Google launched a new update in September 2022 called the “Google Helpful Content Update.” A second update the “December 2022 Helpful Content Update” was rolled out on December 5th and took a few weeks to complete. Another update rolled out in September 2023. In short, it will boost websites that have high-quality and relevant content, and penalize, or demote, websites that don’t answer the user’s reason for being on the page.
Both releases of the Google Helpful Content Updates are part of a wider algorithm update that was released in August called the “Helpful Content System”. This change will impact how your website ranks on search engine results pages (SERPs), so it is important to ensure that your website’s content is of the highest quality.
Here’s a closer look at Google’s latest algorithm update and what it means for your business website.
What is The Google Helpful Content Update?
Google announced its latest algorithm update – dubbed the “helpful content system” – at the end of August, and it went into effect in September 2022. The update is designed to penalize websites that do not offer unique, helpful content, as well as those that copy content from other sources without adding any real value.
As a result, business owners need to make sure their website provides value to their visitors if they want to avoid being penalized by Google.
Part of the update is focusing on how the content is generated, and there’s a line in the Blog Post by Google that says “helpful content written by people, for people.” For most SEO’s, this has been interpreted to mean that AI Created Content is going to be penalized.
*** Update: Google has adjusted their wording on the document. ***
Here’s the original:
“Google Search’s helpful content system generates a signal used by our automated ranking systems to better ensure people see original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.”
Here’s the revised version:
“Google Search’s helpful content system generates a signal used by our automated ranking systems to better ensure people see original, helpful content created for people in search results…”
But how would Google know it’s created by AI rather than a person? Well, they’ll use AI to figure that out, and since it’s a program there’s always a warning sign 🙂 Sites identified to be using extensive automation will likely feel the pinch.
The entire details of the announcement can be found in the Google Search Central Blog.
Watch The Video That Goes Along With This Article
How Does the Google Helpful Content Update Work?
The helpful content update works by looking at a number of factors to determine how “helpful” a piece of content is.
One of the big takeaways for us in this core update is that the update is introducing a new “site-wide signal” for ranking pages. This means that the boost or penalty received may not just be on a single post, but for the entire website. If Google detects that the content is not useful, it could affect all the pages in the website, and that could be a big blow to rankings as a whole.
You mean my entire site can be removed from the Google Search Engine?
Kinda. It’s not that it would be removed, it’s just that your info wouldn’t show if someone else has done it better. This has always been the way however. How well a website ranks has always been determined on how you provide an edge over someone else who has something similar.
To an extent, this update is designed to degrade/punish those that write for search engines versus people. If an SEO or Content Writer is writing content specifically for search engines and manipulation of the results, these are the types of things Google wants to remove or devalue from their search results.
At this time, the update is only affecting English language searches. It doesn’t matter the country you are in, if the search is in English and the results are in English, then you are in the bucket for the extra scrutiny.
Are Links A Factor In Search Engines Rankings?
Yes, links matter in website position rankings. But not just backlinks, links you receive from other websites. Internal links on your website when you link from one page to another play a ranking signal role too.
Think of it this way; if you have a piece of content, and you don’t have any internal links to it, is it really useful? Was it just created for the search engine? If it was, then likely that’s going to hurt you.
If you’re not promoting your content, either internally or externally, or you’re not gaining links from other places based on the awesome content you write, then why would Google want to show your site to other people?
What Does The Update Mean for Your Business Website?
Simply put, this latest Google update means that it’s more important than ever to have a website that provides value to your visitors. Gone are the days of being able to get away with copying content from other sources or simply writing fluff pieces – now, you need to focus on creating original, helpful content if you want your website to rank well in search engines.
Take some time to assess your current website content and see if there are any areas where you can add more value for your readers. If not, now is the time to start brainstorming some new ideas for helpful content that will help improve your search engine rankings.
Some of the old pieces of information that you have on your website may need to be removed too! Just because the article you wrote in 2014 was useful to people then, that doesn’t mean it’s useful in 2022! It’s time to either update that information or evaluate if you need to delete it. Since the update is a site-wide signal, those old fluff pieces could drag your entire website down!
If you haven’t performed a content audit recently or don’t know what’s involved in one, check out this article that Kim wrote; What Is A Content Audit?
If you need a website or content audit performed, contact Kim & Conor.
Some Guidelines From Google
On the blog post by Google they have a number of different questions to ask yourself when writing content, but the key items that we focused on were the following;
- Write for your specific audience (People), not search engines
- Don’t mix your content/topics – if your site is about garage doors, don’t suddenly write about cameras or fishing gear
- Don’t just summarize articles, provide useful, helpful content
- Did you fully answer the question for the user?
- Don’t write to hit a particular word count (there is no minimum amount)
- Do you have real-world experience or first hand expertise in the topic you are writing about?
- Did you propose to answer a question that doesn’t actually have an answer yet? (Movie Sequal Release Date)
- Write articles for your intended audience or existing audience
Read the full blog post and guidelines from Google.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Google’s Helpful Content Update is just another reminder that you should be creating websites and content for your visitors and not search engines. Business owners need to make sure that they are creating original content and not just copying it from other people.
It’s OK to summarize what others might be saying, but if your entire post is just a summary, why would Google list your page, when they could list the source instead?
If you have been writing with a search engine first approach and not adding much value or real expertise then you probably writing low-quality content and could be flagged as unhelpful content.
It’s time to take a fresh new look at what you’re putting on your website, and why that content is available for users. If the primary purpose is just so you can produce content, then you’re not providing a satisfying experience to users.
Keep these tips in mind as you assess your current website content and start brainstorming new ideas for helpful articles, blog posts, and more.