What Is Google’s Helpful Content Update?


Have You Heard The News?

Anyone who follows SEO-related news has probably heard about the new update announced by Google on August 18, 2022, called the ‘helpful content’ update.

via GIPHY

This update heralds a big change in how Google will rank websites. As such, it’s important that you understand why Google is rolling this update out, how it is expected to work and how it may affect both your SEO rankings and your local SEO company’s approach to content strategy.

The new helpful content update is Google’s latest effort to make sure the sites they choose to rank at the top of search engine results are relevant, high-quality and satisfying to Google users.

This concept in general is nothing new, but the helpful content update is a new tool that will help Google accomplish their mission.

Google’s goal is to showcase original content that is likely to satisfy the searcher by meeting their expectations because it has been written by people, for people—not by AI software for search engine results.

How Does The Helpful Content Update Work?

The helpful content update works by introducing a new ranking signal that applies across an entire website to indicate whether the overall content on a given site displays expertise, authority and trustworthiness.

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Google’s automated systems will use the signal, along with other pre-existing signals, to determine whether a site is producing high-quality content that meets the needs of readers who seek it out.

Google uses a machine-learning model to automate the classifier process that evaluates sites and determines if they should be considered helpful or unhelpful, along with other metrics that affect ranking in search engine results. If a site has been determined to feature high volumes of unhelpful content, any content on that site—including content that actually is helpful—is less likely to rank well in the search results.

However, some content that is relevant and “people-first” can still achieve a good ranking even if it is located on a site that has been flagged as unhelpful, as long as that particular content is marked with other signals indicating it is trustworthy and authoritative.

Website owners and content managers should understand that the signal is weighted, which means the more unhelpful content that appears on a site, the heavier the penalty in search rankings.

When Is The Helpful Content Update Rolling Out?

Google will begin rolling out the helpful content update during the week of August 22, 2022, and will take up to two weeks to fully roll it out. It will initially only impact English language searches, though Google does plan to include other languages in the helpful content update in the future.

Google will also refine the process and tune the classifier system over the next couple of months so that the algorithm can better identify unhelpful content and reward relevant, people-first content that is written to inform, entertain and engage real readers.

Expert Options

Here's what the experts have to say:

Bruce Clay

Much like the now ancient Penguin penalty update, I expect the update to be in this sequence with weeks between waves:

  • Worst offenders.
  • Bad offenders.
  • Certain offenders.
  • Probable offenders.
  • Innocent offenders.
  • The rest of us.

Nobody is expected to be immune, but time will tell. The trick is to have written great content for users, not to have mediocre content or a lot of content. It is all about user-centric quality site-wide content.

Bruce Clay
Bruce Clay, Inc.

Dennis Yu

This "helpful" content update has been a long time coming.  The folks who create real content with real people on real sites have nothing to worry about. The shady SEOs who are using AI tools and automation to generate garbage-- well, they will need to finally start abiding by EAT.

The smart marketers are asking about GPT3 tools and wondering when Google will be able to spot AI-generated content.   I think it's less about exact techniques to evade Google and more about creating content so strong and so helpful that not only could a robot not generate it, but it's from industry authorities.

As this "helpful content" update rolls out, co-created content (like podcasts and interviews) will carry more weight, especially by smart marketers who know how to repurpose content across many channels.

Again, not to do "Google stacking" or to auto-post via some tool, but because we can reach more people in more formats thoughtfully, with real humans responding in the comments. I believe Google will increasingly use human signals (RankBrain and GA-derived data) beyond just the algo-only rules in this latest update.

Dennis Yu
Blitz Metrics

 

How Do You Know If You’re Producing Helpful, People-Centric Content?

By this point, you’re probably wondering how to tell if your content is going to be considered helpful by Google.

Keep in mind that Google isn’t actually introducing new content guidelines—they’re just rolling out a new method of determining which sites are following their long-standing guidelines for creating content that is written by people, for people.

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Here are some indications that you’re on the right track and are producing people-centric content that is helpful for those who visit your site:

  • Your website has a primary focus or specific purpose. For example, a business site dedicated to selling a particular product or suite of services, or an entertainment site focused on satirical humor.
  • Content demonstrates a great depth of knowledge and/or first-hand expertise. For example, it contains information from professional experts on the topic at hand, or relays first-hand anecdotes.
  • Content is useful and relevant to the specific audience for your website or business.
  • After reading the content, the user feels like they’ve learned enough information or extracted enough value to satisfy their reason for visiting the site.
  • You are following Google’s guidelines in relation to core updates and product reviews, where relevant.

What Are The Warning Signs Your Content Is Not Helpful?

Still not sure if your current content strategy is really in line with Google’s new helpful content update? Here are some of the warning signs that indicate you could be penalized in search engine results for unhelpful content:

  • Content is primarily intended to get people to click through to the website.
  • Your website features content on a wide range of disjointed topics that are selected to perform well in search engine results, but don’t fit into the overarching purpose or topic of your site.
  • Content is produced with automated, AI software rather than written by actual human writers.
  • Content merely summarizes information from other sources rather than providing unique value.
  • Components such as the title and meta description are misleading about the type of content on the corresponding page.
  • Content is overly long for the topic, or not long enough to provide the necessary information.
  • There’s an implication that the content can answer a question that isn’t really answerable, such as the premiere date of a television show that hasn’t been announced yet.

What Should You Do With Old, Unhelpful Content?

Because sites that contain unhelpful content will be penalized after the helpful content update rolls out, you’ll want to either remove or revamp all content that falls into the unhelpful category—even if the overall website is a mixture of helpful and unhelpful content.

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It’s worth noting that you don’t have to cope with the stress of getting that task accomplished before the update rolls out—the classifier for the helpful content update will be running continuously, so sites that are improved over time can still benefit from removing unhelpful content and replacing it with helpful content.

At Digital Shift, we’ve focused on creating helpful, original and valuable content for readers since day one, so you can rest assured that any content written by us shouldn’t be heavily penalized. On the off chance that one of your articles is, we’ll make revamping it a priority to ensure that the newest Google updates works in your favor rather than against it.

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