Google’s Helpful Content Update rolled out over a period of 15 days, starting on August 25th and finishing on September 9th.
At first, the helpful content update only impacts English searches, globally. Google plans to expand it to other languages in the future. Over the coming months, Google will also continue refining how the classifier detects unhelpful content and launch further efforts to better reward people-first content.
Objective: Improved user experience
The algorithm update is “part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results”.
The declared objective is 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.”
The algorithm update intends to reward content that is “created for people, not for search engines”. After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal? In their official communication, Google also acknowledges that SEO “is a helpful activity when it’s applied to people-first content.”
Target signals: Sitewide, but specifics unknown
As usual, Google did not declare which specific signals the algorithm update focuses on. So we can only guess: Detection of original vs. third-party content or citations? Signals that content might be AI-generated? User experience signals like dwell-time, certain patterns of continued search activity after clicking on a search results and coming back to the SERP? A mix of these?
Google explained that this algorithm impacts entire sites, so we can assume that Google is analysing content signals and aggregate user behaviour across an entire site.
Observed impact: Low, so far
While ranking software providers reported medium-sized ranking movements on the last day of the roll-out, the SEO community generally did not report major shake-ups – with the exception of specific website categories such as ringtones, coding and lyrics pages. Most affected websites seemed to be about copied content, i.e. duplicate content, and not about a lack of expertise.
However, Google declared that sites identified by this update might find the signal applied to them over a period of months. This sounds similar to the Hummingbird update, which also did not have a major impact immediately, but is fundamental to the ranking algorithm, and the effects were only seen over a longer period of time.
LUX observations across english language Smart Pages in the client portfolio: early positive signs
We have analysed month-on-month LUX Organic Smart Page performance across all English-language website integrations from August to September. We’ll continue to monitor performance with regards to the update over the coming months.
All English-language website Smart Pages
- 14% increase in Google Position 1 rankings
- 9% increase in Page 1 rankings
By website type
- 2.5% increase in Google Position 1 rankings
- 2% increase in Page 1 rankings
Lead generation (e.g. Health, Education, Finance, Insurance)
- 32% increase in Google Position 1 rankings
- 21% increase in Page 1 rankings
- Net 4% ranking improvements
- Avg. 2% traffic increase
North America and Europe:
- Net 1% ranking improvements
- Avg. 6% conversion increase
For more information on how LUX Smart Pages safeguard enterprise eCommerce and lead generation sites from performance dips as a result of Google’s helpful content update, speak to your account manager or schedule a one-on-one custom demo with our team.