In August 2022, Google announced a significant update called the Helpful Content System as a part of its broader effort to serve original and helpful content to users.
Google now automatically identifies websites with relatively high amount of unsatisfying or unhelpful content to limit their appearance in organic search. This ranking signal mainly focuses on website with content that doesn’t help users and has been written primarily for search engines.
How does helpful content system work?
The update originally rolled out in August 2022 for English searches globally.
On 5th December, Google announced another update that works across content globally in all languages. Helpful content system is a site-wide ranking signal that can lower the rankings of all the content on your website.
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 now uses a machine-learning model to evaluate unhelpful content. It is not a manual or spam action.
How to build human-first content
How can you ensure you're creating content that will be successful with the new update? It mainly rewards websites where visitors feel satisfied and find the content useful.
According to Google, answering “yes” to the following questions may indicate that you’re creating content for search engines and will more likely be affected by the update.
- 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? (No, we don't).
- 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 already focus your efforts on creating high-quality and valuable content, it’s quite likely this update won’t have a negative impact on your website. If not, we recommend the following:
- Develop your user personas and diversify your content.
- Do your keyword research to know what your audience is searching for and answer their questions.
- Remove unhelpful content that could harm rankings of your other web pages.
- Produce factually correct and original content to satisfy readers and attract new target audiences at the same time.
- Demonstrate your first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge.
- Always reread your content. Does it flow naturally?
- Use internal linking.
- Follow Google's best practices.
It seems that the new update will prefer sites specialized on the topic and warn against content created by AI and NLP software. We recommend creating new web pages that only provide real value to users instead of filling content gaps without having a proper SEO strategy in place. Stop creating content outside your niche (you can leave it for other creators) and focus on updating your existing content instead. Removing outdated or low-quality content from your website is not just for improving your rankings, it's also for users. You should always look at your website through the eyes of your audience before optimizing it. As John Mueller previously mentioned, websites are like trees in the forest. Google sees the forest through the trees and looks at it as a whole. Focus on what web pages you want Google to index.
- Filip Podstavec, founder and CEO of Marketing Miner
Who gets impacted? Our predictions
The new ranking signal is weighted, meaning some websites will be impacted harder than others. Here are our predictions for affected sites:
- Websites that leverage AI to create content in bulk
- Specific affiliate websites that don’t bring a real value to users
- Sites engaged with sponsored content suppliers
- Broad news publishers
- Aggregator websites using programmatic SEO
- Recipe websites
- Clickbait content
- Sites with extremely outdated or auto generated content