Last week, Google formally announced it’s latest algorithm update, naming it the Google Helpful Content Update. As usual the world of SEO was quick to jump to conclusions about who it would impact and what you needed to do about it, despite the fact it hadn’t yet been rolled out. But what is the Google Helpful Content Update and what do we know so far?
What Type of Update Is This?
If you have been running a website, or working in SEO for any length of time, you will be aware that Google is constantly updating its search engine algorithm and how it assesses site quality. Most changes they make are not announced, they simply roll out changes on a regular basis to improve the quality of the search results they present.
However every so often the make specific updates to address particular query sets, or they make core algorithm updates. The Helpful Content Update falls under the former of these two options. It is not a core algorithm update which fundamentally changes how Google ranks pages, it is a specific update aimed at a specific type of query or content.
The official announcement of of the update words its purpose as “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.” But what does that mean?
In simple terms, they want a user to find what they are looking for. I am sure we have all done a search for information and ended up on a Advert dominated abomination of a website which does not give us the information we were looking for. If you follow the news sites, you will also have seen them publish content such as “Anthony Joshua vs Usyk Stream” which obviously contains no links to streams (that would be illegal!) but exists purely to try and get traffic from people looking for it. Or maybe you have looked a product or service, only to end up on a website which serves no purpose other than to try and get you to click a link to get to your destination, from a page containing 2000 words of barely legible content. This is the type of poor user experience Google claims to be going after.
When Is the Update Happening?
A week after the announcement, today (25th August 2022) Google have confirmed the Helpful Content update is officially starting its roll out. It is anticipated to take around 2 weeks before it is fully complete and the impact is known across the search landscape.
As always the repercussions may continue beyond this period as Google itself has always said, as they see the impact of changes they can roll back or expand as they see fit. You will also undoubtedly see businesses and individuals making changes to their website which could mean that fluctuations in rankings and traffic continue beyond this period as websites jostle for their eventual position.
What Should You Be Doing and Should You Be Worried?
Unless you have been intentionally creating poor content to gain search traffic, or using poorly built AI to generate your website content, right now I don’t suggest you do anything. I have seen many SEO’s recommending everything from auditing your content in full, to culling large swathes of pages from your site. 99% of website owners do not need to do this. At best it is a waste of time and effort, at worse it could be harmful to your website.
What you should be doing right now is checking on your stats regularly, aswell as any key rankings you hold. Also keep an eye on the competition around you and any changes there. For most businesses I don’t envisage huge changes to the SERP landscape. That is only my opinion, but based on the purpose of the update and the main sectors businesses operate in. The majority of ecommerce websites are focussed on the quality of their traffic and so wouldn’t engage in the types of activities this update is aimed at. Likewise service businesses are unlikely to have thin content as it is a reflection of them as a company to anybody that views it.
Could This Be a Good Thing For Me?
I would say only if you are surrounded by websites with lesser quality content but outranking you. And it doesn’t if you think your content is better, it is how Google sees it in the eyes of this update.
As the update rolls out and more is known, I will attempt to add to this post on any initial findings on the signals Google is using to determine what is “helpful” or not. For now the official announcement from them can be found at this link: https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2022/08/helpful-content-update