Freelance SEO Consultant and Content Marketing Specialist

Google announces the ‘Helpful Content Update’

Tom Crewe imageTom Crewe
August 24, 2022

*UPDATE* – The ‘Helpful Content Update’ finished rolling out on September 9th 2022

In case you haven’t heard, Google is rolling out the ‘Helpful Content Update’ this week, and it feels like this is going to be a big one! At the time of writing this article, it hasn’t rolled out yet, but we are expecting it at any moment. Keep an eye on Google’s Search Rankings Update page to find out when it starts/finishes rolling out.

As a brief summary, this algorithm update will look to reward sites with high quality, unique and helpful content that is written by people, for people, whilst demoting sites with low quality, unhelpful content.

What’s most interesting about this update is that Google has announced that it introduces a site-wide signal, so if you have a lot of awful content, it may well affect the performance of your high quality content too. It’s always exciting when Google spells things out like this as they have been historically quite secretive.

Presumably, the main targets for this algorithm update are scraper sites, sites with masses of automatically generated AI content and low quality affiliate sites, but everyone should be keeping a close eye on their rankings this week as we know that these updates can often hit innocent bystanders too.

This doesn’t mean the death of SEO-backed content creation though. Keyword research is people research, as it shows us which search terms are popular with people. Google’s Helpful Content Update press release even states the following:

People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value.

It goes on to say:

Our advice about having a people-first approach does not invalidate following SEO best practices, such as those covered in Google’s own SEO guide. SEO is a helpful activity when it’s applied to people-first content.

So, it looks like I’ll carry on my job as an SEO Consultant for now.

There’s not a huge amount you can do to prepare for this update. If your traffic is held up by scraped or automatically generated content, then you probably deserve to go anyway. But if you do end up being one of the innocent bystanders that gets hit, here’s what you might want to consider:

👉 Audit your content. Which areas were hit the hardest? Have a read, is the content total rubbish? Does it have no rankings, traffic, conversions, internal links to high performing content or backlinks? Consider removing it. Google has stated the below in their press release:

A natural question some will have is how long will it take for a site to do better, if it removes unhelpful content? Sites identified by this update may find the signal applied to them over a period of months. Our classifier for this update runs continuously, allowing it to monitor newly-launched sites and existing ones. As it determines that the unhelpful content has not returned in the long-term, the classification will no longer apply.

👉 If you do remove content, do it carefully and in stages. Removing 90% of your content overnight in a blind panic might actually make things worse (unless 90% of your content really is total spam). Your audit process should be thorough and should consider more than just the organic impact.

👉 Was legitimate content that you created to help the user demoted? Try to improve it. Add value by providing your own research into the topic. Make sure the user can easily get the answer they need from your content.

👉 Authorship is already important, but I would imagine this update may put even more emphasis on content written by genuine experts. Build out your Author schema and prove why you/your authors have expertise in a particular area.

Obviously this update has only just been announced, so I’m not claiming to have the magic formula to survive and thrive past the Helpful Content Update, but we definitely have a few interesting months ahead of us and I welcome any questions post-update and would love to review any sites that see a significant impact, good or bad!

Tom Crewe image

This article was written by

Tom Crewe

Tom Crewe is a Freelance SEO Consultant with 10 years’ worth of experience in Search Engine Optimisation and Content Marketing. His genuine passion for SEO is clearly demonstrated in his client work, the articles he writes for industry leading publications such as Search Engine Land, the talks he delivers at events such as Brighton SEO and his eagerness to learn more each and every day.