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Google Announces Helpful Content Update

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John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

On August 18th, 2022, Google announced their Helpful Content Update on the Google Search Central Blog.

This update will be rolling out over the next two weeks, and it appears to target low-quality content for possible demotion.

Google’s announcement says they want to “better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.”

Many site owners and SEO agencies recognize the benefit of content creation and earning backlinks, and some of these use methodolgies that seek to speed up the process of both activities. It is clear that Google is seeking to push content that is genuinely valuable to searchers, and downgrade content that uses shortcuts to manipulate search results.

The announcement states content created for humans, from a perspective of experience and earned expertise, is the type of content the search engine wants to elevate in rankings.

What SEO Practices May Lead to a Loss of Rankings?

These are specific things that the Helpful Content Update may target for ranking downgrades:

  • Creating content for search engines instead of humans.
  • Producing content on many different topics on the same website in an attempt to rank.
  • Using automation (read: GPT-3 and AI) to create content on many different topics.
  • Summarizing what many websites have already said with no additional value, analysis, or insight.
  • Chasing trending topics where the website does not have established expertise.
  • Content that cause the reader to pogo-stick (go back to the search results to search again for better information.)
  • Writing overly lengthy content, because you heard “Google likes content with a high word count”.
  • Entering a new niche to try and make money, not because you have expertise (possibly targeting affiliate sites.)
  • Clickbait articles that target information that has not been confirmed (such as release dates of movies or TV shows.)
  • Content that leaves site visitors unsatisfied.

It is important to note, this update will be entirely supported by machine learning. There will be no manual actions or penalties associated with this update.

My interpretation of this update is Google is targeting sites that are buying links and producing content as fast as they can, without regard for quality, because they heard these actions are good for SEO. Whether it’s site owners and SEO agencies placing links on article farms, writers creating long content for the sake of length, or using AI to spin up content quickly, these are all quality issues. The root cause is always people trying to take shortcuts to SEO.

What Type of Content is Google Rewarding With This Update?

Google has been consistent with telling webmasters and site owners the general blueprint for SEO success. These are the characteristics of content that Google wants to rank.

  • Content that is written for humans to enjoy.
  • Original content, or content that adds unique insights and expertise.
  • Content produced from firsthand knowledge and experience.
  • Websites that focus on one particular topic, and has a primary purpose.
  • Content that leaves site visitors satisfied, feeling like they have learned enough about a topic to complete their intended goal.

One big insight with this update is much of it seems to rely on user signals. Google mentioned that if users feel the need to go search for better information after visiting your page (aka pogo sticking), that can mean low-quality content. This probably means Google has a reliable method for measuring user satisfaction.

The Big Picture Regarding This Update and SEO

The message is clear. Sites must focus on content quality over mass produced quantity. That high-quality content is meant to earn backlinks, and buying backlinks is still being cracked down on. Google squashed PBNs over the last eight years, demoting article farm links seems to be another goal. Measuring the satisfaction of real users is a worthy goal, and hopefully this continues to improve search results. Remember, there are no shortcuts to long-lasting SEO.

Watch our video on the Helpful Content Update on YouTube.

Avatar for John Locke

John Locke is a SEO consultant from Sacramento, CA. He helps manufacturing businesses rank higher through his web agency, Lockedown SEO.

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