Google’s “Helpful Content Update” Major Google Update Imminent
Google has announced that this week, a new update to their search ranking algorithm will be released. This new update is called the “helpful content update.” The main goal of this updated algorithm is to target content that isn't actually helpful or useful to people. Google hopes that by implementing this change, the quality of results users see when they conduct a Google search will improve overall.
Google's new algorithm update will target and penalize content that only exists to improve its search engine ranking. Titled the 'helpful content update,' this will flag pieces that don't provide value or help readers in any way.
According to Google, the update will “tacklecontent that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines.” So if improved SEO is your only goal, you could see some serious traffic dips as a result of this shift.
We believe this upgrade will have a major impact on how SEOs do content planning going forward, much like previous Panda and Penguin updates did in terms of content and link creation.
Google Helpful Content Update Quick Facts
Here are the most important things that we know right now in short form:
- Name: Google helpful content update
- Launch Date: To be announced but likely the week of August 22nd
- Rollout: It will take about two weeks to fully roll out
- Targets: It looks at content that was created to rank well in search over help humans
- Search Only: This currently only impacts Google Search, not Google Discover or other Google surfaces. But Google may expand this to Discover and more in the future.
- Penalty: Google did not mention penalty but this update does seem to feel like a penalty for sites that will be hit by it
- Sitewide: This is a sitewide algorithm, so the whole site will be impacted by this update
- Not a core update: Many are going to say this is a core update, it is not.
- English Language but will expand: This is only looking at English-language content globally now but likely will expand to other languages.
- Impact: Google would not tell me what percentage of queries or searches were impacted by this update but Google did tell me it would be “meaningful.” Also, Google said this will be felt more for online-educational materials, entertainment, shopping, and tech-related content.
- Recover: If you were hit by this, then you will need to look at your content and see if you can do better with Google's advice below
- Refreshes: Google updates the scores constantly here but there is a timeout period, and a validation period and it can take several months to recover from this update.
Does this sound like Panda?
To us, this sounds an awful lot like Google Panda. But according to Google, this is a new update different from Panda—even though it may seem similar at a surface level. Google also confirmed that Panda has been running in the background for years as part of the core algorithm.
In the future, we believe we will look back at this update and see that it was just as important as Panda or Penguin. It made SEOs change their strategies, and we strongly believe it will do the same for some agencies' content marketing and SEO content strategies.
The Sitewide Algorithm
This is a site-wide algorithm, meaning if the machine learning technique finds that your material is generally unsatisfying or unhelpful, it may single out your whole site and impact it.
Why Google is Adding The Helpful Content Update
Google is releasing this update to improve the quality of content that searchers can find on Google. The company has been collecting feedback from users through the feedback link in Google Search, on social media, and elsewhere on the internet, and it's clear that people are not happy with some of the results they're seeing. This is google's attempt to address those issues.
Google's Content Update Advice
Google also outlines two great questions you can ask yourself about your content before publishing to see if it will perform well with this latest algorithm update.
Google said, “How do you avoid taking a search engine-first approach? Answering yes to some or all of the questions is a warning sign that you should reevaluate how you’re creating content across your site:
- Is the content more likely to attract search engines rather than people?
- Are you putting out a lot of material on various themes in the hopes that some of it will rank well in search results?
- Is your content production automated, content created by AI?
- Are you mostly repeating what others have said while adding little value?
- Is this article strictly because it appears to be popular rather than because you'd write about it otherwise for your present readership?
- After finishing your content, do readers feel like they need to find other reliable sources for information?
- You might be wondering if you should write to a particular word count because you’ve heard that Google has a preference. (The answer is no).
- Have you ever considered entering a certain topic area without any real knowledge, but instead because you intended to obtain search traffic?
- Content that offers to answer a question without giving a real answer is frustrating. For example, your content might say there's a release date for an upcoming product, movie, or TV show when none has been officially confirmed yet.
Google also stated, “Any content - not just unhelpful content - on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search, assuming there is other content elsewhere from the web that's better to display. For this reason, removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.”
Updates Will Happen Regularly But Several Months Validation Period
If you know Google well, you can expect the helpful content update system to be automated, regularly evaluating content. So, the algorithm is and will continue to be constantly judging your content and giving it a score. However, improving your content today does not automatically mean you will experience site traffic growth tomorrow. It's also safe to assume that there since there is a validation period where Google must trust you are committed to updating your content regularly; you have to keep it consistent before it ranks you higher. Google wants to ensure that your material is genuinely beneficial in the long term, so it will check whether you can prove this over time.
Google wrote it will “continue refining how the classifier detects unhelpful content and launch further efforts to better reward people-first content.” “A natural question some will have is how long will it take for a site to do better if it removes unhelpful content? Sites identified by this update may find the signal applied to them over a period of months. Our classifier for this update runs continuously, allowing it to monitor newly-launched sites and existing ones. As it determines that the unhelpful content has not returned in the long-term, the classification will no longer apply.”
Knowing what we know, and that's a lot, if your site is affected by this update, it could take months to recover - if you put in the effort. Thus, this is exactly why most of you have us handle this for you alongside you.
It's likely already too late to change anything on your website today as Google has started processing the update scores.
We will let you know as soon as it launches, and I hope this doesn't significantly affect the SEO community as the Panda or Penguin update did. But from what I've heard, this one sounds very large and could cause many agencies to change how they develop SEO content.
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