Surviving Google's Helpful Content Update (Surviving Helpfulgeddon)
by Mike LevinMonday, December 12, 2022
After all the hype about ChatGPT lately, I decided to dive in and give it a go yesterday. I kicked the tires earlier when it was announced, but not until Sunday did I run a few tests which included:
- Seeing what ChatGPT knew about Linux.
- Seeing what ChatGPT knew about Microsoft Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)
- Seeing What ChatGPT knew about my field of SEO (search engine optimization)
- Asking ChatGPT to tell a story that connects the dots between these three.
The results were as startlingly cool to me as they’ve apparently been to the rest of the world over the past week or two. ChatGPT does change things. It does write better than most humans. Maybe not better than a human writer, but hey come on, how many humans really write? It’s a lot like reading books. You get out of school, and that’s basically the last book most human adults have ever read, much less continuing to refine writing skills throughout life. That’s where ChatGPT steps in.
This makes me reflective. In my field of SEO, if doorway pages and low-value content was easy to produce before, well now we can just have new content flowing out onto the Internet for little more reason than media-manipulation at a faster rate than all the readers of content in the world could ever consume. Humanity has basically just created infinite never-ending stories of a reasonable quality. Those who like mental candy that doesn’t dive deep into nutritional value for the mind and soul would probably be perfectly happy skimming ChatGPT output in their feeds for the rest of their lives.
Something’s going to change. All the content we made in the past of this sort is going to be caught up in the sort of filters Google and others must implement to contend with the content deluge. That’s probably why Google is taking away the estimated number of pages on a site when you do a Google search with the site: modifier. It used to (and still does sometimes) give an estimated count of how many pages Google knows about and is willing to serve from a site, and people in my industry could use that as a clue of how well we were doing. Bigger site, bigger net, more traffic no more.
So what to do?
Step #1: Forget the past
The principles of SEO that have worked for so many years have been based, more or less, on the stupidity of the process. PageRank and all the other layered-on processes, while effective at first, are easily gamed. Pile on the in-bound links, keep tweak “striking distance” pages based on SEO best practices, and write new content based on GAP Analysis, linking them into your site structure to reinforce page-topic. Lather, rinse, repeat. We used to think of our sites as nets to capture traffic and a big role of the SEO was to make that net both larger and tighter-kit. Forget all that. A world of tight-knit nets throws off the rules of the game. The signal-to-noise ratio suffers. Web content becomes less helpful. The whole search system collapses under its own weight.
My Long-Tail Didn’t Migrate
Not long ago, I migrated my main site off of WordPress. I tried to keep all the blog URLs in-place so as to not lose all that long-tail traffic that kept pouring in. For lack of any better pages on the Internet, if you published a page that had all the words of the search on the page, yours would be served. This is no longer true. Google filters those long-pages that go for pure probability-driven big keyword intersection-matrices. The long-tail is being filtered. The great unwashed masses are no longer being listened to. New smarter processes look at a broader array of signals and make determinations about what pages should be served on what keywords more as a human would. My site never recovered after the migration.
Step #2: Nuke The Place From Orbit
How could this not be an opportunity? I can conduct tests now without fear of losing past assets, because those assets have been mostly burned. I’ll retire tons of content, probably keeping the URLs intact, but otherwise removing all links to them, sending them into a deep, deep archive from which I could pull things out again, but for now it’s best to lay a new and better site on top of the same space, only occasionally keeping the old URLs and content that are actually still working. And I’ll essentially do this from scratch, looking at the data of Google Analytics, Search Console and others. Clean mind. Clean slate. As one of my favorite and most misquoted movie lines goes: Nuke the place from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.
Don't you see Simplicity Is what the mind is craving? Make it so And truth will glow Just like the path you're paving.
The next step is the tricky one.
And then become consistent about your commitment.
And then listen to feedback and treat it as manipulatable data.
Learn and teach the skills you’re learning about collecting and manipulating data.
Listen particularly closely to the highly engaged, interested or otherwise interactive in your audience. You’ve connected with them. This is Calvin, Luke, Scott, Joe, ZoroNoa01, ComputerChronicles and others.
So what do I bring to the table really, with my original content?
Well, a clear path onto Linux, Python, vim & git (for the uninitiated). Yeah, sounds cult-ish. So be it.
We all have an inner voice. We do channel. Shhh! You hear that? That’s not your inner voice. That’s the sound of my voice in your head. Your inner voice told you to let me in.. That’s entanglement.
Much of what you think is your inner voice is the happenstance entanglements that hang on in your head as a result of your circumstance in life. You can start the process of sorting you from them right now.
- Surviving Helpfulgeddon
- Best Foot Forward (BFF) SEO
- A long journey from a long-tail
- All your tricks, an awesome list