Published on January 19th, 2023 LBHQ_Helpful content update

Helpful content update — beginning of a new era

How many times does it happen that you can’t find the exact answers on Google? You have to sift through results and go through different pages before finding what you’re looking for. 

It happens more than often, and it’s annoying!

But here’s the good news: you won’t be facing this issue anymore, as Google is putting in a continuous effort to solve this issue with a new update. 

Helpful content update — it’s creating a lot of buzz in the creators’ communities. It’s one of the algorithm updates that ensure users will only find useful information. Not a cluster of irrelevant or old knowledge. 

This means you’ll now only see relevant and helpful content on SERPs for your search queries.  

Last year, algorithmic advancement led us to the beginning of a new era. Let’s have a rundown of all the developments since August 2022, when the Helpful Content System was introduced.

What is a Helpful Content System? 

On August 25, 2022, Google released Helpful Content System. This new system elevates the content that gives users a satisfying experience. Meanwhile, the content that users don’t find useful won’t perform well.      

With the introduction of this new system, Google’s algorithm has become smarter and more helpful. 

The system generates a site-wide signal, which is one of the signals for ranking web pages. It ensures users only find valuable content that is written by people,  for people. In addition, the system automatically identifies the content offering little to no value to users.  

Google mentioned it would especially improve results related to online education, as well as arts and entertainment, shopping, and tech-related content.

It has a classifier process based on a machine-learning model. Neither it’s a manual nor a spam action, but it’s just one of the signals Google evaluates to rank content.    

Speaking of which, the recent helpful content update is a part of Google’s continuous effort to better connect people to helpful information. 

What is a Helpful Content Update?

The helpful content update is an improvement to the existing helpful content system. It’s part of the ongoing effort by Google to ensure people come across useful information globally. 

The helpful content update rolled out on Dec 5, 2022, and it took around 2 weeks to complete.  

helpful content update tweet

But why is Google’s helpful content update impact a hot topic? And how is it different from the helpful content system?  

Well, with the recent helpful content update, the focus is on 2 things:

  1. It works across all languages, not just English. So, it doesn’t matter whether unhelpful content is present in which language; Google will identify it.
  2. It improves the system by refining the classifier that detects unhelpful content.

Simply put, the update works globally and enables the system to detect more low-quality content created solely to rank on search engines without satisfying user queries. It is one of the sitewide algorithm updates, which means it will impact your whole site and not just a specific section.  

The recent update only impacts Google Search for now. But there are chances that it might expand to Google Discover and other surfaces shortly. In addition, Google hasn’t mentioned any penalty yet for the sites getting hit by it. 

As a matter of fact, every algorithm update upgrades the ranking system. And every update gives you a chance to recover from the last one. 

In case your website dropped ranking in August and you’ve improved your content since then, you may experience a ranking climb with the recent December update.

Otherwise, if you didn’t experience any changes during the August rollout, you might notice a ranking shift with the recent helpful content update

Search Engine Land got detailed data regarding the update impact from the different resources. 

According to the Rank Ranger, multiple niches experienced a volatility rate by the December helpful content update. 

rank volatility by niche

While Semrush also displayed their data since the December update began rolling. And it’s interesting to see some niches were affected more in comparison to others.

mobile SERPS after helpful content update

desktop SERPS after helpful content update

Let’s have a look at what guidelines Google shared for content creators regarding the helpful content system. 

Google’s Guidelines About Helpful Content System

As the system is hitting sites with Search Engine First Content, Google shared a list of questions about building human-first content. 

This can help you decide if your content is in sync with the fresh update. So, if you answer yes to the following questions, it means you’re on the right track with a people-first approach. 

  • Does your content demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge? (for example, expertise that comes from having used a product or service or visiting a place)
  • Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
  • Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and product reviews?

On the contrary, answering yes to the following questions means it’s time to reevaluate your strategy to create better content. 

  • 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?
  • Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?

As communities and platforms are sharing ideas on how to rule the content realm after this update, here’s our take on how you can upgrade your content with these practices. 

How do I adapt to Google’s Helpful Content Update

Create Unique, Helpful Content for your Audience

With the recent update, it has become crucial to create content that gives a satisfying user experience. 

It’s time to leave behind a cliched practice of targeting keyword positions you want on SERP before starting a piece. Instead, ask yourself, how can I create unique content offering value? Will my target audience feel satisfied after reading my content? 

It’s better to create content that allows people to learn something new, helps them, solves a problem, provides a new perspective, or something like that.  

Don’t make your audience feel that your content is an amalgamation of the old content everywhere else. Prioritize their wants and needs; do not make them leave looking for more.

Prioritize First Hand Expertise while creating content. 

Here’s a fact: there’s a huge difference between content written by experts and non-experts. It’s not subtle; your audience will notice it. 

To make your content authentic, couple it with your personal experience. In case you’re writing about a certain service, product, or place, you can highlight your experiences with visuals (photos, videos, gifs) and insights.    

And in some cases, you’ll not be an expert or have the necessary experience on a subject matter. In that case, you can do comprehensive research, talk to experts, get them on board, and add facts and data to make your piece helpful. It’s a lot more work, but it’ll be worth it. 

Don’t merge many topics into one site. 

Remember, you’re not supposed to divert away from the primary focus of your website. It’s safe to stick to your niche and create high-value, high-quality content around it. 

If you don’t want your site to be niche-specific and fancy the idea of all-in-one, it’s time for a reality check. Not only will your audience feel confused, but the search engine too. It will simply get hard for Google to understand your site. 

So, instead of giving in to the temptation of creating so many topics, just create a separate site for every niche you have.  

Follow guidelines for Core Updates and Product Reviews.

Keep in mind Google’s guidelines for core updates and product reviews. This also includes getting familiar with Google’s policies for sponsored content and endorsements. Understanding and following these guidelines will help you create better content that Google prefers.

In addition, you’ll also avoid unexpected penalties for not meeting Google’s standards.  

AI is not an option anymore 

Drop the practice of using AI to generate a large volume of content; the system will detect it, and they won’t be ranked. 

Instead, try to be as organic as possible. Use other tools to sift out the topics, for example, Answer the Public, Semrush, Moz, etc. Analyze which topics will be the most helpful for your audience, then put in time and effort to create a piece on them. 

Upgrade your Existing Content 

Let’s be real: your old content is outdated and isn’t offering the same value as it used to. And with so much going on in the algorithm, Google may end up identifying it as unhelpful content on your site.

So, updating your old content is the way to go. Add some additions, bring in the latest developments, and rejuvenate your old piece. And make sure it’s following EEAT. In some cases, you can also redirect the old content to the more effective, new version of it. 


So, our takeaway is simple. Create unique content and make the most of this helpful content update. 

In case you’ve been in the search-engine first boat till now, take a turn and start making necessary changes. Focus on people-first content and avoid creating content just to rank up. And no need to throw SEO away, make it a second priority. Make sure your site is more helpful to people. Got it?

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Published on January 19th, 2023
Updated on January 20th, 2024

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