Google’s Helpful Content Algorithm Update

In a few days, Google will launch a critical search algorithm update called the Helpful Content Update. SEO experts predict that this update will be as significant as Google Panda and may be one of the biggest updates in over ten years.

Google’s latest announcement reported that the helpful content update would target sites with low-quality pages and thin content optimised for search engines instead of humans. That includes over-optimised websites that only aim to rank on SERPs without providing much content depth to what the user is looking for.

The update is due to roll out next week and will take up to two weeks to completely roll out. Read more about the algorithm update and how it will change the search landscape.

What is the Helpful Content Update?

As reported, Google’s upcoming helpful content update will target content built only to rank on search engines and provide an excellent user experience.

The algorithm update addresses the rising need for high-quality content and the prevalence of pages optimised for engines, not humans, aka search engine-first content.

Pages optimised for search engines often cut corners and compromise content depth and user experience, leaving readers frustrated when they land on top-ranking pages on Google’s SERPs.

In a nutshell, the helpful content update is part of Google’s ongoing campaign to cut down weak pages and promote authentic, high-quality, and unique content that provides genuine value to people.

What Niches Are Impacted?

Google confirms that the algorithm does not target particular industries. However, specific niches historically have more weak pages optimised for search crawlers. These niches include:

  • Entertainment and media arts
  • Shopping
  • Digital academic materials
  • Technology 

If we’re correct, these areas will notice a more significant impact after the update than other industries.

Site-Wide Domain Impact

Previously, algorithm updates were on a page-by-page basis. That meant that a well-written page from a low-DA website could rank on the first page, given it had highly relevant and well-optimised content.

Moving forward, the helpful content update is said to impact the entire domain should the upcoming algorithm update impact it. This means that should your website have much low-quality content, your entire site may likely witness a huge drop in SEO rankings.

Google did not confirm what portion of your website should be search engine-first to trigger the algorithm. But since it will be an update that impacts an entire domain, we stay cautious and address any and all suspected major flaws early.

A Guide To Writing Human-First Content

We’ve summarised Google’s key points below to help carefully assess whether the content on your website will be impacted.

If you’re new to writing human-first content, consider following these guideline questions:

  • Does your website have an existing audience that would benefit from your content if they visit your website?
  • Do you publish in-depth content driven by first-hand expertise and knowledge on the matter?
  • Is your website focusing on a specific objective/niche?
  • Will humans feel they’ve learned enough or more about a topic after reading your page?
  • Will someone feel satisfied after reading your content?
  • Do you conform to Google’s guidelines and core updates when publishing content and monitoring product reviews?

Consider these guideline questions to ensure your SEO efforts aren’t leaning towards search engine-first content:

  • Are you posting content for search engines more than for humans?
  • Do you produce tons of content on broad topics and hope some of it ranks well in Google SERPs?
  • Do you over-automate your site to develop content with general topics?
  • Do you only write trending and hot topics for popularity, not for information and user experience?
  • Do your readers feel like they need to search deeper into more authoritative sites to answer their questions?
  • Did you join your current niche because of expertise or only for the search volume?
  • Are you posting content that answers questions with virtually no answer (recommending a movie with a release date even if the studio hasn’t confirmed it yet.

Recovery Could Take Months If Impacted

Google announced that websites flagged by the helpful content update would notice changes over a few months. The algorithm will also run continuously, covering both existing and new pages.

In other words, the helpful content update is likely to be integrated into Google’s Core Algorithm. This means that should your website be impacted, it can take up to a few months for recovery results to be apparent (assuming you have made adequate improvements).

According to John Muller, making any changes at this time will not likely save your website from the impending update.

Use of Machine Learning To Flag Unhelpful Content

The upcoming algorithm update will be an automated process that implements a new machine-learning model to determine what unhelpful content is. That classifies the helpful content update as another Google ranking signal and may be as significant as the Google Panda update.

Moreover, expect the update to improve over time as Google collects more data and their engineers fine-tune the update’s synergy with other core ranking signals. 

Helpful Content Update: What Else We Know

Aside from everything discussed above, we can confirm that the new algorithm results were validated by Google’s quality raters and have confirmed that the update improved overall search quality.

Remember that quality raters do not directly influence how you rank but rather confirm whether the algorithms are improving search quality and user experience.

Furthermore, the algorithm update will only cover English searches. Expect Google to release the update to more languages shortly.

The helpful content update will also cover only Google Search at the moment. But the search engine is looking into releasing it to other products (Google News, Google Discover, etc.) in the future.

Is The Help Content Update As Big As Panda?

SEOs who have lived to see the dawn of Google Panda in February 2012 knew how it changed search engine optimisation forever. Today, Panda is integrated into Google Core Algorithm and is still active.

From an SEO perspective, we can speculate that the helpful content update will follow the same route as Panda. That’s because it fundamentally evolves Google’s Core Algorithm into being able to determine the difference between content that specifically serves user search intent, against content that does not.

Helpful Content Update: The Bottomline

Google’s helpful content update will roll out in a few weeks and is expected to change how websites and SEOs approach content marketing.

While it’s too soon to tell how big of an update it is, there’s still time to scour through your site, remove unhelpful content, and reassess your existing marketing campaign.

Contact us for professional services from an experienced Sydney SEO agency to maximise your website’s SEO performance and help you stay ahead of the curve.

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