Understanding Google Algorithm Updates: Helpful Content, Product Reviews, and Core Updates
Master Google's latest updates and improve your content quality.
Google is constantly updating and refining its algorithms to provide the most relevant and useful search results for its users. In recent years, there have been several major updates that have had a significant impact on SEO and website rankings. In this article, we’ll explore three of the most important updates: the Helpful Content Update, the Product Reviews Update, and the Core Updates.
Helpful Content Update By Google
The Helpful Content Update was announced and rolled out in August 2022. It introduced a new concept in the SEO space, a sitewide classifier that identifies unhelpful content. This classifier is designed to identify content that is primarily written for search engines rather than users.
If the majority of a website’s content is considered unhelpful, this classifier can be applied to the site, potentially impacting the rankings for the entire site.
Google is using machine learning to refine the helpful content update classifier over time, meaning it will continue to evolve and impact sites in the future. While the update only lasted for two weeks in August 2022, it is likely that Google will continue to use the helpful content update classifier in future updates.
There are 2 key concepts to take note – which should already be part of what you consider when producing content.
Creating Winning Content: Prioritize People's Experience
Google’s helpful content update favors content that leaves visitors satisfied and meets their expectations. So, how do you ensure your content is a winner? Simple. Prioritize people-first content creation.
By providing value and relevance to your intended audience, while following SEO best practices, you can make sure your content is well-received. Ask yourself the following questions to check if your content is on the right track:
- Is your content useful to your target audience?
- Does your content showcase first-hand expertise and knowledge?
- Does your site have a clear focus?
- Does your content help readers achieve their goals?
- Does your content leave readers feeling satisfied?
Put People First, Not Search Engine
Following SEO best practices is important for creating people-first content, but optimizing solely for search engines can lead to unsatisfying content for users. We recommend prioritizing your audience when creating content, while still using SEO techniques to add value for searchers.
To avoid focusing solely on search engines, ask yourself these questions:
- Is my content created primarily for search engines instead of for humans?
- Am I producing a large amount of content on various topics just to improve my search rankings?
- Am I relying heavily on automation to create content?
- Am I summarizing content from other sources without adding anything new or valuable?
- Am I writing about trending topics that don’t align with my audience’s interests or needs?
- Do readers feel unsatisfied after reading my content and have to search for additional information elsewhere?
- Am I writing to a specific word count because I think it’s preferred by Google? (Hint: It’s not!)
- Am I writing about a niche topic area without having any real expertise just because I want to attract search traffic?
- Does my content make false promises or give inaccurate information to attract clicks?
By focusing on your audience and their needs, you can create content that both satisfies readers and performs well in search results.
Product Review Update By Google
Google introduced a series of Product Reviews Updates in 2021 to refine its algorithms for product review content. The Product Reviews update aims to highlight high-quality product reviews that provide original research and insightful analysis, written by experts or enthusiasts who know the topic well, while demoting low-quality, affiliate-driven reviews that don’t add value for users.
How the Product Reviews Update Works
The update is designed to prioritize product reviews that offer valuable research and analysis, rather than superficial content that simply lists a bunch of products. It evaluates product review content on a page-level basis, and for sites with substantial product review content, a site-wide evaluation may be conducted. If your site has minimal product reviews, a site-wide evaluation is less likely.
To meet Google’s criteria for high-quality product reviews, content creators must demonstrate expertise and deep knowledge of the products they review. This means providing evidence such as photos or videos of themselves using the product to demonstrate that they have spent significant time analyzing and understanding it.
This update applies to English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Russian, Dutch, and Portuguese globally. While structured data can assist in identifying product reviews, it is not the sole factor in the evaluation process.
The Product Reviews Updates have caused significant volatility in search results, with some sites winning and others losing rankings. E-commerce sites may also see gains or losses in rankings as a result of these updates.
Write High Quality Product Reviews
Writing high-quality product reviews can be very beneficial for shoppers, and there are some best practices you should follow to help your reviews stand out in Google Search and other Google surfaces.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Look at the product from a user’s perspective and consider what they would want to know before making a purchase.
- Demonstrate that you are knowledgeable about the products you’re reviewing, and provide evidence to support your expertise.
- Share quantitative measurements about how the product performs in different categories of performance.
- Explain what sets the product apart from its competitors and cover comparable products to consider.
- Discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the product based on your own research.
- Describe how the product has evolved from previous models or releases to provide improvements.
- Identify key decision-making factors for the product’s category and how the product performs in those areas.
- Describe key choices in how the product has been designed and their effect on users.
- Include links to other useful resources to help readers make a decision.
- Consider including links to multiple sellers to give readers the option to purchase from their merchant of choice.
- When recommending a product as the best overall or the best for a certain purpose, include first-hand supporting evidence.
- Ensure there is enough useful content in your ranked lists for them to stand on their own.
- Focus on the quality and originality of your reviews, not the length.
Remember, product reviews often use affiliate links, so it’s important to be transparent about any affiliate relationships you have. You should also avoid thin affiliate pages (see below).
By following these best practices, you can create high-quality product reviews that are valuable resources for shoppers.
Avoid 'Thin' Affiliate Pages
Pages that contain affiliate links to products, but lack original content or value-added information, are referred to as thin affiliate pages. Such pages copy product descriptions and reviews directly from the original merchant without adding any unique content.
Affiliate pages that belong to a program that distributes its content across a network of affiliates without adding any value are also considered thin. These pages often appear identical or nearly identical, with the same content replicated within the same site or across multiple domains or languages. If a search result page displayed several of these sites with the same content, the thin affiliate pages would create a frustrating user experience.
It’s important to note that not every site that participates in an affiliate program is a thin affiliate. Good affiliate sites add value by offering meaningful content or features, such as additional information about price, original product reviews, rigorous testing and ratings, navigation of products or categories, and product comparisons.
Google's Core Updates
Keeping up with Google’s ever-changing algorithms can be challenging for site owners and content creators. The Helpful Content Update, Product Reviews Update, and Core Updates are 3 of the most important recent updates to understand to succeed in SEO.
By creating high-quality content that prioritizes user experience, demonstrating expertise in product reviews, and understanding the factors that make a good website, site owners can position themselves for success in the ever-changing landscape of SEO.
Or you can simply save yourself the pain, contact us for our expertise and grow your business faster in a safer way today.