The whole fuss about G's Helpful Content Update

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Yes, after trying to gather information from various platforms which can actually be useful for the update of helpful content for a week, finally it's done. 😷

So, first of all

What is Google's Helpful Content about?

The new helpful content update sounds like a big deal.

Google has given us a list of questions to consider to determine whether our sites are designed to help people, or rather, created to do well on search engines.

On Google's Official Blog you can read a lot about it.

When will Google’s helpful content update launch?

The update will start rolling out next week. The helpful content update will take up to two weeks to fully roll out, Google said.

We will post a new story when it begins rolling out and when it is completed here on SEO Charger. Google will also post on its updates page when it launches and when it is done rolling out.

Will the helpful content update be as big as Panda, Penguin or Florida?

We don’t know yet how big Google’s helpful content update will be. But we know it will have a “meaningful” impact when it hits.

But according to Barry Schwartz has compared it to Panda from 2011.

But just as a quick reminder or in case you weren’t working in SEO a decade or longer ago those updates did a lot of damage.

For those on the losing end, traffic vanished overnight. People lost their jobs. Businesses shut down. It was serious. It was estimated that Panda had a $1 billion impact.

On the other side, it’s quite possible the helpful content update will be more like past pre-announced updates (think: Mobilegeddon, which was anything but apocalyptic for most websites, or the Page Experience Update, which got tons of hype but was basically an insignificant update). 

Is it a penalty?

Google is careful in its wording regarding whether this is a penalty. 

It’s not a manual action. You won’t see it listed in Google Search Console. It’s not a spam action. 

We are to call it a “signal”. This is one of the many ranking signals Google describes in their documentation on How Search Works.

If that signal is applied to your site, it likely will feel like a penalty.

It sounds like the helpful content classifier will have a similar effect in that sites affected will suffer some degree of sitewide ranking suppression and eventually can have that suppression lifted. But there are some significant differences:

The helpful content classifier runs in real-time, continually. This means that new sites created just for SEO should have the signal applied right from the start. Also, existing sites can be affected when the amount of content created for SEO purposes exceeds a threshold.

Sites will be impacted over the course of a few months and to different degrees depending on the amount of unhelpful content found. Google won’t run specific updates during which sites recover. Rather, if the classifier determines that content has changed to now be deemed helpful to searchers and has remained that way for a few months, the weight of the deranking signal will be reduced or even lifted.

What is people-first content? 

By answering the questions proposed by Google honestly, you can determine if you have people-first content.

What to do in simple language?

What follows is all the guidance and questions Google has provided to assess whether your content is helpful, around the helpful content (HCU), product review (PRU), core (CU) and Panda updates (PU).

What can you do to avoid getting penalized by these updates?

Just understand the basics very clearly. and what is it?

Understand the intent.

There are the classic search intents you likely know (informational, navigational, transactional). 

4 new moments every marketer should know

But also several micro-intents you should think about when creating content.

  • I want to know. People searching for information or inspiration.
  • I want to go. People searching for a product or service in their area.
  • I want to do. People searching for how-tos.
  • I want to buy. People who are ready to make a purchase 

The QRG breaks down user intent into these categories:

  1. Know query: To find information on a topic. Some of which are Know Simple queries (i.e., queries that have a specific answer, like a fact, diagram, etc.)
  2. Do query: When the user is trying to accomplish a goal or engage in an activity.
  3. Website query: When the user is looking for a specific website or webpage 
  4. Visit-in-person query: Some of which are looking for a specific business or organization, some of which are looking for a category of businesses.
  5. Additionally, search behavior is driven by six needs, according to a 2019 Think With Google article:
  6. Surprise Me: Search is fun and entertaining. It is extensive with many unique iterations.
  7. Thrill Me: Search is a quick adventure to find new things. It is brief, with just a few words and minimal back-button use.
  8. Impress Me: Search is about influencing and winning. It is laser-focused, using specific phrases.
  9. Educate Me: Search is about competence and control. It is thorough: reviews, ratings, comparisons, etc.
  10. Reassure Me: Search is about simplicity, comfort, and trust. It is uncomplicated and more likely to include questions.
  11. Help Me: Search is about connecting and practicality. It is to-the-point, and more likely to mention family or location.

Why do I care?

Google’s helpful content update will likely be a significant update that SEOs will look back at as the catalyst of change in terms of the advice SEOs gives clients when building content.

Granted, it is too soon to tell how large of an impact this update will have on Google’s search results, your site, or your clients’ sites.

As the update rolls out, make sure to watch your analytics and, if necessary, reevaluate your content strategy around the advice Google has provided above.

There's always a new thing that comes your way. We need time to understand new changes that are it.

I suggest doing the below things for this update.

Watch and wait.

Don't get panic over other SEO's discussions

Don't get FOMOs

Don't take any quick dicisons

Don't think like this is the END.

Observe everything on your site.

Update -  The rollout was complete as of September 9, 2022.

I’ll continue to report on all the latest developments around the helpful content update.

Get the monthly newsletter search marketers to rely on. 

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