Google’s newest update will penalise poor-quality content

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Google’s new ‘helpful content update’ will penalise sites that have created content purely for search engines rather than readers.

Reminiscent of Google’s now decade-old Penguin update, the helpful content update will penalise poor-quality content. Any site that has crafted content purely for search engines will receive a sitewide signal that makes it difficult to rank.

In a blog post announcing the helpful content update, Google was quick to point out that the update does not invalidate following SEO best practices. In doing so, the company said that “SEO is a helpful activity when it’s applied to people-first content”.

It remains the case that Google is not against SEO, as long as reputable practices are followed. This new update is instead geared toward sites that have gamed the system, creating content that does not help people but ranks well because of SEO rather than on the merit of the content on the site.

Google was also quick to point out that this is a signal rather than a penalty or a manual action. As a result, it will not be listed in Google Search Console. That said, when the signal is applied to a site, it will feel like a penalty.

However, the good news for those that are hit with the signal is that if the site owner improves their content, then the classification will be removed. If Google’s algorithms see that your site’s content has shifted to be helpful to searchers, the strength of the signal may be reduced, or even lifted completely.

The helpful content classifier will run continually and in real-time, meaning both new and existing sites will be affected. Plus, sites will be impacted over the course of a few months and to different degrees, depending on the amount of unhelpful content found.

Google’s helpful content update – the view from Spike

Over the past 12-24 months, Google has been placing a greater emphasis on user-first content. This update is clearly a major evolution in that process.

If you continually publish good-quality content that is intended to benefit the user and follows reputable SEO practices (like the ones we follow here at Spike), then you have nothing to worry about.

Like any of Google’s updates, the helpful content update intends to reward good SEO and punish those who are using SEO techniques purely to game the rankings.