What Is The Google Helpful Content Update?

By Billy Wright| 5 Min Read | August 22, 2022
Google Helpful Content Update | Google HCU | What is the Helpful Content Update?

Updated 11/09/2023

Machine Learning and AI have changed everything about The Internet. The new Helpful Content algorithm update from Google is another example of this.

Google has created this new so-called Helpful update using Machine Learning and Artificial intelligence to better understand the content on a page similar to the way a human would. As a result, it can tell if the content on a website is actually helpful to a human user or if it was written solely to pull in search engine rankings and traffic.

What Was The 2023 Helpful Content Update Like?

The Google September 2023 Helpful Content Update significantly impacted the SEO community, showcasing less volatility compared to previous updates. Despite reduced volatility indicated by various tracking tools, the SEO industry observed notable ranking changes. This update seemed to affect more heavily SEO-optimized sites rather than average websites. Different industries experienced varied effects, displaying a spectrum of winners and losers. This update appeared to have more of a substantial impact on the SEO industry compared to the general website owner landscape.

How Does The Google Helpful Content Update Work?

As the algorithm processes websites, it uses a large number of unpublished criteria to determine the following specific items about the website it is reviewing:

  1. Is the content written to answer a real question or guide an actual human to a factually correct result?
  2. Is the content unique to the website it is on and not just aggregated from a number of sources?
  3. Is the website hosting this content an authority – or – is it reputable?
  4. Is the content low in quality or simply written to gather search engine rankings?

Content that is not written to directly answer a question or guide a user to the actual information they are seeking may receive a negative impact within Google search results.

Who Does The Helpful Content Update Impact?


While the Helpful Content Update may impact all websites across the web, the most likely candidates to be negatively impacted by the Helpful Content Update are the following types of websites:

  • Aggregate Review sites for Products or Places: Sites that have minimal unique content and are simply a gathering of information will likely not fare well following the Helpful Content update in 2023.
  • Websites That Simply Exist For Search Traffic: If someone has created a website simply to answer questions on the web and therefore gain a large number of search engine rankings so they can promote advertising, they are likely to get their rankings impacted by the algorithm update.
  • Film/Media Sites That Provide Content For Searches They Cannot Answer: Large video game news sites, movie rumor sites, and more that frequently post articles without knowing the answer or actually providing the answer will likely be negatively impacted by the Helpful Content algorithm update.

What Will The Helpful Content Update Do To Websites?

Quite simply, the Helpful Content Update will likely negatively impact the rankings of the websites it reviews and finds not to be trustworthy or as helpful to answering a search query.

And that is also where the Helpful Content Update is unique compared to previous content updates on Google that penalize individual pages of content, as opposed to an entire website. Because of that domain level impact, penalties suffered as a result of the Helpful Content Update are going to more closely resemble other famously named updates like Panda or Medic.

Will the Helpful Content Update Hurt My Entire Website Or Just A Page?

While previous Google algorithm updates frequently only targeted specific pieces of content or pages within a site, it appears the Helpful Content Update will impact the ENTIRE website if it finds content on the domain to be unhelpful.

To combat this potentially devastating scenario, webmasters need to begin creating content on their websites that is unique, has authority, and is something they know well enough to be considered an expert.

I Have Done SEO – Will The Helpful Content Update Hurt My Website?

If you have followed proper SEO best practices, have built up your site’s authority within Google by offering unique, technically and factually sound information, and have properly stated who you are and why you are an expert on your subject – it is unlikely you will be impacted as much as websites that simply have pushed out spammy content with no real authority.

To learn more about how to build authority on your website, check out this clip below from our agency President, Justin Seibert.

Rather watch this clip directly on YouTube? Click here (and don’t forget to like and subscribe!). 

What Do I Need To Do To Rank After The 2023 Helpful Content Update?

If you have been hit by the Helpful Content Update there is likely only one solution to regain your traffic and rankings you had prior to the algorithm update:

Build Authority.

The best way to rank your website and avoid all future algorithm updates is to become an expert in the eyes of Google. Below are three ways to future-proof your content from algorithm updates like this.

  1. Begin writing content that answers search engine queries from users that is factually and technically sound and comes with an interesting viewpoint.
  2. Your content needs to be 100% unique and not just a rehash of someone else’s material.
  3. Your content also needs to explicitly state why you are considered a reliable source, including information on:
    1. who wrote the content on the site
    2. whether it has been peer-reviewed or approved in any way, and
    3. the credentials of the people who work on the website

Have You Been Hit By This Algorithm Update?

If your website has been hit by the Helpful Content Update and you have followed these steps – we would love to hear from you and understand your experience.

Please reach out so we can help diagnose your situation.

Search Engine Optimization Consulting | billy-wright-headshot

Written by Billy Wright

Billy is a Senior Digital Marketing Strategist specializing in SEO with a background in Local and eCommerce SEO. He’s optimized the online personas and websites of clients from the Entertainment Industry to the Political world and everything in between. He’s been in love with The Internet since he built his first website in 1996.

View Billy Wright's Full Bio

Related Articles

All Blogs
Site Indexing Issue | Site Accidentally Indexed | Man Stressed at Computer
By Ryan Norman| 10 Min Read | May 8, 2024

Oops! My Site’s Indexed! Now What?

So you’ve just realized that your website is visible online. Congrats! But you weren’t quite…

Read Article right arrow
About Us Page | About Us SEO | Trophy Graphic
By Jim Foreman| 7 Min Read | April 25, 2024

Are You Bragging Enough On Your About Us Page?

The answer is no. We already know what you’re going to say because we can…

Read Article right arrow
Internal Links SEO - How Much Do They Still Matter In 2022?
By Jonathan Bentz| 20 Min Read | March 9, 2024

How Much Do Internal Links Affect SEO? (Updated May 2024)

Every business on the planet wants its website to rank number one for every keyword…

Read Article right arrow