Google Updates Guidance On Helpful Content System and Discover Traffic

Google updated their Search Central Discover documentation to replace guidance about E-A-T with new guidance that shifts the focus toward recommending content that is helpful. The clarification in the guidance coincides with a simultaneous update to the Helpful Content System guidance that adds a mention of Google Discover content.

Google Discover is Part of Search

The changes to Google’s documentation underline the fact that Google Discover is a feature of Google Search.

It’s a way to surface content that is relevant to user interests, but without requiring users to type in keywords.

Although Discover is a part of search, Search Console offers a Google Discover report that provides data specific to Discover-based traffic (review Search Console Discover report here).

Google Removes Guidance About E-A-T

The Search Central Google Discover page removed a paragraph and added another one in its stead.

The paragraph that was removed related to the importance of cultivating content with the qualities of E-A-T.

E-A-T is an acronym for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, qualities that Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines recommend that the raters look for in certain kinds of content (like in the medial and finance niches).

This is what was removed:

“Our automated systems surface content in Discover from sites that have many individual pages that demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T).

Those looking to improve E-A-T can consider some of the same questions we encourage site owners to consider for Search.

While Search and Discover are different, the overall principles for E-A-T as it applies to content within them are similar.”

I wouldn’t take that as a sign that E-A-T (or E-E-A-T) is not a thing anymore.

The reason why the mention of E-A-T was removed probably has more to do with the concept of E-A-T being redundant when helpful content and the Helpful Content System is invoked in a Google Search Central documentation.

Google Recommends Helpful Content for Discover

The clarification to the Search Central documentation makes it clear that writing content that is helpful is important for qualifying for Discover traffic.

Advising people to create helpful content is more actionable than asking them to make their sites more E-A-T.

A considerable amount of misinformation and confusion has grown up around the topic of E-A-T.

The lack of explicitly actionable advice from Google about E-A-T left a vacuum for some to step in and offer their guesses as to how to manipulate the non-existent E-A-T ranking signal.

But that’s Google’s fault for not getting ahead of the E-A-T train before the SEOs left the station with it.

Guidance around Being Helpful Content System is significantly more actionable.

This is what Google added to the Search Central Discover documentation:

“As part of Google Search, Discover makes use of many of the same signals and systems used by Search to determine what is helpful, people-first content.

Given this, those looking for success with Discover should review our advice on creating helpful, reliable, people-first content.”

Again, I wouldn’t read too much into Google replacing the E-A-T related content with content that is related to the Helpful Content System.

Helpful Content System Applies to Google Discover

The Google Discover documentation doesn’t specifically mention the Helpful Content System in relation to qualifying for Discover traffic.

But the Search Central documentation was just updated to directly link Discover traffic to the Helpful Content System.
Google updated one of the paragraphs to include a mention of Google Discover. Aside from the inclusion of a mentio of Discover traffic, the paragraph remains relatively the same.

This is the original paragraph from Google’s Helpful Content System page:

“The system generates a site-wide signal that we consider among many other signals for ranking web pages.

Our systems automatically identify content that seems to have little value, low-added value or is otherwise not particularly helpful to those doing searches.”

This is the updated passage from the same webpage:

“The system generates a site-wide signal that we consider among many other signals for use in Google Search (which includes Discover).

The system automatically identifies content that seems to have little value, low-added value or is otherwise not particularly helpful to people.”

It’s likely not a coincidence that the Google Discover page was updated to encourage publishers to focus on Helpful Content on the same day that the Helpful Content System documentation was also updated to include Discover pages.

Does the Helpful Content Signal Affect Discover?

Despite the fact that the Helpful Content System documentation changed to Google Discover to the page, some confusion happened (hat tip to Barry Schwartz)

An ongoing discussion on Mastodon about Discover intersected with the updated guidance on the Helpful Content Signal and Discover Content.

John Mueller answered if the spam update and the helpful content update will affect Discover traffic.

John Mueller answered that it would be ready in March 2023:

“…it should be ready early March (things are a bit slower since the format is getting a visual revamp :-)). Patience?”

The next day Mueller linked to the updated Google Discover document, writing:

“…we have this now…”

Barry Schwartz followed up to ask when did the Helpful Content “Update” began affecting Google Discover.

This is where things became confusing.

Danny Sullivan answered:

“Discover doesn’t yet use it.

But the signal is available for use for anything in Google Search (including Discover), which is what the help page says.

We aren’t likely to confirm when/if it actually used just as we won’t for each search signal.

But generally, if you want to be successful with Discover, which is part of Search, it makes sense to pay attention to the things that are helpful with Search.”

At this point it’s helpful to refer back to the newly updated Helpful Content System documentation where it says:

How the helpful content system works

The system generates a site-wide signal that we consider among many other signals for use in Google Search (which includes Discover). The system automatically identifies content that seems to have little value, low-added value or is otherwise not particularly helpful to people.”

The change in the Helpful Content System documentation was specifically to add the word Discover into that section.

That change remains on the page so apparently nothing has changed?

Read and Compare the Documentation:

Original Discover Documentation

Updated Discover Documentation

Original Helpful Content Documentation

Updated Helpful Content Documentation

Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero

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