Google’s “Helpful content” update: how you can prepare.

3 Minutes Read

The useful content update is an update to Google’s ranking algorithm and focuses on the quality of content presented in searches. It started rolling out on 25 August 2022 and ended on 9 September 2022.

In order to help SEOs and sites better prepare for this update, we decided to create some guidelines that can help SEOs and site owners better navigate the Useful Content Update. However, these are only predictions. As the update continues to roll out, there will be more information on what types of sites where will have the most impact and what strategies work best.

The algorithm rewards sites that create content for visitors and punishes sites with content only designed to appear first in search engines. Sites with content specifically for visitors can outperform sites that create heavily optimised, search engine-driven content.

Google, of course, has always prioritised sites with high-quality content in search results. This update reinforces Google’s use of content quality as a ranking factor. The update allows us to distinguish between content that is useful to searchers and content that is not.

While the update affects all content types, it has a higher effect on shopping, education, entertainment and technology content. Updating content is also weighted. Sites that consist primarily of useless content will be affected more than sites with only a few pages of useless content.

The impact of the useful content update

With the update, user experience becomes Google’s primary focus. You should create content for your site that provides a positive experience for those who visit. Otherwise, your site’s search rankings may decrease.

The update will eliminate sites that create content only for search engines. This search engine-only optimization tactic has worked in the past. Sites could rank highly on their target keywords by creating highly optimized content. Even if users encountered a negative experience, they would still rank in the top search positions, as Google’s update forces sites to create content based on the interests of those who visit them.

According to Google, the useful content update is a site-wide update. In other words, it affects entire sites rather than individual pages. Even if you only have a few pages with useless content, your site’s search rankings can suffer. Every page on your site, including those with useful content, can be ranked lower.

Keep in mind that updating content is limited to Google search results. It does not affect Google Discover, Google News, or other platforms. Google may expand the update to other platforms in the future, but as of now, it only impacts how sites rank in Google search results.

This update is a warning, not a penalty

The useful content update is a new warning, not a penalty. When Google visits your site and analyses the content, it determines whether it is useful or useless to who visits. Refresh is a site-wide signal that can reduce your site’s search ranking if it contains content that is not useful.

You will not receive any notification from Google if your site drops in the search rankings due to unhelpful content. Google only notifies for manual action sanctions (these are performed directly by a Google professional in the Search Quality or Web Spam departments, without algorithm intervention). Updating content is not a sanction or penalty, so it does not involve any notification from Google Search Console.

How to protect your site?

What steps can you take to safeguard your website content? As the update focuses on content quality, you must perform a content audit. Go through the content on your site while checking if it is useful to those who find it.

Don’t worry about keyword density when performing a content audit. Many SEO professionals previously recommended a keyword density of 3% to 6%. But this update eliminates the need to have a specific keyword density. Creating content with a high keyword density can hurt your site’s search rankings.

When loading pages on your site, visitors should find the content that made them visit it. It is common to click on an organic Google search result in hopes of finding content on a specific topic. When they load the page, they may find irrelevant content that doesn’t answer their questions or meet their needs.

If you find some useless content on your site, you should remove it. Don’t try to consolidate it by moving it to another page. Google will detect the useless content and may demote the whole site.

Google cites TV show and movie release dates as an example. Some sites create content that promises to reveal the release or premiere dates of a TV show or movie. Visitors will click on the search results, believing that as indexed pages contain the release date. However the pages are designed to rank high on the keywords release dates and do not reveal a date.

Recovering from the update

If your website has started to drop in search rankings after updating content, you should take steps to restore it. Removing useless content from your site and replacing it with useful, visitor-oriented content could move your website to the top of Google’s search results.

As with other algorithm updates, you won’t be able to recover from the update instantly. If useful content updates target your site, Google will put your site in “timeout”. Your site’s entire search ranking will be negatively affected during this period. According to Google, this “timeout” can last for several months.

You won’t have to submit any review requests for your site. Just remove the useless content and wait for Google to restore your site’s ranking.

If you create useful content for those who visit you, you should not fear this update. This update aims to improve the quality of search results on Google. If you create content for those who visit you, Google will reward your site with higher search rankings.


Tomas Pinto