Google has announced in a post on the Search Central Blog the launch of a 'Helpful Content Update' to its search ranking algorithm, expected to be fully rolled out within two weeks.
Initially this update will affect English-language websites only.
The stated intent of this update is to reward content that satisfies users by being written "for people, by people" and not for search engines.
Those of us who have been experiencing high page rankings with AI-written or other search-engine-targeted content - producing "clickbait" pages - may be about to see a lot less traffic unless able quickly to complete "people-friendly" rewrites.
Factors that Google warns are about to impact page rankings negatively include:
- Content with no consistent theme
- Robot-generated content
- Repeating content of others without adding value
- Content not consistent with audience
- Content that doesn't answer user question
- Content controlled by word count
- Content in areas outside your expertise
- Content promising answers you don't have
Google also warns that "any content - not just unhelpful content - on sites determined to have high amounts of unhelpful content" is "less likely to perform well in Search".
That's important, I'll say it again in the simplest possible terms: having a lot of unhelpful content on your website will negatively impact your search ranking at the sitewide level - not just for specific low-quality pages.
Mechanics of this algorithm update will be:
- Google's automated "classifier" will look at websites and apply a new "ranking signal" intended to identify helpful vs. unhelpful content.
- The "helpful content" ranking signal will go into Google's mix of many other signals, each of which is weighted in a way known only to Google.
- Chances are the "helpful content" signal is going to have significant weight in the overall ranking algorithm - so unless your site has many other positive signals going for it, it could take a big hit fast if short on helpful content.
Business sectors that Google has hinted may be most negatively impacted by this update include:
- Online courses
Anyone not using Google Analytics and Search Console reports to monitor website performance needs to start doing that right now, to get early warnings of loss in rankings and traffic coming from this algorithm update, while there's still time to react effectively.