Google Launches Helpful Content Update To Show Us That: SEO Is About People, Not Bots

Spoiler: If you were doing it the right way already, there isn't any significant change. Keep it there!

Updated: May 11, 2023

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This week, Google started rolling out new guidelines for creators and website owners. These new practices are oriented to give users original and genuinely useful content. The Helpful Content Update aims to get creators to put more effort into creating good content. 

The update is being compared to preview algorithms updates like Panda and Penguin, which made SEO experts change the way they design their strategies. 

Although it seems pretty nice in theory, what does it really change in practice for marketers and SEO professionals? Basically, as Google said, content creators should focus on people first and avoid creating content for search engines. Let’s dive in!

What does Google mean by “people first”?

With these guidelines, Google is placing priority on content written by people for people, rather than just publishing pieces for search engines. People-first content is all about answering questions and satisfying your reader. 

The Helpful Content Update also avoids unoriginal pieces that only summarize what is being said by other creators without really adding value or something new.   

Some SEO professionals might be familiar with this strategy: the content creator identifies a keyword that they want to reach the top of search positions. Then, they take the content of the first three ranked sites and “mix” them all in an unoriginal text as a sort of rewriting, designed only to catch the attention of Google’s algorithm — often, adding no additional value to the reader.

That’s one strategy that Google wants to avoid, in order to offer good content to searchers.

So, to create better content for your readers and reevaluate your content, Google advises the following questions:

  • Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if it came directly from you?
  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
  • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  • After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  • Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
  • Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?

Likewise, it is not the first time that Google released an update focused on content. If we check the Google Algorithm History we can find some major examples like Panda and Penguin. 

Source: Yoast SEO

In theory, all websites should always be written for their users. So those who have this in mind even before the Helpful Content Update, are in the right place.

Google will also evaluate all of your content

An old SEO practice was publishing high volumes of content using the tactic of rewriting content I explained above and trying to rank for just some of them. If you still rely on that, you have problems comings.

In this new update, Google is not only going to analyze every single post to rank each piece of content in isolation. It will analyze all of your content as a whole to give a “signal” related to all of your domains saying whether your content is of quality or not as a whole.

If the majority of your content is low quality and is made just for search engine tools, you have a high probability of losing some precious positions on SERP even if some pieces could be considered as high quality.

How can you recover them? You’ll need to clean all of this low-quality content out from your site and wait some months until Google understands that your domain changed its tactics – this is another characteristic of the Google Helpful Content Update: it’ll continuously run analysis in real-time from now on to determine the quality of the content, not just at the launch of the update. 

How to strategize your content from now on?

Let’s now get to the tactical part. I’ve got some tips to help you improve the quality of your content, always having the user as a priority.

Go back to the “basis”

Any Marketing strategy needs a deep analysis of its target. That is something that will never change. Researching about your personas is a common task in our workflow. 

The Helpful Content Update is very useful if we double-check our buyer persona

So, if you haven’t done so already: check your empathy map and try to understand if your content is truly matching the needs of your persona right now.

Avoid relying too much on AI

Generating content with AI is a brand-new practice to publish a high volume of pieces in less time. However, you should reevaluate if an AI can write the content for you. If they are really useful to optimize your content, human editing is key to making the difference.

When making a piece of content, try to rely on other tools, like actual data, your competitors, or social listening. You can also use tools, like Answer The Public or the SERP features that show the common queries and needs about any topic.  

Add the value only you could add

As I said before, Google is prioritizing content that is clearly written first-hand, and that conveys a deep knowledge of the creator.

Not just Google. Your readers also prioritize this. Here’s the mindset: when people come to your site or blog, they want to know what you (or your brand) have to say about a certain topic.

There is too much information on the same topic online. How will your website stand out from the rest?

Put real examples, cases, data, studies, your opinion, and your expertise. I will leave three examples of content that we produced here, at Rock Content, that followed this premise:

Don’t publish mass generic content

Focus on publishing better content that satisfies and brings important answers and insights to your reader. This takes time to make and needs planning.

Before looking for the keyword positions you would love to achieve on SERP, ask yourself: how can I add value to this topic? This will certainly help you avoid the temptation to produce a high volume of low-quality, unplanned and generic content.

What Google is saying to us is: “Ignore me; satisfy users.

Every time we create a post, let’s not forget that there is another human reading us. The Helpful Content Update aims to teach us to remember our main purpose: helping our audience through our content. 

And, if you want to continue to be updated with SEO best practices, I strongly suggest that you subscribe to The Beat, Rock Content’s interactive newsletter. There, you’ll find all the trends that matter in the Digital Marketing landscape. See you there!


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