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5 SEO Insights From Google's Helpful Content Update

5 SEO Insights From Google's Helpful Content Update

Google has made several big updates to how their search algorithm works over the past two years.

However, few updates have created as much panic and confusion as their September Helpful Content Update.

Screenshot of headline from Search Engine Land article that reads "Impact of the Google September 2023 helpful content was big for the SEO industry"

In this article, we'll explore what makes Google's Helpful Content Update different, how it may impact your search rankings, organic traffic, and what you can do about it.

What is Google's Helpful Content Update?

The Helpful Content Update, released in September 2023, is Google's latest and most significant step towards the quality and relevance of their search results.

In their words, the change will help ensure people see "more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results." 

Key to the update is the inclusion of a new site-wide signal for how Google will rank web pages. Ultimately, this means that if Google does not think your content is helpful to searchers, you may rank lower in search and receive less traffic to your website.

On the flip side, the helpful content signal is weighted, so it means more to Google, and if you perform steps to ensure your content is "helpful," you can improve your website ranking.

How to Tell if Your Site Has Been Impacted by Google’s Helpful Content Update

If you've noticed a decrease in your website traffic within Google Analytics around the time of the update, your site may have been impacted.

A screenshot of GA4 Organic Traffic Report


To confirm, focus on whether you see any significant changes in user engagement and any decreases in search rankings within Google Search Console or with a paid tool like SEMrush.

Screenshot of SEMrush Sensor During Google's Helpful Content Update

Cross-reference your findings against Google's guidelines, and quickly take steps to ensure your content aligns with the new standards. 

5 Takeaways From Google's Helpful Content Update

Google's documentation lists several helpful questions that provide a lens to view your existing content and website structure. It's definitely worth reviewing in detail however, for the sake of time, here are five key takeaways:

1. Stay In Your Lane

Your content marketing should be focused on your brand's purpose or goal rather than producing content to increase search traffic. So, while it may be tempting to jump on a trend or deviate from your core content here and there, remind yourself there's a benefit to staying on topic and let the trend pass.

Distracted boyfriend meme image showing man walking with a woman who is disgusted because his head is turned looking at the woman that just passed.

Your site's content should be laser-focused on addressing the needs of your audience, offering them knowledge, solutions, and a good site experience.

2. Write for Your Audience, Not For A Search Engine

In addition to focusing on your core topic, it's important to write your content for a person, not a search engine.

This means understanding who your content is for by developing a detailed audience persona, which considers demographics and the audience’s level of expertise with the topic.

When writing your content, you should still keep SEO principles in mind however be sure to avoid forcing as many keywords in your content as you can or leaning too heavily on AI-generated content.

A rule of thumb is that if you read your content out loud and it doesn't sound like you would speak to another person, rewrite it.

3. Personalize Content To Demonstrate Expertise

Share your unique insights from personal experiences to showcase expertise.

Consider these two questions from Google's guidelines:

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

Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge?

Thankfully, these takeaways build on each other. If you're focused on topics that matter to your industry and writing as if you were speaking directly to a customer, then the next step is to add detail, showing your expertise and unique perspective. Try to stand out from the crowd.

Picture of a group of people on bicycles with only one wearing a Big Bird costume in the middle of the group.


4. Worry Less About Word Count

Understanding and fully answering the needs of your audience should be what drives your content length, not a word count goal.

Google has acknowledged there is no optimal word count as far as search rankings are concerned, and keyword stuffing or redundant paragraphs added to hit some magic number of words may do more harm than good.

Don't take this to mean that your content can now all be three sentences long. While more words aren't always better, longer content does tend to rank for a greater number of words.

Additionally, longer content, such as guides, tends to be shared and linked to more often than shorter content, and there is clear SEO benefit.

The bottom line is that you should address your content topic thoroughly and to the best of your ability without worrying about whether you've written enough. 

5. Be Proactive

Google claims that the new helpful content signal will constantly search for content that it deems unhelpful, unreliable, or unnecessary.

Some may find removing content from their website scary or daunting if they have a lot of content.

However, it's important to remember that if Google discovers "unhelpful" content, it doesn't just impact the ranking of that page but hurts your entire site.

Our advice is not to wait until something bad happens but to review your posts, remove your weakest content, and give your more helpful content the spotlight it deserves.

Gonna be a no from me dog

In summary, Google's Helpful Content Update requires that brands evaluate their content's current quality and usefulness. By integrating the five key takeaways we've discussed, you will be well on your way to making sure your content meets Google's new criteria.


Like what you read? Contact us to see how we may be able to help you meet your marketing goals.



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