Google: Timing For Recovery For Helpful Content Update

Feb 12, 2024 - 7:31 am 354 by

Google Robot Classifier

Danny Sullivan, Google's Search Liaison, posted again about the timing around recovering from the helpful content update. He essentially repeated what Google said back when it first was announced, that the classifier is always running to check if content is helpful but it takes time to prove to Google that your efforts are long-term.

The issue came up when a thread on X spoke about how no one has seen a recovery for a site hit by the helpful content update. And to be honest, the September 2023 Google helpful content update was the most serious helpful content update - it adjusted its classifier to make certain "improvements." Since then, it seems there have been no recoveries for sites hit by that update.

Morgan Overholt wrote on X, claiming that Google's Search Liaison told her that "a site could recover within 2 weeks of making changes" specific to the helpful content update. In which, the Google Search Liaison said no, he did not say that. He wrote in response on X, "I don't recall giving a specific timeframe like that. It would be unusual for me to do so, because it's not what we say in our documentation. It's not something I've also said in posts when people ask about this. Apologies if I misspoke or perhaps confused this with something else."

He added that the help document says:

A natural question some will have is how long will it take for a site to do better, if it removes unhelpful content? Sites identified by this system may find the signal applied to them over a period of months. Our classifier runs continuously, allowing it to monitor newly-launched sites and existing ones. As it determines that the unhelpful content hasn't returned in the long-term, the classification will no longer apply.

Here are those posts:

The document also says:

This classifier process is entirely automated, using a machine-learning model. It works globally across all languages. It is not a manual action nor a spam action. Instead, it's just one of many signals Google evaluates to rank content.

This means that some people-first content on sites classified as having unhelpful content could still rank well, if there are other signals identifying that people-first content as helpful and relevant to a query. The signal is also weighted; sites with lots of unhelpful content may notice a stronger effect.

So then Daniel Hart asked if they needed to wait for the next time the helpful content update ran. The answer is no; as written above and in the original Google communication from 2022, it said that the classifier is always running, but part of that requires you to prove over several months that your content is committed to being helpful in the long run.

Daniel asked, "Does this mean that until the next updates, the classifier may be lifted or applied? Or is there a monthly, bi-monthly check?"

Sullivan replied:

The classifier is always running. If it sees a site has reduced unhelpful content, the site might start performing better at any time. IE: maybe someone made a change to reduce this several months ago. The classifier is checking checking checking and basically says, "Oh, I kind of think this has been a long term change" as the assessment shifts. It's not like you have to wait until the next time the classifier itself might get updated. We do update it from time to time to make it better, but sites that improve could see change independently of that.

Here are those posts:

As I wrote back in 2022 after interviewing Google about this update:

Google said the helpful content update system is automated, regularly evaluating content. So the algorithm is constantly looking at your content and assigning scores to it. But that does not mean, that if you fix your content today, your site will recover tomorrow. Google told me there is this validation period, a waiting period, for Google to trust that you really are committed to updating your content and not just updating it today, Google then ranks you better and then you put your content back to the way it was. Google needs you to prove, over several months - yes - several months - that your content is actually helpful in the long run.

Again, this last update, the September 2023 helpful content update was big and impactful to many. Those hit, if still in business, are praying for some type of recovery, after making changes to their content and website. But when will those ranking changes come, if ever, is the big question.

Forum discussion at X.

Update: We got more on this topic of recovering from the helpful content update.


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