This has been one of the more interesting Google search updates in a while. Over the past few months news of Google’s Helpful Content Update has been stirring around the SEO community. Many webmasters and creators have been extremely fearful of this update, not knowing if the gods of Google would spare their site, or punish them.
The time has come, and the algorithm is now live. Google released some info about this update and you can read everything Google has to say about it. But I’m going to make a fairly bold statement here: they are going after sites that use AI to generate content. Even though they don’t mention the word “artificial intelligence” at all in their brief, I’m still fairly certain this update is going after this type of content, i.e. unhelpful regurgitated & rewritten content. They do however warn against “using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?”
Almost like it is ok to use some automation, just not extensive automation. Interesting.
Let me be the first one to say that tools like Jarvis (or now Jasper) are so cool! Have you ever seen what these tools can do? It goes something like this, think of a topic, any topic, plug it into Jarvis and it spits out freshly written, unique content that is kind of great.
Seriously, look how easy it is for AI to write semi-decent content:
It is kind of great. The problem is, years back some savvy SEO’s realized they could churn out hundreds of these, mark them up, link to them and rank with impunity. If the site gets penalized in Google, no big deal. Just make a new one. This method works, and still works today quite well. If you know how to look, you’ll find plenty of affiliate sites, small business sites, and more.
Google has been on to this for a while and they are finally doing something about it. We are on day 6, or 7 of the rollout and there are no major waves.
Captain’s log: Google Helpful Content Update, Day 5
Unhelpful content continues to rank. I fear for crew moral if we don’t spot sight of helpful content soon
There was a fight among the lower SERPS, viagra and poker, over our last unclaimed knowledge panel
The search continues
— Cyrus Ξ SEO (@CyrusShepard) September 1, 2022
Our phone isn’t ringing with business owners in tears wondering where their traffic has gone, and why Google hates them. Instead we are seeing a few cases where some webmasters are losing some traffic, but in most cases it is in the ~10% range. In short it kind of feels like this:
Google’s ‘helpful content update’ pic.twitter.com/CyTsciIi8y
— Charly Wargnier (@DataChaz) September 1, 2022
Here is a very interesting, yet underwhelming case study on the helpful content update done by Sistrix (a big SEO tool).
After one week of the Google Helpful Content Update, no major changes have been detected. https://t.co/wY4eGU3bjo
— SISTRIX (@sistrix) August 31, 2022
What Google Wants You to Do
Ok, you want to rank. You want your business to show up in search results so your business can make money. In the past, there has been a fairly straightforward formula that made small business websites rank in the search engines. For the most part, SEO fundamentals haven’t changed that much in the past decade, but all of these small tweaks are starting to add up.
Never sit down and say “time to write an article, need to make Google happy.” No, stop doing that.
Instead site down and think: “what should I, as an expert in my field:
- write about
- blog about
- tutorial about
- make a podcast about
- make a video about
that makes my customers happy.” If your parents told you, “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all” that is great. Apply the same thing to SEO now: if you have nothing to write about, don’t write just to write.
If you are looking for the cliff notes on how to stay in the good graces of Google:
- write really interesting and unique content
- stick to your focus / niche
- don’t use (too much) automation and if you do make sure it is flawless
- don’t ever summarize other people’s content, and if you do keep it to short blurbs (like I am doing now)
- try not to be the 50th person to write about the same trending topic, and if you do make sure you have a very unique take on it
- if you write about something, make sure it answers any questions they might have on the topic. If not, link to other helpful sites where they can learn more.
- if you don’t understand a topic fully, don’t write about it
My personal favorite tip: translate your content. No, not into Spanish or Mandarin (unless your readers use those languages), but into other formats such as Post Stories, Social Content, AMP, Videos, and Podcasts.
How long will the Google Helpful Content Update update take to roll out
Google says: “months.” Normally, a new algorithm will roll and and it will be put into kind of a beta mode. It will be very weak in the beginning. They don’t want to scorch the Earth, or the SERPs so instead they slowly roll the update out, rewarding some, punishing others. Some updates happen several times per year, while others are “baked in” to the core algorithm and constantly doing their thing.
Also always remember: just because you may have lost search engine traffic does not mean you did anything wrong! This could mean that some of your competitors are just doing slightly better than you are.