Many of us get frustrated by visiting a website that appears to have what we’re looking for but fails to live up to our expectations. The content may not provide the insights you seek, or it may not appear to have been created for, or even by, a person.
Google Search is constantly working to connect people to useful information. This is why Google is launching the “helpful content update,” which is part of a larger effort to ensure that people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.
Next week, we will launch the “helpful content update” to better ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, rather than content made primarily for search engine traffic. Learn more & advice creators should consider: https://t.co/fgf2TPNIqD pic.twitter.com/xOuX2iVk2d
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) August 18, 2022
Google announced on August 18th that the “helpful content update,” which is expected to be the largest algorithm update in a decade, would begin rolling out the week of August 22nd.
More information about the update and considerations for creators can be found below.
What is Google’s helpful content update?
Google’s new helpful content update targets “content that appears to have been created primarily for ranking well in search engines rather than to help or inform people.”
According to Google, the goal of this algorithm update is to help searchers find “high-quality content.” Google desires to reward better and more useful content written for humans and to assist users.
Content written to rank in search engines, also known as “search engine-first content” or “SEO content,” has been widely written about and discussed on social media recently.
In short, searchers are frustrated when they arrive at unhelpful web pages that rank high in search because they were designed to rank high. Google’s new algorithm aims to degrade those types of websites while elevating more useful, human-designed websites above search engines.
According to Google, this is part of an “ongoing effort to reduce low-quality content and make it easier to find content in search that feels authentic and useful.”
How Google’s New Helpful Content Update Will Impact SEO?
With Google’s ‘Helpful content update’ launching on Monday, we’ve been told it’s intended to show more original, helpful content written with people in mind, while content written purely for SEO will drop in the SERPs.
What does Google’s Helpful Content Update imply?
Google has published an overview of the update here, where you can read more about it, but people-first content essentially means:
- Content that is both useful to the person reading it and relevant to your brand.
- The content demonstrates that the person writing it has extensive knowledge and expertise in the subject matter.
- The person reading the content will feel as if they have learned what they were looking for.
What kind of content will be penalized now?
- Content designed primarily for search engines.
- Lots of different articles on a wide range of topics, written to rank for literally anything, rather than create content that is relevant to your brand.
- Content that leads readers to believe they must research to find the answer they seek.
- Content that claims to answer a question but fails to do so.
Better ranking of original and quality content
Google Search is constantly updated to ensure that SERPs help you find high-quality content. Google’s “helpful content update” aims to combat content that appears to have been created primarily to rank well in search engines rather than to assist or inform people.
This ranking update will help ensure that unoriginal, low-quality content does not rank highly in Search, and our testing has shown that it will improve results related to online education, arts and entertainment, shopping, and technology-related content in particular.
For example, if you search for information about a new series, you may have previously seen articles that aggregated reviews from other sites without adding perspectives beyond what is already available. This isn’t very useful if you’re looking for something new to read. With this update, you’ll see more results with unique, authentic information, increasing your chances of reading something new.
Which category will get affected in Google’s Helpful Content Update?
For the time being, the update only affects English language Google search results, but some version of the “helpful content” evaluation will likely be implemented in other result types and languages at a later date.
Although Google has stated explicitly that the update is not aimed at any specific content categories or industries, they have identified four types of content that are likely to be hit hard because they are written for search engines:
- Online educational resources.
- Entertainment and arts.
- Tech-related content.
What’s the potential impact of a site-wide algorithm due to Helpful Content Update?
The biggest surprise is that this algorithm will consider your entire site rather than individual pages, which is a departure from the recent trend of content-focused updates.
That means that even if a brand produces great content, it may still be at risk if the site contains a large amount of older, lower-quality content. It also means that if the algorithm evaluates your site and discovers that it does not meet these helpful content thresholds, your high-quality content will suffer as well.
Expected Outcomes of the helpful content update:
- A significant shift in SERPs across all website industries.
- See more search results that are unique and authentic.
- Reading previously unseen content.
- There are fewer low-quality websites in the top SERP positions.
- Less AI-generated content that was not written by humans or intended for human consumption.
- Backlinks have less of an impact on SEO when the ranking algorithm considers the content to be unhelpful or unsatisfying to users.
- More content creators are putting people first rather than publishing content primarily for search engine traffic.
Google employs machine learning to detect unhelpful content
Google employs a new machine learning algorithm capable of evaluating and identifying unhelpful content. Between the automated machine learning improvements and Google engineers tweaking and improving the overall algorithms regularly, the algorithms should improve over time.
Google stated that the helpful content update would consider a variety of signals about the page and site to determine a page’s ranking.
Tips for Creating High-Quality People-First Websites
Google provides useful guidance that publishers can use to ensure that they are providing the best possible user experience on their websites rather than focusing solely on what they believe will satisfy the current ranking algorithms or signals for on-page SEO.
You should answer these questions mentioned below:
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who is well-versed in the subject, or is it more general?
- Is there any spelling or factual errors in this article?
- Is the article unique in terms of its content or information, reporting, research, or analysis?
- Is the page’s value significant when compared to other pages in search results?
- Is the article well-edited, or does it appear sloppy or hastily put together?
- Is this article a complete or comprehensive description of the subject?
So, will the helpful content update have the same impact as Panda?
For many SEOs who experienced the Google Panda update in February 2012, it forever altered how SEOs recommended you write content in the future. Panda is now included in the core update, so it is still in use today.
This update sounds very similar to the previous Panda update. SEO specialists will notice a significant shift in SEO content strategy as a result of this update.
Conclusion: Why would we care about Google’s new helpful content update?
This ranking algorithm update aims to reward content in the SERPs that provides a satisfying user experience while reducing visibility for content written primarily to rank in search engines to attract clicks.
Google wants to surface more useful content for its users, and testing has revealed that people-first, rather than search-engine-first, content is the most satisfying to its users. As a result, the more detailed, accurate, and useful your content is for people, the better it should perform in Search.
Google’s helpful content update will most likely be remembered as the catalyst for change in terms of the advice SEOs give clients when creating content. Granted, it is too early to tell how much of an impact this update will have on Google’s search results, your site, or the sites of your clients.
As the update rolls out, keep an eye on your analytics and, if necessary, rethink your content strategy in light of the advice Google has provided above.