Google Update around the 13th - 18th of September 2019

There has been a spike in volatility in the SERP Trackers indicating a Google Search Update.

The SERP Trackers are showing a lengthy period of volatility commencing on the 13th of September, continuing through until the 18th of September. It is unclear for how long the volatility will continue. The volatility is greater than that seen on the 5th of September.

Update: the 18th of September 2019

  • I have updated this article with new SERP Tracker charts. I do not believe the 10th September update is related, so have removed most references to this.

  • You will see that the volatility continues from the 13th to the 18th. Based on the sectors hit by this update, this may be two different updates:

    • The early part of the update targets Law & Government, Autos & Vehicles, Health, Finance are some of the worst-hit sectors. Whether YMYL (Your Money Your Life) type sites are particularly affected is too early to say, but it does appear to transcend YMYL categories.
    • The spike on the 18th of September heavily targets Arts & Entertainment, Games, Online Communities, Reference, and Science the most. YMYL categories are distinctly absent.

It is difficult to know whether this is all part of the same update, or whether there are multiple updates here. My gut feeling is that the 18th September spike in volatility is significantly different from the earlier volatility.

The SERP Trackers

Let’s take a look at the SERP trackers for the 13th of September, 2019:

SEMrush Sensor:

The SEMrush Sensor shows a small uptick in volatility on the 10th of September, before ramping up on the 12th and 13th of September. It is unclear at this stage whether the volatility will continue.

SEMrush Sensor 13th - 18th of September 2019
SEMrush Sensor 13th - 18th of September 2019 © SEMrush.

Rank Risk Index:

The Rank Risk Index shows a lot of volatility, with a significant spike on the 18th of September.

Rank Ranger Risk Index 13th - 18th of September 2019.
Rank Ranger Risk Index 13th - 18th of September 2019. © Rank Ranger.

MozCast:

The MozCast weather report indicates a Google Search update on the 11th. Volatility then continues to the 16th. The data for the 17th and 18th is not yet available, but Mozcast usually lags behind the other trackers by a couple of days.

Mozcast 13th - 16th of September 2019.
Mozcast 13th - 16th of September 2019. © Moz.

Algoroo:

The Algoroo only shows some movement in the SERPs, although it hasn’t yet updated for the 18th.

Algoroo 13th - 16th of September 2019.
Algoroo 13th - 16th of September 2019. © Algaroo.

SERPMetrics:

The SERPmetrics report has not yet updated for the 18th. There does appear to be a small amount of volatility over the past week.

SERPMetrics 13th - 16th of September 2019.
SERPMetrics 13th - 16th of September 2019. © SERPMetrics.

Advanced Web Ranking:

Advanced Web Ranking shows significant volatility between the 13th and 18th September.

Advanced Web Ranking 13th - 18th of September 2019.
Advanced Web Ranking 13th - 18th of September 2019. © Advanced Web Rankings.

CognitiveSEO SIGNALS:

CognitiveSEO SIGNALS shows significant volatility on the 16th and 18th September.

CognitiveSEO SIGNALS 13th - 18th of September 2019.
CognitiveSEO SIGNALS 13th - 18th of September 2019. © CognitiveSEO SIGNALS.

Chatter in the SEO community indicates a Google Update took place

Let’s take a look at the discussions on WebmasterWorld for this update.

13th of September, 2019

New results again, different pattern on all three devices. Also seeing cluster traffic from different sections of the USA…in strange patches. The Google Polka continues. (samwest)

Noticing some fluctuations in search. But maybe just me. Anyone noticing anything yet? (HereWeGo123)

14th of September, 2019

Ok, I accept that it is the weekend and my traffic is usually 60-70% of weekdays however I am seeing the decimation of several .com sites this morning, and bearing in mind I’m nearly halfway through a Googleday, seeing sites with 0 (zero) PVs so far is more than a little disconcerting. (RedBar)

15th of September, 2019

Google search is now getting totally crazy for my websites. My main website that I update daily and is super-overoptimilized (95 gtmetrix score, 0,5s load time) is dropping in rankings every few days. And my old and outdated websites with no optimization, that I haven’t touched for 5 years and was planning to just get rid off them, are now getting to top 3 results. Just completely insane… (frostitomik)

16th of September, 2019

More drastic changes today’s and surprisingly some are positive. SERPS Still appear to be in flux here. (samwest)

In other news, continuing to see a lot of SERP flux throughout the day beginning yesterday evening (Saturday night US), and right now it seemed to dialed in even more. (HereWeGo123)

The later half of this weekend was definitely ugly. I’m seeing very low page views and high bounce rates. Just when I thought it could not get worse, I looked at traffic data this morning… (glakes)

Well I have bunch of exact match domains that all used to rank on the 1st positions for their terms and after the Google update 2-3 years ago, they all got smashed and penalized, no rankings at all. I have let them all just sit and earn pennies with some small traffic and now they are back to top positions. Just LOL. (frostitomik)

I’m definitely seeing some good improvements for one of my sites and some huge movements in the SERPs for other sites. For instance a Quora page that has ranked around the #5-6 mark for at least the past year or more and actually cites my site (still AWOL) has dropped from the first page to halway down the 8th! (RedBar)

17th of September, 2019

Yeah’ my positions bumped up to hold #1 and #2 knocking the farmer out’ yet traffic is still drip and conversions zip. Totally throttled. (samwest)

We’ve been hit again too…. (BushyTop)

18th of September, 2019

Our niche is now completly dominated by 8 big resellers. You can change the keywords in the search but the serps are mainly the same. The organics are mostly orderd in 2 entries for every reseller. That meens you have only 4-5 organic results on the first page. Then google insists of showing complete nonsens results. Asking for apples the serps show entries for pears. And that mostly for amazon results.

since two days sales are complete off with google. bing, ebay still converting.(Martin Ice Web)

Who does the Update Effect?

13th September:

Looking at the SEMrush Sensor Deviation (from the average volatility) for the 13th of September 2019:

SEMrush Sensor Deviation of Categories 13th of September 2019.
SEMrush Sensor Deviation of Categories 13th of September 2019. © SEMrush.

The chart shows a moderate deviation from the normal level of fluctuations you would expect to see in the SERPs.

Many of the sectors most hit appear to be YMYL topics or topic that could impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety. A summary of YMYL topics can be seen in the Google Raters Guidelines, which has recently been updated:

Google Raters Guidelines - YMYL definition.
Google Raters Guidelines - YMYL definition. © Google.

One interesting point is that the old definition just included “pages,” whereas the new definition includes “pages or topics.” I wonder if Google is becoming better at ascertaining YMYL content.

That being said, Arts & Entertainment was hit reasonably bad, and this is not necessarily YMYL. As such, this counteracts my theory or at least complicates it.

14th - 17th September:

I’ve taken some snippets of the Sensor deviation between these dates:

SEMrush Sensor Deviation of Categories 14-17th of September 2019.
SEMrush Sensor Deviation of Categories 14-17th of September 2019. © SEMrush.

As you can see, categories such as Health and Law & Government decrease in volatility each day. On the 17th, they are no longer in the top 10 most volatile categories.

18th September:

Looking at the SEMrush Sensor Deviation (from the average volatility) for the 18th of September 2019:

SEMrush Sensor Deviation of Categories 18th of September 2019.
SEMrush Sensor Deviation of Categories 18th of September 2019. © SEMrush.

The categories targeted are very different from that of the 13th.

The volatility on the 10th and 13th of September affect different categories

An interesting point to note is that if you compare the Sensor deviation between the two dates, they target different categories. I suspect they are unrelated.

SEMrush Sensor Deviation of Categories the 10th of September 2019.
SEMrush Sensor Deviation of Categories the 10th of September 2019. © SEMrush.

While it is useful to look at categories, you should bear in mind that Google Algorithm Updates targets types of queries, not categories per se. That being said, John Mueller has said that types of queries and specific categories often go hand-in-hand.

What to do if this update hits you

Whether this update targets YMYL categories or something more general, doesn’t really matter. The advice I will give you is the same.

That advice is to read the Google Raters Guidelines in its entirety.

There is some excellent guidance relating to E-A-T and content quality in the guide. More importantly, the advice comes straight from Google.

To help you, I highly recommend SEMrush. It is what I use for my day to day SEO activities.

For example:

  • Use the SEMrush keyword tool to tweak existing content for keywords that maximize traffic.
  • Use the SEO Writer to help improve content to target all the keywords used by the top-performing pages.
  • Audit your site to get quick wins.
  • Get new ideas for content with their SEO Ideas tool

Using a good quality SEO tool like SEMrush can significantly boost your traffic for a relatively small effort.

Try instead to write in-depth content in a natural way that helps the user. I have found that focussing too much on adding keywords can be detrimental, as your writing style can become un-natural.

You can pick up a 7-day free trial of SEMrush here.

NB: SEMrush is removing some of the SEO content writing features from the PRO plan at the end of September. If you sign up before then, you will lock in the features on the cheapest plan, and save around $100 a month.

Many of the features I use and recommend will only be available on the $199 per month plan. I highly recommend signing up before the changes take place.

Jonathan Griffin. Editor @ The Webmaster

Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.

Jonathan Griffin is The Webmaster's Editor & CEO, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all our publications. Jonathan writes about Development, Hosting, and SEO topics for The Webmaster and The Search Review with more than nine years of experience. Jonathan also manages his own SEO consultancy, offering SEO developer services. He is an expert on site-structure, strategy, Schema, AMP, and technical SEO. You can find Jonathan on Twitter as @thewebmastercom.

Read more about Jonathan Griffin on our About Page.