6 Key Takeaways From Google’s Helpful Content Update

SUSO 06 March 2023

Learn the six key takeaways from Google’s Helpful Content update.

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Author: Paulina Dolatowska, Content Writer

Paulina Dolatowska








Google constantly releases new updates to its algorithm to ensure that its results are as accurate and relevant as possible to users’ search queries. A recent introduction to the search engine’s ranking systems is the Helpful Content update, which has caused a lot of discussion and doubts in the SEO community. 

In this article, I’ll explore this algorithm update in more detail as well as highlight the key takeaways that you need to know.

What Is Google’s Helpful Content Ranking System?

The main purpose of Google’s helpful content update is to more adequately reward content that provides users with a satisfying experience. In other words, the aim of the algorithm is to ensure that people see original, helpful content.

The system is designed so that Google will more easily detect low-value content that does not meet the user’s expectations.

Interestingly, the algorithm update does not affect “unhelpful” pages alone, but can also impact websites on the whole. This is because Google assumes that other content posted somewhere else may be better to display for a given query. As a result, minimising the amount of unhelpful content can boost the rankings of the other content published on your site.

It is a completely automated process, based on a machine-learning algorithm and working globally in any language. Contrary to what one may think, it is not a spam action or a manual penalty, but just one of numerous factors Google takes into account when evaluating and ranking content.

When Did the Helpful Content Updates Roll Out?

The first release of the helpful content update took place in August, 2022, and its rollout was complete on September 9, 2022. It started the change to perceiving and evaluating content by Google, creating a site-wide signal that determines whether a particular page meets the user’ expectations. This initial rollout was applied to English searches only.

A follow up update to this ranking system was made in December, 2022. It improved the classifier across all languages, making it more effective at ranking valuable content. The rollout was completed on January 12, 2023.

How Does the System Work?

The Google helpful content update adds a new site-wide signal that works together with all the other existing signals considered when ranking pages. It affects the ranking of the whole website, not only the particular page, so it has a significant impact on your visibility in the search engine results.

The classifier runs all the time, constantly monitoring newly-published and existing content. If it detects that the unhelpful content has not been revived in the long-term, the classification will be no longer valid.

As it is just one of the signals taken into consideration by Google, even if a website has been classified as having unhelpful content, it can still rank well if other signals suggest that it may be relevant to a query. 

What’s more, the signal is weighted, so the more helpful content is identified on your website, the stronger the impact on the website’s ranking. This classifier will continue to improve, making it easier for the algorithm to reward people-first content.

The 6 Key Takeaways You Need to Know From the Helpful Content Update

Here are the most important things to remember about this ranking system:

1) Create People-First Content That Will Satisfy Users’ Needs

While creating content, prioritise users instead of search engines.

To do this, it’s important to identify your target audience; think about:

  • Who are you writing for? – create a persona of your ideal target audience. This may involve looking at demographics such as age, gender, geographic location, but also experience i.e. are you writing for beginners or experts of a particular topic?
  • What are their needs and wants?  – this informs what kind of content you need to provide
  • What kind of problems do they need help solving? – informs the level of detail you need to provide in order to help solve the user’s problem.

You should also consider the purpose of your content:

  • What is the main goal of your website’s content – a clear primary purpose will help you create truly helpful content
  • Are you offering valuable, authentic content? – avoid summarising what others have to say, using extensive automation to produce content and producing lots of content on different topics.

For example, if you have an eCommerce website that sells haircare products, you may want to write supplemental content about home remedies that can also help improve a person’s hair. One such pain point of your audience may be hair growth – which allows you to specifically focus on providing helpful information that this particular user group would find beneficial and useful.

write supplemental content

2) Demonstrate Your First-Hand Experience and Depth of Knowledge

The visitor needs to see you are an expert in your field. In order to achieve that, you should share unique insights based on your personal experience. 

For example, if you are posting reviews on your website, make sure that you are providing enough evidence to show readers and Google that you have used the product/service that you are reviewing. 

You can do this by adding original images and videos of the product in use, as opposed to using images provided by the manufacturer.

Another way is to add information about your experience and expertise on your articles via an author box.

This should include:

  • The author’s full name
  • A short bio detailing their experience and expertise within the topic
  • A headshot
  • Links to their social media profiles

Here’s an example of a great author box:

author box

3) Word Count and Search Volume Shouldn’t Drive Your Content Strategy

Google states that there’s no official word count for any given keyword. So, if you’re purposefully adding irrelevant content just to reach a certain number of words on your web page and match your competitors, it may actually hinder your search performance.

You should therefore avoid keyword stuffing and adding unnecessary fluff to your content because it will raise the possibility of classifying it as unhelpful.

Obviously, it is significant to take a suggested word count and relevant keywords with a high volume into account if you want to boost your website’s SEO potential. However, they should never be the only factors you follow in your content strategy. 

Instead, keep the end user at the front of your mind and ask yourself whether the content that you’re writing will benefit them. If the answer is yes, then include the content on your page.

4) Make Sure Your Site Has a Primary Purpose or Goal

Avoid writing content just for the sake of writing, and expanding your website’s search traffic. 

Your website needs to have a purpose, and to address your target user’s queries. They should be able to learn something new, to find a solution to a certain problem, and feel satisfied with what they found on your site. 

5) Keep Your Content Up to Date

Bear in mind that users are always looking for up-to-date information, so if your content is outdated, it becomes useless. Some niches develop particularly quickly, and you need to show that your website complies with these changes – it proves you are an engaged and passionate expert. 

If you publish time sensitive articles that include a date in your article (like the best solutions for a certain year), you should ensure that you update your content regularly to maintain its relevance for important keywords.

For example, if you search for the keyword “best smartphone”, you can see that the top ranking pages all include the year “2023” within their page titles. This informs Google and readers that the information is accurate and up to date and is important because readers want to know about the latest smartphones.

keep content up-to-date

6) Avoid Using Extensive Automation to Generate Content

With AI content generators becoming more and more advanced, one may feel tempted to produce content using these tools instead of manually writing them. However, Google condones the use of “extensive automation to produce content on many topics”.

This aligns with Google’s values of rewarding content that is written by humans, for humans. After all, there is still no AI tool that is good enough to replace a real person, and if Google detects you are generating significant amounts of content this way, it can lower your chances of ranking high. 

Instead, use these tools sparingly for smaller pieces of content such as meta descriptions or image alt texts – which can be incredibly useful if you have a large website with thousands of pages and/or images.

It also goes without saying, if you use an AI generator to produce any content, always make sure that is proofread by a human editor.

The Bottom Line

All in all, Google helpful content updates are nothing to fear if you are publishing high-quality content based on thorough expertise and first-hand experience. The ranking system is testament to a quote that many SEOs have said: “content is king”.

As long as you are providing valuable, helpful, and relevant information that is written with the user in mind, your content should be appreciated both by Google and your website’s visitors.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need help with content creation for your website.

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