Only From The Source: What Google Says About “Helpful Content”

Written by Jeremy Rivera

Jeremy Rivera is the founder of SEO Arcade, a keyword forecasting tool, and a 12+ year veteran of the SEO industry, having worked with Raven Tools, Tapclicks, and hundreds of businesses from enterprise to mom-and-pop shops.

When it comes to this particular algorithm update, there are going to be plenty of SEO experts with opinions about it, but you may be wanting “just the facts, Ma’am” straight from the lips of Google representatives so you can draw your own conclusions. Here’s a continually curated list of posts and comments from John Mu, Danny Sullivan, and other official Google sources on the Helpful Content Update.

Update on “Slow Roll Out” and A Longer Term Impact

Official Algorithm Release Notice August 25th

Google is now keeping a Ranking Updates Release History page, where they added a notation for the “Helpful content update” as released and having a two week rollout process.

Original Notice Of Upcoming Rollout

  • What creators should know about Google’s helpful content update
    • Who: This was published by Chris Nelson of the Search Quality Team at Google’s Search Central Blog, where they post official algorithm updates and other content meant to be “official guidance” from Google. [Note: Search Quality = Google Spam Team, which could be useful context on how Google intends for this update to function.]
    • What: This announcement post, published August 18th, 2022, provides a summary of the algorithm update: “Google Search is always working to better connect people to helpful information. To this end, we’re launching what we’re calling the “helpful content update” that’s part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results. Below is more about the update and things creators should consider.”
    • How: Google will begin incorporating “a new site-wide signal that we consider among many other signals for ranking web pages. Our systems automatically identify content that seems to have little value, low-added value or is otherwise not particularly helpful to those doing searches… Any content — not just unhelpful content — on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search, assuming there is other content elsewhere on the web that’s better to display. For this reason, removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.”
    • When: “The update will start rolling out next week [7/21]. We will post on our Google ranking updates page when it begins and when it is fully rolled out, which could take up to two weeks.”
    • Why: “SEO is a helpful activity when it’s applied to people-first content. However, content created primarily for search engine traffic is strongly correlated with content that searchers find unsatisfying.”

Official “Helpful Content” Feedback Form

It might not help you directly, but it’s interesting that they’ve opened up a channel for sites who believe they have been impacted.

If you feel that your site was affected by Google’s recent helpful content update, and you feel that it shouldn’t have been affected, use this form to send us feedback. While Google does not use these submissions to take direct action, these reports will help us improve the quality of the search results for everyone.

If you find information in Google’s search results that you believe appears due to spam, paid links, malware, or other issues that might violate our guidelines, use the spam report form. These reports still play a significant role in helping us understand how to improve our spam detection systems that protect our search results.

Google Feedback Form

“We recently released a Search ranking update called the August 2022 helpful content update. This is part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.”

“If you have any feedback about this update, you can comment on this thread. If you’d like to give us feedback specific to your site, you can use the feedback form for this update. We use your feedback to help our engineers find ways to improve our systems overall. Your feedback is valuable and helps to improve Search for everyone!”

John Mueller

When Does The Update Take Effect?

  • Who: Search Advocate at Google
  • Why It Matters: Kristine’s actual question was “I see people talking about working on their sites now for the update next week. Would I be right to assume that boat has long passed for next week’s rollout?” This tweet clarifies that data for this update has already been collected, so site owners won’t have a chance to do a desperate, last-minute cleanup before the update is released and has an effect.

How Do You Remove “Unhelpful Content” Correctly?

Unoriginal =/ Unhelpful

Is This Update Limited To English or Does It Cover Additional Languages?

More Reason To Reconsider Subdomains:

Not Exclusive to, But Might Be Most Impactful To:

Google Considered AI-Generated Content Spam

  • Who: John Mu, Search Liaison
  • When: April 1, 2022
  • What: Someone asked, “How does Google react to hosting AI-Written content?” His answer was that these would “Fall into the category of automatically generated content, which is something we have had in the Webmaster Guidelines since almost the beginning… if you’re using machine-learning tools to generate content it’s as if you’re just, shuffling words around, or looking up synonyms or doing the kind of translation tricks that people used to do. Maybe the quality of the content is a little bit better than the REALLY old-school tools, but for us, it’s still automatically generated content and it’s still against the Webmaster Guidelines so we would consider that to be spam.”

There is a LOT of Sound And Noise: But There Was Also a Lot Of Unhelpful Content Out There

No Site Type Specific Guidance

“Unhelpful Content” Will Not Be flagged in Google Search Console

Google Web Stories WILL Be Impacted by The Update

Aggregation W/O Added Value Under Potential Scrutiny

User Generated Content (UGC) Is Not Exempt

Ongoing Updates:

This collection of tweets, links, and videos will continue to update as Search Liaisons comment or Google releases new official documents for this update.

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Jeremy Rivera is the founder of SEO Arcade, a keyword forecasting tool, and a 12+ year veteran of the SEO industry, having worked with Raven Tools, Tapclicks, and hundreds of businesses from enterprise to mom-and-pop shops.