SEO Insights > Google’s ‘helpful content’ update: What should you expect?

Google’s ‘helpful content’ update: What should you expect?

Google's 'helpful content' update: What should you expect?

2021 was the year of updates and it feels like we spent most of our time chasing headlines around what Google update might be coming next. We’ve all been at the edge of our seats, waiting for something big to happen. After the May 2022 Core update and various changes to product reviews and the Search Quality Rater Guidelines, Google has announced something that feels long overdue.

As an SEO agency, we have to be prepared for anything and we have to let our clients know about any changes that may affect their visibility or the way we work and track our progress. So, if you are still slowly setting up Google Analytics 4, it’s time to speed up and get ready for the next item on the list: Google’s helpful content update. 

What is the helpful content update?

On August 18th, Google announced that starting on the 25th, they will be rolling out the helpful content update to help users see more original, high quality content. The update should finish rolling out in a week or two and it will reward content that meets visitors’ expectations. As Google have said before, they are always working on connecting people with better, more helpful information and the time has come to shake things up. 

The update will introduce a new site-wide signal that will be considered for ranking, and has the capacity to deprioritise websites that produce a lot of unhelpful or AI generated content while rewarding those with the most useful pages. This has been a very popular topic lately, as more and more users are getting frustrated by the quality of content that ranks well for their chosen queries. As SEOs, we know how important these rankings are but this should not take away from what matters most – the user. 

Why does the helpful content update matter?

We live in a very busy world and depend on quick answers to all of our questions. We rely on Google for relevant and accurate information we can trust, but as mentioned before, most of us are disappointed by the quality of the answers offered each time we turn to search engines for help, so it’s natural that more people are using social media and other alternative platforms when looking for a specific answer or product.

As SEOs, we focus on helping our clients provide quality content to their audiences. And while metrics clearly show the SEO benefits of providing relevant and accurate information, we can also see the amount of low quality content that we are still competing with and we are ready for a change. 

When asked why this update in particular is something we keep a close eye on, SEO Manager Chloe Smith said: 

“While every update matters to varying degrees, the helpful content update looks like it has the potential to shake things up in a big way. If we look at the updates we’ve had in the past two years (aside from Broad Core algorithm updates) there’s been a clear emphasis on making content useful for users, but these are smaller tweaks to ranking changes. I think we’re well overdue for an update that totally changes the space the way Penguin did. That being said, I’m waiting until it rolls out fully. Speculating on what it might do won’t hurt, but it doesn’t help us either!”

What are we expecting from the update?

It is too early to tell what this update will bring but we expect to see a lot more high quality content in the SERPs. Google confirmed that this signal will be considered for ranking websites – among other important ranking factors – but we are still in the early stages of the rollout and it is not yet clear how this update will affect visibility and what we see as part of the search results. 

“In the past we’ve considered Google’s competitors as being the likes of Bing, but in 2022 we look to TikTok and Instagram where more and more users are sourcing information from daily news to purchasing decisions from an array of diverse, highly visual feeds that inform while simultaneously delighting the user. It all amounts to the fact that far fewer of the results that we’re looking to rank in are going to appear as a list of ten blue links, with SERPs real-estate being used to curate unique user experiences, as opposed to maximising the number of results. 

We expect the winners of this update to be those whose unique content can stand out from the crowd from a quality perspective; content that is meaningful and engaging, be it through written content, live updates, video or imagery”

– Dan Lapham, SEO Director at Blue Array. 

How is Blue Array preparing for the update?

As an agency, we work hard on putting together a tailored, effective seo strategy for our clients where providing high quality content and a great user experience is not something we compromise on. We continually monitor our clients’ websites while keeping an eye on SEO news and we are well equipped to deal with algorithm updates. Our team of highly skilled technical SEO specialists even offer Core Web Vitals investigations for clients looking to improve their Page Experience metrics. 

So what can we do to get the best results out of this update? 

SEO Director James Powley said:

“Focus on the user. While this is easier said than done, most of the time it shouldn’t be more complicated than that. From an SEO perspective you might want to focus on getting lots of content live to get traffic but take a step back and think about how you can focus on quality over quantity. If you don’t think it can be done, don’t be afraid to cull it.”

James also added:

“Ultimately, if you think you are going to be affected, I wouldn’t rush into decisions such as removing content immediately. The best thing to do is to wait and see how your site, vertical, competitors and content is affected, then make informed decisions. There is a tendency to panic after an update, but instead try and see the positives. Perhaps, you will see an improvement, and if not, you might learn something instead”


While focusing on what search engines want to see has its own benefits and it helps us understand what is expected of us and how we can improve, we have to think about other things too, and the same should apply to the helpful content update. While bots will crawl websites, they will not use the services or buy the products offered.  

We’ve learnt that putting all of our effort into improving user experience and ensuring our visitors will get the most out of our content is the best way to reach our audience and make sure they leave our site feeling satisfied. 

The roll-out of the ‘helpful content’ update should be completely rolled out by mid-September according to Google. If you think your website might be impacted by this update, contact our team today.

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