Google’s Helpful Content Update with @searchrook #vcbuzz

Google officially announced their “Helpful content system” in 2022 with an official update.

Now that some time has passed, we have more data to evaluate how it may work and what it is Google actually wants.

About Rohan Ayyar @searchrook

Rohan @searchrook is no stranger to #vcbuzz. Not only is he joining our chats regularly to share great insights, but he has also hosted one on building an engaged email list.

Rohan Ayyar is an experienced marketer who has worked agency side as well as in-house in the SaaS industry, developing data-driven strategies for SEO, PPC, social media, and content marketing.

Questions we discussed

Q1 To make it easier for us to understand, what’s Google’s official definition of “helpful content”?

In Google’s own words, “original, helpful content written by people, for people” is what qualifies as helpful content. They also specify that content that meets visitors’ expectations will be rewarded while content that doesn’t won’t perform so well. More details here.

Q2 Have you seen sites that were hit by this update that recovered rankings? What is it that they did?

Unfortunately, I’ve seen just one site that recently *seems to have* recovered from the HCU after being hit in December 2022. They had about 1,000 pieces of content. They deleted about 300 and updated another 300 or so. Still waiting on about a dozen other sites.

Pro tip: One thing we did for them was make content more to-the-point. For example, in a post titled “5 Content Marketing Metrics to Monitor Closely” you don’t need to include “What is Content Marketing” They used to do that and we weeded all that out. I guess that helped match search intent more closely.

Google has said that sites that are hit will probably recover only when the “classifier” is updated, i.e. when a site that has been hit has cleaned up their content *and* kept their site clean long enough for G to be satisfied.

Q3 How can content creators create more helpful content?

OK, to put that into “helpful” advice:

  1. Invest time in learning about your audience and create content that’s important to them.
  2. Ensure each piece of content you create is relevant, unique and actionable. Avoid repeating what’s already been said a dozen times.
  3. Keep a laser-focus on the topic at hand. Answer the question of the searcher as soon as possible. Don’t beat around the bush.
  4. Demonstrate your subject matter expertise.
  5. Remember, word count is not the same as content depth.
  6. Know that AI will only take you so far. Whatever it spewed out for you, there’s a million copies of that out there.

A great little piece on – How the Helpful Content System works – Dos and Don’ts – How HCU will evolve by my superstar co-founder @dipTparmar

Q4 When doing content audit, how can an SEO consultant evaluate the helpfulness of content?

It’s simple but time and effort consuming. A human on your team needs to read through every single page on the site (content for humans, remember?) There’s no shortcut. And if you don’t do that already for all of your content audits, stop calling yourself an SEO consultant please!

In order of priority:

  1. Identify low-quality content and remove it immediately.
  2. Verify that every remaining page on the site meets a particular search intent. Every URL should target a keyword or a cluster. If you find keyword cannibalization, consider merging those pages.
  3. Make sure all pages meet the Google search quality rater guidelines, especially EEAT.

Q5 What are some SEO tools that can help audit and/or create helpful content?

Remember, tools can help you create content – not “helpful” content. There’s a difference. What tools have you been using up to now to create/audit content? Keep using the same ones (unless you answered “article spinning software” to that).

If you ask me, I just use some of my old rusty brain.

Our previous SEO chats:


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