What to Know About Google’s Helpful Content Update

Google is constantly working on improving how people are able to find information on the Internet. To that end, they have recently finished rolling out their latest update at the beginning of September. Named the “helpful content update,” this update ensures searchers find “more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.”

In short, Google wants to make sure people are writing and creating content for people, not just search engines. Here’s everything you need to know about this new update.

What is Google’s helpful content update?

This algorithm update targets content that’s been written for the purpose of just ranking. This content tends to be low-quality and unhelpful. Google has created a new site-wide signal to identify low-quality content.

The goal is to make actual helpful content easier to find while deprioritizing content that’s been written for the express goal of gaming the algorithm. This goes for any content so it will be important to remove unhelpful content so it doesn’t affect the rest of your content.

Google is using a machine learning algorithm to evaluate and identify unhelpful content. The algorithm is expected to become more refined over time as Google’s engineers make improvements and the algorithm learns more.

What type of content will be impacted?

The helpful content update will impact content that’s been historically written to perform well with search engines instead of people like:

  • Online educational materials
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Shopping
  • Tech-related articles

Focus on creating people-first content, not search engines

You shouldn’t notice anything as long as you’re creating helpful, people-first content. Google has provided some questions to ask yourself about your content to make sure you’re keeping real people front of mind during the creating process:

  • Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
  • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  • After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  • Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
  • Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?

Google also has a list of questions to avoid making content primarily for search engines:

  • Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
  • Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  • Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
  • Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
  • Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
  • Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
  • Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t).
  • Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
  • Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?

What to do if Google’s tags your content as ‘unhelpful’

If the helpful content update negatively affects your website, it could take several months to recover. You will need to prove that you’re actually creating helpful content for real people and not search engines. There are two options for remedy: remove the unhelpful content or update it based on Google’s guidelines. Since the algorithm continuously runs, you can eventually work off that classification.

If you think your content has been mistakenly marked as unhelpful, you can send feedback to Google through this form. While Google won’t take direct action on content sent in through this form, they may use it to refine the algorithm further.

It remains to be seen how Google’s helpful content update will impact search results. We recommend keeping an eye on your rankings to make sure nothing drastic has changed.

Do you need help with your search engine optimization strategy? Graphic Language has over 25 years of experience crafting effective SEO strategies that elevate your website in search results. Contact us to schedule a SEO audit today.