Google’s Helpful Content Update: What You (Truly) Need To Know

by | Aug 27, 2022 | Blog Content, For Writers, SEO | 0 comments

The query [help me help you] appears in a search bar against the backdrop of a person in a blue shirt performing a search on their mobile phone.

Google’s ‘Helpful Content’ update is rolling out, and you know what that means.

An avalanche of SEO content advice.

A torrent of new articles and ebooks on helpful content.

A deluge of blog posts, videos, and infographics all designed to rank for [google helpful content update].

The sheer volume of new content and “advice” that follows each new Google update is overwhelming. And this time, true to form, most of it is a giant waste of your time.

I mean, check out these gems from the top 20 Google results for [helpful content]:

“Like any stream of marketing, content marketing too requires consistent thought and approach for desired outcomes.”

(Those with only an occasional thought need not apply.)

“…stick to the usual advice and guidelines from Google to avoid getting their web pages de-ranked or de-indexed.”

(Advice and guidelines were linked to the SEO consultant’s website in the press release this life-altering advice came from because it’s 2022, and press release distribution still works like that.)

“Content writing can be difficult. Just consider these numbers.”

(Whoaaa now, I’m still on words, here. A list of numbers! You must really know what you’re talking about. Of course, this was followed by a list of unsourced statistics of dubious quality and origin.)

Forrest Gump is an expert in helpful content. Just ask him.

“What you can do now is start improving, evaluating, and identifying the weak points in your content. To better evaluate your content, download our SEO Checklist…”

😒 (Please don’t. If you weren’t auditing and improving your content before, don’t start changing things now in a blind panic based on a random checklist. Wait and see how this shakes out on your own site, then get professional help.)

If only there were some way to ensure that accurate, truly useful information authored by experts in the field rose to the top.

This is what the Helpful Content update is meant to solve — or at least put a good dent in.

Google’s Helpful Content update sounds simple enough. I’m not going to regurgitate it here – everything Google wants you to know about it is available in these two posts:

This update, alongside the product reviews update, is part of a “broader, ongoing effort to reduce low-quality content and make it easier to find content that feels authentic and useful in Search,” says Google’s Danny Sullivan.

The challenge of evaluating content quality has plagued Google since its earliest days, and if some of the objectives of this latest update sound familiar, they should. This emphasis on user-centricity, relevance, and the utility of web content was the basis of the Panda update in 2011, as well.

Everything old is new again. Content creators are constantly finding new ways to circumvent Google’s best efforts at filtering out the crap.

So let’s start with the base understanding that this is nothing new. 

There is no earth-shattering, revolutionary approach to overcoming or working around the Helpful Content update.

There’s no checklist or secret sauce or “top 7” step-by-step listicle of things to do here.

Do not start deleting your old blog posts. Do not divert your team’s efforts this week to updating site content. It’s not likely to help you at all with this update, as Google already gathered the data.

Do not become reactive. You’re a marketing professional (or hopefully have access to at least one – if not, and you’re still trying to DIY SEO in addition to running your business, that’s your starting point).

Do not run to Google, LinkedIn, or any other platform to find the “helpful content” algorithmically surfaced for you to help you combat your site’s quality issues.

Wait and see how this shakes out. Evaluate your content performance and the impact this update has (or does not have) on it. This is a weighted, sitewide signal, and you will know if your site has been affected.

From there, these are the highest quality resources I’ve seen yet – authored by true experts in both SEO and content.

This is the helpful content you’re going to need if this update surfaces content quality issues for you:

At the risk of dramatically oversimplifying this – that’s it. That’s all the content about this content update you need.

Do not waste your marketing team’s time chasing down this guru or that’s 12-point plan for overcoming Google’s latest attempt at ensuring the content that makes it to the top doesn’t suck.

Producing the most helpful content makes you the best answer for relevant queries.

I’m not saying that publishing and ranking the best content is easy – it’s most definitely not, and it’s not supposed to be. The bar has been rising for well over a decade. Average doesn’t cut it anymore.

Having the most helpful answer to any given challenge, question, or pain point is one thing.

Getting it out into the world in the most useful format for readers and helping them find it is another thing entirely.

If this update surfaces sitewide content quality issues for you, triaging this page or that is a stopgap solution, at best. Being the best answer in Google’s search rankings requires that you’re not only the preeminent expert on the topic but are either supported by publishing professionals or become one yourself.

The Helpful Content update doesn’t change that. Google is finding new ways to tackle the age-old problem that everyone now has something to say, and a lot of it just isn’t that helpful.

Miranda Miller has worked remotely for 15 years with over 500 different organizations, in contracts spanning weeks to 10+ years. Whether serving as an SEO or publishing consultant, writing and editing resource, or extension of an in-house marketing team, she takes her work everywhere she goes (while chasing sunshine and happiness around the planet).

Miranda is a full-time writer and marketer with 18 years of experience helping enterprise brands, government agencies, and NPOs tell more compelling stories. She spends part of the year in Canada and the rest as a part-time digital nomad, chasing sunshine and happiness around the planet.
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