What is the Helpful Content Update and Was it Actually… | Bluesoup
Helpful Content Image

What is the Helpful Content Update and Was it Actually Helpful?

When Google announced they were releasing a “Helpful Content Update”, it sent murmurs through the SEO world and even had a few panicking over what it could mean for their SEO efforts – both past and future.

The update took around two weeks to be fully rolled out and finished around the 9th of September 2022. Now that the dust has settled… what was the purpose of the update, and how much of an impact has it had?

User-First Content

The most immediate issue Google was trying to address was the rise in “spun” content, or content purposely written to manipulate Google’s rankings. Content spinning is where content is created (either manually or with the use of content spinning programmes) to appear as new and fresh, but it is actually manipulated from content that already exists.

Spun Article Example
Example of spun content using a paragraph from one of our previous articles

Identifying content that has been spun using tools is usually quite straightforward, as programs will replace certain words with synonyms that don’t quite make sense in the content of the article, making it appear as though the articles have been written in broken English.

Spun content can also be done manually, where a person will re-write an article and change a few key features in the hope of manipulating Google’s search results. Of course, creating content is a key element of many SEO strategies - which are undertaken to improve a website’s rankings – but the area that Google is looking to crack down on is when a website heads outside of its niche to try and influence SERPs.

For example, if you are a website selling holidays and you start creating content related to running shoes, users who visit your site to learn about the regions you offer holidays to would not find content about trainers overly helpful!

What Was the Impact of the Update?

The reason this update had many people sweating was the slightly ambiguous wording of the update. Google has clarified now that this update is introducing a ranking signal that they will use alongside many others, and the classifier used to process content is entirely automated, using a machine-learning model.

Initial reactions to the update were that it was quite ‘mild’ when compared to previous updates, but the nature in which this ranking signal works means that it will be constantly monitoring content that goes out on the website from now on. For this reason, dramatic drops in rankings were never expected, but rather a gradual downgrading of a site if it is determined to have unhelpful or low-quality content. As it is machine-learning based, the classifier will continue to learn and have a greater understanding of what is and what isn’t helpful, and better reward those who put their user first.

So, What Do I Need to Do?

If you’ve broken out in a cold sweat because you’ve knowingly undertaken some shifty tactics in the past to get your website to rank, all is not lost, you can still take action to futureproof your site.

The ranking signal is weighted, meaning those sites that are rammed full of unhelpful content will probably notice a stronger effect at first, so if you have noticed that traffic to your site has fallen recently, it could be the update playing a part.

Google recommend that you remove unhelpful content or content that is purposely deceptive and focus on user-first content from here on out.

If you want some tips on what should be included in your content moving forward:

Answer the User’s Query

Helpful content will answer a user’s query, so focus on answering questions that users may have or you have frequently been asked in the past.

Don’t Combine Multiple Topics

As we previously mentioned, a website selling holidays would not share content about running shoes, so stick to producing great content in whatever niche your site may sit in.

Offer First-Hand Experiences of Products or Services

One type of content that is being hit by this update is the affiliate link-loaded pieces where it’s clear the writer has no knowledge or experience of the product they are selling. So, ask yourself - does the content you are producing showcase relevant knowledge of the product or service that you offer?

Consider the Reader’s Experience

Content can be more than words on a page. If you are selling something very visual, such as a holiday, it would be beneficial to include photos of the areas you are discussing. If you are selling products that operate in a specific way, including video content of the product in action will enrich a user’s experience.

How Can We Help You?

If you’re struggling to know where to begin with the latest evaluation process from Google, that’s where we can help. We can audit your existing site, identify content that search engines may deem as unhelpful and help you create new, beneficial content regularly – just get in touch!