What is Google's Helpful Content Update? | Aware Digital

Google launched its latest ‘helpful content update’ in August 2022 (updated again in December 2022) – and it’s a really important algorithm change that’s going to have a major impact on the SEO landscape for the foreseeable future.

What’s it all about? 

Essentially, Google is rewarding people-first content and penalising content created specifically for search engine traffic, which it says searchers find ‘unsatisfying.’

As always, Google’s job is to help searchers find the most helpful and relevant information possible, so it is looking to increase the visibility of helpful content written by people, for people.

Ah, yet another Google update… They really like to make life hard for us, don’t they?

Well, this one is actually a good thing, because from a user-orientated copywriting and conversion perspective, writing for humans is what we should all be doing anyway.

Does this mean you can throw all your keywords and SEO strategies out of the window?

Well, not quite!

Read on for everything you need to know about the update, how it works, and what it means for you.

What is Google’s helpful content update?

Google’s latest update is all about making it easier for people to find the helpful content they are looking for.

In Google’s own words, they want to prioritise and give more visibility to content that is “written by people, for people”  – and they’re ranking pages, amongst many other things, on how helpful they are. 

“Content created primarily for search engine traffic is strongly correlated with content that searchers find unsatisfying.”

“The ‘helpful content update’ is part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content, written by people, for people, in the search results.”

In short, you should focus on creating people-first content, not content created just for the search engines.

So does this mean I don’t need to think about SEO any more?

Absolutely NOT. People-first is not the same as people-only!

You’ll still need to think about SEO, and it remains an important part of being visible within search results and attracting your audience to your website. 

In fact, Google themselves recommends you follow SEO best practices and utilise things like keywords, title tags and crawlable links to deliver maximum value to users.

Your content should be optimised for search engines – but this should not be the primary focus.

Google's Helpful Content Update

What actually IS ‘helpful content’?

Google’s own guidelines say you’re probably already using a people-first approach if…

  • People landing on your site directly would find the content useful
  • Your site has a primary purpose/focus
  • Your content showcases your first-hand experiences or depth of knowledge
  • The content gives people enough information to achieve their goal – and they’ll leave feeling satisfied with their experience
  • You’re keeping in mind Google’s core update and product review guidance

So, while creating helpful, high quality content has always been best practice, it’s now going to start affecting your rankings in search results. If you want to maximise your visibility, creating high quality content should be your absolute priority.

How does the update work?

The helpful content update began rolling out in August 2022. As ever, Google hasn’t revealed its exact methodology working away behind the scenes, and content quality is just one factor it will use to determine the ranking of a page within search results.

Here’s what Google says on the subject:

“Our systems automatically identify content that seems to have little value, low-added value or is otherwise not particularly helpful to those doing searches.

“Any content — not just unhelpful content — on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search, assuming there is other content elsewhere from the web that’s better to display. For this reason, removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.”

In December 2022, Google expanded the update by rolling it out globally, meaning it now impacts pages in all languages – not just English. It also updated its classifier to include additional signals that a piece of content may have been created primarily for search engines, rather than people.

How do I create ‘helpful’ content?

That’s all well and good, but what constitutes helpful content? How do I take this update into account in practical terms?

A few important points to keep in mind…

1. Provide useful advice and actionable information

You’ll want to make sure that every single piece of content you publish helps the reader in some way. Quality content is about delivering value, so you’ll want them to come away knowing more than they did when they first landed on the page.

By the way, helpful content comes in many forms. It could be in-depth information on a particular subject mixed with practical advice on how to implement it, thought leadership content, how-to or tutorial guides, topical news… the list goes on. 

But whatever it is, each and every piece must be genuinely useful and helpful to your audience. You don’t want ‘filler’ content or stuff that doesn’t provide any real meaningful value.

2. Think quality, not quantity

We’re always advising our marketing clients about the importance of quality over quantity.

Yes, Google likes websites that are regularly updated with fresh content, but only if that content is actually useful and relevant…

Publishing on your blog every single day might seem like a great idea, but not if those posts don’t actually have something meaningful to say. 

3. Showcase your individual expertise

What sets your content apart from the rest? One of the best ways to do this is by drawing on your individual experiences and expertise, giving your thoughts and opinions, and generally being uniquely YOURSELF.

It’s what makes you (and your business) interesting, and it’s what Google is looking for. Remember: content by humans, for humans. 

4. Above all else, write for people first

Answer your audience’s questions. Provide useful information. Share your expertise and become an authority source. Give your audience the juicy content they’re looking for.

Need some help creating helpful content your readers will love? Chat to our friendly team on 01782 499530 – or fill out our enquiry form and we’ll get back to you. Let’s talk about how your content can engage your audience, drive your conversions AND help you rank higher in Google.

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