What You Need to Know About Google’s Helpful Content Update

Just as our phones and computers roll out updates to keep us operating on the best and fastest systems, Google is always working to connect users with better information to meet their needs. In August, Google began rolling out the “Helpful Content Update,” an update expected to impact sites, the content they contain, and the way SEO is approached.

The newest update is exactly what it sounds like: an update aimed at rewarding content that is written for humans rather than content designed with the main purpose of ranking well on searches.

This update is highly beneficial to searchers who will no longer be landing on sites with unhelpful content simply because the pages were designed to rank well. Content created specifically for search engine traffic has a strong correlation with content that users find unsatisfying.

Google said this is an “ongoing effort to reduce low-quality content and make it easier to find content that feels authentic and useful in search.” It makes sense why Google wants to promote sites with helpful content aimed at humans rather than search engines. As readers ourselves, it’s frustrating to click on a top-ranking page only to discover the information on the page doesn’t provide what you’re looking for.

The Rollout Date

The rollout began August 25th and is expected to take about two weeks to fully roll out. The update is sitewide so if Google identifies a high amount of your content as being unsatisfying for users, it may lead to a flag that affects your entire site and that may take a few months to remove after your site has been cleansed of poor-quality content.

a woman is typing on a computer

How The Helpful Content Update Works

Updating your site from primarily search engine-focused content to people-first content won’t increase your score overnight. It takes time for a site to prove itself to Google that it’s no longer producing content with the sole purpose of ranking. However, the algorithm will run automatically and constantly update, so as sites are determined to no longer have unhelpful content long term, the classification the algorithm uses to identify your site will no longer apply.

The update affects English searches globally with the plan to expand to other languages in the future. Throughout time the classifier will learn more about detecting unhelpful content to better reward people-first content, and we have no doubt this information will be folded into future core updates.

How Do You Know if Your Site’s Content is at Risk of Being Flagged?

If a majority of the content on your site was written with the purpose of ranking on search engines rather than to help the real users who digest the content or was written extensively using automation, then you’re a main target. The update will penalize unoriginal, low-quality content while rewarding sites that have multiple pages full of helpful content that users want and need.

If Your Site is at Risk of Being Affected by This Update, What is the Solution?

First, remove or revise content currently on the site that is unhelpful. If the content you’ve produced in the past was written primarily to rank on search engines and leaves readers heading back to Google for additional information after they’re done on your site, it’s time to revisit your approach.

Second, provide real expertise rather than generic information just to get search traffic. Your content should be original and add value to the topic rather than just summarizing what has already been said. If you cover a niche topic, stick with that topic, and don’t publish content that has nothing to do with your industry. This will decrease your topical authority, too.

Third, analyze, revise, consolidate, and expand content that has the potential to perform well but isn’t up to current standards. Breathing new life into your content is a great way to catch anything that might negatively impact Google’s perception of your content, but it’s also an excellent way to provide readers with new and/or updated information. Do you have five posts on your blog that all cover mattress storage? Now’s an opportune time to consolidate that content into a single, authoritative, lengthier article.

Tips for Creating People-First Content

Google provides the following advice in response to the question of how the content you’re creating will be successful with this update:

“By following our long-standing advice to create content for people, not for search engines. People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value.”

Google shared some questions will guide you in knowing whether the content you’re producing is on the right track. Remember: Google’s helpful content update isn’t encouraging you to ditch your SEO efforts. Instead it requires you to use satisfying, user-first content to drive your efforts.

The types of content Google expects to be impacted most include online educational materials, arts and entertainment, shopping, and tech-related content. This is because these areas have historically been filled with material written for search engines rather than humans.

Because the helpful content update is significant to how sites will be classified, it will play a major role in SEO recommendations related to content going forward. It’s not enough to just produce material that ranks well on search engines. The content you develop needs to benefit users by providing original, useful information.

We’d appreciate the chance to speak with you about your site’s content and how we can partner together to create people-first content that positively impacts your organic search and paid search programs and aligns with your company’s unique voice and brand. Request a free analysis of your digital marketing efforts today.

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