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Google Helpful Content Update To Target Content Written For Search Rankings

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Google Helpful Content Update To Target Content Written For Search Rankings

Google has announced a new big search ranking algorithm update named the helpful content update – yes, Google named it that. This update will start to roll out next week and will target content that is, um, not helpful to humans and people.

The helpful content update looks to weed out content written for the purpose of ranking in search engines that do not help or inform people. Google said this update will “tackle content that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines.” The update will “help make sure that unoriginal, low-quality content doesn’t rank highly in Search,” Google added. So if you are writing content with the purpose of driving search engine visibility and traffic, you might be hit by this.

It is my opinion that this update will change how SEOs perform content strategies going forward, much like Panda and Penguin changed how SEOs did content and link strategies, respectively, a decade ago.

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.

Smells Like Panda?

Does this sound like Google Panda to you? It does to me. But Google told me this update is in addition to Panda, which is already baked into the core algorithm for many many years. So Panda is still running but this update is a new one that might feel like Panda did when it launched but is different.

I do believe this update, when we look back at it years later, will be at the same stature of a Panda or Penguin in the way that it forced SEOs to rethink some of their SEO strategies. I think this update will do that with content marketing and SEO content strategies for some agencies.

Sitewide Algorithm

This is a sitewide algorithm, meaning if the machine learning algorithm determines that a relatively high amount of your content is unsatisfying or unhelpful content, that may lead to a site being flagged by this classifier and thus your whole site will be impacted.

Here is John Mueller on the machine learning aspect – in short, not a big deal:

This helpful content update will not be applied to individual pages but to the whole site.

So you think you can trick Google by moving the unhelpful content to a subfolder or subdomain, I am told that might not work. Instead, you should either remove that content or make it super helpful.

Here is how Danny Sullivan of Google responded to that:

Can you use a noindex to hide the unhelpful content? Sure, John Mueller of Google said but…

Google added “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 Regularly But Several Months Validation Period

Google said the helpful content update system is automated, regularly evaluating content. So the algorithm is constantly looking at your content and assigning scores to it. But that does not mean, that if you fix your content today, your site will recover tomorrow. Google told me there is this validation period, a waiting period, for Google to trust that you really are committed to updating your content and not just updating it today, Google then ranks you better and then you put your content back to the way it was. Google needs you to prove, over several months – yes – several months – that your content is actually helpful in the long run.

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,” Google added

So if you get hit by this update, it can take months and months to recover – that is – if you put the work in.

Helpful Content Update Signals

Google also told me that it aggregates a variety of signals about the page and site to determine the ranking of a page. Google would not say if links are part of those signals or not, but it does not seem so.

Google uses machine learning to identify such content – content designed to rank well in search and not be helpful to users. Google told me they validated these algorithms with quality raters and that using this system improves its search quality, just as Google validates any type of ranking improvement prior to launch.

Meaningful Impact – English

I asked Google how big of an update this will be and Google told me this is “a meaningful update across Search.” Google said that based on its testing, it will have a greater impact on online educational materials, as well as arts & entertainment, shopping, and tech-related content, not because those areas were focused on but because they might have higher amounts of content that this update targets.

Google added this is right now rolling out first to English searches globally. Google added it does “plan to expand to other languages in the future.”

What is online education, Danny Sullivan from Google said on Twitter “Generally tutorial, things meant to teach something, not really formal courses. But again, it’s not focused on any particular area. That’s just one example where we see notable improvement but there are others and any query about any thing might benefit.”

Google announced this a tab before it launched so that you can be aware and know if this impacted your site:

Why The Helpful Content Update

Why is Google releasing this update? Well, based on the feedback the search company has been getting through the feedback link in Google Search, on social media, and on the internet – searchers are not happy with the quality of some of the content they discover on Google. We’ve been hearing about it for years, so this is Google’s answer to improve those quality issues.

Google Helpful Content Update Advice

Google also provided two sets of questions you can ask yourself about your content to see if it will do well with this helpful content 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 primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
  • Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  • Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
  • Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
  • Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
  • Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
  • Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t).
  • Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
  • Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?

Google also said “How can you ensure you’re creating content that will be successful with our new update? By following our long-standing advice to create content for people, not for search engines. People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers addition value. Answering yes to the questions below means you’re probably on the right track with a people-first approach:”

  • Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
  • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  • After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  • Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
  • Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?

SEO Community Reaction

Here are some other stories written in the community on this topic:

Here are some of the reactions I found from the SEO community on this new algorithm update:


Techmeme has a nice roundup of articles on this topic over here:

We will keep you posted on when it launches and I hope this does not devastate the SEO community like the Panda or Penguin update did – but it sounds like this one will be a big one and will cause a fundamental shift in how SEO content development is done by many SEO agencies.

I should note, Google does plan on pushing a new product reviews update but I suspect they will hold that fifth product reviews update until this helpful content update is done rolling out.

Forum discussion at Twitter, WebmasterWorld and Black Hat World.



Source: www.seroundtable.com

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Daily Search Forum Recap: June 13, 2024

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Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web.


Google is testing description overlays on local photos in the Google local pack. Microsoft Bing is testing black review stars. Google said we should not let Googlebot crawl action URLs. Google is testing larger fonts for the snippet title link and smaller fonts for the site links. Google updated GA4 attribution models to associate conversions better to paid search campaigns. Reminder, I am offline today and this newsletter was pre-written and scheduled.

Search Engine Roundtable Stories:


  • Google Fixes GA4 Attribution Models To Better Associate Conversions To Paid Search


    Google posted a notice that it fixed an issue where Google Analytics, GA4, would sometimes not credit the proper conversion attribution to the paid search campaign. Google said it will update the “attribution models in GA4 over the next two weeks to improve the accuracy of conversion credit for paid search campaigns.”

  • Google Tests Larger Fonts For Main Snippet Title Link & Smaller Font For Sitelinks


    Google is testing a larger font size for the main search result title link, followed by smaller fonts for that same snippet’s sitelinks. This was spotted a few days ago by both Umair Khan on X and Lily Ray on X.

  • Google: Disallow Crawling Of Action URLs (Buy Now, Sign Up, etc)


    Google posted a public service announcement saying you should disallow Googlebot from crawling your action URLs. Gary Illyes from Google posted on LinkedIn, “You should really disallow crawling of your action URLs. Crawlers will not buy that organic non-GMO scented candle, nor do they care for a wishlist.”

  • Bing Tests Black Review Stars In Search Results


    Microsoft is testing using black-colored review stars in its Bing Search results. This is instead of the yellow or orange review stars. I am not sure why they are testing it in black, but they are.

  • Google Local Pack Photos With Labels


    Google seems to be testing adding labels and descriptions on the photos within the local business profile listings. These are on both the carousel of images and on the detailed business profile page.

  • I’m Feeling Lucky Notebooks At Google


    Here are some colorful notebooks that say “I’m Feeling Lucky” that were spotted at the GooglePlex, the Google office in Mountain View.

  • Programming Note: Offline For Shavuot On Wednesday & Thursday


    This is a programming note that I will be completely offline for the holiday of Shavout/Shavous, from Tuesday night, June 11th, through late Thursday night, June 13th – I return Friday, June 14th. Any stories published here will be scheduled, written beforehand, and not written during the holiday hours.

Other Great Search Threads:

Search Engine Land Stories:

Other Great Search Stories:

Analytics

Industry & Business

Links & Content Marketing

Local & Maps

Mobile & Voice

SEO

PPC

Other Search

Feedback:


Have feedback on this daily recap; let me know on Twitter @rustybrick or @seroundtable, on Threads, Mastodon and Bluesky and you can follow us on Facebook and on Google News and make sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or just contact us the old fashion way.


Note: This was pre-written and scheduled to be posted today, I am currently offline for Shavout.



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Daily Search Forum Recap: June 12, 2024

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Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web.


Yesterday I interviewed Google’s Elizabeth Tucker about the core update, the old helpful content update, Reddit, AI Overviews and the Google Search leak. Google now supports return policy markup at the organization level. Google Maps is testing QR codes in Business Profile listings. Google Ads will ad a new optional verification method. Google is testing shaded site names and favicons in the search results. Google has drop the home activities cards from its search results. As a reminder, I am offline today, this newsletter was pre-written and scheduled.

Search Engine Roundtable Stories:


  • I Interviewed Elizabeth Tucker, Googler Responsible For The March Core Update


    Yesterday at SMX Advanced, I interviewed the Google executive who announced the March 2024 core update on the main Google blog. I asked Elizabeth Tucker a boatload of questions around SEO, the core update, the helpful content update, the search data leak and of course AI Overviews. Heck, I even made a comment about Reddit ruling the Google Search results.

  • Google Adds Return Policy Structured Data Support To Organization Level


    Google has expanded its support for return policy structured data to allow you to add the return policy to the organization level, and not have to specify that policy on each and every product detail level. Last year Google began supporting return policies in structured data but at the individual product level – now it is also supported at the organization level.

  • Google Home Activity Removed From Search


    Google Search no longer shows home activities after launching the feature just under four years ago. Google has pulled down the home activities structured data from its search developer documents last night and wrote, “The home activity feature no longer appears in Google Search results.”

  • Google Maps Tests QR Codes On Business Profiles


    Google is testing QR codes on the Google Business Profile listings within Google Maps. The QR code shows on the right side of the action buttons (i.e. directions, save, share, etc).

  • Google Ads Adding New Optional Verification This Month


    Google Ads announced it will add a new optional verification to verify the affiliation of the advertiser/individual with the organization they are verifying. This starts sometime this month, June 2024, but it is not clear to me what the new verification is exactly.

  • Google Tests Shaded Site Name & Favicon For Search Results


    Google is testing shading the background color in gray behind the favicon and site name and URL for the mobile search results. It brings a little bit more of a design flair to the ten blue links, don’t you think?

  • Giant Spinning Rock At Google


    At the Google visitor center they have this giant spinning rock. This rock is mounted on this device that slowly spins it in circles.

  • Programming Note: Offline For Shavuot On Wednesday & Thursday


    This is a programming note that I will be completely offline for the holiday of Shavout/Shavous, from Tuesday night, June 11th, through late Thursday night, June 13th – I return Friday, June 14th. Any stories published here will be scheduled, written beforehand, and not written during the holiday hours.

Other Great Search Threads:

Search Engine Land Stories:

Other Great Search Stories:

Analytics

Industry & Business

Links & Content Marketing

Local & Maps

Mobile & Voice

SEO

PPC

Other Search

Feedback:


Have feedback on this daily recap; let me know on Twitter @rustybrick or @seroundtable, on Threads, Mastodon and Bluesky and you can follow us on Facebook and on Google News and make sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or just contact us the old fashion way.


Note: This was pre-written and scheduled to be posted today, I am currently offline for Shavout.



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Programming Note: Offline For Shavuot 5784

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Synagogue Green Flowers

This is a programming note that I will be completely offline for the holiday of Shavout/Shavous, from Tuesday night, June 11th, through late Thursday night, June 13th – I return Friday, June 14th. Any stories published here will be scheduled, written beforehand, and not written during the holiday hours.

I will be completely offline, so any social media posts, tweets, or anything coming from this site, or my social channels are all scheduled beforehand.

I won’t be able to reply to comments, remove spam or break any stories on those days. I will catch up when I get back online. If a core update happens, I will also catch up on that when I get back. There also won’t be the It’s New daily podcast on those days.

Feel free to check out the archives or catch up with the weekly videos or just browse the search pics. Oh, and if you have nothing to do, feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel.

For more on this holiday, check out Wikipedia.

For all those celebrating the holiday – have a good one and I’ll be back late Thursday night.

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