SEO Insights: August 2022 Report

SEO Insights August 2022 image

There was some big news in August with Google’s prior announcement and subsequent launch of a new update called the “Helpful Content Update” (HCU).

What made this one different to previous updates, such as core updates and product review updates, is that Google made a prior announcement that this update would be rolling out in August. In a way, giving SEOs and website owners a heads-up that something big was coming!

The update started rolling out on the 25th of August and as is usual with these large updates, it is expected to take 2 weeks to complete.

As of today, one week into the HCU roll out, the impact of is has been somewhat of an anti-climax.

What is the Helpful Content Update?

The purpose of this new update is to elevate the rankings of content in the search results which is deemed to provide visitors with a satisfying experience, whilst demoting content that is perhaps regarded as not so helpful to a user.

Google has summarised what it sees as helpful with the following questions, to which you should be able to answer ‘yes’ to all of them:

  • Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
  • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  • After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  • Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
  • Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?

The ultimate aim of the update is to demote websites that don’t appear to have a focus, that don’t have perceived authority and expertise, and that are publishing content that may have been generated by AI.

The new Panda

In 2011, Google rolled out a very big update called Panda, which was designed to remove websites from search that were deemed to have low quality content. This was a very severe update at the time and many websites literally disappeared overnight from the search results.

Panda was eventually rolled into Google’s main ranking algorithm and ceased to be a separate algorithm that ran periodically.

The new HCU update appears to be an extension of Panda but with Google’s much more advanced ability to analyse the quality of content using AI.

Similar to Panda, if a website is deemed to have a lot of low quality, ‘unhelpful’ content, then the entire website will be impacted in search.

And similar to Panda, after being impacted by HCU, which is actually runs continuously to evaluate content and websites, it can take many months to recover following removal of the low-quality content. Google wants to be sure that there isn’t a chance that the low-quality content will return.

What’s been the impact so far?

Very minimal! With Google pre-announcing the update, it was expected to be quite severe and its impact on the search results quite significant. But this hasn’t been the case.

Google’s search results are constantly changing as Google rolls out small updates on daily basis, so it’s been difficult to determine the true impact of the HCU update.

There are some reported cases online of websites that may have been impacted, but they are few and far between.

The update has certainly been much less severe than expected and at Artemis we haven’t seen any negative impact on our clients’ websites.

There’s still another week to go before the update finishes rolling out so we’ll keep monitoring the changes in the search results to see if things change in the coming days.

Looking ahead

This is an update which will evolve over time and its very much needed. The quality of the search results is generally not great and Google is now up against a new ‘enemy’; AI generated content.

How Google can determine if content is generated by AI as opposed to a human is surely a significant challenge which it may struggle to deal with, especially considering the astonishing evolution of natural language AI such as GPT3.

Here at Artemis, we have always focused on creating helpful and useful content for our clients’ websites, so any further evolution of the HCU update can only be a positive thing for our clients.