From August 25 to September 9, Google rolled out a helpful content update (HCU) that made much noise in the SEO industry. However, site rankings did not feel much fluctuation compared to the nerves of SEO specialists. People worried about the fate of their sites and assumed a global reshuffle would happen, something on the Panda level. But only 20% of users noticed changes in positions after the update. We all know that many factors unrelated to a single update can cause changes in Google’s search rankings. And starting from this, part of that 20% attributed the changes to a Helpful Update that had no connection with their drop or rise. Dr. Peter J. Meyers analyzed this update and noted that looking for changes in site positions is like trying to find one particular drop of water in two weeks of rain during a summer thunderstorm. Glenn Gabe assessed the update’s impact in his tweet:
To understand the humor of the situation, let’s look at the volatility dynamics from July 20 to September 28.
Data provided by https://www.advancedwebranking.com/
Data provided by https://algoroo.com/
We can see that the level of volatility during this update remained unchanged and minor compared to the Product Reviews Update. Although the overall level of changes is relatively low, some sites still felt the impact of HCU, but still not as strong as with the previous update.
What types of websites were affected by the September Helpful Content Update (HCU)?
The greatest impact was on sites dealing with:
- Arts & Entertainment
- Hobbies & Interests
- News & Weather Information
- Personal Finance
Data provided by https://www.advancedwebranking.com/
The graphs show that these particular niches may have had a lot of unhelpful content, and it’s easy to believe that. For example, Travel. You can find many articles on “What to buy in Turkey as a souvenir,” but not all of them will give you a list of the most popular souvenirs and the exact information on where to buy them. Most likely, some travel agencies’ websites will use AI to create articles for promotion. Of course, all niches can abuse content creation to game the algorithm, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence here.
We all know that the health niche can lack credibility and should always be called into question. We can see from the graph that health&fitness sites had almost a peak value, which means that Google penalizes those sites where keeping credibility, expertise, and authority is very important.
Let’s take a look at which niches the upgrade has not affected at all:
- Food & Drink
- Home and Garden
These niches primarily include guides and news, which require little expertise. Or maybe Google can’t yet see the difference between valuable and unhelpful content in these areas. To be sure, we need to look at the graphs after the new Helpful Content Update, which came out on December 5, 2022.
December 2022 Helpful Content Update Impact
Google released a December 2022 helpful content update on December 5. This update is supposed to improve the classifier and work across content globally in all languages. The rollout may take up to two weeks to complete. One week later, we are still waiting for changes in the rankings. Judging from experience, you should only expect sanctions against your sites if you have blatantly inappropriate content.
If you were suddenly affected by this update in August and took steps to improve, you will be able to recover in December. However, there is also the opposite effect. If you were not penalized in August, you might see a change in the rank after the December update is over.
Data provided by https://www.semrush.com/
The most significant changes are in news, shopping, art, and sports. However, there is still time to conclude this update’s impact on any niche because the update is still rolling out. Google continues to interpret that people should create content for people. But whatever Google says, we must not only avoid the punishment of the algorithm but also use the algorithm to our benefit!
Why did Google release an update at this particular time, and what are its reasons?
Let’s look at the option that benefits the user. SEO specialists are very fond of manipulating Google results. Most commonly, they analyze the top 10 sites that currently score for a keyword and then compose specifications for an article that should beat most of them. While a good copywriter can write unique text on any topic, creating quality content is a much more difficult task, and Google is allegedly getting better at identifying it. Another Google problem is that experienced users can find good quality content, for example, on medicine. In contrast, inexperienced users take the first result as the truth. From this perspective, this is an excellent update for users.
But it’s not so simple. In the end, the helpful content update impact was disappointing in September, and many SEOs did not see a considerable change. According to Aleyda Solis’ Twitter poll, 63.1% of users did not notice any movement in the ranking, 8.9% reported a rise, and 12% indicated a negative impact of the update. The remaining 16% did not check for changes. Also, you can see in the graphs above that the volatility was ridiculous.
If you have observed a significant drop or rise, likely, something on your site was frankly wrong or very good, but Google didn’t detect it before. In almost every guide it offers, Google says that people should make content for people, so if you’ve followed that advice, you should be fine.
So why is Google rolling out such a high-profile update that doesn’t make a big difference?
First, Google can use such a big announcement for a PR campaign and naturally improve the quality of its search engine results. This noise allows them to tell everyone again, “We want you to make content for people.” To avoid punishment, site owners have withdrawn from creating content with AI or other Black Hat SEO techniques.
Secondly, helpful content updates by Google show us what it wants to see in search engine results. Company employees have said, “Update will be improved, and you will feel its impact in the future.” Even though the second update has already been released, we must stay one step ahead and keep the algorithm from hurting our rankings. Plus, if you get sanctioned by this update, it will affect your entire site’s ranking. Below you’ll find our tips on improving the quality of your content and using the December Helpful Content Update to boost your rankings.
Six tips to benefit from the December Google Helpful Content Update
1. Focus on creating content directly related to the site’s theme
To determine thematic, count the number of articles devoted to a particular topic. If you have many pieces that do not correspond to the main topic, check the amount of traffic you get from these pages. If there needs to be more traffic, you should remove these pages to raise the relevance of the entire site.
2. Make your content complete
You can use WebCEO’s Content Assistant for this. Create a report with your primary keywords; our tool will show you bits of advice you could miss. Remember, the user must feel the emotional component of your text and leave your site with no further questions. To achieve this, you must take advantage of critical elements in your content and on-page optimization. Otherwise, no one will be able to read your material. Our tool will show you how to improve your optimization and the pages of your competitors for inspiration. It will help you analyze the essential information a user is looking for and make your content ultra useful.
3. Write content with added value
This is a crucial point. You should always give the user some new and valuable information that he can’t find anywhere else. This thinking will allow you to improve the quality of any website you have. But how do you give users unique information? If you write the content yourself, you must study the topic thoroughly, see what your competitors are writing, and present the information in the best possible way through the prism of your perception. If you need more knowledge and competence in the field you want to write about, then hire an expert. We will consider this method in detail in point six.
4. Add words that confirm that your content is expert
It can be phrases like we tested, researched, recommended, our favorite, medically reviewed. The algorithm may search for and highlight such terms, so you can specifically add such words. For example, “We have tried 20 different microphones, tested the quality, appearance, as well as use by professional players and recording studios, and here’s what we can offer based on our expertise.” Of course, photos should confirm everything.
5. Refrain from covering broad topics
The Helpful content update hurts precisely the sites that write everything about everything. For example, if your site is about musical instruments, and you write an article about the best snow tires in 2023, not only will you not make it to the top, but you can lower the ranking of your entire site.
6. Hire or invite an expert in your niche if a copywriter wrote all the text for your site
He or she will give an opinion and comment on your article. A suitable method for creating content for the copywriter is to gather information and prepare for an interview with an expert. For example, the copywriter reads the first ten search results for a keyword, writes out the main theses, prepares questions for the expert, communicates with him or her, and creates content based on the expert’s review and opinion.
After the September update, we did not see significant changes and should not expect them now. Of course, this is only if you do not use black hat techniques and if you don’t completely ignore the Helpful Content Update. Don’t worry too much about the fate of your site if you have good content and don’t spread it over many different topics.
Sometimes we may see comments like this.
But it is better not to use this method because, sooner or later, your site may lose traffic even without the participation of HCU. Let’s see the results after the December update finishes rolling out and whether it will have any tangible effect.