What is the Helpful Content Update exactly?
Google has confirmed that the helpful content update has been live since September 9th, following the announcement on August 25th.
The new Google update specifically targets “content created primarily to rank well in search engines, rather than to help or inform people.” In the future, Google will mark entire websites that use traditional SEO copy as “bad” and downgrade them – not just the individual subpages. To add salt to the wound, this negative classification may continue for several months, even though the website content has already been adjusted.
To carry this out, Google is using a new machine learning algorithm that can evaluate and identify unhelpful content.
For now, this is happening tentatively, but the algorithms should get better over time as automated machine learning and Google engineers regularly tweak and improve the processes.
Who does the update affect?
Although the update is still too new to see big changes in the Google index, independent sources confirm that something is moving in the search results:
Initial results also show that mainly websites with topics like education, arts and entertainment, shopping or technology are affected.
There is a small silver lining, at least for some Swiss companies: “Helpful Content” initially covers only website content that is in English. However, Google plans to expand it to other languages in the future.
How can you improve your website?
Google does not want to demonize the SEO industry with these innovations and writes: “….. SEO is helpful when applied to content that focuses on people. However, content created primarily for traffic via search engines is often content that doesn’t satisfy search users.”
This update presents you with an opportunity to revisit the existing content on your website. Ask yourself the following questions from the Google Quality Guidelines:
- Is the content primarily optimized for attracting visitors via search engines, rather than creating useful and informative content for users?
- Are you creating lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it will perform well in search results?
- Are you using extensive automation to create content on many topics?
- Are you mainly summarizing what others are saying without adding any value?
- Are you writing about things for your existing audience simply because they are trending and not for any other reason?
- Do readers of your content feel they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
- Are you writing to a specific word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (It doesn’t by the way!)
- Did you decide to go into a niche topic with no real expertise, mainly because you thought it would get you search hits?
- Does your content promise an answer to a question for which there is no answer at all, such as by implying that there is a release date for a product, movie, or series when none has been confirmed?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you should rethink your content strategy. The Helpful Content Update could downgrade your site in the future.
For e-commerce websites, we have also found additional tips on how to improve your product descriptions.
We expect the effect of Google’s Helpful Content Update to be significant. It is certainly something that search engine optimizers will have to keep in mind when consulting or creating content in the future.
Admittedly, it might be too early to tell how big the impact of this update will be on Google’s search results or those of your website, nevertheless, keep an eye on your analytics and, if necessary, rethink your content strategy based on Google’s advice above.