Google SEO

Google’s Helpful Content Algorithm Update

Google’s Helpful Content Update so Users Find Useful Information

Google’s intent is to diminish ‘Search-Engine First’ content and escalate helpful, trusted content in search.

The helpful content algorithm update is targeting ‘unhelpful content’ with its new update. It wants to avoid content that users find problematic. The SEOs that have wrongly pressed for content quantity over helpfulness have generated too many low-quality publications.

Duplicate content, fluff content, thin content, and non-relevant content are all problematic. They miss primarily focusing on people-first content. They may boast of having all the possible query entities, keywords, and modifiers that tools say will help it rank – and still be unhelpful. If you are experiencing a sudden drop in web traffic, it may be because the search giant has determined that someone else is providing more helpful content.

Table of Contents

Helpful Content for Your Audience

Know what factors influence how you write for end users and search engines.

Focus on your audience; not yourself nor search engines. If you first meet the needs of customers, then how search engines can help them find you, your revenue will follow. Your niche jargon that you fall naturally back into may leave your readers confused. Content gain is when data is materialized in a presentation that audiences can easily ingest. This means that your writers have to overcome content ambiguity. When your content creation is structured to align with your business goals, simple phrasing can serve both you and your audience.

If you understand their content consumption needs on mobile devices, that demonstrates being people-centric.

Google is prioritizing:

  1. The quality of the content.
  2. The quality of the experience.

The search ranking algorithm targets low-quality, unoriginal content that is intended to game. It improves its system to ferret out content designed for ranking well in search engines, rather than helping people. The update is still rolling out. On December 28, 2022, John Mueller posted on Mastodon about this status, “Sometimes things take longer, for good or for bad. We try to reduce the amount of change in our systems over the holidays for safety reasons, and that sometimes means things that started before take a bit longer to complete.”

There’s less need to blindly trust what others say if your marketing team can map out how Google Search and other search engines work. This takes head knowledge and first-hand experience to determine which elements fit in (or not) and where. This applies to technical SEO, topical content modeling, interlinking, aiming for SERP rich results, and more.

Google’s Helpful Content Update: How to Strategize Content Writing

Don’t rush to delete your old content without a clear and correct strategy.

The new Helpful Content Update heralded by Google is causing quite a stir. Indications are that this will significantly impact many or most websites. If your web content is primarily crafted for search engines, that will be sniffed out and demoted.

Content created for any purpose other than offering real value, may get demoted. Google is tired of volumes of publications that seem primarily designed to get higher rankings or are too self-promoting. This algorithm can better assess self-promotional intent. The reason for this drastic new content filtering update is to favor people-first content and suppress search engine-first content.

Don’t judge this algorithm’s impact by initial volatility. Even if it is relatively flat, this update likely has long-running and deep implications for SEOs, content writers, and owners. Watch your SEO Reports closely now and after it is fully rolled out.

Personal thoughts:

▶ This update extends beyond impacting individual pages’ “useless content”. It will evaluate the content on a site-wide basis. This signals that E-E-A-T plays a significant role. It applies at the hostname level, in addition to signals collected at the page level.

▶ The repeated reference to content “expertise” also indicates that it is an E-E-A-T-focused update.

▶ AI-generated content, or GPT-3, draws from what is currently already on the web. It cannot write an article based on your many years of personal experience. Meaning, this means of content generation will likely be demoted.

▶ Focus on answering niche searcher’s questions. Your audience and content should clearly relate to your domain. Avoid publishing on many topics. Authoritative content that fills question answer gaps is likely to perform better.

Keyword entity research is still important, but only a path to providing your users with what they are looking for.

▶ Content will be effective that is useful and consumed in semantic search that is well-written in a natural voice.

Consider this update as a gift. Change can be a good thing! We are being given greater specificity so that we can better understand what defines helpful content. The Google Quality Rater Guidelines December 2022 update further highlights the importance of helpful and unique content creation.

What is Helpful Content?What is helpful content in Google Search according to John Mueller?

Google considers helpful content as information that is useful to better connect people to helpful information. People should see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.

Google is enforcing its need to sort unique, quality content from unhelpful content.

Google’s official statement helps us get our minds around this new algorithm. It says to assess whether or not your approach to content creation is correct. It provides a list of questions. If answering “yes” to several or all of the following questions, then definitely consider adjusting your content marketing and approach to content publications.

The following questions help determine what qualifies as helpful content:

  • 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?
  • Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
  • Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?

If you have many “yes” answers, your website might be at risk of a sitewide drop! Your honest answers to the questions above are meant to eliminate gray areas. By understanding what Google is looking for, your content pieces can become as helpful as possible to your audience.

A better content plan starts with being people-first. Secondary, are tasks to structure and produce your content to rank better. Understanding this is critical because Google says in its Quality Raters Guide that they fight disinformation and low-quality content. It looks for E-E-A-T factors.

When the QRG describes “needs met”, it is referencing the user needs, not the business entity.

Example of one question that helps identify useful content

Google asks, “Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?” This is where queries with information intent often need comprehensive articles to be helpful. When a searcher looks for “how to fertilize roses”, gardeners consistently want to know when the best time is to apply rose food, trusted brands, organically versus chemically.

If your content isn’t helpful this way, people will likely go search elsewhere to get their answers. Instead, you want to be getting your answers in your Google Knowledge Graph.

“The classifier didn’t start at launch. It already understood site content over a period of time. At launch, we just began to use the signal in ranking. It does continually work to monitor sites & understand if there’s lasting change.” – Danny Sullivan [1]

Creating Helpful Healthcare Content that’s Aligned with E-E-A-T

YMYL topics continue to be more heavily scrutinized. Google has already committed a lot of investment in the health industry. US Healthcare alone is more than a 4 trillion industry.

In the healthcare niche, before every piece of content is created, you should ask yourself whether your topic and how you cover it has the potential to cause people significant harm. If yes, your content piece is considered as YMYL content, then it’s necessary to understand to E-E-A-T.

Deep Learning models can power the most relevant products and content per individual querier. Businesses offering connected cloud experiences can apply better data insights to create value in every interaction. Businesses offering a new product or concept, like what is JAMSS, have the burden of proving value.

Many consider the health niche as incredibly difficult to compete in. With the content algorithm better explained, you can gain more domain and niche authority.

Refreshing content and producing new content has historically been what allowed business growth. If you’ve been depending on a handful of pages to generate your evergreen content/sales funnel, an update like this may result in huge traffic loss. Move fast to evaluate your content; be slower and wiser in what you trim, update, and publish going forward.

By investing in a high-performing content with a supporting, effective SEO strategy, you content can perform better competitively. Combine content production with content refreshes and view them through the lens of this update.

You also need well-structured content. Here’s why.

Structured Content Provides the Following Advantages:

  • Named components.
  • Structure – words in your content become pairs of entities.
  • Meaning is clearer.
  • Intelligent connections.
  • Content models for repurposing.
  • An easier to tie “helpful” content goals to business goals.
  • An easier way to reach your target audience.
  • Effective assists in providing value for your audience.

Keep in mind that when content is repurposed, the context changes meaning. With the proliferation of content, each search engine is tasked to surface the most helpful articles. A structured approach to web content creation considers the user topmost. Content changes are the most common reason why schema drift occurs.

Modular content in order to get the most from your content pieces. Modeling content starts with knowledge organization. This is the science of the structuring and systematic arrangement of knowledge units (concepts in your content) according to their inherent knowledge nodes (connected characteristics) and the application of the so ordered concepts and classes of concepts for the description of worth knowing content objects.

What Content Types Build High-Quality Websites?

People-first content, helpful content, content that satisfies searchers – all are specified as useful.

To expand your knowledge on this, below is a list of related articles by Google. I’ve included a quote from each.

Content writers can benefit from reading:

More content by people, for people in Search

“We know people don’t find content helpful if it seems like it was designed to attract clicks rather than inform readers. So starting next week for English users globally, we’re rolling out a series of improvements to Search to make it easier for people to find helpful content made by, and for, people.

This ranking update will help make sure that unoriginal, low quality content doesn’t rank highly in Search, and our testing has found it will especially improve results related to online education, as well as arts and entertainment, shopping and tech-related content.” – Danny Sullivan, Search Liaison


What creators should know about Google’s helpful content update

“Avoid creating content for search engines first.

Our advice about having a people-first approach does not invalidate following SEO best practices, such as those covered in Google’s own SEO 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.” – Chris Nelson, Search Quality


More guidance on building high-quality sites

“Our site quality algorithms are aimed at helping people find “high-quality” sites by reducing the rankings of low-quality content.

We’re continuing to work on additional algorithmic iterations to help webmasters operating high-quality sites get more traffic from search. As you continue to improve your sites, rather than focusing on one particular algorithmic tweak, we encourage you to ask yourself the same sorts of questions we ask when looking at the big picture. This way your site will be more likely to rank well for the long-term.” – Amit Singhal, Google Fellow

It’s too early to hear responses from other search engines. But surely they are taking due notice of their biggest competitor’s search update. Adherence to these guidelines is helpful to users, you, and search engines.

Opportunities for Your Content to Stand out in Search

Bottom-of-the-barrel sites that publish content in rapid-fire style may find that Google decimates them. This content update will weed them out and let people-focused content shine. Your best asset is your depth of knowledge. Others may publish content that mimics it, but you are a genuine expert your field. Your audience needs you to speak up (get writing)! You know best what your audience searches for.

  • Audit to see where you can make your content more factual and less opinionated. Look for statistics and case studies that can be fact-checked. Use the FactCheck Schema type to verify your grounded content in facts with consensus.
  • Authorship matters. Build a team of authors who have incredibly well-thought-out experience that you can offer your customers. Use their knowledge for upcoming content topics. Use sameAs and person Schema to supercharge your authors.
  • Identify your core topics and improved strategies for content planning.
  • Worry less about what’s too difficult of a SERP, like heart disease or cancer. Focus more on what people find to be helpful content.

It doesn’t help to complain about consecutive algorithm updates. Even if you are product-focused, there is a way to provide buyers with clear, factual, and useful content without pushing for a sale. We all have the opportunity to be smarter with our content production.

Overview of Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines

Google provides the following three key elements to inform their raters’ approach when determining content quality [1]:

  • High-quality automated ranking: We design our automated ranking systems to identify information that people are likely to find useful and reliable.
  • Helpful Search features: We have developed a number of Search features that not only help our users make sense of all the information they’re seeing online, but that also provide direct access to information from authoritative sources — including intergovernmental organizations or government entities.
  • Content policies: We have policies for what can appear in Search to make sure that we’re showing high quality and helpful content.
Google Quality Raters Guideless for Needs Met Ratings
Fully Meets (FullyM) A special rating category, which only applies to certain queries and results. All or almost all mobile users would be immediately and fully satisfied by the result and would not need to view other results to satisfy their need.
Highly Meets (HM) Very helpful for many or most mobile users. Some users may wish to see additional results.
Moderately Meets (MM) Helpful for many users OR very helpful for some mobile users. Some or many users may wish to see additional results.
Slightly Meets (SM) Helpful for fewer mobile users. There is a connection between the query and the result, but not a strong or satisfying connection. Many or most users would wish to see additional results.
Fails to Meet (FailsM) Completely fails to meet the needs of the mobile users. All or almost all users would wish to see additional results.

Let’s go back to Google’s question: “Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?”

Often when explaining to client content writers about what Google sees as people-first content, we ask “Are you writing for your audience”? Or “Would you want to publish this content piece if it wasn’t for search engines?”

Whethther you’re a national organization seeking to reach customers, or a small local business, you’d still want to educate your customers about your products and services.

What is bad content?

Bad content across the worldwide web includes blog posts that serve no particular value to readers. Don’t forget to start with a unique value proposition for each new content piece. This includes your blog posts, evergreen articles, and all off-site publications as well. Given the proliferation of published data, ensure that all content that represents your business has a clear purpose.

What to be Aware of: Your website may need months to recover if hit by this helpful content update.

Google says sites that it classifies as having unhelpful content may find this signal applied to them over some months. It lets us know that the classifier for the update runs continuously. Meaning, removing unhelpful content will help your site recover. It just may take time. Be sure you’re not trying to be like your competition or simply follow topic trends. Don’t forget; Bad content will be weeded out from your blog posts and articles published across the world wide web.

“The initial rollout is the first in a series of improvements. Buckle up! Online education, arts and entertainment, shopping, and tech content is likely to be strongly impacted.

Recovery will likely involve identifying which content is created primarily for SEO and removing it, ensuring you demonstrate first-hand expertise, revamping and improving content, clarifying the purpose of your content and studying what type of content Google is ranking following the update.” – Google’s helpful content update – what you need to know by Marie Haynes


Aleyda Solis: International SEO Consultant, Author & Speaker, provides a useful “Google’s Quality Content and Helpfulness Questions” spreadsheet. Google’s Quality Content and Helpfulness Questions Spreadsheet [2]. I highly recommend using it to assess content helpfulness.

Content that is informed by SEO before writing is far better before attempting to integrate it after its been developed. Even your article topic should be researched first to determine its value-added factor before it is chosen. Before writing a word, plan how you’re covering your topic in a comprehensive manner. It must have a high “usefulness” factor.

SUMMARY: Creating People-First Content

Some may call this update “Google biased content”. But since it is supplying the majority of most sites organic traffic – for free – the tech giant has the right to filter for high-quality search results. Our personal definitions of helpful content are likely also biased. Your revenue likely depends on whether or not you align with Google’s algorithm.

Call 651-206-2410 for services to evaluate your content creation strategy and Align Your SEO Tactics to Google’s Algorithm Update