How often do you click on a search result in Google, only to be disappointed with what you find? How often do you run into blog posts and other content that are too generic, too thin, or just not helpful at all?
Google is constantly working to improve the quality of its search results, and the latest Google update is designed to surface more helpful content – content that is “written by people, for people”.
The goal of our article is to break down Google’s new Helpful Content algorithm update and how it impacts search results.
What is the Helpful Content Update?
The Helpful Content Update is a change to Google’s algorithm that is designed to improve the quality of search results by prioritizing genuinely helpful content.
“The helpful content update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.”
What is helpful content?
“Helpful content” can be a pretty broad term, but in general, it refers to content that is written for people, not for search engines. People-first content is typically well-researched, well-written, and genuinely useful.
It’s the kind of content that you would want to read yourself, and it’s the kind of content that you would be happy to share with others.
Google has given a few specific questions content creators can ask themselves to determine whether or not their content is helpful:
- Is there a target audience for this content, and is the content written for that audience?
- Does the content clearly showcase your (or your team’s) expertise, depth of knowledge, or first-hand experience?
- Does your website as a whole have a primary purpose, and does this piece of content further that purpose?
- After reading this piece of content, will your readers feel like they understand the topic better?
- Is reading your content a satisfying experience overall?
- Does the piece of content follow Google’s core update and product reviews update?
If the answers to all of these questions is “yes”, then it’s likely that your content is helpful and will be rewarded by Google’s new update.
What to avoid when creating content
If you’re still unsure about what helpful content looks like, Google has also given some examples of content that will likely not perform well under the new update.
This includes content that is:
- Designed for the sole purpose of attracting search traffic and not for people
- Covering many unrelated topics in the hopes that at least some of them will rank
- Produced using extensive automation (such as AI generated content)
- Not adding much (or any) value and is simply summarizing other content already online
- Created solely because it is based on a ‘trendy’ topic that you wouldn’t otherwise write about
- Not enough to satisfy the reader’s needs on its own (requiring them to search for more information elsewhere)
- Based on an arbitrary word count or number of links that Google supposedly favors
- Created without any real expertise or knowledge of the topic
- Created to answer a question that doesn’t actually have an answer (such as a yet unannounced product release date)
How does the Helpful Content Update work?
Classifying content as helpful or not relies entirely on automation, using Google’s machine learning. It is not done by humans (not a manual process), nor is it a spam action.
Websites that are found to have high amounts of unhelpful content will not perform as well as they used to in search results, assuming there is better, more original helpful content out there.
Remember that the Helpful Content signal is just one of many ranking signals that Google takes into account when determining which search results to show. It is by no means the sole factor – plenty of other things like website performance and relevance and Core Web Vitals still matter.
The Helpful Content signal is also weighted. Websites that have a lot of unhelpful content may witness a more significant drop in traffic than those with just a few unhelpful pages.
What if one website has both helpful and unhelpful content?
This is likely to happen for most websites, as no website is perfect.
If your website has a lot of unhelpful content, it is likely that any website content – whether it is helpful or not – will not perform well in Google search results.
However, if other ranking signals identify your helpful content (even if surrounded by unhelpful content) as genuinely useful and relevant, it is still possible – though unlikely – for this useful content to rank well.
Will removing low-quality content help my website rank higher?
Absolutely. We would go so far as to say that removing or rewriting existing content is one of the best things you can do for your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Not only will it likely improve your rankings, but it will also improve the overall quality and usefulness of your website.
So, if your website is classified as unhelpful, and you remove or improve the unhelpful content, how long will it take for your website to see the results?
The bad news is that it won’t be quick. Google’s classifier does run non-stop, evaluating both new and existing websites, but it wants to make sure that unhelpful content won’t return to your website before it makes any changes to its classification. Currently, we can say that it could take a few months for any significant changes to be made.
When does the Google Helpful Content Update go into effect?
The Helpful Content Update was released in August 2022. As of September 9, 2022, the rollout was complete.
This means that all content in the English language (related to English searches) on the internet has been analyzed and classified by Google’s machine learning algorithms, and the new Helpful Content signal is now being used in Google’s ranking algorithms.
Content in other languages will be evaluated and classified in the future, but there is no timeline for this.
Does all of this mean that SEO is dead?
If anything, this update should show you that SEO is more important than ever. The Helpful Content Update confirms how much Google values quality content, and how they are constantly working to reward websites that provide it.
Google itself states that: “SEO is a helpful activity when it’s applied to people-first content.” It even provides an SEO starter guide for those who are new to the topic.
So, if you want your website to succeed, focus on creating a content strategy that is genuinely helpful to your audience. Everything else will follow.
The Helpful Content Update is Google’s latest effort to reward websites that provide helpful, valuable content to their users. The update uses machine learning algorithms to analyze and classify all content on the internet, and the new Helpful Content signal is now being used in Google’s ranking algorithms.
This update confirms how important quality content is to Google, and how much they are willing to invest in identifying and rewarding websites that provide it.
For more information on how to create high-quality content that will help your website rank higher, contact us today.