Content in the Spotlight: A Complete Guide to Google Helpful Content Update
November 28, 2023
What has been updated from the old blog post:
2. Additional info to the introduction section
3. Removed ‘But why does the Google content update seem quiet?’ as the section is outdated.
4. Replaced ‘But why does the Google content update seem quiet?’ section with info on Google’s Helpful Content Update 2023
5. Added ‘Recovering from the Helpful Content Update Penalty’
Summary: A deep dive into Google’s Helpful Content Update, it’s impact, the importance of the update, what to expect, preemptive steps, and recovering from any penalty.
On the eve of 18th August 2022, Google announced the launch of the helpful content update.
Google’s Helpful Content Update will weed out content written only to rank high in the search results and not aimed at people. The update is aimed at removing low-quality content deemed unhelpful to the readers and ensuring that it does not rank highly in search results.
Rolled out on 25th August 2022, this update is to bring profound changes in how businesses devise content strategies and write content. It is analogous to Panda and Penguin updates that profoundly impacted SEO content, link-building strategies, etc. In particular, Google’s Helpful Content Update will specifically focus on one of the critical ranking factors, i.e. expertise, authoritativeness, or trustworthiness (E-A-T).
Additional read: How to get natural backlinks
This blog will help you with everything related to the update, including the best practices, steps to undertake, experts’ opinions, and much more.
Quick Overview of the Google Helpful Content Update
Targeted Content/Websites: The update deals with the content written for the purpose of ranking well over helping readers.
Applicable areas: The update is limited to Google search only, but it will eventually include Google Discover and other domains.
Language: So far, it is limited to content published in the English language, but it will expand to include other languages.
Sitewide: It is a sitewide update that will impact all the pages and blogs, not just one category or section.
Refreshes: Since there’s a timeout and validation period, it can take a few months to recover if you are hit by this update.
Feedback: Google has created a feedback forum for helpful content update to address user queries,
Google Helpful Content Update From Our Experts’ Perspective
“This is a necessary update for the industry players creating content primarily to serve SEO and not for readers. Rehashed and AI-generated content will also take a hit. Now, we need content that adds value to the users by focusing on quality rather than quantity. Since this update is only a small part of a larger effort by Google to prioritize people-first content, I believe the E.A.T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) factor will play an important role in moving forward.”
Prashant Shukla – Senior General Manager – Search Marketing
“I believe Topical Authority will play a pivotal role in this update. Google has said before that producing a lot of content on various topics with the aim of some of it ranking highly on search engines is not an ideal activity. Instead, we ought to focus on a few sets of topics and blogs written with expertise and authority.”
Archana Gupta – Assistant General Manager – Content Marketing
Google Helpful Content Update Impact
Irrespective of the industry or the type of business, if you do not have useful and helpful content on your website, your website’s rankings will be affected. Here’s a list of areas of impact you should focus on:
- Websites without a purpose
- Businesses not offering any expertise
- Brand websites not offering relevant/adequate information
- Websites not focusing on the reading experience
- Platforms focusing on clickbait content
- Websites participating in unscrupulous activities
With Google, there’s always more than meets the eye, and it’s been no different with Google’s Helpful Content Update. The update further states that companies dealing with large volumes of content employing strategies like Enterprise SEO will have to be thoughtful. In the world of Enterprise SEO, content’s value will be critical.
Another thing to be thoughtful of is Pogosticking.
Pogosticking occurs when a user clicks on a search result but does not find anything on the page and has to go back to the search results to find answers to their query.
If you successfully satisfy a user’s needs by demonstrating topical authority and intelligently answering their queries, you do not have to worry about the impact of this update. More importantly, creating content to help readers will help you adhere to Google’s overall efforts of improving the user experience.
UPDATE: Google’s Helpful Content Update 2023
Google’s Helpful Content Update 2023 rolled out in September 2023 and is the fifth Google algorithm update to the original rollout, which was introduced in August 2022. While the focus of the update remains the same as the previous one, with the penetration of artificial intelligence (AI) in content, the new update has focused on the same. Here are a few highlights of Google’s Helpful Content Update 2023.
Relaxed guidelines for the use of AI in content
In the previous Helpful Content Update (2022), Google came hard on AI-generated content as it saw automated content to be prioritized over human-created content, thus giving publishers leveraging AI an upper hand. However, the 2023 algorithm update has relaxed this guideline, giving way to deeper penetration of AI into content.
Third-party content on the main website is now frowned upon
A longstanding practice of featuring third-party content on a website or its subdomains was considered to be practice as usual. But with the 2023 Helpful Content Update, Google has hinted towards a negative impact on rankings for websites displaying third-party content, sitewide. Content creators and publishers should especially focus on this guideline and ensure that the published content is relevant to the site’s purpose.
Self-assessment of published content
This time around, Google has put the onus of content relevancy on the publishers, encouraging them to self-assess their content and identify if it is helpful, reliable, people-first content. In case of a hit or a drop in traffic, the publishers are now expected to conduct a content audit and identify the issues as well as the impacted pages.
Impact monitoring during the Helpful Content Update roll-out
The first rule of any Google algorithm update is to not panic. Panicking will result in taking steps that are not conducive. The update is straightforward: promote people-first content that delivers value to the reader. You need to deliberate and respond correctly.
Monitor your pages for any drop in rankings for various reasons, but keep a focus on any ranking drops that you might think could be because of a lack of people-first content. You need to collect enough data to make corrective measures and ensure your content is in line with the guidelines of Google’s Helpful Content Update. For instance, if a majority of your top-performing pages see a sudden drop in rankings, you need to take steps to see what went wrong.
Check for changes in traffic
You can encounter sudden changes in traffic, whether it is due to Google SEO updates or bottlenecks in technical SEO. After the update, you need to collect enough data to ensure the changes in the traffic or drop are temporary or sticking.
Does the Helpful Content algorithm update have any penalty?
Google did not outright mention the types of penalties website owners may have to face. Since this Google update aims to promote helpful content, it is crucial to take into account the repercussions. However, this is not a Google core update. Still, these repercussions could be wide because of the nature of the update.
It is an ML-based sitewide algorithm. If a high quantity of content is unhelpful, your entire website may get flagged and demoted. More importantly, Google will not convey which URLs and pages are considered unhelpful, which will leave you a little clueless regarding the steps you can take to recover.
Tips to avoid Helpful Content Update-triggered rank drops
Though the new update might hit your website rankings out of the blue, there are still preventive measures steps you can take to ensure your content production, SEO, and digital marketing efforts are in line with the new helpful content update:
Focus on content helpfulness and originality
Instead of writing for search engines, you should write for your target audience and readers. You need to focus on content helpfulness that delivers a satisfying user experience and addresses their search intent. You should adhere to the best practices and showcase your expertise, write for the target audience, and validate statements from authoritative sources while improving content quality and credibility
Target the content pieces from the standpoint of thought leadership and expert advice. You need to add your unique thoughts and highlight your expertise in the content. In addition, avoid paraphrasing or rewriting content from other sources on the internet. Also, it is best to validate vague information as per data and authoritative studies.
Ensure proper content presentation and accessibility
You need to have a proper structure for your content by ensuring no disruptive ideas are introduced without any context. Building a train of thought is important to establish a flow in the content. Also, try integrating tools like Grammarly to minimize grammatical errors and launch an analysis for evaluating the tone of voice, intent, and emotion behind the content.
Improve the reading experience
It is advisable to minimize the number of display ads in the content, as it might give the impression that the website is only designed for earning revenues from paid ads and affiliates. From the accessibility standpoint, ensure that the web design is responsive on mobile devices and desktops.
These guidelines will serve you well and act as preventive measures against any impact of Google’s Helpful Content Update on your website. The guidelines are crucial to help your target audience, which is an integral part of Google’s overall efforts to improve the overall search experience.
Recovering from the Helpful Content Update Penalty
While Google has focused on punitive measures for content creators and publishers regarding low-quality and irrelevant content, the 2023 Helpful Content Update also offers guidance on recovering from a penalty caused by the update, if any.
In this update, Google encourages publishers to conduct a self-assessment of their content if they are hit by the Helpful Content Update. You should periodically monitor your website for ranking drops and if you find pages losing their ranks, a deep-dive content audit of the site is highly recommended. This will help you identify the pages without people-first content and enable you to replace the damaging content with fresh and relevant ones.
Google’s Helpful Content Update is definitely a helpful update for improving the user search experience. Nevertheless, as the update progresses and its impact continues to be felt, there are bound to be a lot of questions. If you need experts’ intervention to learn about how to deal with Google’s Helpful Content algorithm update, please consult with our SEO experts.