As of September 2022, Google has rolled out six new algorithm updates. But their latest Google’s Helpful Content Update (August 2022) was the first to focus on specifically removing Black Hat SEO tactics and ensuring content is as user-friendly as possible. 

At Reflect our specialism is human behaviour so this update is a big win for us as we like to ensure all of our content is geared around the needs of consumers.

What is Google’s Helpful Content Update?

Google’s Helpful Content update puts people first. It aims to remind SEOs and creators that bots aren’t who our content should be aimed at, and instead to provide more value to users, i.e., focus on answering questions not keyword stuffing. 

However, it’s important to note that Google’s Helpful Content Update will not penalise sites that have optimised their site using SEO best practices, it focuses on penalising those that have used Black Hat tactics to get to the top of SERPs. 

Users expect content to deliver answers, and they go to Google looking for such. This update is aimed at preventing users from finding content that doesn’t satisfy their needs or answer a question: limiting the number of sites they have to go to to find their answers. 

So, as much as the new update is trying to help users, it’s also helping you;  happy and satisfied users = the more likely they are to continue consuming your content and build more positive relationships. This links in with the psychological principle of reciprocity because, by giving your audience something of value (i.e. good content), they’ll be more likely to come back to you over competitors when they need a product or service as you gave them something of value, and so they feel indebted to you.  

How does Google’s Helpful Content Update differ from other Google updates?

All Google updates have the end-user in mind, that’s a given from Google. However, this is the first update we’ve seen that directly targets written online content as a means of improving user experience whilst also considering SEO. Previous updates have tended to focus on more technical SEO-related areas such as Core Web Vitals and MUM, so it’s a positive sign that the provision of valuable content is beginning to become a mandatory part of day-to-day SEO.

What Google’s Helpful Content Update Means For You.

Google’s Helpful Content Update rates online content based on whether or not the algorithm identifies if it meets the following criteria:

  • Content should be created with a specific audience in mind. 
  • It should also feature expert knowledge in one form or another. For example, a quote from a genuine expert in a field of knowledge. Including some form of content like this adds authority to your piece which subconsciously adds credibility to your piece in readers’ minds.
  • Content should answer the questions of the reader. Your audience should feel like they’ve read something valuable after reading your piece. 
  • It should have a clear call to action, telling the reader what you want their next action to be. 
  • All site content should keep other updates in mind like core updates, product review updates, and mobile optimisation updates. Meeting the requirements of one update without adhering to the requirements of others is very unlikely to generate good results.

Following the above criteria means that you’re more likely to put yourself in Google’s good books because it shows that you’re making an effort to put your audience first when creating content. However, it’s not as easy as just making sure that all future content meets the above criteria. Unfortunately, it means that you’ll need to go through your previous content and check it against the criteria to make sure that it’s Helpful Content Update Friendly. Failing to do this could mean that your site gets ranked lower than others that meet the requirements. Also bear in mind that (as with most things SEO related) it could be a few months before you begin to see changes in your rankings after amending older content. 

It’s worth noting that the new Google update really integrates the idea of authority bias because it places emphasis on informing content with expert knowledge and input.

Authority bias is fuelled on the basis that, as humans, we’re programmed to place more faith and trust in someone or something that can be considered a trustworthy source; by including expert input in your content, you’re more likely to appear as a trustworthy entity. With the Helpful Content Update requirements, Google is helping you to appear to customers as someone they can trust. 

What our experts have to say about Google’s Helpful Content Update.

“For me this is massive, SEOs have been producing SEO content for years with little attention to how useful it is and this is a big wake-up call to all the pieces that don't really have a clear next step or CTA. We have been telling clients that they need to up their game, but this really is the final warning from Google, content that doesn’t provide value to end-users won't wash from here on.”
Ciaran Oliver, Head of SEO

“I believe the Helpful Content Update (HCU) was always there around us. It started with the Google+ author in the search results, then continued with Google's Core Updates.

"Core Updates is mainly focused on helpful, unique and relevant content based on the search intent. No website with low-quality content that doesn't respond to the search intent is ranking first. No long-written (without an answer to the user intent) content ranks on the featured snippet for a query requiring a short response.

"We still face EAT in most cases. EAT stands for all these three matters: Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. EAT is connected to Google's HCU, Core Updates, and Product Reviews.

"I also believe being unique in every concept can win in all aspects. Proving valuable content to the users is what Google wants from us.”
Roman Adamita, SEO Director

“I think the Google update is a great thing to stop people producing content to rank and generate clicks without answering the search question or query, which ultimately wastes the searcher's time and energy. In a world where everything moves at a super fast pace, we barely have the time to research things in detail.

"Given the update, it will mean that a searcher's time, in theory, should not be wasted and will result in experts getting the recognition and results they deserve by producing trustworthy and reliable content to answer queries and hopefully generate leads/sales/conversions in the long run!
It's been a long time coming as a way to filter out the fluff from the search results and create a better user experience altogether.” 
Donna Essex, SEO Manager

“I think Google's new Helpful Content update is great as it's going to make sure users are getting the most relevant and useful information available. The reason SERP features like a featured snippet are so popular is that users want to know the exact answer to their question/query - with the Helpful

"Content update, Google is going to make this happen on a much bigger level. It's going to force people who write content to take a step back and think 'is this really the best way of answering this search query?'. From the way content is structured (bullet points, lists etc...) to the actual copy that's written, content is going to be under Google's magnifying glass more than ever, which can only be a good thing!”
Morgan Rodway-Wing, Content Executive

Key Takeaways

Google’s Helpful Content Update takes a people-first approach, rather than search engine first, and although it’s important that all SEOs become familiar with the new update, copywriters and content producers specifically should set aside lots of time to understand the requirements of the update. 
The Google update is now fully rolled out (as of the end of August), so that means the sooner you can ensure all of your content meets the criteria the better. Your content should:

  • Be tailored for a specific audience.
  • Feature an expert’s opinion, knowledge, or outlook.
  • Answer the reader’s questions and provide value to them.
  • Have a clear CTA.
  • Meet the criteria of other recent Google updates.

Don’t forget that, as much as the Helpful Content Update strives to improve the user experience, Google is also trying to help you to improve your content and retain consumers by appearing to them as trustworthy and valuable. The new update can help you to build authority and credibility if you meet the requirements, all while maintaining best practices when it comes to SEO. 

For more other resources and information on the latest SEO updates, our insights section has articles containing all you need to know. Additionally, if you’re looking for some SEO help on how to produce or update your content as per the new update, get in touch with our team today to find out how we can help you. 



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