Google's 'Helpful Content Update': when the information disagrees

By: Rob Corbidge, 20 September 2023

jigsaw puzzle pieces flying through clouds, monotone, dada style

The Helpful Content Update hoses down some sites and pushes Reddit and Quora content more to the fore, yet shows little traffic tracking disturbance.

Between Twitter/X, web forums and SEO tracking sites, it seems Google's Helpful Content Update is sending the usual mix of confusing signals.

Between people seeing their dreams dashed at the flick of a Google Update switch, forums hot  with webmasters seeing traffic falling like a sack of potatoes thrown off K2, yet reliable volatility trackers such a Semrush Sensor showing little in the way of traffic changes.

It's fair to say in such situations that human feedback trumps automated tracking, so the bias has to be to proceed on the basis of people saying they've been negatively affected.

Equally, it's important to note that the full effects of the HCU are yet to make themselves known, and that this is an initial phase.

Among changes that are becoming apparent, people are seeing both Reddit and Quora shoot up the results chart.

No small irony then that for at over a year, appending "reddit" to almost any search you made yielded more useful results than a straight Google search. We wrote about this in July last year.

There's some comfort in this. That Google have made an update accepting this search experience reality, it shows up their apparent smooth omniscience for the collection of bumbling business decisions that most companies make at one time or another. 

Now we wait for people to start to game Reddit and Quora more thoroughly.

The fact is, Google has too many competing objectives in search, and because it's an advertising business at heart, then its advertising that drives its core decisions. You can't blame a business for acting entirely in its own interests, and equally you can only blame yourself if you believe them when they wish to appear as neutral arbiters focused only on quality.

Say "Outlook India" to one of your SEO friends and watch them sigh. For a short while, it dominated results based on parasitical content. Google crushed it eventually (within the past few weeks) yet their constant refrain to "focus on good content" is utterly undermined by such search results even being possible.