Mihai Aperghis (@mihaiaperghis), an SEO we reference here from time to time, is also a Google Product Expert and attended the Google Search Central Unconference the other week. He has written this blog post and I am posting it here as a super rare guest post on this site. Why? (1) Mihai rocks and (2) this site is about community and Product Experts are the essence of the Google community. I (Barry) personally was unable to attend due to a conflict. Note: Mihai did not ask for a link or a mention, but I added this so it is clear that he wrote this.
Google hosted the 2022 edition of the Search Central Virtual Unconference on April 27, making it the third global Google Unconference and fourth such event so far (counting the japanska one that took place a few weeks earlier).
For those unfamiliar with it, the Google Unconferences aim to provide discussion-focused sessions where participants (SEOs, developers, business owners, etc.) join online and share their experiences under a slightly more ‘informal’ structure, as opposed to traditional speaker events or even to Google office hours. The “facilitators” for each session (typically two people) have the sole responsibility of guiding discussions within the topic bounds, making sure all participants get heard and, since the sessions are not recorded, taking notes of the conversations that take place.
This year, the event was once again run by Martin Splitt, the Googler behind the Unconference idea, together with Cherry Sireetorn Prommawin from Google APAC.
Just as with editions from previous years (2021 och 2020), Product Experts such as myself were invited ahead of the event to propose session topics that they would then facilitate, should Martin and Cherry accept their proposals.
I won’t get into more details regarding the Unconference format, since I would probably just repeat what I covered in last year’s recap, so feel free to check that out if you’re curious.
One key difference for this year’s edition, however, was that the facilitator role was now open to everyone, thus allowing Product Experts to send the session proposal form to anyone they might see fit to moderate.
Since this year’s proposal form was opened to more people, the number of proposed sessions was likely much higher than in previous years. Martin and Cherry ultimately selected 25 of them, which were then voted by people who wanted to attend based on their topic of interest.
Also different from last year was the number of participants, which this time was limited to a maximum of about 14 people (as opposed to 20-25 people). This made it easier for more people to speak up during the 45 minute session, as well have an ice breaker or have everyone introduce themselves without taking too much time.
All 25 sessions were ultimately kept, given that there were at least 5-6 people interested in each one. As usual, the sessions were split into two 45-minute blocks, which meant people could only attend one session in each slot:
Session slot A:
- Tech SEO Q&A, all your questions answered.
- E-commerce SEO Utmaningar
- Making the best use of Search Intent Optimization (SIO)
- International SEO
- Schema: JSON Successes and Challenges
- Organic and Paid Growth Collaborations
- How can SEOs and Web developers work better together?
- Exploring Google Search Console APIs
- Video SEO – Best practices for optimizing videos on Google
- Let’s discuss spam and low quality results
- Let’s talk about Product review sites
- Webmaster & Podcaster
- Where do you find help?
Sessions slot B:
- SEO A/B split testing ideas
- Content: It’s All About Trust, Transparency and (Human) Typing
- Can Google See This? Rendering Q&A
- Core Web Vitals and how to approach it
- Project Management for Digital and SEO
- User Journey R&D Discussion
- Is Search Console working for you?
- Site Troubleshooting
- Google Business Profile: Myths and Guidance.
- Localization and its Peculiarities
- Working with Images on the Web
- A positive thing in 2022.. Unconference in Spanish!
There were also two conclusion blocks, one after each slot, in which facilitators presented the main conclusions for each session (thus being a good idea for one of the facilitators in each session to be taking notes). Everything was padded by a 15 minutes intro and a quick wrap-up at the end.
If you’re curious about the full description for each session, you can find everything on the official event page.
The E-commerce SEO Challenges Session
Since people outside Google or the Product Experts program were able to join as facilitators, I decided to ask the wonderful Aleyda Solis to co-facilitate one of the sessions with me. Together we landed on a list of three potential topics, out of which the E-commerce SEO Challenges one was ultimately chosen and included in slot A.
Being such a popular topic, we managed to have a full room of outstanding people from highly diverse backgrounds. There were in-house SEOs, agency owners, webmasters and marketers, from highly experienced technical people to folks who only recently started learning the ropes.
With her vast experience running conversations on SEO topics, such as with the weekly #SEOFOMO Twitter chat, Aleyda skillfully guided the discussion around some of the popular E-commerce SEO issues, such as product variations and structured data, facets and navigation indexing, but also dealing with SEO implementation costs and getting buy-in from management or leadership people. I took the note-taking job this time, focusing on getting everyone’s opinion down in order to draft a few takeaways.
Since there will likely be an official Google blog post that will provide more details on each session’s conclusions, I won’t really delve into more details here.
What I can say though is that it was an excellent session. Almost everyone that joined had a story, a perspective or an opinion they wanted to share, which made for a really pleasant conversation.
After the session timer ran out, everybody was moved back to the main room to listen to all of the slot A session conclusions, where I was happy to present our own.
Slot B and Wrap Up
The topics discussed ranged from image indexing and meta data, to AI, MUM and other cutting-edge info that I was completely unaware of up until then (seems it’s harder to keep up with everything in SEO nowadays!).
After the session ended, facilitators from all slot B sessions presented their takeaways, after which we bidded farewell to everyone and called it an evening (or morning, or night, depending on where everyone was joining from).
All in all, I’m really happy for how the event turned out and very grateful to Martin and the Google team for giving SEO enthusiasts the opportunity to facilitate sessions. If you haven’t joined any of the Unconference events so far, I highly recommend you keep an eye out for the next one. Something tells me there will be (hopefully many) more editions coming soon.
I am so happy that everyone at the #scunconf seems to have had a great time. Now I shall catch up on a lot of sleep 🤣
— Martin Splitt (@g33konaut) April 27, 2022
Forumdiskussion kl Twitter.
December 2022 Google Helpful Content Update Rolling Out
Google has officially confirmed the launch of the second release of the Google helpful content update/system. It started lightly on December 5th but became noticeable, according to Google, on December 6th, which is why Google did not announce it until the 6th. This update adds new signals, most notably making it work for all languages globally – it is not just looking at English content anymore.
Google Postad on December 6th that on December 5th, it “released the December 2022 helpful content update, which improves our classifier and works across content globally in all languages.” Google added, “the rollout may take up to two weeks to complete.”
As a reminder, the Google 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 to drive search engine visibility and traffic, you might be hit by this type of update, and non-English sites are no longer safe from this update.
December 2022 Google Helpful Content Update Quick Facts
Here are the most important things that we know right now in short form:
- Name: Google användbar innehållsuppdatering
- Launch Date: It began to rollout on December 5th but not so noticeable until December 6th
- 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.
- Global and all languages: This is no longer just for English-language content, it is now all languages and global.
- 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.
Updates to Helpful Content Update Document
Google made some small changes to its helpful content update page here are those edits:
- Replaced a lot of “update” references to “system” as we expected.
- Added the line “It works globally across all languages.”
- Remove the paragraph that it is only for English languages.
- Google also updated parts of the bottom of the document, it now reads “Periodically, we refine how the classifier detects unhelpful content. When we do this in a notable way, we share this as a “helpful content update” on our Google Search ranking updates page. After such an update finishes rolling out, and if the refined classifier sees that content has improved, then the unhelpful classification from our previous classifier may no longer apply.
One note here, Google is emphasizing how this system identifies unhelpful content with that last paragraph. Google’s Seach Liaison, Danny Sullivan, also said this on Mastodont when asked “When it says “improves our classifier” is that related to the updated classifier for NLP. If so should we expect to see the new categories being assigned to content?” He responded “The classifier tries to understand if content is unhelpful. We’ve improved from the original one when the helpful content system was first launched earlier this year.”
I am not sure I disagree with this statement based on that:
I still think Google should have called this “Unhelpful Content Demotion” instead https://t.co/XaxQtzbMZn
— Kazushi Nagayama長山一石 (@KazushiNagayama) December 7, 2022
Here is the announcement tweets:
The Dec. 2022 helpful content update was released Dec. 5, starting to become more visible today & will take about two weeks to fully roll out. It improves our classifier & works across content globally in all languages. Our help page explains more: https://t.co/MS7hbcBTsp
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) December 6, 2022
Previous Helpful Content Update Impact
Last update was interesting, on September 9th we we thought we started to see the first widespread fluctuations from this helpful content update. Prior, only 20% of SEOs said they noticed any ranking changes related to the original helpful content update and I believe a good percentage of that 20% are confused and misattributing the changes they see to the wrong thing – i.e. it is not the helpful content update. The original Google användbar innehållsuppdatering early on seemed pretty minor in terms of what SEOs and tools are picking up, despite what we all thought would happen. Even Danny Sullivan even said himself it was inte en stor skakning but it was big in terms of the direction Google is going with ranking content.
In short, the original one did not live up to the hype – will this updated version make up for it?
Here is some of the chatter I found that hints at some of the early impact on this update (or maybe the obekräftad uppdatering from earlier?):
Quick update on the Dec HCU: Here’s the first big drop I have seen based on the December Helpful Content Update. Search visibility drops heavily starting yesterday. I’m now also seeing several other domains that dropped over the past two days… Will share more soon-ish. pic.twitter.com/md5FEls6u1
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) December 7, 2022
Big ol’ drop in a site with 2M+ pageviews per day. It started yesterday.
— Bot de revisión de titulares (@chupitodehelio) December 6, 2022
Yes, we noticed changes happening overnight. Interestingly the sites with the biggest changes (that have moved up to page 1) are sites that have the keywords in the domain…
— Mike (@nycmw2) December 6, 2022
Big increase on Sistrix. Not translating to traffic yet but December also tends to be a slower month traffic-wise so hard to tell for sure. pic.twitter.com/Wbk5zOqVez
— Ash Read (@Ashread_) December 6, 2022
I have 2 sites w all unique original well-written human driven content that look like they’re being affected by this rollout right before the end of the holiday season so this will affect them financially AND you’re getting it wrong. Thank you @Google for breaking your promise.
— Kristine S (@schachin) December 6, 2022
yes on one site across the board improvements
— Joe Hall (@joehall) December 6, 2022
— Anuj thaker (@Anuj_Thaker03) December 7, 2022
Don’t know about other but this specific keyword was going up ⬆️. pic.twitter.com/KHiJvTYZoU
— Manzoor khan (@ManzoorRph) December 7, 2022
— networthypeople (@joelycirny) December 7, 2022
Yes, and it started about 3 days ago. They were testing this before they announced it
— Stefan (@Stefan01301380) December 6, 2022
— Dr Marie Haynes🐼 (@Marie_Haynes) December 6, 2022
Semrush is showing this site exploded – it did not – at least not according to GA:
Semrush is showing me this, it seems like one big movement 🙂 pic.twitter.com/r3lIiLTWhE
— Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) December 7, 2022
I mean, I am up but this much? I doubt it…
One of my sites got hit in the spam update. Today it’s breaking the ceiling.
I was starting to wonder when all my cache dates were no older than 7 days. That’s never happened before. But the ranks I see now were definitely taking shape days ago.
I think changes began Nov 30th according to site log activity, crawling level, rank movement, etc.
Here is what the automated tracking tools are showing:
I believe it is still early, but the impact, thus far, in the past 24-48 hours, was not yet massive. I will keep an eye on the changes, volatility, and chatter and keep you posted.
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