Recently Google has started rolling out a new algorithm update, as will many of the recent algorithm updates, this one also focuses on improving user experience and prioritising useful and knowledgeable website content. This update is being referred to as the helpful content update and has not finished rolling out yet.
The general understanding of this update is that it is another step in Google putting people first, engaging content should out perform content written just for SEO purposes. Site owners should ask themselves, ‘is this content useful to a user, or is it written solely with SEO in mind’, If the latter is true, you might find that your site will struggle with the new update.
Google have pointed out that this isn’t an attempt to stop SEO, “SEO is a helpful activity when it’s applied to people-first content”, this is an update to stop sites gaming the system and achieving rankings that isn’t in line with the content on the website.
Google is clear in the wording that this is not a penalty and, as such, it will not appear in Search Console as a manual action. This is more of a signal, of which Google has many and there is more information in their How Search Works documentation.
Despite this it may feel like a penalty if your site is hit by this update, it seems like it will take time to for this signal to be removed with updated content. New, improved, content may see this signal removed or reduced once the algorithm picks it up.
When this update was announced, many thought it would have a big impact in search results and could see some big movements in rankings. So far this doesn’t appear to have materialised and there has been very few reports of big ranking movements. We will see if this is something that penalises sites over time rather than immediately.