Okay Google, what is your 'Helpful Content' update?

AUGUST, 2022

Google is launching its latest search engine update to clamp down on clickbait content and streamline generated results; making them far more helpful and relevant by prioritising original, authentic reviews over recycled & misleading information.

Following user complaints over the last year regarding cluttered search results from content that was primarily aggregated and ultimately unhelpful, Google is preparing to crack down on publishers that create ‘unsatisfying content’ purely for the sake of ranking on search with its new “helpful content” search algorithm update.

Last Thursday's (August 18) announcement declared changes that will rollout across two updates in the weeks ahead. It promised to prioritise “original, helpful content written by people, for people”, adding that it wanted web-users to have a more satisfying experience.

Web content that we will imminently see deprioritised include articles “mainly summarising what others have to say without adding much value”.

Next week, we'll launch the “helpful content update” to tackle content that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines rather than to help or inform people. This ranking update will help make sure that unoriginal, low quality content doesn’t rank highly in Search, and our testing has found it will especially improve results related to online education, as well as arts and entertainment, shopping and tech-related content.

More content by people, for people in Search, Google

The latest "Okay, Google" update will also crack down on posts that “promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed”.

This is a common clickbait SEO tactic where publishers will release a story online with the headline “X Film release date: Disney movie’s star-studded cast, trailer and plot revealed” despite having any new information and even in some cases no information or relevant updates at all.

The Silicon-Valley search company also warned content creators to assess whether they are “producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results” and “writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience”.

If you search for information about a new movie, you might have previously seen articles that aggregated reviews from other sites without adding perspectives beyond what’s available elsewhere. This isn’t very helpful if you’re expecting to read something new. With this update, you’ll see more results with unique, authentic information, so you’re more likely to read something you haven't seen before.

More content by people, for people in Search, Google

Websites with a primary focus and an existing or intended audience that would come to them directly to find useful information and articles that demonstrate first-hand knowledge and expertise should be able to relax.

Creators who purpose 'how-to' style searches and queries that relate to shopping, entertainment and technology look the most likely recipients to benefit the most from the change.

We typically announce ranking updates that will be noticeable, or we expect to be particularly felt by publishers. This is a meaningful ranking update to Search, and we’ll continue this work with more updates in this vein in the months ahead. Users should expect to see the helpfulness of search results evolve and improve over this time.

Interview with Tech Radar, Danny Sullivan, Google Public Liason for Search