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22 Aug 2022

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Prepare yourself for Google's "helpful content update"

What is Google’s “helpful content update”?

On Thursday the 18th of August, Google announced a brand new update to the organic search algorithm to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results. They are calling this the “helpful content update”.

The update will start rolling out this week (commencing the 22nd of August 2022) and is expected to take up to two weeks to complete.

It will target English language content initially, although it is planned to expand to other languages at some point.

This represents continued efforts from Google to remove low quality, automated content from its search results and follows on from the fourth iteration of the product reviews update in July.

What you should know about Google’s “helpful content update”

A site deemed to have low quality or unhelpful content by this update may see its entire organic visibility and performance reduced. This is weighted – so the more unhelpful your site’s content, the more impact your site will experience. 

The update is entirely automated (as opposed to a manual action) which means that if your site is impacted there is no review process. Google has advised that a site may be impacted for months after unhelpful content has been removed.

The language Google has used around this update implies that there’s a particular focus on automated and mass produced content. This aligns with previous guidance they have provided on not using AI to produce or translate content.

Testing of the update was found to improve search results for online education, arts and entertainment, shopping and tech-related content, so we are expecting to see these sectors most impacted. Sites that aggregate content, such as reviews, without adding additional information or value are also likely to be affected.

Finally, websites that offer content that doesn’t answer a user’s question, possibly because it doesn’t exist, will also be at risk. One example of this, which Google called out, is content that attempts to provide a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed.

This all points to websites that benefit from clicks, rather than conversions or meaningful on-site actions, being impacted – think publishers/aggregators who receive ad revenue from display ads.

What to do next?

If you are concerned that content being published on your website is unhelpful, fails to meet Google’s published quality expectations or otherwise puts your website at risk, then stop publishing new content immediately.

Audit your existing content against Google’s guidelines to gauge your overall risk. RocketMill use a process called “Keep, Revise, Delete” which blends quantitative metrics and qualitative assessments to assign all content with one of the aforementioned actions.

Start or adapt a content strategy to be people and value focused whilst also applying SEO best practice and optimisation methods. 

Monitor your performance over the next two weeks very closely to understand if your site has been impacted.

If you need support to ensure your website is helpful for users, get in contact for help with your content strategy.