With Summer coming to an end, Google is beginning to implement some big changes, clarifications, announcements, and updates to start off Fall on the right foot. Our August SEO update will focus on several aspects of two big changes that Google has announced. We will start with one of the bigger items in Google News this year, so far.

Google’s Helpful Content Update

Midway through the month of August, Google announced that they would begin to launch the “Helpful Content Update”. This new update began to roll out at the end of the month, and could take many weeks to roll out entirely. The Helpful Content Update’s goal is to help users see more authentic and helpful content written by real people, for people in their search results. This indicates that Google is cracking down on AI written content posted by SEOs trying to cheat the system by using articles solely written to rank higher, and not written to improve the user experience or inform people.

Articles and content should still be written with best SEO practices in mind, meaning it is important to incorporate high ranking keywords, good meta descriptions, and content clustering for your articles. However, you also want to ensure that your posts are informative, helpful, and written with good writing practices. These are the factors that Google will use to determine if a piece of content is high-quality or not. The more high quality articles you add to your site, the better chance it has of ranking higher as a whole.

Google states that “removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content” as well. This goes above just having good articles, but also indicates that removing any bad content can improve your other content, this can include any shorter content pieces, content with fewer keywords, poorly written content, and content that doesn’t give any value to the reader. One helpful method in fixing this issue is to set up redirects to more purposeful content which holds greater value.

What is helpful content?

When you are composing content for your site, try to think about the kind of content that you want to read when browsing the internet. Most people want articles on topics that have a lot of supporting evidence and research to back up any claims made. People also want to trust the source they are getting this information from, and want to know that they are reading content from an authoritative source, not just some occasional blogger.

Google provides guidelines and questions that can assist you as a writer in building content with a “people-first” approach. These questions provided by Google include:

    • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and depth of knowledge?
    • 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 achieve their goal?

Helpful Content Feedback Form 

If you believe that your website or content has been wrongfully affected by the new Helpful Content Update or you experience an unexplained drop in rankings, Google has created a feedback form for these users. They ask for the URL of the affected page, the indicated query which shows non-ideal results, and any additional comments regarding the issue. The form states that Google will not be using these submissions to take direct action on any unexpected ranking drops or reduction in website traffic. However, they will be utilizing these feedback submissions to help improve the quality of search results for everybody.

Quick Read & 5 Minute Read in SERPs

On a different but slightly similar note, Google has also started to display labels in its search results that tell searchers the estimated length of time it takes to read a particular article or piece of content. These labels either say, “Quick Read” or “5 Minute Read”. Lilly Ray posted on Twitter about this new feature:


Google Search Console Updates

Within the month of August, we have seen a lot of updates to the Google Search Console, in terms of reports and data. In June, they posted a Tweet stating how Google Search Console would simplify the way pages, items, and issues are classified. At the time, this change helped SEOs to focus on critical issues affecting their visibility in search and allowed for better prioritization of their work. In August, Google tweeted that they planned to disable task validation of “index coverage issues” temporarily, while they shift all Search Console properties to the updated item classification discussed in June.

What does all of this mean? Google states that they have received feedback from users saying they are confused by the “warning status” on an item or URL. However, this just means that Google is changing up how they label things. “Pages or items with critical issues are labeled something like invalid; pages or items without critical issues are labeled something like valid.” Google again states that this change solely shows in Google Search Console, not in how Google indexes, crawls, or serves pages to users.
In the middle of August, Google needed to address another issue in Google Search Console where it was labeling pages as non-indexable when they were, and marking non-indexable pages as indexable. Due to this fix, many users experienced drops in the indexed pages within their Google Search Console reports.