SEO impact of Google’s ‘Helpful Content Update(s)’ in 15 countries28. October 2022
On August 25 2022, Google seemingly started rolling out an update which concerned news publishers in particular. On September 12, they rolled out yet another core update. They called these ones the ‘Helpful Content Update(s)’ and here’s what happened:
Let’s start off with the basics: What is the ‘Helpful Content Update? It’s an update that mainly concerns news publishers and their visibility. Google’s main goal here seems to be weeding out content that is written for the sole purpose of getting a good ranking, but without containing any informational or helpful content for the reader and, vice versa, to reward content that is helpful to readers.
It is said that the second update – let’s call it the September-update – was more impactful than the first one – let’s call it the August-update. But let’s see for ourselves which interesting phenomena we were able to observe with the two updates:
The data shown is taken from our tool. We wanted to make sure to look at the most visible publishers for the generally freshest most newsworthy keywords based on Google News and Trends in the most prominent news-ranking type on the SERP to get the most impactful results for the publisher landscape. All rankings are based on a near realtime 15-minute crawling interval.
So, we used the following filter settings:
• KPI Dashboard → Mobile News Box
• Date Range: July 25 2022 – September 25 2022 (Week 30 – Week 38 2022)
• Top 10 Competitors
• All Ranking Types
• General Keyword Set
With those filter settings, we took a look at each of the following countries individually:
• Switzerland (German)
• Switzerland (French)
• United Kingdom
• United States (English)
• United States (Spanish)
For each country we then looked at each of Google’s categories to see whether we would find something extraordinary around the time the update was executed. Just as a reminder, the categories are:
• Top Stories
• Country-Specific News (e. g. ‘United Kingdom’, ‘Germany’ etc.)
* In some countries, Science and Technology are combined into one category
For each category we then picked out two countries, where there were obvious changes in the publishers’ visibility around the time of the updates to illustrate what we found. The other countries that were also affected are listed at the end of each category. The pictures show a selection of the most noticeable publishers out of the top 10.
Let’s have a look at what we found out:
(For your info: the two vertical dashed lines mark the two updates respectively).
For this category, we see that publishers in France have obviously been affected by both updates. While France Info‘s and Le Monde‘s visibility decreases with the August-update, we can see a slight rise in L’Équipe‘s visibility. Then, in week 36 (September 5 – September 11), something happens for all three of the publishers: their visibility graphs all change courses and France Info and Le Monde now go up in visibility, while L’Équipe’s falls.
Here we can observe that the two publishers El Financiero and Infobae have been affected by the updates as well: While El Financiero shows a rise in their visibility after the August-update, Infobae drops in visibility following the update. After the September-update, El Financiero then shows a visible drop as well.
Here we can see very visible changes for both updates. Both 20 Minuten and Blick rise in visibility after the August-update. Then, in week 36 (September 5 – September 11), 20 Minutes has its peak in visibility, while Blick already starts to drop. From week 36 to week 37, the week where the second update happened, both publishers display an extreme drop.
United States (Spanish)
For the Spanish-speaking U.S., the most affected publisher in the Country-Specific-news-category was The Washington Post. Here, we can perfectly see the effect of both updates: Before week 34, where the August-update took place, their visibility was on a steady rise, only to make a sharp twist after the update and drop in visibility. After the September-update, they then dropped even more steeply.
In the World-category, Argentina proves an ideal example for more obvious changes in visibility for publishers after the second update in September. While the August-update seemed to have little to no impact on Infobae and La Nación‘s visibility, the September-update led to both of their visibilities dropping drastically.
For Colombia, there was an increase in visibility after the August-update, especially for El Tiempo and Semana, while the visibility of El Espectador nearly stagnated. However, the visibility drops for all three publishers before the September-update and remains then at an almost constant level after it. Only El Espectador can regain visibility after the second update.
Even before the August-update, the visibility of the publishers in Peru for the Business-category changed: RPP lost and CNN gained visibility. Between the two updates, CNN again saw losses in visibility, but these evened out again towards the September-update. RPP was also able to build up visibility at first, but lost it towards and after the September-update. For El Comercio, there was a short term upswing after the August-update, but this flattened out again.
In the Business-category, for French-speaking Switzerland it can be observed that RTN loses a lot of visibility at the time of the August-update and is unable to make up for it during or after the updates. Le Temps on the other hand is able to increase visibility after the August-update, but loses it again in the week of the September-Update, only to regain visibility after this update.
Science & Technology
For the ‘Science & Technology’-category in Colombia, the graphs show that both El Tiempo and Semana increased in visibility after the August-update, but El Tiempo lost it again after the September-update. Semana on the other hand lost some visibility in the weeks between the updates, but increased it again after the September-update. For Infobae, the updates weren’t as successful: They lost visibility through the August-update, which they built up again in the meantime and lost it again through the September-update.
In the Science & Technology-category, French publishers have largely been able to maintain or even build their visibility after the August-update. However, both Jeuxvideo and Gamekult lost visibility after the September-update. Only Le Monde increased its visibility after both updates.
In the Australian ‘Entertainment’-category, News.com.au‘s visibility increased leading up to the August-update, only to then show an extreme drop that lasted until the week of the September-update. This one lead to the visibility-curve flattening again.
For U.K. publishers in the entertainment-category, the two updates showed significant influences on the visibility, as can be seen above for the Daily Mail and the Mirror. Both publishers show an increase in their visibility leading up to Week 34. Then, when the August-update takes place, both of their visibilities drop significantly. For the Mirror, the graph drops continuously, even through the September-update, but for the Mirror, this second update makes them drop even more in terms of visibility.
In the Canadian ‘Sports’-category. TSN held visibility during the August-update, but lost it slightly in the week before and during the September-update but then gained it back after update. CBC‘s visibility on the other hand went the other way: before the August-update, their visibility increased significantly, and then dropped off slightly at the time of the September-update and in the following week.
There is a really exciting insight in the ‘Sports’-category for the German publishers: Their course is almost identical. In the week before the first update in August, both Bild and Kicker first lost visibility and then increased it again in the week before the update and afterwards. However, Bild then continued to increase in visibility in the week leading up to the September-update, while Kicker’s visibility dropped. But then Bild lost significant visibility with the September-update. In contrast, Kicker regained visibility in the week of the September-update, but lost it in the week after the update, just as Bild did, too.
In the ‘Health’-category, Austrian publishers Der Standard and ORF were able to significantly increase in visibility after the August-update and also bring this increase through the September-update with slight fluctuations. In contrast, both Kurier and Vienna.at lost visibility after the August-update, but were also able to make up for this after the September-update.
In the U.S. ‘Health’-category, the progressions seem to be very identical between NPR and The New York Times, because initially, both lost visibility after the August-update. However, NPR continued to lose visibility until the September-update. After that, the visibility for them increased slightly again. For The New York Times on the other hand, things got a bit more turbulent: First, they regained visibility between the two updates only to lose it significantly in the week of the September-update and regain it in the week after the update.
In the COVID-19-category in Brazil, the three publishers Globo, Abril and UOL show little to no changes in their visibility in the week of the August-update. In week 36 though, which went from September 5 to September 11 and marks the week immediately before the September-update, both Abril and Globo drop in their visibility, while UOL rises. For Globo, this drop continues throughout the September-update and UOL continues to rise, only Abril is able to catch itself again and flatten the curve.
In the German ‘COVID-19’-category, DER SPIEGEL particularly gained visibility in the week leading up to the August-update and then slowly lost it again through the August-update until the September-update. Through the September-update, the trend for DER SPIEGEL went up again. The picture is different for Die Zeit: Here, the publisher lost visibility in the week before the August-update and regained it through the August-update. They were also able to maintain this visibility with slight reductions in the time between the updates. However, they then lost visibility dramatically through the September-update.
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