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Google's helpful content update

On August 18, an announcement and an explanation of the expected at the end of August\beginning of September an algorithm update called Google's helpful content update. So what is it, and how will this update affect search?

Focus on people-first content

The goal of this algorithm update is to help searchers find "high-quality content." Google wants to give a head start to better and more useful content that was written for people and helps users with their intent, and not calculated primarily to influence search results (so-called SEO texts).

To understand what content will be considered useful with the new update, Google advises to follow the old advice and guidelines of creating content for people, not for search engines. Human-centric content creators should focus on creating satisfying content first and foremost, while also using SEO best practices to bring added value to searchers.

To make sure you're creating useful content, take the survey below, and if your answers are YES, then you're probably on the right track.

  1. 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?
  2. 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)?
  3. Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  4. After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they've learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  5. Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they've had a satisfying experience?
  6. Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?

And when it comes to avoiding SEO texts in search engines (content for search engines first), Google asked the following questions:

  1. Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
  2. Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  3. Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
  4. Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
  5. Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you'd write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
  6. Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
  7. 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).
  8. Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you'd get search traffic?
  9. 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?

What types of content will be affected by Google's helpful content update?

While the algorithm doesn't target any specific niche, Google says these types of content are likely to suffer the most:

  1. Online educational materials.
  2. Arts and entertainment.
  3. Shopping.
  4. Everything related to technology.

This is because content written in these areas has historically been written more for search engines than for humans.

Barry Schwartz asked Google for a specific example of a search where updating useful content would have an impact, and got something like this:

If you search for information about a new movie, you might have previously encountered articles that aggregated reviews from other sites without adding perspectives beyond what’s available elsewhere on the web. This isn’t very helpful if you’re expecting to read something new. With this update, you’ll see more results with unique information, so you’re more likely to read something you haven’t seen before

Responsible for communication with the Google search engine Danny Sullivan asked on Twitter to elaborate on what Google means by "online learning." Sullivan's response:

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.

How, where and when will the algorithm update work?

The update will start next week, which will be announced additionally on the official Google ranking updates page. The process will take several weeks and for now will be focused only on the English-language segment of the search, but then it will gradually be implemented in other languages.

This update introduces a new signal that will affect the entire site, rather than a specific page that Google considers among many other signals to rank web pages.

According to Google, this algorithm will work automatically. Ratings or classifiers will be constantly updated.

But if the site is affected by Google's helpful content update, it may take several months to restore the site.

Over time, a site has to prove that it is no longer publishing content just for the purpose of getting a search engine ranking, first work on the content in the search engine, and that takes time.

So it looks like there will be some sort of waiting period – perhaps a vetting period – that sites must go through to show Google's algorithms that the site is providing useful content for people first and foremost.

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About The Author

Author of this blog. In SEO for over 10 years. In addition to SEO, I am interested in everything related to technology and earnings on the Internet, which I try to share with readers.

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