The Helpful Content Updates Are it Useful for Search Engines?

Helpful Content Updates

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Helpful Content Updates are Useful for Search Engines?

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On August 25th, Google began rolling out the Helpful Content Update, an ongoing effort to reward sites with “people-first” content (ie, not written specifically for SEO).

MozCast measured flux ratings at 92 degrees Fahrenheit on August 26th, which seems fairly high, but two weeks on either side of the update it was:

The dotted blue line shows the 30-day average for the period before the update began, which came in at 87°F. Rating flux actually peaked on August 23rd, higher than any other day since the update was released.

To make matters worse, we had to remove August 8-9 from the 30-day average because the Google data center outage completely disrupted search results.

Let me summarize: it’s a mess. I like to think I’m pretty good at managing messes, but it’s like trying to find a specific drop of water in two weeks of rain during a summer storm.

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If you’re into messing around, go ahead, but for the rest of you, I’ll tell you this – I’ve found no clear evidence that this first iteration of a useful content update moved the needle on most sites.

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Averages, Lies, and Damn Lies

The Helpful Content Updates are it Useful for Search Engines?. Due to the long rollout, I tried to look at the difference in views for individual domains for the 14 days before and after the rollout (which helps smooth out one-day outliers and keeps days of the week constant on both sides has it).

One of the immediate “losers” was Conch-House.com, which showed a nearly 50% loss of visibility in our data set. I admit I was even a little judgmental about the hyphen in the domain name. Then, I looked at the daily data:

Averages don’t even tell half the story. Whatever happened to Conch-House.com, they were completely dropped from the rankings 20 out of 28 days analyzed. Note that the MozCast dataset is limited, but our much larger STAT dataset shows a similar pattern, with Conch-House.com ranking for up to 14,000 keywords in a single day during this period.

what happened? I have no idea, but pretty sure, almost certainly, it probably wasn’t helpful to update the content.

Content Crash Confirmed

The Helpful Content Updates are it Useful for Search Engines?. Here is an example that got me very excited. WhiteHouse.gov saw total visibility increase by +54% over the two time periods. The set of keywords was very small, so, once again, I checked the daily numbers:

Sounds great, right? There is a clear spike on August 25th (although it fades a bit), and while the spike was not that large, I was able to verify this against the larger data set. If I were smart, I would stop the analysis here. My friends, I was not smart.

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One of the challenges of updating helpful content is that Google has made it clear that helpful (or unhelpful) traffic affects rankings on a domain:

Any content – ​​not just unhelpful content – ​​will perform less well in search on sites that generally have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content…

However, it’s interesting to note specific areas of content that have improved or decreased. In this case, WhiteHouse.gov clearly saw the achievements of a particular page:

The brief was released on August 24th, and soon after a storm of media attention drove people to the official details. The timing was completely coincidental.

Is it useful content (regardless of how you feel about it)? almost certainly Can WhiteHouse.gov get paid to produce it? It is quite possible. Was the increase in visibility due to a useful content update? Probably not.

Is this Blog Post Useful Content?

The Helpful Content Updates are it Useful for Search Engines?. The truth is that wide offerings mean SERP drops have developed. Google search results are real-time phenomena and the web is always changing. In this case, there was no clear spike (at least, no clear spike relative to recent history) and any promising examples I found ultimately fell short.

Does this mean the update was a dud? No, I think it’s the start of something important, and reports of specific impacts on sites with obvious quality issues can be very accurate (and certainly, some of them have been reported by reputable SEOs I know and respect ).

The most plausible explanation I can come up with is that this was the first step in setting up a “usefulness” factor, but this factor will take time to iterate, increase, and fully build into the original algorithm.

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The Mysteries is by Google – The Helpful Content Updates

One of the mysteries is why Google announced this update in advance. Historically, for updates like Mobile Friendly or HTTPS, pre-announcements were the way Google influenced us to make changes (and to be honest, it worked).

But the announcement only came a week before the update was due to go live, and after Google announced that they have done this. Updated relevant data. In other words, there was no time between the pre-announcement and launch to fix the problem.

Finally, Google is sending us a signal about its future direction, and we should take this signal seriously. Look at the HTTPS update – when it first came out in 2014, we saw very little change in rankings, and only about 8% of organic page-one results on MozCast were HTTPS URLs.

Over time, Google turned up the volume and Chrome started warning about non-HTTPS sites. In 2017, 50% of page one organic results on MozCast were HTTPS. Today, in late 2022, it is 99%.

Conclusion – The Helpful Content Updates

A useful content update probably won’t change the game overnight, but the game will change, and we’d all better start learning the new rules.

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