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Google announced that next week it will launch a new algorithm update called updating of useful content. It aims to increase content written for people and devalue content written primarily for SEO.
Unlike the recent product review update, which targets specific types of pages, the useful content update is at the level of site. This means it has the potential to have an impact on all pages.
The update of the "Useful content" also introduces a new signal that Google will use to rank web pages.
Although Google is warning about these algorithm changes, a week is not a long time to prepare. However, it could be argued that all sites should be written primarily for humans.
If you have a site full of content that makes use of redundant keywords, an exhausting use of synonyms, keywords and various tricks that make reading unnatural and clearly set up for search engines, it would be smart to "normalize" all your content, avoiding those bad practices that Google has granted you to date.
With the advent of artificial intelligence and Machine Learning we will find ourselves more and more frequently in front of automatic auditors but with the same or almost human reliability.
As advice and best practices for the future, then, imagine having to write not only for your target audience, but also for a human Google reviewer.
Here is all the information available at this time.
Google Helpful Content update
Google posted the following announcement on Twitter today:
Next week, we will launch the “helpful content update” to better ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, rather than content made primarily for search engine traffic. Learn more & advice creators should consider: https://t.co/fgf2TPNIqD pic.twitter.com/xOuX2iVk2d
- Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) August 18
"Next week, we will launch the 'useful content update' to ensure that people see more original and useful content written by people, for people, rather than content created primarily for search engine traffic."
The tweet links to a blog post with more information, including details on how websites can continue to be successful after the helpful content update is launched.
What is the Helpful Content update for?
This update introduces a new ranking signal that will negatively impact sites that post large amounts of low-value content, have low added value or are not useful for users.
“Any content, not just non-useful content, on sites determined to have relatively large amounts of non-useful content in general is less likely to perform well in Search, assuming there is other content elsewhere on the web that is best viewed. For this reason, the removal of non-useful content could help the positioning of your other content ”.
What should I do if the Helpful Content update has a negative impact on me?
If the helpful content update hits you, Google recommends removing non-useful content from your website.
Sites affected by the update may find that the effects will last several months, Google says. The Google blog post continues:
“Our classifier for this update works continuously, allowing us to monitor newly launched and existing sites. Since it determines that the non-useful content has not returned in the long term, the classification will no longer apply ”.
More notes on Google's Helpful Content Update
Finally, here are some final notes on the helpful content update:
- Updating is not a manual action. The process is automated using a machine learning model.
- People-centric content can still rank even if it's posted on sites with large amounts of useless content.
- The signal is weighted, which means that some sites are hit harder than others.
- Only English searches will be affected, to begin with.
What creators should know about Google's helpful Helpful Content update
Google Search is always working to better connect people to useful information. To that end, we are launching what we call “useful content update” which is part of a larger effort to ensure that people see more original and useful content written by people, for people, in search results. Below is more information about the update and things creators should consider.
Focus on written, people-centered content.
The update Helpful content Update, aims to better reward content where visitors feel they have had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn't meet visitor expectations won't perform as well.
How can you make sure you create content that will be successful with our new update? By following Google's advice and long-standing guidelines for creating content for people, not search engines. People-centric content creators focus on creating satisfying content first, while also using SEO best practices to deliver added value to users. Answering yes to the following questions means that you are probably on the right track with a people-centered approach:
- Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if it came directly to you?
- Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand skills and deep knowledge (e.g. experience that comes from actually using a product or service or visiting a place)?
- Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
- After reading your content, will someone walk away feeling they have learned enough about a topic to achieve their goal?
- Will someone reading your content walk away as if they had a satisfying experience?
- Are you keeping in mind our guide for major updates and product reviews?
Avoid creating content exclusively for search engines.
Our advice on taking a people-centered approach doesn't invalidate SEO best practices, such as those covered in Google's SEO guide. SEO is a useful activity when applied to people-centric content. However, content created primarily for search engine traffic is strongly correlated with content that researchers find unsatisfactory.
How to avoid adopting a search engine-centric approach? Answering yes to some or all of the questions is a warning sign that you should reevaluate the way you are creating content on your site:
- Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines rather than humans?
- Are you producing a lot of content on different topics in the hope that some of it will work well in search results?
- Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
- Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
- Are you writing about stuff simply because it looks trending and not because you would otherwise be writing about it for your existing audience?
- Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
- Are you writing to a particular word count because you've heard or read that Google has a favorite word count? (No we do not).
- Did you decide to enter a niche subject area with no real experience, but mainly because you thought you were getting search traffic?
- Your content promises to answer a question that doesn't really have an answer, such as suggesting that there is a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one is not confirmed?
How does the update work?
The update will begin to be distributed by August 2022. It will be published on the Google ranking updates page when it will start and when it will be fully implemented, which could take up to two weeks. This update introduces a new site-wide signal that will be considered among many other signals for web page ranking. Our systems automatically identify content that appears to have little value, low added value or in any case not particularly useful for searchers.
Any content, not just useless content, on sites determined to contain relatively large amounts of non-useful content in general is less likely to perform well in Search, assuming there is other content elsewhere on the web that is best viewed. For this reason, removing unhelpful content may help rank your other content.
A natural question some will have is how long will a site take to do better if it removes unnecessary content? The sites identified by this update may find the signal applied to them within a few months. Our categorizer for this update runs continuously, allowing you to monitor newly launched and existing sites. Since it determines that the non-useful content has not returned in the long term, the classification will no longer apply.
This grading process is fully automated, using a machine learning model. It is not a manual action or a spam action. Instead, it's just a new signal and one of the many signals that Google evaluates to rank content.
This means that some people-centric content on sites rated as having non-useful content may still rank well, if there are other signs that identify those people-centric content as useful and relevant to a query. The signal is also weighted; sites with a lot of useless content may notice a stronger effect. In any case, for the best success, make sure you have removed any non-useful content.
This update has an impact on English searches globally to begin with but Google plans to expand to other languages in the future. In the coming months, they will also continue to refine how the categorizer detects unhelpful content and will initiate further efforts to better reward people-centric content.