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Helpful Content Update

Have you heard about Google's "Helpful Content Update"? If you work in digital marketing or have a website on Google, this is an update you should be familiar with. In the wake of the update, we are facing a new reality where the quality of the content on your website will be crucial to your online success.

We explain the update in this post and dive into how to avoid being "penalized" on your rankings.

Adam Ketelsen
- SEO-specialist
Last updated: Dec 7, 2023

What is Google's "Helpful Content Update"?

In August and September 2023, Google rolled out a significant update that has caught the attention of the SEO world in particular. Aptly and simply named "Helpful Content Update", this update is part of Google's continued efforts to improve the quality of search results. The update aims to further emphasize content that is created for users and not just for the search engine.

The purpose of updates like this is to ensure that users get the most relevant and trustworthy information when searching on Google. The update rewards websites that offer real experience and expertise, while downgrading those that lack substance or are otherwise deemed less helpful.

In doing so, Google emphasizes the importance of quality content and promotes a more user-friendly search experience.

For those who create online content for a living, it is therefore crucial to understand and adapt to these changes. Otherwise, your website will quickly fall to the back of the queue for good keyword rankings.

Want to learn more about SEO? Then read our great SEO guide.

What content will be affected?

Websites that will be affected by Google's Helpful Content Update include sites that are over-optimized with SEO tactics and lack in-depth, original content. If your website has shallow or copied content with no real insight or unique value, you may experience a drop in your search rankings.

In contrast, content that demonstrates genuine expertise and shares personal experiences or in-depth analysis is likely to be rewarded with better visibility in search results. The update emphasizes content quality over quantity and seeks to promote material that best serves user intent and queries.

Google has promised that it will not target a specific type of niche, but only content that does not provide value to users. However, some content will be hit harder than others.

These include websites that deal with:

  • Shopping
  • Online training material
  • Tech-related content
  • Arts and entertainment.

In the past, content on these pages in particular has been targeted at the search engine rather than the user. Therefore, Google also keeps a close eye on their ability to create value.

In particular, all duplicate content will be affected. The update is much more selective towards content that includes copied text without adding new value. Therefore, you need to think much more creatively and originally when producing content for your website.

Avoid a broken curve

Below is an example of a website where the curve has significantly broken after the update was implemented. It's a great example of how much impact non-value-added content can have on your entire site.

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Sitewide algorithm: One weak link breaks the whole chain

The new update from Google works as a 'sitewide algorithm', which means that it affects the entire website and not just individual pages. If the algorithm identifies parts of a website as being of low value or useless, it can negatively impact the entire domain's visibility in search engine results.

That's why it's now more important than ever to have consistently high-quality content across all pages on your website.

It is not clearly stated how much of the content on a website needs to add value before the entire page is "rewarded" or "penalized". Therefore, it's better to be safe than sorry and optimize the content you're unsure about. That way, you avoid falling victim to the harsh Google executioner.

5 tips to follow Google's "Helpful Content Update"

The "Helpful Content Update" puts additional pressure on producing quality content for Google. It's no longer enough to play by the old SEO rules - now content must also be original and useful to the reader.

To create better content that isn't penalized by the new update, you should:

  1. Focus on in-depth research and ensure your content is based on verified information and personal experience.
  2. Differentiate your content by including unique perspectives or insights not found elsewhere.
  3. Update or remove low-quality content that doesn't add value to the reader.
  4. Engage your audience with relevant and valuable content that encourages interaction and sharing.
  5. Continuously audit your website's content to ensure it complies with Google's guidelines and updates.

Can you get your website back on track?

If your website has experienced a drop in rankings as a result of the latest Google update, it's first and foremost important to understand the reasons behind it.

  1. Analyze your content against Google's updated criteria for value-added content - including first-hand expertise and user-centricity.
  2. Update content that lacks depth or relevance and make sure each page adds value to the reader. Integrate authentic user experiences where possible and highlight your unique insights and expertise in your field.
  3. Also, keep an eye out for changes in Google's guidelines and continuously adjust your strategy as they are updated.

If you follow these tips, it will be possible to reverse the negative curve and rank higher in search results again. However, be prepared that it may take some time and effort to get your website back to where you peaked.

The future of content on Google

After Google's latest update, you need to think of content as something that both satisfies search engine algorithms and provides real value to readers. This requires a balanced approach, combining technical SEO with strong, engaging stories and solidly researched information.

You should strive to create content that demonstrates expertise and credibility and provides an in-depth understanding of the topics. It's particularly important to understand Google's principles of E-E-A-T.

The future of content is about being an authoritative source that people trust and return to - a source that doesn't just answer questions but actually enriches the reader's knowledge and experience.

Get help creating content in line with Google updates

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