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What is Google’s new helpful content update ?

20 August 2022

Google's helpful content update

Google is launching an update to their search algorithm in an effort to ‘better connect people to helpful information’.

The goal of this update is to ensure that users see more original, helpful content in Google Search results.

This isn’t the first time a Google algorithm update has shaken the industry. Some SEO professionals believe that this update could be as impactful as the Google Panda update of 2012.

In this blog, we’ll explore what the ‘helpful content update’ is, what’s going to change, and if it will affect your business

What is the helpful content update?

The Google algorithm update of 2022 aims to put humans first.

Google’s change to their search algorithm comes from a belief that websites are writing content that’s built for search engines first and people second.

Coming into effect after August 22 for English language content, the new algorithm will identify content that is deemed to have little to no value to people online.

This update comes as a result of the frustration people feel online when they click on a search result that doesn’t answer their question.

Using machine learning, the helpful content update will downgrade these websites and promote high quality content that is designed to provide value to people.

Google says that this update is part of their “ongoing effort to reduce low-quality content and make it easier to find content that feels authentic and useful in search.”

Why the update?

Due to Google’s dominance in the search engine market, it can be difficult to remember that Google is in the customer service market.

In other words, they need to continue providing quality content to their customers otherwise their customers will go elsewhere (Bing, DuckDuckGo, Ecosia).

What type of content will the helpful content update affect?

The helpful content update isn’t going to be targeted to specific genres of content. However, Google has said that the areas that will feel the most impact from the helpful content update will be:

  • Online educational materials
  • Arts and entertainment
  • Shopping
  • Tech

This is based on Google’s analysis that shows content from these areas is often written for search engines more than people.

Currently, the helpful content update is only going to affect Google Search, but the change may be rolled out across other Google products in the future.

What’s going to change?

To rank well on search engines, content will have to provide a satisfactory experience for visitors.

Google is clear that SEO best practices are still necessary, but there will be an increased focus on ensuring that content is bringing value and answering search queries for readers.

In their blog on the update, Google gives the following questions you should consider to ensure that your content will thrive after the new update:

  • Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
  • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  • After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they've learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  • Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they've had a satisfying experience?

Grade my Website

Write for people, not bots

Google’s focus on relevancy aims to put an end to websites writing for search engine crawlers instead of people.

On their blog, Google posed the following questions, claiming that if you answered yes to some of the questions you will need to reevaluate your content:

  • Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
  • Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  • Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
  • Are you mainly summarising what others have to say without adding much value?
  • Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you'd write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
  • Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
  • Are you writing to a particular word count because you've heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don't).
  • Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you'd get search traffic?
  • Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there's a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn't confirmed.

Will the helpful content update affect your website?

This change will only affect your website if your content has been written for search engines in a way that disregards or alienates readers.

Make sure your content adds value by providing:

  • Accurate information on a focused topic
  • A valuable perspective
  • An answer to the question posed

Unlike Google algorithms of the past, the helpful content update is going to be a sitewide application. This means that Google examines your website as a whole and determines if your site is producing high quality content.

Google hasn’t revealed the exact percentages they’ll be using to determine if a site is helpful or unhelpful, so ensuring as many of your pages are as helpful as possible is the best course of action.

In fact, if a site gets hit hard by the helpful content update, it could take months for the website to recover. This is because there will be a waiting period for websites that they will have to endure to show Google that they’re providing helpful content to humans.

Google Search Liason, Danny Sullivan, told Search Engine Land that as the waiting period is automated, any changes to your website probably won’t be reflected in Google’s search results for months.


Google’s helpful content update will change Google Search results to put a greater focus on people.

The essential takeaways from the helpful content update are:

  • Websites will be judged as a whole, rather than page-by-page basis.
  • Unhelpful websites could feel the effects for months.
  • Your content should be written for people first, and search engines second.
  • Write content that contains useful information for the reader and answers any posed questions.

Have any questions about the helpful content update?

As Google Partners, we’re here to help with any questions you may have about Google Search and SEO.

If you have any questions about the helpful content update, reach out to our team below!

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Sam Hutchinson

Sam’s the resident writer and office DJ at Refuel. With a background in academia, journalism, and marketing, Sam can find the words our clients need to attract, engage, and convert those tricky leads.