What Is Google’s Helpful Content Update?

Published on: October 3, 2022

As the name implies, the goal of Google’s Helpful Content Update is to ensure that the content users find in search results is providing value to the intended audience. 

Since the beginning, Google has emphasized the importance of focusing on the user. This update is a continuation of that mission – just like every Google update before.

According to the Search Central blog

“The helpful content update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.”

It’s a familiar phrase in the SEO world: We need to write for users and search engines. It appears Google is applying more weight to the first part of that equation. Most SEOs will likely hear of this update and claim they have nothing to worry about. And as long as you’re investing time into creating valuable content that resonates with your target audience, you probably will be fine. But what if you’re not? 

How To Write For People And Not Search Engines

Google provided about a dozen questions that creators should be asking themselves to determine whether they’ll run afoul with the looming update – which is expected to roll out the week of August 22, 2022 through the beginning of September (two weeks total). 

Here are some of the questions with our interpretation: 


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?


Do you even know who you’re trying to reach? Maybe it’s time you develop some personas.


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)?


You should be hiring subject matter experts to write the content or review the content before it’s published. And in case you missed the E-A-T update, you should also be attributing your content to a credible author.


Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?


Develop topic clusters! Keep working the strategy to establish topical authority on the topics and subtopics that matter most to your business.


After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?


Ensure you’re answering the question and all questions related to the topic. Keyword research tools can help you identify the questions. Most of the time, you’ll need an expert to provide the answers. And be cautious with AI writing tools. In our experience, they give you a good start but usually add more fluff than substance. Fluff is not the stuff.


Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?


Once again, stick to your topic cluster strategy.


Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?


The operative words here are “extensive” and “many topics.” Some automation is necessary for large websites, especially e-commerce sites. A good SEO knows how to add value to the content formula – not just keywords. And be careful of AI writing tools. All content should go through an SME review.


Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?


Stand for something.


Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?


Does your content not suck?


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).


he content should be as long as it needs to be. Period. There are plenty of studies and tools that suggest an optimal word count. It also doesn’t help that freelancers get paid by the word, therefore always ask for a word count. Remember that Google values user experience. We cannot say that a specific length of copy consistently provides a better user experience.


Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?


Establish authority through the implementation of topic clusters and author attribution. Even if you fall outside of the YMYL (your money your life) industries, it helps to have an expert tied to the content. This can also come in the form of a “reviewed by” or “approved by” feature.

How To Know If You’ve Been Hit

If you’ve been negatively impacted by the Helpful Content Update, you’ll see a drop in rankings, impressions, clicks, and website traffic for pages on your website. The algorithm evaluates each page individually, but it’s possible that your entire website is, well, unhelpful. We recommend keeping an eye on those metrics before, during and after the rollout of the Helpful Content Update. If you need another set of eyes, let us know. 

We aren’t surprised by the update. Not at all. It’s completely in line with what Google has been preaching since the beginning. Want to get ahead of this thing (or recover, depending on when you reading this). We recommend the following: 

  1. Understand your audience – develop personas! 
  2. Develop topic clusters to build topical authority for the subjects that matter most to your business goals. 
  3. Hire a subject matter expert to either write or review your content. 
  4. Monitor the performance of your content: 
  • Google Search Console for page-specific performance, including impressions, clicks and keyword positions. 
  • Semrush or Ahrefs for another source of page-specific keyword rankings. 
  • Google Analytics for behavior metrics and traffic metrics. Does your page have a low average session duration and a high bounce rate? Has your page seen a significant drop in organic sessions? These are signs that users don’t find your content helpful 

If you need help monitoring the performance of your content or implementing any of the recommendations included in this post, let us know. Search Nurture provides SEO for B2B, SaaS, CPG and eCommerce brands. Fill out a contact form to set up a meeting with one of our SEO experts. We can talk about the Helpful Content Update and anything else that’s on your mind. 




Increase in organic users by 150% YoY

Learn More

B2B SaaS

136% increase in sessions within 30 days

Learn More

Don't see your industry?

Although we’ve come to specialize in eCommerce and B2B SaaS, we work with clients from a variety of industries and customize solutions to those specific industry needs.

Subscribe to our newsletter for more digital marketing insights.


Related Articles

The Most Searched Questions about SEO

One of the reasons we love SEO is because it gives you an inside look at the human condition. At the center of every great SEO strategy is keyword...

The Complete Guide to International SEO Keyword Research

In a global economy, reaching every corner of the world can boost your presence. One challenging aspect of a multinational marketing strategy is...

International SEO: Benefits and Best Practices 2023

What Exactly is International SEO? International SEO is a specialized form of search engine optimization (SEO) that helps companies target and rank...

How to Integrate SEO and PPC for Maximum Synergy

Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click advertising (PPC) are critical components of digital marketing. However, far too many businesses...

Review Schema: The Quick SEO Win You Can’t Ignore

When conducting a competitor analysis, make sure you actually look at the search engine results page to see how your competitors are showing...

How to Improve SEO on Amazon (with Learnings from AMZ Ads)

The competition in Amazon’s marketplace is fierce. More than 12 million products are listed for sale on the mega-retailer, so how do you make your...

Is SEO Important for B2B?

If you’ve been searching for SEO tips online, you’ve likely seen that much of the conversation revolves around B2C and D2C content, which requires...

The Best CMS for SEO in 2023

Choosing a content management system is a bit like choosing a house: it’s a significant purchase decision, and you’re going to be stuck with it for...

Ready for GA4? Start Collecting Data for Google Analytics 4

March 17, 2022 Update: Google announced that Universal Analytics will stop processing hits on July 1, 2023; Analytics 360 will stop processing hits...

The Best Ecommerce SEO Audit Checklist in 2023

Key Takeaways: SEO is a vital factor in a site’s visibility in search engines in 2023 SEO audits help eCommerce sites strategize their ads for...

Did You Learn Something New?

Subscribe to our newsletter for more digital marketing insights.