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What is Google’s helpful content update?

9 min read
Brett Farmiloe

To shed light on Google's helpful content update, we've gathered insights from 11 industry experts, including CEOs, digital marketing strategists and SEO specialists. From making people the primary audience for your content to optimizing your site in preparation for the update, these professionals share their takes on what you need to know about this significant change.

1. Make people your primary audience, not Google

Profile image of Saksham Gogia

The latest helpful content update from Google reinforces the key idea that Google has always endorsed, which is creating content for people over Google bots. 

The primary aim of Google is to help people find information-rich content that satisfies their search intent and queries in the best possible way. And the recent helpful content update goes a major step ahead in ensuring that.

After this update, brands/creators need to think about how deeply and extensively they can explore the topics they're creating content on. It's not about increasing the word count or favoring certain keywords over others, but making sure that a topic is discussed as comprehensively as possible from all relevant angles.

Instead of thinking like creating Google-friendly content, it's time to consider creating people-friendly content in the truest sense. Content that's favored by the people will be favored by Google too.

It calls for a major change in the content creation perspective.

Saksham Gogia, Co-founder and Managing Director, WrittenlyHub

2. It affects your entire website, not just “unhelpful” pages 

Profile image of Veniz Guzman

It affects your entire website—not just pages that are deemed "unhelpful." Imagine you have a website with 100 pages and a high amount (let's say 40%) of these pages do not answer user questions, are clearly written by someone who wasn't an expert on the topic, or have any of the markers of unhelpful content. Google will classify your entire website as unhelpful and make it harder for your website to show up on the SERP.

And since it will take months before the classifier is removed (Google says they're looking for the unhelpful content to not return in the long-term), it's best to act as fast as possible in auditing your content, removing the unhelpful pages, and following Google's guidelines on creating actual helpful content for the pages you want to keep.

Veniz Guzman, Digital Marketing and SEO Specialist, Promet Source

3. It will reward quality and relevancy

Profile image of Darren Tarbat

Google's helpful content update will likely act as a double-edged sword. We don't know exactly when it will be fully deployed, but we can expect that it will reward content that provides site visitors with a satisfying experience, while not penalizing, but not rewarding content that poorly matches visitors' expectations with decreased ranking and visibility.

I do not believe these changes will be isolated to AI or human-created content, but tweaking how Google rewards the quality and relevancy of the content. E-A-T will probably become a larger ranking factor as well. The fun part is, we won't see it coming until it is already deployed, so you should start implementing the best SEO and content creation practices yesterday.

Darren Tarbat, SEO and Growth, Contact Studios

4. There will be ongoing monitoring

Profile image of Himadri Patel

Even after removing unhelpful content, the classifier constantly monitors both new and existing websites, making sure unhelpful content doesn't persist in the long run.

Significant improvements have been made to check how the classifier detects unhelpful content and shares it on Google Search ranking updates page as a "helpful content update."

Once the update is fully implemented, if the refined classifier observes that the content has improved, the previous unhelpful classification may no longer apply.

Himadri Patel, Digital Marketing Strategist, Ace Infoway

5. This update is review-based 

Profile image of Brian Vastola

The helpful content update was a review-based update. Some people are confused about this. Let me clarify what we see this as at MRB, specifically talking about e-commerce sites.

This was a direct shot over the bow from Google for people who created content for search engines. They are NOT looking for copied and pasted product descriptions, or the same thing rewritten differently, and for heaven's sake, don't use Chat GPT. During the update, they claim they didn't demote anyone, just raised the weight of good content.

This is what they want:

  • A unique description that is written from an enthusiast's/expert's point of view
  • Discussion of the pros and cons of an item
  • What these pros and cons mean for the user
  • How those translate to the user
  • Whether there are competitor products that are of better use in certain situations
  • They want a real review, not editorial pieces or copied descriptions

The structure we think works:

  • Heading
  • Subheading
  • Intro paragraph
  • Advantages
  • Drawbacks
  • Competitors
  • Use
  • Warranty
  • Conclusion

Brian Vastola, CEO, MRB Marketing LLC

6. Real-life experiences matter

Profile image of Kayla Croser

Google's latest content update has added an extra “E” to their famous E-A-T acronym, making it E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authority, Trust). And what does that extra “E” stand for? It represents the importance of real-life experiences when evaluating online content.

Let's say you're searching for tips on filing your taxes. You'd want advice from a true accounting specialist. Google understands this and aims to connect you with content created by experts who have firsthand knowledge and practical experience.

But wait, there's more! If you're looking for personal testimonials about tax preparation software, Google suggests exploring community forums where people share their own experiences. Sometimes the best insights come from those who have been in the same boat as you.

With the E-E-A-T update, Google is your trusty companion, guiding you to content that combines expertise, authority, and real-world experience.

Kayla Croser, Content Marketing Executive, RGC Digital Marketing

7. Shift to user-centric content

Profile image of Ilija Sekulov

Google's helpful content update is all about rewarding websites that offer clear, useful, and direct answers to user queries. It's a call to action for website owners to focus on creating content that truly helps the reader.

This means going beyond just keywords and SEO tricks and really thinking about what information the user is seeking. The more your content can solve a user's problem or answer their question, the more favorably Google will view your site. It's a shift towards user-centric content, putting the needs of the user first in your content strategy.

Ilija Sekulov, Marketing and SEO, Mailbutler

8. Emphasize expertise and unique content

Profile image of Gosia Hytry

The update has significantly changed how Google evaluates content, focusing less on keyword optimization and more on demonstrating first-hand expertise and knowledge around a topic. 

Specifically, Google wants to reward writers who can effectively explain complex concepts in simpler terms, provide accurate references to back up their claims, and offer valuable advice or solutions to readers' questions and problems. 

The update encourages authors to create unique content directly related to the user's query rather than using generic or outdated material from other sources.

Gosia Hytry, Head of Content, Spacelift

9. Creates a challenge for volume-led SEO approaches

Profile image of Jason Ball

If Google’s update is successful, it should make it more difficult for SEOs to achieve rankings by brute force, volume-led approaches. It should also address the challenge of dealing with cookie-cutter AI-generated content. 

Google is looking for distinctive, experienced content and will penalize content that ‌says nothing new. Brands will need to show “experience” in several ways, such as by using bylined authors with an author bio link outlining why that person is an expert in practical terms and including references to how thought leadership can be applied or has been applied in the real world. Remember, it’s not just expertise, it's experience that makes a difference.

Ultimately, this is good news for brands that are genuine thought leaders and have the capabilities to walk the talk.

Jason Ball, Founder, Considered Content

10. Don’t focus on the algorithm

Profile image of Zoe Ashbridge

Google's helpful content algorithm is a factor in search rankings, but—and hear me out—content creators and website owners would benefit from not focusing on it.

The entire premise of this algorithm update is to reduce low-quality content and enhance the user experience by making it easier for searchers to discover valuable and relevant information.

For conscientious writers, business owners, and websites, creating helpful content should already be the fundamental goal.

Instead of worrying about the algorithm, keep your eyes on the opportunity to provide your readers with the highest quality content possible. Be helpful, address their problems, and deliver valuable solutions. You'll do what you need to meet Google's helpful content update with ease.

Zoe Ashbridge, Co-founder and Senior SEO Strategist, Forank

11. Optimize your site to prepare

Profile image of Darryl Stevens

Google's helpful content update reinforces the idea that content is king. Quality content is essential for ranking higher in search engine results, as well as giving viewers of your website or blog an enjoyable and informative experience. Google is now emphasizing the importance of relevant, valuable content that provides helpful information to viewers. 

This means content should be engaging and provide an obvious purpose for its existence, as well as ‌formatting and layout for easy readability. To pass Google's helpful content test, focus on creating content that will give readers value beyond what can be found elsewhere on the internet. 

Keep keywords in mind when crafting content, as Google continues to use them for relevance. Optimize your website and blog for mobile devices, as a majority of online searches are now done on phones and tablets.

Darryl Stevens, CEO, Digitech Web Design

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