Google Announces ‘Helpful Content Update’

Google Announces ‘Helpful Content Update’

Google Announces ‘Helpful Content Update’

Episode 047

Google have pre-announced the ‘helpful content update’ coming next week. The words in their announcement say it best – they want to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.

TL:DR – we noticed people have been using GPT-3 to spam out masses of low value content so this update is coming to get you.

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Michael 0:00
Hi guys, Michael here before we get into the show, if you’re a Twitter user head to at service scaling, I’m tweeting a bunch of stuff. I’ve learned scaling our digital marketing agency, and I think you’ll find it pretty interesting. All right, let’s get into the show.

Unknown Speaker 0:15
It’s time for the SEO show where a couple of nerds talk search engine optimization, so you can learn to compete in Google and grow your business online. Now, here’s your hosts, Michael and Arthur.

Michael 0:37
Hello, hello. Hello. I am Michael Gustin. And I’m joined by Arthur fabic. How are you going?

Arthur 0:44
Good morning. I’m doing good. How you doing?

Michael 0:47
I’m doing better than you. It’s not morning anymore. We’ve been trying to get this set up for about an hour now.

Arthur 0:52
It was morning when we started setting it up and you know, mid afternoon, so yep,

Michael 0:58
yep. So basically, I’m I’m at home, Arthur’s in the office. We tried recording Arthur in the podcast, you know, there’s feedback. It’s been a nightmare. It’s been a tech disaster. Yeah, but we’ve found a way to do this. Arthur is now talking into a little lapel mic.

Arthur 1:14
I’m sitting in one of the little booths that we have for meetings holding a lapel mic up to my mouth. So yeah, apologies if the audio quality isn’t as good as it normally is.

Michael 1:24
But the reason we wanted to soldier on and have a chat because something news dropped overnight in the SEO world. And that is that there’s a new algorithm update rolling out next week, and for once, Google have given away quite a bit of info on it. So you know, we woke up to this news, Arthur just finished dreaming about the link he built the other day, and SEO was on his mind. And this big news dropped. And we just wanted to get in here and talk about it. So we’re going to run through the helpful content update, which is the funny name that Google have given this update. You think that’s funny, you don’t sound like you think it’s funny.

Arthur 2:01
Any algorithm update? Isn’t a laughing matter to me, because it means, you know, you know, what can happen with algorithm updates, or I’m more concerned than I am here, human by it?

Michael 2:12
Yeah, well, at least this time, they’ve given an update, like normally, they just go broad core algorithm update or something, this time name is helpful content update, might shorten it to HCU for the purposes of this podcast, but um, basically, we’ve had a look at the reliefs that Google put out. And it really does just look like they’re trying to target and clean up. We think automated content. So stuff that’s been done with AI writing tools. And, you know, there’s been a lot of sites out there that have been getting huge amounts of traffic from just spinning up tonnes of what I would call garbage content with these tools. And looks like Google are wise to that as well, because in their words, in the announcement, they’ve said, they want to ensure people see more original helpful content written by people, for people in the search results. So the TLDR of that is Google have seen everyone using Jarvis and GPT, three tools to spin stuff. So now, Google is going to crack down on it. What do you reckon very. We haven’t really been doing much with the AI though. So

Arthur 3:18
we don’t do it. And I don’t think it’s really going to target. I guess the clients that we work on, that’s just my wishful thinking maybe but you know, service based businesses, ecommerce sites, I think this is going to be more focused on like you mentioned, and if you mentioned already, but like mommy blogs, recipe sites, sites that produce a lot of content, use that content to try to rank again, it’s too early to tell they only just announced it overnight. So I guess we’ll have to wait and see. No, I

Michael 3:49
think I think that’s a fair bit like mommy blogs, for example, that might like have all sorts of really thin articles on nothing. Makes sense? To me, you know, like recipe sites, you know, recipe sites where they just have

Arthur 4:03
to scroll to the bottom of the page to get to the recipe, and they just fill it with Yes, or No, I didn’t get it. I know why they do it, because they want to rank but it’s just, yeah, it’s a pain in the ass having to scroll down and they just have the most annoying stuff anyway,

Michael 4:19
what I think will be hit will be, you know, there’s a trend at the moment with sites to spin up like tonnes of pages and then put ad networks like, you know, like media vines of the world on them and make money from pageviews. So they just try and get as much traffic as possible, make money off the page views from the ads. And the way they do that is by scaling up content creation using AI. So the page is barely legible, just junk. But they’ve been ranking in Google and people have been making a lot of money off them. So that sort of stuff. I think it’s going to be first in the firing line. Then maybe sites that programmatically create pages so like they might use a feed or they aggregate content together. And it’s really thin, that will potentially be hit as well. So, yeah, whether it’s been content, whether it’s going to be the AI content, I think the hints in the news update that Google gave is that it’s more on that AI side of things that they’re probably going to be looking. I found one thing in the update that they gave pretty interesting. They said, this update introduces a new site wide signal, our systems automatically identify content that seems to have little value, low added value, or is otherwise not particularly helpful to those doing searches. So site wide. So that’s sort

Arthur 5:39
of the whole site if it finds that type of content.

Michael 5:42
Yeah, like if you have a tonne of really low value, like, you know, blog posts that don’t really say anything, or pages that have just junk content on it that’s been created with AI, your whole domain is going to be sending a signal to Google that it’s low quality.

Arthur 5:59
And I guess, yeah, one of the concerns would be if you do have, you know, programmatic pages rolled out. You know, it might, you know, I can send penalise your whole domain. So something to keep in mind.

Michael 6:13
Now, the good news is, I also read that in that same update that they’ve given overnight, that a natural question some will have is how long will it take for a site to do better if they remove that content? What Google is saying is like that their classifier that looks at this stuff, is running all the time continuously. So it can monitor new sites, and it can monitor old sites. And if it sees that you’ve removed this content, and over time, you’re you’re sort of not sending that low quality signal, it will basically no longer apply to you that site wide penalty, let’s call it a site wide penalty will no longer apply. So, you know, the good news is, as I interpret it, is that it’s, it’s not like other updates where something can happen. And then you have to wait until Google does another update to fix it, you might be able to fix it by getting rid of the junk pages. Once it downloads, but I think I’m gonna have to wait and see what happens, right, like with all algorithm updates, yeah. That jumping out the gun.

Arthur 7:12
Yeah, I was reading an article earlier today. And essentially, the way I kind of interpreted it was that it’s going to target any SEO copies any any copy that’s written for the benefit of search engines to try to manipulate the search results, rather than copy that’s written for the end user. I guess that’s concerning to all SEOs. Because, as you know, obviously, we’re writing copy, not only to appease or to, I guess, resonate with the end user, but also to rank. So it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. Yeah, coming weeks. But it also made me start, I started to think, you know, a lot of the time for websites you’re writing copy, and you’re trying to, like trying to rank a page, essentially, with the content and keywords. If this update is, in fact, targeting SEO content, then maybe in a lot of cases, rather than producing a lot of copy, you might scale back on the COPY and use things like notch. So we use natural language processing, Google’s natural language processing and optimising the content that’s already there, rather than adding additional content to try to manipulate the search results. Yeah. Just the thought I had. Maybe rambled there a little bit, maybe. But

Michael 8:25
well, I want to like the question to me, How does Google detect this is a big question. Because this release is saying it’s targeting all sorts of stuff. But it’s the general reading between the lines, it’s like it’s going after AI, because in the release, it says, it has little sort of questions that you can ask yourself about the types of content you’re creating. And you know, are you likely to be caught up in this? And the questions are things like, are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics, so to me, that means using AI to spin up tonnes of pages on junk. They also ask thing, questions around user metrics to me. So one of them is like, does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again, to get better information from other sources? So to me that same people let go from Google over to your page and then back to Google, because your page was like a junky recipe article that have nonsense waffle before you get to the actual crux of it. Yeah, Google’s probably tracking all of that stuff. Then after reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal? So to me, that means like, if someone searched something gone to your website, and then maybe going back to Google searched again, they’re not really getting, I guess, value out of your content. So Google’s tracking that sort of stuff. Yeah, I feel they they also say they don’t but I reckon they definitely are. You know, how else are they analysing those types of questions? No. So, you know, how does Google detect AI content?

Arthur 10:03
Well, that’s a question that I’ve, we’ve talked off air over and over again, it’s something that does kind of blew my mind, because you mentioned that they have all these algorithms and things in place that can detect AI content. And, you know, having use Jarvis and different, you know, tools that uses and incorporates AI and open AI is open. Yeah, yeah. Create by open AI. That’s right. Yeah. And the stuff that it produces, to me seems like something that a human would be able to write. And I kind of just think, you know, out of all the people all over the world, all the possible sentences that someone can produce on a particular topic, there’s a likelihood that a human could have written or rewritten this sentence. So it’s almost like how, how can you detect whether it was AI or a human that wrote it?

Michael 10:48
Yeah. I’m gonna give my best attempt at explaining Yeah. I don’t work at Google. I am not a AI like guru by any stretch. But you know,

Arthur 10:59
does that make sense that you know where I’m coming from? Yeah, it makes sense. Because I read the stuff that it produces is good. I mean, I guess when it’s writing content from scratch, it’s hit and miss. But when it’s rewriting content, for example, often it’s I find that could be better than the original content that you’ve put into the tool. So yeah, it’s just interesting,

Michael 11:19
I would say I would say that Google is looking at like, overwhelming use of it. So like, here in their use of it, it’s going to look like humans have read it. But if every page on a site is written in that tool, there are patterns and things that they can look at to figure this stuff out. So yeah, we touched on it open AI GPT. Three, it is basically the, the the model the AI behind all of these tools, like Jasper and different AI tools that create content. Yeah. And the way they work as you basically put in like a prompt like you as user, you put in maybe like keywords or the start of a sentence or something like that, and then tell it to go and create content on the back of it. And like they create really legible copy. But they do tend to use like a simple way of writing. And that simple way of writing the patterns in it that can be detected, because there’s actually a website, it’s And you can go on there, and it basically can detect automatically written text, or it says it cam. So basically, the way it works is it plugs into GPT two, which is the older version of GPT. Three, what you do is you put a passage of text into it, and it will analyse what GPT two would have created it like each and each word in that passage of text, right, and it will determine if it’s from the top 10 Most likely words that GPT would have picked through to the top 1000 Most likely words. And what we’re finding is like we’re not we what this tool finds is that with AI tools, they tend to sit very much in a branch of using like the top 10 to top 100 Most likely words at each point in a sentence. Whereas if a human rights that there’s a lot more variance in like how likely the words are to show up in a sentence. So that’s sort of like programmatically or sort of using computers can detect patterns that the AI tools are using that humans don’t. Yeah, these detectors can be gamed that you can put like a random word in here and there. So you can put in like sprinkles or cornflakes or something random in a passage of text. And it will be enough to throw these detectors into thinking that it’s been written by a human, because you’re using words that are unlikely to be in a passage of text generated by AI. Okay. It’s nothing. Magic, what Google can find, like we can.

Arthur 13:42
Yeah, and tools like Jasper you can set or select the turn that it produces the continent content in sorry. So whether it’s informative, formal and formal, funny, casual, and then they all have slight variances on the way they rewrite the content. So I’m sure they have a way to do it. It’s just Yeah, yeah, my small brain sometimes has a hard time comprehending some of the things that the algorithm can do so

Michael 14:07
and look, I think with this is, this is launching next week, no one knows what it’s going to be like till it launches. Well, first of all, wait and see what happens. And this this AI detection, I feel will be garbage at first, and it will improve over time, like got, like all of this stuff when it gets released. Yeah. There’s gonna be sites that that are innocent, that get caught up in this as collateral damage, you know. So that’s always happens with algorithm updates. But I do kind of feel like if you There’s sites out there where every single page on it is machine written, the whole thing just exists to get traffic from Google visibility and get pageviews for ad purposes. Yep, I feel that they will already have it dialled in to go out and do Make sure those sites aren’t getting visibility anymore. Yeah,

Arthur 15:03
I mean, fingers crossed, hopefully it just targets the big offenders. And it actually does improve the search results rather than, you know, hitting innocent sites that might have used, you know, different tools to help write, copy, and then find themselves penalised not only not only the content, but the whole domain, which seems like it’s a bit. Yeah. And I guess on that topic, I guess it makes sense. What you said earlier, because if they’re targeting the whole domain, and they’re looking for that, you know, that AI written copy, it’s going to wipe out a lot of, you know, mommy blogs, and general websites, which use people use to sell links, which cover a whole variety of different topics, but very, very poorly using AI content. So maybe they are just after those types of sites, and they’re not going to, you know, target the innocent. No, florist, and

Michael 15:54
they won’t be targeting them. Yeah, you we didn’t even touch on that, like the site’s so linked. There’s a lot of sites out there that that exists more or less purely for link building purposes. And I would imagine a lot of them are just churning out AI content, and will be smashed by this. Yeah. So sites that previously would have, we spoke a couple of weeks ago about metrics you look at when deciding whether a good linking partner, you know whether a site is a good linking partner. Yep, organic visibility and organic traffic estimates. Were one of the two of the metrics. If they’ve been using totally automated junk content on there, there, they’re going to be wiped out. And a lot of sites that might have previously slipped through the cracks as a potential link will no longer be good for it.

Arthur 16:39
And what does that mean? What does that mean to all the sites that were linking from that

Michael 16:43
site? Exactly. Exactly. So this has potential to cause massive upheaval in the search results over the next couple of weeks. So

Arthur 16:50
no, I’m a little bit more worried.

Michael 16:53
It’s gonna be very interesting to see Yeah.

Arthur 16:57
But like, main end of the day, just got to stay calm,

Michael 17:02
keep calm and carry on, as we always say, yeah. I the cynic in me the cynic in me for the the update is called the helpful content update. And they want to make sure that people are seeing helpful content written by people, for people in the search results. Unless, of course, it’s Google’s ads and all of their advertising stuff above the fold. They’re going to be okay with that showing. They’re not going to reduce any of that. And the cynic in me says like, what is this update really doing to Google’s bottom line and then making more money, because that’s what it always comes back to at the end of the day. And that’s something to keep an eye on, you know, as this update rolls out, are the winners and losers? And how much more money do they make via Google ads as a result of it?

Arthur 17:46
Time will tell.

Michael 17:48
Time will tell but for now, if you’ve been pumping out low quality content with Jasper, you should probably be a bit nervous. For everyone else. Sit on it, wait and see it doesn’t roll out until next week. Keep calm and carry on. There’s gonna be a lot more commentary and analysis that comes out and we’ll be sure to update this as more comes to light. But for now, happy viewing. See you later on

Arthur 18:12
and happy SEO.

Unknown Speaker 18:15
Thanks for listening to the SEO show. If you like what you heard, don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. It will really help the show. We’ll see you in the next episode.

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