Episode 34 - The Helpful Content Update

Where queries are weird, advice is controversial, and everything depends.

With the announcement of the Helpful Content Update, we dive deep into what it is, how it might affect your SEO strategy, and what are some of the takes in the SEO industry.

What are some of the most frequent issues that News SEO publishers run into?

In this week’s episode, we cover SEO for Black Friday in the context of the recession, and last month’s Rankable Podcast Episodes. 


Host: Garrett Sussman | Demand Generation Manager 

Don’t forget to please SUBSCRIBE to the channel if you enjoy the episode.


Show notes / References:

Google/SERP Updates:

What creators should know about Google’s helpful content update

Starting today, Google will be rolling out the Helpful Content Update over the next 2 weeks. It’s a site-wide signal that will be continuously updated. It aims to classify sites that are ‘helpful’ and ‘unhelpful’

Criteria for the classifications are ambiguous but essentially based on whether the content is useful, people-driven, written by people with expertise, and focused on the primary topic of the website.

Content that is automated or written purely for search engines will likely be penalized.

While this update won’t technically levy penalties, sites that are negatively impacted will see a significant decrease in traffic and rankings which feels like a penalty.

The best way to avoid getting dinged is by removing unhelpful content from your website.

Google’s Helpful Content Algorithm Update: Hypotheses from 23 Years of SEO Experience – Wil  Reynolds

Wil Reynolds of Seer Interactive spoke with the Search Team and shared his analysis based on his experience with algorithm updates.

He believes that publishers that cover multiple topics, sites that monetize without being helpful (many affiliate sites), and AI content sites will be hit the worst by the update.

Google’s Helpful Content Update Introduces A New Site-wide Ranking Signal Targeting “Search engine-first Content”, and It’s Always Running – Glenn Gabe

Glenn Gabe also spoke with the Search Team and predicts that this is the beginning of Google’s algorithm more transparently using site-wide signals to determine the value of a website and rank accordingly. 

Previously, Google has implied that they tended to focus mostly on a combination of 200+ factors, but over the past few years, they’ve moved away from that explanation. This is one of the few times they explicitly shared that the signal is site-wide.  

Now, even if you have some quality content on your site, if you have a majority of unhelpful content, your rankings will decrease.

More content by people, for people in Search – Danny Sullivan

Danny Sullivan, Google’s Search Liason, did his best to explain the impact in a human way. He also addressed how the ongoing effort to improve search results for product reviews will include another update in the coming weeks.

New ways we’re helping you find high-quality information – Google

Most of the internet depends on Google to fact-check and validate the information that shows up in search results. Google’s making an effort to improve those results and ensure they’re factually reliable. 

They’re using the MUM algorithm on featured snippets to produce a ‘consensus’ answer by checking that the same answer is supported across many authoritative sites. 

They’ve also added an advisory when Google cannot provide a good answer or when a reliable answer does not exist.

Google Fixes Search Console Bug Labeling Pages As Indexed When Not Indexed – Barry Schwartz

There was a bug in Google Search Console last week that showed non-indexed pages as being indexed. That’s a problem because SEOs need to know when their articles are not visible online (regardless of whether they can do anything about it). The bug was fixed after 24 hours, thankfully.

General SEO:

The Most Common SEO Issues for News Publishers – Barry Adams

If you’re in News SEO, there’s a slew of issues that feel unique to the publishing industry. Expert Barry Adams covered a ton of nuanced challenges including:

  • Image Sizes and Aspect Ratios
  • Tags and Topic Hubs
  • Top Navigation and Subnavigation
  • Pagination
  • E-A-T signals
  • Ads vs. UX

Listen to Shelby Blackley and Jessie Willms’ Rankable Interview for more News SEO insight.

Does Adding Product Descriptions above the fold Improve SEO? – Elizabeth Samuel

SearchPilot ran an interesting A/B test to see the impact of including the product description above the fold on your product page improves rankings. The asked Twitter and the poll had 71% believing it would have a positive impact.

Turns out that the crowd was right. Pages with the product description above the fold had a 14% uplift.

Black Friday SEO and the Recession (And what you should have started yesterday) – iPullRank

We’re 3 months out from Black Friday and between the product reviews update, the helpful content update, and all of the new eCommerce-related search tools being improved, it’s never been more important to get your eCommerce site prepared.

Since inflation, a looming recession, and supply chain problems could all impact consumers’ buying behavior, you want to make sure that any opportunities for organic search traffic are primed to come your way.

New Academy Course: How to Optimize Location Pages – Claire Carlile

If you have brick-and-mortar locations for your local business, you need to include the most important information on your location pages. There are so many ways to boost your visibility on local search results.

Local SEO expert Claire Carlile is teaching you everything you need to know to be found locally via this great new course on BrightLocal.

Technical SEO Articles:

The fundamentals of site migrations for SEO – Wix – Chris Green

It’s so easy to mess up a site migration. New CMS, new hosting, and new domains all add layers of challenges to a smooth transition. If you don’t have everything implemented properly, you can see a crash in your organic traffic and it can be extremely difficult to recover.

Chris Green shared all of his best tips. His article is comprehensive, especially if you’re moving from WordPress to Wix.


Extracting all entities a site ranks for – Lee Foot

Lee Foot has developed a useful tool to pull out all of the entities from your website (1000s of URLs) and provide you with all of that data in one helpful spreadsheet. He’s still working on the visualization, but the beta tool is available to preview and will be incredibly valuable to anyone focusing on their entity SEO strategy. 

Lee’s Patreon with the Beta


Did you miss all of the awesome Rankable Podcast Episodes that we published while Garrett was out on parental leave?

Check them all out below and let us know which one you loved the most!

Join Garrett Sussman each week as he pulls out all of the biggest and smallest stories from the past week that touch the world of SEO.

Get the scoop on what’s happening to Google, game-changing strategies for SEOs, and the people that you should have on your SEO radar.

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