All About Helpful Content: The Latest Google Update

Lauren Oliver


August 22, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Google’s Helpful Content update is scheduled to release sometime this week, and it’s causing waves in the digital marketing space. This is the first time Google has released a named update since the Panda and Penguin updates in 2011 and 2012. Like these two earlier updates, Helpful Content will provide more valuable search results for users by limiting the amount of low-quality content that shows up in SERPs. You know the stuff—clickbait, AI-generated, or paraphrased content a lot of sites spit out to dominate search results.

The update should combat this with its new ranking signals that identify and flag low-quality content. But what will this even mean for publishers, agencies, and businesses producing content at scale? And how can agencies get ahead of the update and reduce the potential for penalties? We’ll take a closer look at these topics and how CopyPress helps agencies and businesses scale helpful content.

What’s the Helpful Content Update All About?

One thing to be aware of is that this update is site-wide, so Google’s newest ranking signals won’t just be filtering through single web pages. Instead, the update targets entire sites, crawling and identifying any content that doesn’t follow Google’s webmaster guidelines and SEO best practices. Is this a good thing? I’d say so. After all, our goal as content marketers should always be to provide high-quality, relevant content that serves users’ search intent.

If you’re following SEO best practices and creating content based on audiences’ needs, this update should only complement your strategy. And, as Helpful Content launches, you can stay on top of the update with the latest info alongside the CopyPress team, as we’ll be covering the ins and outs of this topic over the coming weeks.

How Does the Helpful Content Update Work?

The Helpful Content update uses a signal that automatically identifies low-quality content and flags it, keeping it from ranking in the top SERPs. Google states, “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.” This means that even if you write a high-quality, informative article, it might not rank well if the rest of your website contains low-quality or clickbait content.

The signal classifier is set to run continuously, using a machine learning model that automatically scans and classifies content as helpful or not. Google also made this update using weighted signals. That is, sites with higher volumes of unhelpful content are more likely to see the effects of this update, while sites with more helpful content can still win rankings.

What Types of Content Will the Latest Google Update Affect?

According to Google, this update is going to be targeting low-value content as a whole. But low-value content can mean a number of things, so Google provides a helpful list that sheds light on the types of content that are likely to feel the most heat:

  • Search-engine-first content and content created with the sole intention of dominating rankings on search engines
  • AI-generated content, paraphrased content, and copy parsed together from a billion other sources just like it
  • Low-quality clickbait with misleading headlines and content that’s irrelevant to the user’s search intent
  • Broadly focused content with no authority, expertise, or apparent value to users

So what types of content will this update reward? Ultimately, content that hits the following marks is the content Google should be rewarding:

  • People-first content focused on meeting specific audience needs
  • Valuable, authoritative content that answers user questions and fulfills search intent
  • Expert perspectives that provide a satisfying visitor experience

How Can Agencies Get Ahead of the Latest Google Update?

Honestly, if you’re scrambling to redirect your SEO and content practices in front of the update, you’re in the boat and already sailing into shadowy waters. The best action at this point is to plan and publish new content your team creates following people-first practices. Then, you can optimize or do away with older content that just doesn’t hit the mark. So where do you start? Here’s an action plan your team can follow right away:

1. Get to Know Your Audience

Dig into your audience’s interests, needs, and pain points. Find out who your audience consists of. When you create a well-developed customer persona, your team is much more likely to produce exactly what your audience wants to see. Understanding your audience is absolutely critical to creating people-first and customer-centric content that provides value. Otherwise, you’ll be publishing content for search engines, which will ultimately see the effects of the update.

2. Find the Relevant Topics

Focus on the topics your audience cares about. Use content analysis to uncover topic gaps your audience is searching for but you’re not yet covering. These topic gaps will be the key to delivering high-quality content that resonates with your audience. Find out what your competitors are doing to produce and scale helpful content, and explore similar approaches to serving your audience. CopyPress is a perfect example: using our content analysis, we help clients find the topics and keywords their target customers are searching for, then we help scale this helpful content for target audiences.

3. Provide Value in Content

If you’re not writing for your audience, you’re not providing value. This newest update is sure to hit sites with low-value content. So if you want to avoid content being targeted for low quality, you have to add value every step of the way. As you create new and valuable content, review older content for optimization. Adjust, make changes, and revise these older pieces to align with Google’s guidelines. When you find content that just won’t cut it with the new update, consider scrapping it from your site. With these changes, Google will be way less likely to flag your content.

Everything falls into place better if you just focus on solving your audience’s pain points first. Identify the most relevant topics and keywords your target market is searching for, then create content that serves users’ purposes for searching in the first place. It’s almost as if inbound marketing is the approach to use for content to reach audiences, engage them, and convert them to loyal customers and followers. Coincidence? Yeah, I don’t think so either.

CopyPress takes this approach to help our clients serve their audiences’ needs, answer questions, solve problems, and provide value. Focusing on these key elements as you weave SEO into your plan is the best way to create quality content that won’t be flagged by Google’s ranking signals.

Share Your Thoughts With Us at INBOUND

Image depicting the HubSpot INBOUND conference brand colors with CopyPress logo.With INBOUND 2022 just around the corner, a lot of digital marketing and agency professionals might be looking for coverage on the Helpful Content update. It’s not certain whether INBOUND’s sessions and workshops will focus on it specifically, though it could absolutely become a hot topic throughout the event. One thing is for sure: if you want to talk more about the Google update, the CopyPress team is geared up and ready to share insights.

As Google rolls out the update this week, it’s sure to cause noise in the digital marketing sphere. And like its Panda and Penguin predecessors a decade earlier, the Helpful Content update is likely to be a trending topic for the long haul. So how can your agency maintain content creation at scale while adhering to Google’s newest update parameters? Catch us at INBOUND at booth 13 and find out how the CopyPress team helps agencies do just that.

Can’t make it to INBOUND? Schedule a 1:1 to chat about your content with our team instead. We’ll share our hot take and get your input on the topic as the whole industry moves forward with Google’s changes. Looking for more information and resources on the update? Head to where you’ll find industry insights, expert takes, and everything you need to stay on top of the update.

Author Image - Lauren Oliver
Lauren Oliver

Content Manager at CopyPress

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