experts and SEOs should be paying close attention to HCU.
Jon-Mikel Bailey
SEOs, content marketers, and marketing generalists should all pay special attention to this update. There is no sense in producing unhelpful content. It disappoints/annoys the users and it clutters the SERPs with junk.

AI content will continue to cause problems for Google. HCU, in my opinion, was mainly an effort to fight spammy AI content. However, I believe that Google will always be fighting against all types of bad content because it causes their customers (the searchers) to have a bad experience.

All marketers should recognize the importance of helpful content and the HCU. Things like E-A-T in the QRG and Panda before HCU are all part of Google's overall war on bad content.

These types of updates will continue. Producing bad content with the sole purpose of ranking is a fool's errand.
Joseph S. Kahn
President and CTO, Hum JAM
Anyone that is writing copy. This specifically is looking at the writer using AI tools that create junk. Just like SPAM, this is an improvement on Panda to clean up the web. AI without human rechecks is now making junk. This is the antidote.
How should specialists who see significant drops in website rankings due to the update act?
Myriam Jessier
SEO trainer & consultant PRAGM
First and foremost: do not delete your content in one fell swoop. You need to evaluate WHY the content was created, WHO the target audience is, WHAT the content is going to help them accomplish, WHEN it was written and WHERE that content should live. Once that is done, you can begin to map out what should be updated, rewritten to align with search intent and audience expectations or what should be deleted/merged/moved.
Jon-Mikel Bailey
Up your content game, plain and simple. If you have thin, spammy, or just plain bad content on your website, either update it with better content or replace it altogether.

Unfortunately, this update is one that, in my opinion, will take time and hard work to recover from. If you were running the risk by producing bad content, it's now time to pay the piper.
Joseph S. Kahn
President and CTO, Hum JAM
They should first check out the SERP competition and see who was and wasn't affected. Those who weren't, see what factors are involved and replicate. Remember, Google is not your competition.
Do such updates reduce the importance of technical SEO?
Myriam Jessier
SEO trainer & consultant PRAGM
No. Technical SEO is about making sure content can be discovered, crawled and indexed properly. The nature of the content impacts this process but it in now way diminished the importance of technical SEO.
Jon-Mikel Bailey
Not at all. Google is still a machine. Google's algorithms rely on things like schema and metadata to get a complete picture of what they're looking at.

And mobile usability and website speed will continue to be of great importance to SEOs. Core Web Vitals are only going to increase in importance and may have an increasing impact on the rankings of a website.

So, no, these updates are simply part of a much bigger picture. Technical SEO will continue to be important and the parameters of technical SEO work will continue to evolve.
Joseph S. Kahn
President and CTO, Hum JAM
Not at all. Each part of the band is required to make the music. That's like saying, the drummer is getting better, does the singer still matter? All parts of the band matter and all parts of SEO does as well. You need harmony, rhythm, and amplification to make it all work.
Which niche, in your opinion, suffered from update the most and why?
Myriam Jessier
SEO trainer & consultant PRAGM
It's not a question of niches for me. It's a question of: does this content bring tangible added value to the humans it was created for. If the content wasn't created for human consumption but simply to satisfy a search engine in order to rank, this is where you will have a problem. With this in mind, many affiliate websites, celebrity stats websites, etc. would probably suffer.
Jon-Mikel Bailey
I think it's too early to make these kinds of determinations. From what we've heard in the last few weeks from Google, I think it will take some time before we have a clear picture of the winners and losers of the helpful content update.
Joseph S. Kahn
President and CTO, Hum JAM
The digital marketing niche is littered with agencies trying to game the system. These sites were struck first and for good reason. The next would be "health" — again because of affiliate gaming and using AI tools to spin and crank out content.
Who benefited from the updates?
Myriam Jessier
SEO trainer & consultant PRAGM
I know my website and my clients' websites did! Content I write to help people understand how certain things work in SEO and how to actually DO things work really well. The reason is that I address these elements in a more approachable manner than the official documentation available out there does.
Jon-Mikel Bailey
Again, it's still too soon to know for certain. I believe that over time, if this update really is to do what Google says, the winners will be websites that feature content that is trustworthy and satisfies the need of the searcher.
Joseph S. Kahn
President and CTO, Hum JAM
Sites that were focused on achieving the user intent not only stayed in high places but moved up as well. The content we spent the most time on saw a 12% increase in rankings.

Conclusion

Our research showed that each update touched specific aspects and niches to a particular or lesser extent. Webmasters should consider Google's general recommendations and the signals that algorithms are considering. This will enable them to improve their positions following the impact of recent updates and in preparation for future ones. Sites that work in the YMYL (Finance, Health, Insurance, Law, and Government) direction should always pay attention to the compliance of the content with EAT factors.

It is crucial to remember the site's usefulness, relevance, and technical characteristics for the visitor, not just for the search engine. In this case, you will be able to cope with all the upcoming requirements and updates.
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