Google ‘Helpful Content’ Update – what is it and how do you prepare?

5 min read by Charles Craik 24 Aug 2022

Google recently announced the launch of a new algorithm update, named the ‘Helpful Content Update’. Naturally there’s been a combination of panic and excitement as those in the industry try to work out what on earth it means and how it’ll impact us and our clients.

It’s common for Google to rollout algorithm updates, sometimes thousands in a single year, as it seeks to provide more relevant and higher quality results for its users. And yes, algorithm updates are a good thing! (Despite the utter panic from a lot of people on the internet). One of the best known content-related Google updates, the Google Panda update, first introduced in 2011, is still used to classify content and caused a large shift in the way SEOs worked with content. This latest update is sure to do the same thing for some, and is being seen as the biggest content-based update for over 10 years.

So what is the latest update all about, what impact could it have, and most importantly how can you use it to your advantage?

Google Helpful Content Update

The “Helpful Content Update” will affect content that is seen to be low-impact, have low-added value and be unhelpful to searchers. With this latest update, Google will now in theory rank better content written ‘by the people for the people’, across both new and existing sites, by de-prioritising low-value, low quality content. Say hello to the people first approach, and goodbye to algorithm-focussed ‘spammy’ content. At least, that’s what we’ve all been led to believe, but as it rolls out there’s certain to be more context around what Google actually classifies as helpful content, what is classified as unhelpful content, and of course we’re waiting to see the first occurrence of algorithm defined spam vs human defined helpful.

How To Prepare

When was the last time you really paused to think about the value of the content you’re providing the user? Does it offer a unique perspective, is it topical, would you read through it if you weren’t actually writing or publishing it? Put yourself in the shoes of the user – are you going to read that article waiting for a bus or on the tube? These are some of the questions you should start thinking about when looking at your existing site content and anything new you’re looking to create, also ensuring you understand and take into account the Expertise, Authority and Trust (E-A-T) principles, i.e. what Google’s search quality evaluators follow when judging content:

  • The expertise of the creator of the content.
  • The authoritativeness of the creator of the content, the content itself, and the website.
  • The trustworthiness of the creator of the content, the content itself, and the website.

Source: SEJ

Google uses a machine learning algorithm which is ever-changing and learning to classify and effectively rank ‘good’ or ‘bad’ content, alongside many other algorithms to determine and generate Google results, so it helps to understand what we know already that Google looks for and asks when evaluating content.

The first step is to consider all of your content, with a ‘for the people, by the people’ approach. Google has helpfully provided us with a series of questions to outline the disparity between what is people first, and what is content created purely for search engine traffic. Another essential step is to review all your existing content, and update any pages with minimal search traffic or that are out of date or low-value to users.

If your content is providing signals that are indicating value and meaning to the user, such as natural external links to name just one example, then you may well benefit or see little impact from this update if you’re already performing well. On the flip-side, if you’re not providing any of those signals to say your content is valuable, created by experts, trustworthy and from an authoritative source, then you might find yourself being impacted negatively.

Google is constantly learning, so there’s no correct answers especially when it comes to what this update means, but it provides a good opportunity to review your existing content and start sending Google the right signals on the usefulness, and expertise of the content provided by your website and the authority of your brand in the industry you’re in.

When Is The Update Due?

There’s no solid date for the rollout, but there are rumours that it could be starting in the next day or two. You can stay tuned on when the update will begin and be fully rolled out on the Google ranking updates page.

Our team is closely monitoring any developments as the new changes rollout, so keep an eye out for updates. Worried about how this could impact you and your site? Contact us today, we’re here to help.

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