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Are you focusing so much on SEO that you’re creating sub-par content? Well, Google is changing the game. Google recently announced a sitewide algorithm change they are calling the helpful content update that reevaluates search engine-centric articles.

Google discusses the update in the following announcement:

“Next week, we will launch the “helpful content update” to better ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, rather than content made primarily for search engine traffic.”

What does this mean? Should you worry about the optimization of your content and site as a whole? Not necessarily.

Google recently released a blog article explaining the algorithm changes and how to create successful content that reaches your intended audience.

Let’s dive in.


Google’s new focus on people-first content

The focus of the “helpful content update” is to reward creators for producing valuable content. Say goodbye to solely SEO-centric articles that are not giving readers the content they are actually searching for. Google wants to provide its users with a smooth and satisfying experience when scrolling for information.

How can you ensure you’re creating content that will be successful with the new Google update? Simply, create your content for people and not for the search engine.

People-first content
Using real-world examples and case studies showing value to your customers is people-first content.

“By following our long-standing advice and guidelines to create content for people, not for search engines. People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value.”

What could you do to show your own value to your customers? Add case studies and real-world examples on how your product or service has helped an actual customer. This content is people-first.

How does Google’s Helpful Content Update work?

The idea of this update is to weed out the bad to make room for the good. Although this may seem intimidating, it will help you succeed in your SEO efforts if you do it right.

This is a huge win for people trying to compete with large companies dumping hundreds of bogus fully optimized articles that provide no value to readers. How can you create content that matters, but also performs well?

You put yourself in your customer’s shoes and share real examples of how your solution has helped other customers. Show specific examples that can guide the reader and help them understand how your solution solved a problem or helped a customer reach their goal. Customer-centric strategies that start with buyer personas are critical. Google wants to hear actual, first-person accounts of how your solutions have benefitted clients.

“Any good marketing team will love this new customer-centric algorithm if they are doing their jobs well. Marketing strategies should always start with the buyer persona and think about where they are at in the cycle, what real-world problems they face, and give actual solutions for that customer. The fact that Google is now rewarding that is a win for marketers everywhere.”

Branden O’Neil, CEO, Atlas Rose

Google has provided a list of questions to ask yourself when creating content:

  • Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
  • Do you produce lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  • Do you use extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
  • Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
  • Are you writing about things simply because they seem to trend and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
  • Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
  • What about deciding to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, mainly because you think it will get search traffic?
  • Does your content 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 without valid confirmation?

Creating content written for human consumption is more important now than ever. But shouldn’t we have been doing that the entire time? SEO is a helpful marketing practice, especially when it’s applied to people-first content. However, content created primarily for search engine traffic is usually associated with articles searchers are uninterested in reading because they lack value.

How does it affect my site?

The update includes a new ranking signal that will negatively score sites that publish high-volume content with low value or are overall unhelpful to users.

In recent history, the “product review update” targeted specific pages on a site. However, the helpful content update is sitewide. This means it could potentially impact all the pages on your site.

“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, assuming there is other content elsewhere from the web that’s better to display. For this reason, removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.”

Google suggests removing content from your site that is unhelpful to users.

How long until your site begins to perform better after removing unnecessary content?

Any website identified by the update may take several months for peak optimization. Do you have a new site? No worries. The classifier embedded in the update is continuously running, monitoring NEW and pre-existing websites. Once the classifier determines your site does not contain unhelpful content for a long amount of time, it will no longer apply.

The classifier uses machine learning and is completely automated – not manual or spam action. Simply put, it is one of Google’s many signals used to score content.

This means the article could still perform well if you have people-first content on your site but your site is identified as containing unhelpful content. There may be other signals classifying your content as helpful and relevant to a specific search.

The new signal is weighted so the more unhelpful content you have on your site, the worse it will perform in searches. In other words, some sites will get hit harder than others.

Currently, the update only impacts English searches. However, Google is working on expanding the update in different languages in the near future.

Updates are continual, ensuring a people-first approach to searching on Google in the future.

Final takeaways from Google’s Helpful Content Update:

  • The update devalues unhelpful content, taking a people-centric approach to SEO.
  • Add in personalized content by using real examples from your own business and experience.
  • The update affects your entire site, not just individual articles.
  • The update is not a manual action or spam action. The process uses a machine-learning model.
  • People-first content can still rank even if it’s on sites with large amounts of SEO-centric content.
  • The signal is weighted. The more unhelpful content you have the worse your website will perform overall.
  • Only English searches will be impacted, updates will include more languages in the future.

At Atlas Rose, we believe in creating valuable content for our clients that informs their intended audience, while making sure it ranks well on the appropriate channels. Do you want to know more about this update? Is your site prepared to take on this type of change? Do you want to create better human-focused content for your site? We can help. Talk to us.

About Atlas Rose

Atlas Rose is a marketing leadership company focusing on bringing executive-level help to small and medium-sized businesses. By offering fractional Chief Marketing Officers integrated with their client’s leadership team, they effectively impact the company culture and mission. The result is a predictable, measurable, and effective lead flow for just a fraction of what a full-time marketing department would cost. They can be reached at, 762-533-5007 or visit them at