Google's Helpful Content Update: What You Need To Know

Sidra Condron
April 16, 2024
8 min read

In September 2022, Google rolled out the helpful content update for its search algorithm. This update aims to boost content that is deemed high-quality and helpful to searchers, while decreasing the visibility of content that is low-quality or unhelpful.

The goal of the update is to better match searchers with content that provides a good user experience and satisfies their search intent. When users search on Google, they are looking for pages that comprehensively cover the topic they searched for and provide value. The helpful content update is designed to surface those types of pages in search results.

Google confirmed that the helpful content update first began rolling out on September 14, 2022. The update ramped up over the following two weeks, with the effects fully in place by September 28. While core updates happen regularly, this one is unique in its focus on the helpfulness and value of page content.

How the Helpful Content Update Works

One key thing to understand is that Google evaluates the overall helpfulness of a website, not just individual pages.

The Helpful Content Update uses a machine learning classifier model to assess the helpfulness of sites. So if you improve the helpfulness of one page, it can lift the overall helpfulness score and rankings of your entire site. This is because the classifier evaluates patterns across your site, beyond just each page in isolation.

The update treats helpfulness as a site-wide quality signal. If you have one unhelpful page, it could bring down the overall helpfulness rating for your whole domain. So as you optimize any given page to be more helpful, informative and useful, you're also improving the overall perception of your site. This in turn helps all of your pages rank better in search results.

What Makes Content Helpful?

Google wants to provide searchers with content that comprehensively answers their questions and satisfies their needs for information on a topic. There are a few key elements that make content truly helpful:

  • Providing a comprehensive description of the topic: The content should thoroughly cover the topic at hand, including key facts, background information, analysis, and details a reader needs to fully understand the subject. Avoid providing just a superficial overview. Include enough substance and depth that readers come away feeling they have all the information they were seeking.
  • Offering substantial value compared to other results: Helpful content provides unique value beyond what a searcher can find elsewhere. Include original research, fresh reporting, insightful analysis, and useful examples or tips that go beyond rehashing the same basic points. Provide additional value readers can't easily get from competing pages in the search results.
  • Leaving readers satisfied without needing more info: The goal is for readers to feel their needs are met and they don't have to look elsewhere for information. Ensure your content is sufficiently thorough and complete. Address the topic comprehensively so readers don't have lingering questions. Satisfy their search intent so they can find everything they need on your page.

By focusing on comprehensively covering a topic, providing substantial value, and satisfying reader needs, you can create content that delivers true helpfulness to searchers. This is the type of useful, informative content Google wants to showcase in its search results.

What to Avoid with Your Content

Don't Create Content Primarily to Attract Search Traffic

Content that is overly optimized just to rank well in search engines is unlikely to provide a good experience for users. Avoid cramming in keywords in an unnatural way or creating content just to target specific searches. Focus first on creating high-quality content that addresses user intent and provides value.

Don't Just Copy or Rewrite Other Sources

Google recommends against simply copying or rewriting content from other sources without adding substantial additional value or original reporting and analysis. Your content should provide insightful information beyond what's already available. Cite sources appropriately if using them for reference.

Avoid Shock Tactics in Titles

When creating a title or main headline for a page, avoid using exaggeration or shock tactics just to attract attention. While compelling titles help draw readers in, make sure they accurately reflect the content on the page and don't mislead or manipulate users. Stick to titles that showcase expertise and align with the topic.

By keeping these guidelines in mind, you can produce content that feels trustworthy and meets the standards of quality that Google is aiming for with the Helpful Content Update. Focus on creating truly original, useful content rather than optimizing just for rankings.

Creating Helpful Content

When creating helpful content, focus on providing original information and reporting. Don't simply rewrite or rehash content from other sources. Your content should offer substantial additional value.

Aim to write comprehensive, complete descriptions of topics. Don't just briefly gloss over subjects - provide enough detail and depth for readers to fully understand the topic.

Include insightful analysis and interesting information beyond just obvious or surface-level facts. Provide unique perspectives, share your expertise, and go beyond just summarizing a topic.

Most importantly, ensure your content directly answers the questions users have. Helpful content addresses the reasons people are searching for the topic. Think about what questions you'd have if unfamiliar with the subject and make sure to answer them.

By focusing on originality, comprehensiveness, analysis, and answering user questions, you can create content that provides true value to readers. This thoughtful, high-quality content will be appreciated by users and seen as helpful.

Is your content helpful? Check your content using our free tool below 👇

Improving Existing Content

Improving existing content is often the best way to quickly achieve lift in search rankings. Creating new content from scratch takes time for Google to index and rank, while updating old content allows you to tap into authority and relevance that's already been established.

The key is identifying areas where your existing content falls short compared to competitors who are outranking you. Look at the specific competitor pages that rank above yours and analyze how their content is more helpful and comprehensive.

Some things to look for:

  • Questions they answer that you don't. Read through their content and make a list of any questions they address that your page is missing.
  • More detailed explanations. Even if you cover the same topics, look for areas where their content goes deeper and provides more thorough information.
  • Additional media. Competitor pages may use more visuals like images, charts, videos, etc. to illustrate concepts.
  • Better structure. Your competitor may organize the content in a way that's easier to digest. Headings, lists, and formatting can improve readability.

Identifying specific gaps where your content is lacking gives you a blueprint for exactly what needs improving. Instead of guessing, you can target areas precisely and bring your content up to par with competitors who are outperforming you. This surgical approach is far more effective than starting from scratch.

Using AI to Improve Content

AI offers new ways to improve existing content and make it more helpful. Specifically, AI can:

  • Analyze competitor pages objectively. Unlike a human, an AI system has no bias or preconceived notions when reviewing content. It simply identifies factual gaps between your content and a competitor's.
  • Identify content gaps to fill. An AI tool can scan your content and a competitor's side-by-side, pinpointing questions or topics they cover that you don't. This makes it easy to see where you're missing opportunities to be more helpful.
  • Generate content snippets to add. Some AI tools go beyond identifying gaps and actually suggest or generate pieces of content to add to your page. This instantly provides helpful information you can add to fill the gaps.

The key is that AI approaches content improvement objectively, without human bias. It spots helpful information competitors provide that you can add to your own content. This elevates your content to be more useful and thorough for readers.

How RivalFlow AI can Help You Produce Helpful Content

RivalFlow AI is an exciting new tool that automates analysis of competitor pages to help you improve your own content. It uses advanced AI to identify key questions and topics your competitors cover that you don't, or that they cover more thoroughly.

The tool scans your competitor's content, comparing it side-by-side with your own pages. It looks for questions and topics your competitors answer that are missing from your content. RivalFlow AI also identifies areas where competitors provide more detailed, comprehensive information than you do on the same topics.

One of the most useful features is that RivalFlow AI provides AI-generated content snippets you can easily add to your own pages. Rather than just pointing out gaps, it gives you draft paragraphs to directly insert in your content that answers the questions and provides the additional detail needed to beat your competitors.

This saves an incredible amount of time and effort compared to analyzing competitors manually. The AI does the heavy lifting, while you just copy, paste, and tweak the new snippets. In just a few minutes, you can upgrade your content to be more useful and thorough for readers.

RivalFlow AI delivers a complete solution that takes out the guesswork and effort of improving existing content. The AI gives you specific recommendations, writing to implement, and tools to manage the process. It's the easiest way yet to analyze competitors and upgrade your content using the power of AI.

Benefits of RivalFlow AI

Improves Existing Content Easily

One of the biggest challenges with optimizing existing content is that it can be extremely time-consuming and tedious. RivalFlow AI streamlines the process by automatically analyzing your content, identifying gaps, and generating recommendations. This allows you to improve your existing pages without having to manually compare them side-by-side to competitors' content. The tool makes it simple for anyone to enhance their existing content.

Requires No Technical Skills

You don't need to be an SEO expert to use RivalFlow AI effectively. The tool is designed to be user-friendly and intuitive for anyone to use. It provides clear, actionable recommendations that anyone can implement, regardless of their technical skills. RivalFlow AI democratizes the process so businesses of all sizes can improve their content.

Delivers Fast Results

One of the most exciting aspects of RivalFlow AI is how quickly it can drive results. By optimizing existing content that already ranks well, the tool is able to deliver ranking improvements and traffic gains rapidly. Page-level optimizations have an immediate positive impact. And because it's a site-wide signal, improving individual pages lifts the overall helpfulness and authority of the entire site. The ability to achieve fast results is a major advantage of the tool.

The benefits of optimizing content for helpfulness are clear. Not only does it align with Google's goals, but it also creates a better experience for users. By making your content more thorough, comprehensive and focused on addressing searchers' questions, you make it more useful and engaging.

Wrapping Up

Focus on creating content that provides original value, thoroughly answers users' queries, and avoids common pitfalls like thin or copied content. Look for ways to enhance existing content with AI to efficiently elevate its helpfulness.

Try RivalFlow AI for free to start improving your content today.