Are You Ready For Google’s Helpful Content Update?


Some are calling Google’s helpful content update one of the most significant changes to come to organic search in a decade. Quality, original, well-written content is at the heart of this latest change. What do you need to know about Google’s helpful content update?

What is Google’s helpful content update?

This search engine update prioritizes content “written by people, for people.” The intent is for search results to prioritize content designed to answer queries submitted by searchers, while de-prioritizing content that isn’t relevant or doesn’t provide adequate information.

Why your whole website may be affected

According to Google Search Central:

“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.”

Search engines have always judged your website as one unit, not as a single page, even if only a small handful of pages climb their way to the top. At SCS Creative, we call it a “content ecosystem” – building a library of relevant, informative, and original content where each blog or webpage plays off each other. The helpful content update seems to reinforce this philosophy. It evaluates a particularly successful page or blog against your entire site to understand how it fits in and what relevance it holds to your core subject matter.

Importantly, your site won’t incur a penalty if your content isn’t up to speed. However, losing rankings can certainly feel like a penalty, so it’s still quite important to consider the helpful content update’s reader-first, human-first approach.

How to determine if your content meets the people-first threshold

The Google Search Central blog has published a series of thought-provoking questions that can help you determine whether you or a client needs a site content or blog overhaul. The consensus is pretty clear: The content you’re publishing needs to actually answer a searcher’s question. It shouldn’t parrot what other websites say – instead, it should heed the following guidelines.

  • Content should be thorough; it should not leave the searcher with more questions about the query at hand.
  • Content should be original.
  • Content should be written in a way that engages people, not to fill a search engine’s checklist.

Among the biggest “no go” areas that emerge from the list include:

  • Sites developed for the sole purpose of attracting search traffic, not for building subject matter expertise (SME) or to create credibility for a company
  • The excessive use of automation
  • Writing long pieces for the sake of writing them, rather than providing helpful information
  • Content that caters to unverifiable information, such as unfounded rumors about a new product release
  • Tackling trending topics that are unrelated to your expertise

And perhaps the biggest problem in SEO content today (at least in our humble opinion) will (hopefully) be tackled:

  • Content should not summarize what others have said and consider that sufficient for SEO.

When will Google’s helpful content update take effect?

According to Google Search Central, the helpful content update will begin to roll out the week of August 22nd, 2022, and the process will take a few weeks. You can check the Google Search Ranking update page for up-to-date information.

You may start to see some effect in your search traffic over the next few weeks, and more likely over the next few months, as the rollout makes its way across billions of internet pages. The speed of this update doesn’t leave much time to act, but there’s a lot you can do now with the help of a trusted content writing partner, including:

  • An audit of your existing content
  • Editing content that’s worthy of revision
  • Deciding which pages should be “sunset”

SCS Creative has always been people-first

Since SCS Creative was founded in 2016, we’ve prioritized the humans-first approach to SEO writing. With an award-winning former journalist at the helm, it was clear even back then that the best-performing websites were those with serious, high-quality information. Championing quality from the get-go is in our DNA, and now, our approach is verified by Google’s most recent, quite impactful update.

Low-quality, rapidly-churned-out content that checks some known (and, in many cases, unknown) boxes only frustrates searchers who want real answers to their questions. To scroll through endless text that shares nothing of intrigue only alienates people who can’t get what they want fast enough. We’ve long implemented the “answer succinctly” approach among our writing team, teaching the importance of answering the searcher’s questions as quickly and thoroughly as possible – all while balancing all the other SEO factors that matter in content, such as competitor analysis and semantically related keywords.

It’s a tightrope, but we love walking it.

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