Google helpful content update

Here is an official text about the launch of a new update Google has just rolled out called “helpful content update”:

“The helpful content update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.”

It’s a fully automated process and will use machine learning to get rid of useless content among search results, without any human intervention.

With this announcement, Google confirms the validity of a practice of which I have always been convinced.
From an SEO point of view, eliminating useless content, poorly written and created only for search engines it’s the right thing to do.
I think it’s a significantly underestimated optimization action and now I know that Google also appreciates it!

Avoid writing for search engines

This update from Google is likely an attempt to discourage the creation of poor-quality content. Today, many sites automatically generate them with AI software.

This does not necessarily mean that texts written using AI are of lesser quality.
They are, if they are useless texts: just as if a human being had written them. For example, content placed on a page only to inflate the text-to-HTML ratio.
Sites, where content is created almost exclusively with AI, may be of lower quality, but this isn’t about Artificial Intelligence per se.

Algorithms generate original content, they do not assemble pieces copied around. These contents are often not easy to recognize by those written by a human being. Some humans write very badly, after all…

How could Google’s algorithm recognize a text generated by another algorithm that starts from an external input? What if a person takes a text generated with AI and edits it? AI is not evil, “junk” content is.
However, we end up at the focal point of SEO copywriting: search engines reward those who create content by paying attention to the users, the topic and the correctness of the writing. Some thoughts about content in the last part of this post.

Have you been hit?

If you notice an increase in pages “Crawled – Currently not indexed”, by Google, you could have been affected by this update. You can find out more by checking the Search Console:

Google Search Console Index graph

You can see the trend in the overview, and then have the full report under the Index/Pages menu item. This is a graph of a very small website and it has been easy to start improving those pages. After the situation started to improve on the website, we validate the fix on Search Console, to tell Google we’ve been doing the right thing.

It wasn’t a matter of “bad” content here, but it was too little to be considered useful. Also, the content was spread over many pages with no real purpose. There’s no point in having a lot of almost empty pages, they’re not interesting to anyone.

Please pay attention: there are many reasons that can make Google crawl a page without indexing it. Helpful content update is just one of them.

How not to be affected by the “Helpful Content Update”

The first rule is: don’t publish junk content on your site!
If you know you’ve filled your pages with texts of little value, you can use a 410 code for each one of these.
In this way, you tell Google that the resource has been permanently removed and there is no alternative content to show.

If a resource you need to delete has, however, valuable backlinks (theoretical example, if it were so it would not be so bad), you can redirect it with a 301 to relevant content.

My two cents: in the end, this update will have less impact than assumed. At least for those who always try to publish useful content, edited and not copied here and there. Those who have done the opposite so far do well to feel a little anxious!