On Thursday, 18th Aug 2022, Google released a document on What creators should know about Google’s helpful content update that has got everyone in a panic.
Of particular concern is the implicit suggestion that any content written by AI-based content writing tools may get penalised.
In this episode of Digital Insights, Harshad and I look at unpacking what the document says, what it may mean for SEO and how we can ensure we stay on the right side of Google in its wake.
Venks: Have you heard about Google’s recent, helpful content update that they released as recently as Thursday last week, which could potentially penalize AI generated content. Stick around to learn more.
Hey everyone, welcome to episode four of Digital Insights.
This is Venks, founder of BroadWeb Digital, and I’m joined by Harshad who is the head of digital marketing at BroadWeb Digital.
So as I mentioned, today, we are gonna talk about this recent update that Google came out with. they only released at last Thursday, which can have really far reaching implications. It’s specifically targeted at content. and they haven’t necessarily mentioned that AI generated content is going to get penalized, but there’s a lot that can be read into the update, which could say that it might get penalized. So I’ve just got Harshad who has joined me. he’s got a lot of experience on SEO and I’m sure he’s got a lot to talk about this as well. So you can take it away from here, Harshad
Harshad: yep. hi everyone.
so yes, Google has announced this, which will roll out starting today. Today is Monday. And, it’ll take about a couple of weeks for the rollout to complete. there is a lot of talk about this update, in the SEO world, on Facebook groups, forums. Reddit, et cetera. lot of people are expecting big changes after this update.
Harshad: And, so thankfully Google nowadays does tell us when an update is coming earlier, it was just a surprise. But now Google does tell us, and through this, post, they are explaining as what this update is about and how it’ll impact your website. So let’s have a read, So we won’t read everything, obviously, you know, I’ve highlighted a few things in this post and to start with, let’s start here.
Now, Google says they’re launching, a helpful content update, which is a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people for people in search results. Now, this is very important and it’s big. So because Google is telling that. You need to have content that is written by people.
So is this a sign that Google does not like content written by AI content writing tools? Right now there’s a big question. – can Google detect whether content has been written by a AI tool or not. Now the question can be answered and, with my experience and research, yes, Google can detect AI written content, not all AI content written because there, there are a lot of things like GPT two GPT three, and then there are tools which don’t use GPT at all. but yes, till GPT two. Yes. Google can detect it. the question is, will Google detect it because it’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna be expensive for Google to index.
And run all the content through some tool. So it’s not going to be easy, but they can do it. Yeah. So that’s number one, something
Venks: to add there. Google obviously is a search engine and they rely a lot on machine learning themselves to look at patterns and I find it quite ironic that they use machine learning for their own purpose.
And in some ways they’re against machine learning for others. I just thought I’ll throw it out there. it’s quite ironic, but I can see that they might have the capability as well. yeah. Yeah. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out.
And as we move ahead in this, I don’t think it’s just the AI content.
Harshad: There are a couple of other things which Google might be telling us, but, we’ll come to know after the rollout is complete. so let’s, read.
Venks: And when does a rollout actually start? it’s meant to start today, isn’t it?
Harshad: Yeah. Yeah. It’s gonna start today. So yeah, Monday it’s not
Venks: like a phrased rollout or.
Harshad: yeah. So all updates. Yes. When these updates happen, they take at least a couple of weeks to settle down. And what happens is one tip that I can give to, a lot of website owners is once a rollout happens and you see a dip in your website, don’t panic and start acting on pages, doing changes or try and do some repair stuff.
Because most of the times, almost after every update. Let’s say after two weeks, your website traffic goes down, wait for a couple of weeks more because there is a repair work done by Google. Okay. So don’t panic. Wait for two weeks after the rollout is complete. And then see if your website traffic is still down, then you need to start and, do some repair work till then.
Just wait, just have some patience does that.
Venks: where, they make a change, see how it’s impacting the results. And then they make further changes to maybe do some of the negative aspects of their initial
Harshad: work. Correct. So till date that, this has happened every time. So with my experience, I’ve seen that every time there’s an update people panic, oh, my traffic has gone down.
And then after a couple of weeks, the traffic goes up, automatically without they doing anything. So see if
Venks: any negative initial impact actually stays around or actually is just temporary. Exactly.
Harshad: Yeah. so yeah, so by following our longstanding advice and guidelines to create content for people, not for search engines.
Now the first aspect of AI is the AI. Okay. So first written by people for people that tells us that Google may target content written by AI. Second is create content for people, not for search engines. Now this, I feel Google is telling us that, these tools like surfer SEO, which tell us, what these tools basically do is they scan the top ranking websites and then they give you some recommendations that based on these ranking websites, your content needs to have these words or these topics.
So Google is saying, don’t do that. Okay. So write it for people, not for search engines and. it’s pretty. if you have seen the search results, for, when you search something, you’ll see the top five or six pages talking about the same thing, the headings are also same most of the times.
Harshad: So it’s like heading one and two heading three. It might be like, The heading two might be heading three or heading four. But what people do is people try and copy the top ranking websites and it works. So if it works, why not? And maybe it’s a problem with the Google AI and Google is gonna fix that in this update.
yeah, and then Google has listed, some questions and they did this when there was a Panda update a few years back. And, Panda was a very big Google update. we are guessing that this might be a big update as well. So these are the questions that, Google is asking. As a website owner or an SEO, let’s go through them one by one.
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 now, this is pretty common and, it’s obvious that, you need to have the best content as a content writer or as a website or not. So that’s pretty straightforward.
Harshad: The second point. Does your content clearly demonstrate firsthand experience and depth of knowledge, for example, expertise that comes, that comes from having actually used a product of service or visiting a place. Now, this, I think is a very big signal that if you have a product review website or if you are reviewing a service or if you’re talking about a place, so I think it’s gonna target review websites and.
travel websites, right? So these websites maybe impacted a lot. So for example, if I am reviewing a product, which, I haven’t used, then maybe I might not be the right person to write a review on that product. Or maybe if I’m reviewing a place or if I’m writing about a place where I have never been to, I might not be the best person to do that and this yeah.
Venks: Yeah. Sorry to interrupt. yeah. Yeah, we were just discussing this a few days ago where we are seeing a number of reviews sites coming up, and they’re pretty much scraping reviews off Google maps and creating their own pages. Yeah. And the whole idea is to rank for those keywords, like service name, reviews, product name reviews, and get people to go to their site
and obviously the actual business behind those products or services would be very much interested in. Looking at these pages and making sure they’re right. And it’s an opportunity for them to sell, listing on their website, right? Yeah. They would say claim this profile for X dollars a month, because we are already ranking for these keywords.
So it’s almost like kind of borderline extortion in a way where they’re saying they’re ranking for your keyword. Yeah. Claim your profile, right? So it sounds like if you are not adding value and you’re just doing that and nothing else, I think we are gonna probably see a dip in traffic for those kind of websites, isn’t it?
Harshad: Yes, absolutely. And, also, the affiliates, right? Because a lot of people promote a service or, they write about a place, Hoping that page ranks. And then if someone buys through their link, they make money out of it. And this is where the next point comes in. does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
Now, what we have seen is a lot of news websites. For example, the recent example I saw was, meat delivery services. Now websites like Forbes and NY post are ranking for these, queries. And, I think there was, if you search for something like, which is huge, best weight loss pills now websites, news websites are ranking there and they straightaway rights onset content, or maybe they themselves are making money when someone purchases these pills.
Over here,, I might be wrong, but I will only know after the rollout is complete. But if the primary focus of your website is, producing news content, you have no business reviewing products and, writing about meat delivery services. I know it can be advertisements, it can be sponsored content, but then I think it should be no index.
Google should not index it. And, because the other experts who are writing. So for example, if I have tried 10 different deliveries, For meat delivery services and I have a firsthand experience and in depth knowledge of that, but I still won’t be able to rank because something like Forbes, which is a huge website, Yeah. With tons of back links, they will outrank me quite easily. So maybe Google is go to target that, and that will be good if they do that. Yeah.
Venks: Yeah. Cause it’s not their area of expertise, but they’re ranking purely based on their reputation. As in reputation in other industries, if that makes sense.
Harshad: Right. So if that happens, yes, that’s gonna be really big. after reading your content with someone, leave feeling, they have learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal. But this again is quite common. And Google always says that. So obviously if you are writing something, you need to pass on that information and.
Just think that, okay, I am giving you everything you need. You don’t need to go anywhere else to get this information anymore. So you call that ping pong effect. Google says there’s nothing called ping pong effect, but what happens is if someone clicks on your web page and then they don’t find it, they click back.
There’s a signal sent to Google that this is not eligible for that particular search query that page, but Google says something that does not exist, but we have seen that. Yes. it does,give a negative effect for your page. So let’s see if, Google accepts that fact and shows it, to us, in any of their blogs.
The next is will someone reading your content leave feeling like they have had a satisfying experience, same as the above point. they have to be satisfied. They don’t need to search again and go to another page. are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?
Again, like when I said this update, I won’t be surprised if travel websites and product review websites are the ones that are impacted. so yes. We will see that, like Google says, are you keeping in mind the core updates, what’s happening in the earlier updates and their guidance for product reviews.
So if you don’t know, Google has been writing a lot about product reviews, as well as to what they expect out of product reviews. When you write any reviews on your website. So are you aware of those, things. next they say, avoid creating content for search engines. First. Now there has been a lot and lot of buzz about people creating websites, called PAA websites.
So these websites are nothing, but people also ask websites. So what, people have done, and some people have done to an extent where they have created programs where they scrape the people also ask questions, which are shown on Google. And then what they do is they scrape the answers as well. And they create blog posts based on that.
Now what is happening is these guys are creating thousands of posts and yeah, this is not a mistake from me. Yes. Thousands of posts in a day, and those websites are seeing huge traffic. Huge traffic. And then these are monetized by, display ads like adsense or other, providers out there.
So that’s how they’re making, money. so maybe Google is trying to target these websites as well. Okay. Because this content is only created for search engines okay. It’s all copy pasted content. it’s taken from other websites, but just because I think they get,an advantage on the freshness because the website is fresh all the time.
So that sends a signal to the Google AI that, okay. This website. it is fresh. It is creating content on a regular basis. So let’s try and rank them basically what they do with news websites as well. So I think, again, this is a loophole in the AI, which people find, and Google will try and fix that loophole in this update.
how do you
Venks: a big part of it is. You can’t just copy paste content and have tools to help you in that process and benefit out of it. You have to add some value in the process. Cause if you’re probably,giving your own take on something,if you’ve reviewed a product and you tell the public what you think about it.
I think that is a good thing. Although if you’re just aggregating content, just pure aggregation and nothing else. I don’t think you’re adding value in the process. And I feel like that might even have a more far reaching impact than we sometimes think. It’s not just potential spammers that can get impacted, but also real aggregation businesses.
Cause there’s a lot of sites out there that are popular and they all are they’re doing is just aggregating content from different sources. So they could potentially see a big impact to their, traffic because of this.
Harshad: yes. So there are two types of, aggregating websites, aggregators. So one which is quite good, like the legal ones, what they do is they will have all the content taken from other websites, but there is like an RSS feed.
And then you click on that link and go to the original website. But these websites are not those websites. They just take the content. That’s it, they don’t give you a link back or they won’t say originally posted on us. So yes, let’s hope that these websites are targeted by Google. is the content primarily to attract people from search engines rather than made for humans.
Again, you know what we have been discussing? So is it for humans? No, it’s just for search engines to rank better and, get traffic. are you producing lots of content or different topics in the hope that some of it might perform well in the search results. Now this, again, you have a website it’s not performing.
So what you think is, okay, let’s try and write about this, right? So if you have a website on fitness, you might be writing about a topic, which is, a medical topic. Now, Google will not consider your website. As you are not a medical expert. So if you’re in a fitness niche, stick to the fitness niche. So something like that, don’t just, try and do something and just wait for something to stick. are you using extensive automation? we spoke about that thousands of block posts in a day using PAAs. Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
So are you just reading the content that is there on the internet and writing it in your own words? Are you just rewriting content? are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you would write about them otherwise for your existing audience. So Google trends, there’s a lot of,people who give tips and they say, oh, go to Google trend.
See, what’s trending write about that. You’ll start, getting traffic. So no, that’s not going to work. Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources? Absolutely. Yes. So this is which was covered earlier as well. Now, when the person lands on our website, you need to make sure that whatever the person is looking for is answered on your page.
The person need not go back search again, to find a better answer. Are you writing to a particular word count because you have heard or read that Google has a preferred word count. Again, it started with 300, years back then went to 500 and now it’s thousand – 1200. Don’t go by those number of words. It makes no sense.
Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any expertise, but instead, mainly because you thought you would get search traffic again, this niche has a lot of money. This niche doesn’t have any competition. These are low volume keywords. don’t get into all that. If you have expertise on it, write about it, you will get traffic.
Venks: I’ve just got a thought on the previous point, which is trying to meet a particular word count. And I’m not sure if Google has a part to play in that as well, because. What people have done is basically just seen what ranks well, and they’ve seen each site having 1200 word count and they said, we have to be doing that to stand a chance.
If they saw a good mix of 1200 word counts with say three or 400 word counts, then they would not do it. So I think some of this problem might be Google’s own making in some way where. People are just seeing what works and they’re doing more of it. And now Google is saying, don’t do it. So what’s the hope.
Can I create a 300 word article, which gives a lot of value to the point and have it rank? I don’t know. So it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out.
Harshad: Yeah. So what Google says is there’s a yes and no answer to it. yes, you need to have a long article because if you need to have that, topic covered in depth, then it has to be long.
But if it need not be like, for example, when is the next,soccer match between X and Y team. So the next soccer match between X and Y team is on this and this. So Google wants that. what people do is especially content writers is that, they’ll try and write more words, and it’ll, go in some other area.
So that’s what Google says, keep it to the point. Number of words, do not matter,and we did you decide to enter some this year? We covered that. does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product will be a TV show when one isn’t confirmed.
I think we discussed this, venks and you have a good example. Can you share that? I’ve seen this
Venks: a lot. I like a show and I want to see if there’s a next season coming and I look it up and I’m sure I get 10 articles and then I click through. They tell me everything that happened in season one, they tell me everything that happened in season two, and then they don’t really answer the question.
When is season three coming? Because even they don’t know the answer, but the title leads me to believe that they have the answer. So I think what Google is trying to do here is if you don’t know the answer, don’t make that as a key. Attraction for people to click on and say, okay, we have the answer cuz you don’t.
Yeah. And I wouldn’t be unhappy if that happens, if that gets penalized, because it ties back to the earlier point about, did the user have a satisfying experience and they didn’t so yeah,
Harshad: totally get it. I remember one, because I don’t watch TV shows. And also, I don’t know much about TV shows, but when Michael Jackson died, there, there was someone who was doing titles like Michael Jackson is not dead.
Okay. because there were a lot of speculations that he’s actually not dead. He’s alive somewhere. Yeah. And just like Elvis Presley and all that. so yeah. so Michael Jackson is not dead. That was the title. And then the post says, oh, he is not dead. He’s still in our hearts and all that. let’s click bait as well.
The iPhone fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, people are writing about it. Even maybe people at apple don’t know what’s gonna be in iPhone 16, but still people are writing about it, assuming that, okay, this might be the added functionality, so yeah. Makes no sense. But yeah, these posts are just for entertainment, but they do rank and hopefully Google will stop ranking them after this update.
yeah. How does the update work? we are not gonna read everything, but mainly it’s gonna be a site wide signal. Okay. so if you have unhelpful content that is not helpful, your whole website will be impacted, not just those pages. Removing unhelpful content will help rankings of your other content. Now this is huge. Okay. Because, a lot of times, Google, has been saying that we rank pages, we don’t rank websites. Okay. But over here they are clearly saying that if you remove some content from your website, which is not helpful, that will help the other content on your website rank.
okay. So if you think, go to Google analytics, do your, Thing and see for the last six months. What are the pages that got, very less traffic or maybe no traffic, or rank math is a very good WordPress, plugin that does that for you as well.
Harshad: And, if you think it’s not helpful, if you read it and you think, oh, it’s not making sense, just get rid of it. And that may help your other pages rank. so this is big,something which people who will suffer after this update may want to know. So, this is really a good thing that Google is doing, that they’re telling what is going to help.
apart from that, they say that it’s not going to be a manual action. So don’t go to your Google search console and look for any messages there. Google is not going to tell you, whether your website has been affected. If your website is affected, obviously you’ll know with the traffic going down, Yeah.
Harshad: And the signal is also weighted sites with lots of unhelpful content will notice a stronger effect. So obviously if your website has lot of unhelpful content, your traffic will be impacted a lot compared to websites who have. Lesser unhelpful content. They will not see much issues with the traffic.
the last one, this impacts English, sites only. So you can, create websites in other languages and spam the hell out of them. So this is what is saying. So it gonna be only English. Yeah. And, I think obviously it’ll roll out to other languages as well, but as of now it’s gonna affect English websites.
Venks: I think it’s a matter of time. They probably just want to tackle English searches. To start with, but it’s not long before they actually move onto the other languages. Yeah. Yeah. I think that was quite a key point. You highlighted where the whole site can benefit by removing unhelpful content or penalized, even if some pages have unhelpful content.
I don’t know, historically if that has been the case, but it sounds like.Now Google is beginning to tie the whole reputation of the site as a whole, depending on what individual pieces of content is doing within that site. So that’s quite a key thing to look out for. Absolutely.
and also they are telling us that, removing this content will help.
Harshad: So earlier when, people used to go to Google and ask, oh, my site is, it is, affected by this core update, what should I do? And they say, oh, just go there and read the Google guidelines. But now after this update, if the website goes down, people know what to do. So that’s really helpful.
Venks: Yeah. Just on this topic, my 2 cents. On this particular topic, besides everything that we’ve covered, which has been quite helpful is I like technology, automating things. That doesn’t mean? I think AI generated content is the way to go, but I feel like there’s a lot you can benefit out of using it, but not just rely on it.
100% taking into consideration people who are not native English speakers. If they were to write content just by themselves, they might not write it as well. Or they might not use certain keywords because it’s not in their vocabulary. So I think they could actually benefit from using a tool like this. To get half of the way there.
You still need to proofread all the content that comes out of these tools to see whether that still makes sense, whether there’s helpful content sitting in there, or maybe add more on top of it. And I feel like that balance is probably going to be more helpful overall, as opposed to writing each piece of content just by yourself.
that’s my take on it.
Harshad: Yeah. What I feel is that, because I have a major writer’s block and I think a lot of people, do have that. but an AI tool can help you to get out of that, get started. I have a content brief for something and then, start writing on your own.
Okay. So that’s really important. And when you have that content, read it yourself and use tools like Grammarly to, because there are going to be a lot of grammar issues with AI content. And,so it’s make it 20, 80 or 30, 70, or something like that. Use the tool to get started, to get an idea.
But then most of it has to come with your experience, because AI tool can at times say wrong stuff as well. So if you don’t have expertise in that field. Okay. So for example, if I am into, let’s say technology or SEO, and if I start writing about, how to get rid of cancer, it’s not gonna make any sense, because the AI tool will write it for me.
I can put it on my website, but. Because I’m not a doctor. Google will see, Google will look at the whole website. Google will look at the EAT aspects as well. They will look at my expertise, authority and trustworthiness, and then Google is good to rank. So just because, there were things like, these niche, this niche is a high paying niche in Google Adsense , this niche has good affiliate offers.
Let’s create website in that. Don’t do all that because Google is smart and they will not rank your website.
Venks: Makes sense. We are running out of time, so we’ll wrap it up there, but look, I think that was a really useful episode. So as always, thank you for watching or listening to this episode. If you’re watching this on YouTube or LinkedIn or Facebook, please like, and leave a comment about your thoughts on this topic, do subscribe to our YouTube channel.
So you get notified about the next episode. We’re aiming to do this weekly. So there’s a lot of good content on digital marketing coming your way for past episodes. The easiest way to catch up is by going to https://broadweb.com.au/show. we look forward to seeing you again soon.
Harshad: Bye bye.