How to Take Advantage of Google’s “Helpful Content Update” for SEO

There's no need to fight to stay 1 step ahead of Google. Here's how Google's “Helpful Content Update" can benefit you and your rankings
How to Take Advantage of Google’s “Helpful Content Update” for SEO

Google’s got a vested interest in making sure that users get search results that are relevant and useful – mostly, they want people to stick around so they can make money from their advertisers.

With people visiting nearly 90 billion times every month and, as of January 2022, Google accounting for a staggering 92% of the search engine market you can be assured Google is not going anywhere, and they have a considerable budget to make sure it stays that way.

That means over the years they have pushed thousands of updates to improve the user experience for the billions of people that rely on Google every single day, and thwart the SEO people that just want to game the search engines to get their content (oftentimes not the best content) to the top of search results.

The best SEO’s are those that work with Google to produce great content – they may know a few tricks to make sure their content ranks but they’re playing the long game. They’ve produced in depth content that gives the answers people are searching for, and they produced content that is topically relevant to what they actually offer.

Google’s most recent significant update in August ’22 – the “helpful content update” ( – will reward the good players and, if you follow the rules, over time you will start to see your own content starting to rank.

August 2022 brought Google’s ‘Helpful Content’ update

The Helpful Content updates that Google periodically releases have the sole purpose of improving the quality of content that surfaces in response to a query. Unfortunately, a lot of publishers still try to game the system by writing content for the express purpose of ranking in search results.

This content is usually light on the information that the visitor actually requires and thus they need to visit several pages before they can find what they’re looking for. In Google’s own words, the August 2022 update was meant to “help make sure that unoriginal, low-quality content doesn’t rank highly in Search.”

All content is written with the aim of getting it to rank in Google search. However, this update won’t affect those who are creating quality content that matches the user intent of the people searching on Google. Publishers who are only creating low quality content that’s stuffed with keywords and doesn’t provide the visitor with value will likely have seen their rankings being hit following this update.

How to prevent a traffic drop after Google’s latest update

1. Keep your site focused

Google’s release notes for the update have implied that it’s important for websites to have a niche. Websites that have a primary purpose or focus are essentially deemed to be of a higher quality compared to those that seem to cover content without any focus. Knowing exactly who you’re writing for (your existing or intended audience) from your expertise will result in more specific and valuable content for Google users.

For example, someone searching for tips on how to improve their credit score would be surprised to see tips on woodworking on that same site. This also presents a problem for Google’s crawlers to properly understand the site and thus index the pages that are to be ranked. The website could end up being flagged as low quality by the algorithm since it may presume that a lot of content is being produced on different topics simply in the hopes of ranking on Google.

2. Don’t go too far from your area of expertise

Google wants publishers to ask themselves a few questions, namely, is the content meant for humans or for search engines? Are topics being covered that have no similarity to the focus of the website simply because they’re trending? Is the website offering advice on any niche area that it doesn’t have any real expertise in?

Understand and plan your content – create a silo structure utilising topic clusters – you’ll create better content that naturally fits into your long term SEO strategy.

You might be tempted to go broad with your topics in the hopes that one, or more, outliers will pick up traffic…if they do then that will be no more than a fluke and unlikely to lead to anything more than a bounced visit.

For example, if you have a website about travel deals, your visitors would be a bit confused if they start seeing healthy recipes. You might decide to cover them if you come across high volume, low competition keywords, but Google might view it as an attempt to go way beyond the scope of your website to write content simply with the purpose of getting it to rank.

3. Focus on providing a good reader experience

Intent and experience now play a significant role in rankings on Google. For the keywords that people type into the search engine, the algorithm now detects the intent behind their query and surfaces the results that it deems most appropriate.

Google is now also placing weight on the reader experience, in that the visitor should leave your website feeling that they had a good experience. For example, a reader might land on your website from Google and go through a lengthy post but still feel that their query remained unanswered. This wouldn’t be a satisfying user experience.

4. Write content for people

Google has been saying this for years. Basically, you want to write first and then optimise for SEO after. If you have a content plan, the SEO part will largely look after itself, i.e.

  1. Identify your core content pillars
  2. Identify keywords people are searching for related to your content pillars.
  3. Come up with a list of content topics/pieces you are going to write about:
    • Based on the keywords
    • Based on topics you know your audience would be interested in, and assign keywords that will be addressed in each.
    • Based on content related to what you do that is trending/ranking, and assign keywords that will be addressed in each.

Good content should be something you’re proud to share on social media (where keywords don’t matter) – if you’re not comfortable sharing your content then maybe you’re trying too hard to produce “SEO content”.

4. Address the topic completely

Make sure you answer the question the searcher is asking. This means going into enough depth that they don’t bounce back to the search results page to find another site that answers their questions better. If you’re deep into a niche this is where domain relevance comes in handy – you have other related content to direct the visitor to, and this interlinking between pages on your site itself is good for your on-page SEO.

Note that Google has no magic word count for how long your content should be. There is research about content over 1000 words ranking better, but if you can deliver the answer in 300 words then do it – waffle creates a bad user experience, and Google has ways of detecting this (bounce rate and dwell time being one of the key indicators)…. so make your content only as long as it needs to be.

5. Avoid answering questions that have no definite answer

Many publishers, particularly in the tech or entertainment space, tend to create posts that answer questions that don’t have a definitive answer yet. An article about the release date for a major superhero movie that hasn’t even been announced by the studio would fit this description.

It’s up to the publisher to make it clear to the reader that the information that they’re presenting is rumored or not conclusive. If this isn’t clear, the algorithm may deem the post to be misleading, causing the site to be flagged and the rankings being lowered as a consequence.

How to recover from the latest Google SEO update?

Google’s updates normally take a couple of weeks to roll out. Since this latest update started rolling out at the end of August, most publishers would have seen an impact in their rankings by now. If yours have lowered after the update was released, you need to revisit the content on your website.

Follow the tips provided to make changes so that the content is in line with Google’s guidelines. Do keep in mind that you won’t see an instant improvement in the rankings after making these changes. It normally takes a few months and subsequent Google updates for the site’s fortunes to reverse.

How To Stay Current & On The Good Side of Google

Good SEO and long term rankings have always come back to the same fundamentals. From time-to-time people come across loopholes but Googles constant algorithm updates will close those loopholes and penalise site owners that use these strategies.

SEO comes down to 2 main points of endeavour:

  1. Onsite SEO: Creating great content that answers what Google searchers are looking for, and
  2. Offsite SEO: Having content that hopefully is of sufficient quality for other websites to link to.

Want to create a content strategy for SEO that will power your long term rankings in Google? Book a free 15 minute discovery call