Understanding Google’s “Helpful Content Update”

by | Nov 30, 2022 | Business, Content Marketing

As anyone who works with SEO is already painfully aware, the algorithms that drive Google’s flagship search technology are updated regularly. The latest major update began its roll-out in August of 2022 and is known as Google’s “Helpful Content Update.” Depending on what sort of content your website hosts, it could also have a noticeable impact on your search engine rankings.

Because of how Google designed it, you may want to call it the “Unhelpful Content Update.”

The update should enhance and expand some of the criteria Google’s web-crawling bots use while evaluating web pages. Then pages are re-ranked accordingly so that the more helpful content shows up toward the top of search results. However, the update does not try to achieve this by better understanding which content is helpful. Instead, the Helpful Content Update changes will allow Google to do a better job of flagging UN-helpful content and subsequently lowering search rankings for such content—thereby letting the cream rise to the top naturally, as it were.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Google’s 2022 Helpful Content Update

According to Google, the update should better identify content that is legitimately helpful to real human beings and rank it above content that is merely well-written for search engine optimization. Google will not say what this means on a technical level, lest the information is used for gaming the system and defeating the purpose of the update.

Q: What Is the Point of Google’s Helpful Content Update?

A: The 2022 Helpful Content Update is an update to the way Google ranks websites in its search results. According to Google, this particular update will sniff out content on the web, which “seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines rather than to help or inform people.” The goal is to link more users to search results that “feel authentic and useful.”

Q: When Did the Google Helpful Content Update Roll-out?

A: Google began implementing its Helpful Content Update on August 25, 2022. The complete roll-out was expected to take around two weeks and was confirmed as completed by Google 15 days after launch, on September 9.

Q: How Will Google’s Helpful Content Update Impact My Search rankings?

A: The impact of the Helpful Content Update will vary for each website. If the update works as planned, this will mean that websites full of useful, actionable content will improve their search rankings. In contrast, sites with content that is redundant, nonsensical, or keyword-packed will suffer. If your content is high in quality, but you see a decline in your search positions, you may need to re-evaluate your writing style or seek third-party help from a cutting-edge expert.

Q: How Can I Ensure My Content Will Work Well With the Google Helpful Content Update?

A: For specific questions about Google’s updates and what they’ll mean for your content strategy, it’s often best to go directly to the source. While Google can’t tell everyone exactly how the technology behind their search works (it would quickly be exploited if they did), they have provided a useful blog post and checklist just for content creators worried about the Helpful Content Update.

Q: What Will Happen If My Website Has a Mixture of Helpful and Unhelpful Content?

A: The Helpful Content Update works on a site-wide basis rather than evaluating and re-ranking individual web pages or pieces of content independently. This means that your entire website’s search rankings will suffer if you have a lot of weak, unhelpful content. The adage “less is more” may be worth remembering while planning your response to the Helpful Content Update.

Q: Is the Helpful Content Update a Core Google Update?

A: No, the Helpful Content Update is not a “core” update, and it only impacts Google search and does not affect any of Google’s other, less ubiquitous discovery platforms. However, some experts are predicting that it will be looked back on as having the same level of impact as a core update in terms of how it has the potential to completely redefine search engine optimization best practices. Making matters somewhat murkier, Google did release a Core Algorithm Update on September 12, 2022, just days after the Helpful Content Update finished rolling out.

Q: How Do I Prevent the Helpful Content Update From Hurting My Search Rankings?

A: For webmasters who have been leaning on keyword-heavy SEO tricks to stay atop Google rankings, it may be time for a rapid, end-to-end change in the way content is created. Start by deleting any content that is too far gone and re-writing the rest in a more natural, accessible tone. This requires an intimate understanding of not just your business but your target audience as well. The days of old-school SEO, where all you needed to do was calculate the correct keyword density and spam your webpage with the right phrases, are long behind us.

The Helpful Content Update should prove to be the end of that practice. The solution is to write great content, a task that can be difficult to master. If you’re not sure how to compete as a top-tier online writer without using keyword-density tricks, it will be worth investing in professional help. The update ultimately wants content written for humans, by humans, so the Helpful Content Update may also signify something of an end for AI content creation platforms.

Q: Is the Helpful Content Update Global?

A: The Helpful Content Update will only impact English language searches after the initial roll-out, but expansion to other languages is imminent.

Q: How Long Will It Take To Fix My Website if the Helpful Content Update Harms My Search Rankings?

A: According to Google, this process can, unfortunately, take months. Even if all the unhelpful content is removed immediately, it will take significant time and resources for Google to re-index and re-evaluate the entirety of the internet. This means changes to search rankings can be painfully slow for online business owners trying to make their way back to the top. Stick to the process and continue posting great content while using other avenues of reaching customers (paid ads, etc.) as a stop-gap measure.

Ensuring Your Content is Helpful and Human-Oriented

To ensure your continued success in the wake of Google’s Helpful Content Update, you must first delete any questionable or poorly written content. Going forward, ensure your web presence is built around quality, usable content that is designed to help real people rather than simply trying to trick bots into giving you good search rankings. To achieve this consistently, consider bringing on a professional writing team with SEO expertise to help you craft new content regularly.

Leo Siren

Leo Siren

Leo Siren is a freelance content creator from Michigan's Upper Peninsula drawing on his multifaceted experience as a public librarian, assistant harbormaster, financial software systems analyst, and forklift operator to deliver innovative, high performing content in a range of text and audio formats. His personal interests include the electric banjo, referencing Elder Scrolls lore in everyday conversations, attempting to identify wild mushrooms, and various other things that upset the people around him.