So, Google Search has launched a new update – the helpful content update. While this isn’t a core update, it’s still sure to shake up the SERPs (as its updates always do). In this post, we’ll discuss all the SEO industry’s burning questions, including what the update is, who it will affect and what we can do about it.

What is the helpful content update?

The aptly named helpful content update aims to reward online content that puts the user experience at its forefront. It prioritises pages that meet a reader’s needs and expectations while weeding out any that do the opposite (i.e. those that only focus on performing well in SERPs).

Google has commented that the update is “part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results”.

When did this all happen? Well, it went live on the 25th of August, but may take up to two weeks to fully roll out. Then, it will be continually updated. So, good news: if you take action against any unhelpful content on your website, Google will notice and you will see the benefit in the long run – but this could take a few months…

Who will it affect?

This update will affect your entire site, so if it’s full of largely unhelpful stuff, with only a smattering of great content, then it will likely get a worse ranking. This means that just moving around the poor content on your site’s pages won’t help.

There are also a few specific subject areas that Google appears to be targeting, which include online-educational materials, entertainment, shopping, and technology-related content. If this is you, pay close attention!

Currently, this is only being applied to English language searches, but Google has said that it plans to expand into other languages eventually. Google also hasn’t mentioned any penalties for sites that are impacted by this, although experts in the industry think there likely will be.

How does this impact SEO?

Much like a previous Google update (“Panda” in 2011), this is an expansion of the way Google is weeding out low-quality sites with poor content. “Low-quality” here means anything from keyword stuffing and irrelevant or duplicated content to sites with a lack of trust and authority.

Search engine marketers need to focus on creating people-first content that works within search, rather than only utilising what they believe to be search engine tips and tricks.

How can we write helpful content?

Helpfully, Google has provided suggestions of what helpful content looks like (and doesn’t).

Content should be written for a target audience, with a purpose that those people will find useful. That way, the reader will always feel like they found what they were searching for when they came to your site, and don’t need to go anywhere else for more information.

Your website also needs to be a place your audience can go to for knowledgeable, expert information on your topic area. This usually comes from sites that hold a primary focus, rather than those that talk about several different areas, trending topics or niche subjects that the writers hold little knowledge of.

Avoid getting caught up in what you’ve heard that Google may prefer, such as specific word counts, or using automation to produce content (pages written by humans, for humans, always win). Simply, your content needs to add value!

Let us help you with that

If you’re concerned about your website being affected by this update, seek out the help of professionals. 

As experienced copywriters whose work is underpinned by SEO knowledge, we’ve been creating content that works for people, not search engines, for years, and have the results to prove it. To see why you can trust us with your site’s content, check out our case studies.