Google has virtually released a cat among the pigeons by announcing the “Helpful Content Update” on 18 August 2022 via Twitter. The update is expected to start rollout sometime this week and is aimed at devaluing content that is written for search engines or for SEO purposes instead of people. Like all core updates, Helpful Content Update is expected to be a site-wide affair, meaning there is a high possibility of the update impacting all pages across the web. Google will announce when the update starts rolling out and also when it is finished, which could roughly take around two weeks. This update will also introduce a new side-wide ranking signal that will negatively impact sites that publish a lot of content without delivering any real value to the people.
Next week, we will launch the “helpful content update” to better ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, rather than content made primarily for search engine traffic. Learn more & advice creators should consider: https://t.co/fgf2TPNIqD pic.twitter.com/xOuX2iVk2d
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) August 18, 2022
What is Google’s Helpful Content Update?
As per Google Search Central’s Document on Helpful content Update published on 18 July 2022:
“Google Search is always working to better connect people to helpful information. To this end, we’re launching what we’re calling the “helpful content update” that’s part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results. The helpful content update aims 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.”
Helpful Content Update to favour people-first content.
People-first Content approach puts the focus entirely on creating satisfying and useful content that clearly demonstrates first-hand expertise and depth of knowledge while successfully utilizing SEO best practices. People-first content approach focuses on quality rather than quantity, which means that producing a lot of content around different topics in hope that some might perform well in search results isn’t the right way to go. A not-so-good news for that section of websites that thrives on clickbaity content, even though Google didn’t specifically used the word “clickbait”.
How does Helpful Content Update work?
“Our systems automatically identify content that seems to have little value, low-added value or is otherwise not particularly helpful to those doing searches. Any content — not just unhelpful content — on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search, assuming there is other content elsewhere from the web that’s better to display. For this reason, removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.” Google’s documentation states.
It is important to remember that this update, to begin with, will only impact English language websites across the globe. Plans are in place to expand it to other languages as well. But that will have to wait.
How long before this updates negative impact wanes?
“A natural question some will have is how long will it take for a site to do better, if it removes unhelpful content? Sites identified by this update may find the signal applied to them over a period of months. Our classifier for this update runs continuously, allowing it to monitor newly-launched sites and existing ones”
As it determines that the unhelpful content has not returned in the long-term, the classification will no longer apply. This classifier process is entirely automated, using a machine-learning model. It is not a manual action nor a spam action. Instead, it’s just a new signal and one of many signals Google evaluates to rank content.”
“This means that some people-first content on sites classified as having unhelpful content could still rank well, if there are other signals identifying that people-first content as helpful and relevant to a query. The signal is also weighted; sites with lots of unhelpful content may notice a stronger effect. In any case, for the best success, be sure you’ve removed unhelpful content and also are following all our guidelines.” Google documentation concludes.
Over the coming months, Google plans to refine the classifier in order to better detect unhelpful content and better reward websites that stick to people-first content approach. And by now it should be quite clear that removing unhelpful content before the update starts rolling out will probably work in your favour in one way or the other. We recommend you get to the task straight up.