What creators need to know about Google's helpful content update

August 18, 2022

Google Search is always working to better connect people to helpful information. To this end, the company is launching the “helpful content update” as part of a broader effort to ensure that people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.

The helpful content update is designed to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well. Google has long-standing advice and guidelines for creators to focus on creating satisfying content for people, rather than for search engines. People-first content creators should answer yes to the following questions:

The following text discusses the importance of creating content for people instead of search engines. It cites a study that found a strong correlation between content created primarily for search engine traffic and content that searchers find unsatisfying. The text also provides advice for following SEO best practices while still creating people-first content.

Google's own SEO guide](https://developers.google.com/search/docs/fundamentals/seo-starter-guide). SEO is a helpful activity when it's applied to people-first content. However, content created primarily for search engine traffic is strongly correlated with content that searchers find unsatisfying.

How do you avoid taking a search engine-first approach? The following are warning signs that you should reevaluate how you're creating content across your site:

  • Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
  • Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  • Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
  • Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
  • Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you'd write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
  • Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
  • Are you writing to a particular word count because you've heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don't).
  • Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you'd get search traffic?

Google has announced that it will be rolling out an update next week that will penalize websites with "unhelpful" content. This update introduces a new site-wide signal that will be used to rank web pages. Any content on sites that are determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search. This means that removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.

You can read more about the update on the Google ranking updates page.

Some people will naturally wonder how long it will take for a site to improve if it removes unhelpful content. The answer is that it may take months for the signal to be applied to a site that has been identified by this update. Google uses a machine-learning model to automatically classifier sites, and this process is not a manual action or a spam action. It is simply a new signal that is one of many signals that Google evaluates to rank content. This means that even if some of the content on a site classified as having unhelpful content is still people-first, it could still rank well if there are other signals indicating that the people-first content is helpful and relevant to a query. The signal is also weighted, so sites with more unhelpful content may notice a stronger effect. For the best chance of success, it is important to remove unhelpful content and also follow all of Google's guidelines.

Google has announced an update to the way it classifies content in search results, with a focus on English-language searches. The goal of the update is to promote "people-first content" and demote content that is unhelpful or unsuitable for a global audience. The update will roll out over the coming months, with plans to expand to other languages in the future. Google is encouraging feedback on the update via a thread in its help forum.

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