There seems to be a lot of confusion around the Google helpful content update and if it is “big” or not big. That all depends on if you were hit by it, if you were, oh boy is it really big for you. But in terms of how widespread it is, so far, it is not affecting many many sites.
Yes, I am seeing sites hit hard, really hard by this update. Some are seeing traffic drops close to 50% or more from Google Search after being hit. Truth is, most of those hits, are not surprised and kind of expected it based on their content. There are some outliers, like with all Google updates, but again, this is not as widespread as when Google released a Panda or Penguin update, or even the core updates and even the product review updates. It seems way more limited and did not spread too far beyond the most unhelpful content on the web.
Like we reported yesterday, Danny Sullivan even said himself it was not a huge shakeup but it was big in terms of the direction Google is going with ranking content. Of course, we’d (well, I would, not sure you all would) like to see the “direction” or the message Google is trying to set and see Google act on it in a more substainal way.
As a reminder, only 20% of SEOs said they noticed any ranking changes related to the helpful content update and I believe a good percentage of that 20% are confused and misattributing the changes they see to the wrong thing – i.e. it is not the helpful content update. The Google helpful content update so far seems pretty minor in terms of what SEOs and tools are picking up, despite what we all thought would happen. Keep in mind, that the update is not done and we do expect more from it but I don’t know how much more we will see with this update being that it should be done rolling out any minute/day now.
So what sites are being hit most? Well, it seems sites that literally use AI or computers to write their content in an automated fashion. It seems like the lyrics space got hit pretty hard. And it seems like content that was not written by humans were most impacted. Don’t get me wrong, there are some examples of sites written by humans and not machines that were hit but it is hard to know if those humans write like machines or if that hit was related to this update. I mean, if you write with a template, then maybe it looks like a machine wrote it?
Again, I thought, and I am to blame, that SEO-written content would be hit hard by this. Not just machine-written content but SEO-written content. I was wrong, at least for now.
So what am I seeing? Well, let’s start with what Lily Ray and Glenn Gabe picked up on in the lyrics space:
Also interesting to note that almost all of these sites showed aggressive SEO growth in the last couple of years.
I’ve always wondered if this type of growth can create red flags for Google’s algorithms.
— Lily Ray 😏 (@lilyraynyc) September 7, 2022
OK, I haven’t seen many sites focused on health/medical drop with the Helpful Content Update. Until now. This site is focused on reviews of health/medical products & dropped heavily since 8/31. Has some sketchy content, but overall the reviews are ok. I’ll dig in more soon. pic.twitter.com/PbBxSFuNuk
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) September 7, 2022
Some unhelpful content:
Another site seeing a big drop after rapid gains in the last 2 years.
These introductory paragraphs are making me laugh. pic.twitter.com/au3lhBYgxU
— Lily Ray 😏 (@lilyraynyc) September 7, 2022
Continuing my coverage of the Helpful Content Update, I’ve seen a number of sites in the math/conversion space get hit pretty hard. Checking the sites, the actual content is decent… but the UX and ad situation is TERRIBLE. Similar to what I saw with lyrics btw. Hmm… pic.twitter.com/EjyTiLWm09
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) September 8, 2022
I received emails from some folks, who told me that heavy database-driven content that is light on full sentence content was hit hard. And there folks in the WebmasterWorld forums are posting but honestly, the chatter there is less than I would see even for an unconfirmed update that I would report on.
There are some folks who are seeing more widespread shifts as of this morning, maybe Google dialed it up in the past few hours? I doubt it, but I will keep an eye on it. I am seeing an increase in the chatter in the comments area here overnight of a pick up in ranking fluctuations. So I will keep an eye on this over the next 24-hours and let you know how things are tomorrow, if things change much.
Semrush has a spike this morning as well:
Advanced Web Rankings is currently the only other tool that is showing a spike of some sorts:
RankRanger also showing some levels of change this morning:
The other tools are currently calm, but I will keep an eye on them.
It is now 14 days since the rollout began and I expect the update to be completed any moment now. So maybe this is it? Maybe this update was super targeted, not widespread, but future updates may be larger.
I know the update is not done yet and it is too early to analyze anything but I wanted to share some early thoughts on the impact of this update, from what I see from the SEO community.
What are all you seeing this morning?
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.