Helpful Content Update: A Guide to Google’s Latest Algorithm Update

Brandon Woods
Published: Aug 25, 2022
Last Updated:
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Google regularly provides algorithm updates to its platform. These updates are meant to improve search engine rankings and make it easier for people to find useful content. The latest algorithm update is Google’s “Helpful Content Update,” which is expected to make significant changes to search engine rankings, impacting websites that rely on organic traffic.

What Is Google’s Helpful Content Update?

The Helpful Content update is designed to devalue content Google finds…unhelpful. Over the next few weeks, the update will roll out and send site-wide signals based on the quality of your content. The goal of this update is to ensure search engine results provide content designed for people, not just to rank well on search engines. 

Key Takeaways From Google’s Helpful Content Update

Some important things to note, based on this content update:

  • The update began August 25, 2022, and it is expected to take up to 2 weeks to complete.
  • This is a site-wide update, which means that if a large amount of your content is unhelpful, it can negatively impact your entire website. 
  • This update is an automated process using machine learning to determine how much of your site’s content is helpful.
  • Initially, only English searches will be impacted, with plans to expand to other languages in the future.
  • According to Google, after you’ve removed the unhelpful content from your website, it can take months for your site to do better. The signal applied to your website by this update establishes a classification that is only removed when it determines your website no longer produces unhelpful content over a long-term period.

How to Prepare for Google’s Helpful Content Update

The best thing you can do for your website is to remove unhelpful content. As the update rolls out, we’ll have a clearer understanding of what Google deems to be unhelpful vs. helpful content. At this moment though, the only indicator is that helpful content is designed for people first, not search engines. 

Tips And Resources for Google’s Helpful Content Update: 

There are several resources, checklists, and tools you can use to determine if your content is helpful for the user. Try out these various methods to improve your content, remove unhelpful content, and maintain or even improve your search engine ranking.

Don’t Panic or Make Rush Changes: Expect Volatility in Google SERPs

We still don’t have a lot of information of what this new update will target or impact. While there are some ideas and educated guesses floating around, the best thing you can do is take your time and see how it’ll impact you. Keep in mind that it takes 2 weeks for the update to complete rolling out and it takes months to change your website from unhelpful to helpful in Google.

Review Your Content to Make Sure It’s Written For People

While there’s still no solid definition of what is considered helpful content, this is the perfect opportunity to perform a content audit on your website and identify what is poor. Use tools such as Google Search Console to identify poor performing content. Google released a list of questions you should ask to determine if your content is helpful: 

  • 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?

Tips to Ensure Your Content is Helpful and Unique

  • Always provide insights and key takeaways that others aren’t providing. Identify a topic and find out what the top-ranking pages aren’t saying about it that people need to know.
  • Go beyond the top-ranking blog post results when doing research. Find videos, posts, studies, and information from experts. Depending on the topic, reach out to experts to see if you can get any feedback or information directly from the source.
  • Take greater care in research for content. If you’re outsourcing, create detailed SEO briefs, provide long-tail keywords, and give insights to your readers to ensure they cover the topic as thoroughly as needed.
  • Update your content periodically. Don’t let your content remain stagnant. Periodically identify old posts and improve them, add more information, re-optimize them using SEO best practices.
  • Add images, videos, and other resources to your content. More people rely on more than just text content when seeking help. Provide videos, downloadable content, podcasts, and other useful forms of media to go along with your posts.

What The Market Is Saying About Google’s Latest Algorithm Update

Many professionals in SEO are keeping a close eye on this update and expect it to have a significant impact on search engine rankings, even going so far as to compare it to Google’s Panda Update, which was launched in 2011.

Sweeping changes across SERPs are expected to happen, with several industries, such as tech and online education expected to experience a significant impact during the update.

Here is what some experts in the industry are saying about the latest update:

Aleyda Solis - Learning SEO

Aleyda Solis created a poll online where she asked SEOs if they were concerned about the update. Surprisingly, over 40% of SEOs were confident their content was helpful. However, the majority of them were unsure of what the content update will bring.

Barry Schwartz - Seroundtable

“I do believe this update, when we look back at it years later, will be at the same stature of a Panda or Penguin in the way that it forces SEOs to rethink some of their SEO strategies. I think this update will do that with content marketing and SEO content strategies for some agencies.”

Lily Ray - Amisive Digital

“I’m not surprised by this update! Google has received a lot of flack lately for poor quality results & too much low-quality affiliate content. I think it’s clear that true expertise has started to play a prominent role in how Google ranks sites.”

Danny Sullivan - Google

This ranking update will help make sure that unoriginal, low quality content doesn’t rank highly in Search, and our testing has found it will especially improve results related to online education, as well as arts and entertainment, shopping and tech-related content.”

Matt Diggity - Thoughts on the Google “Helpful Content” Update

Matt Diggity detailed his thoughts extensively on what SEO strategies are at risk of being punished during this update and what strategies may benefit the most from it. Parasite SEO content is the most at risk, and topical authority is set to benefit the most from it. 

Next Steps: What To Do As The Update Rolls Out

As the update continues to roll out, we’ll be providing you with more information on the impact its having, what type of sites are impacted the most and what appears to be the most effective way to recover from it.

What you can do now is start improving, evaluating, and identifying the weak points in your content. To better evaluate your content, download our SEO Checklist and make sure you’re following best practice with every blog post, landing page, and other form of content you create.


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