What Are Google's Helpful Content Updates?

Before the recent Google I/O conference, every new Helpful Content update was a point of speculation. But now, we know exactly what Google expects of our content.

And in this article, I'll explain the golden rules of Google's Helpful Content guidelines and updates and key considerations to keep in mind as you produce your SEO content pieces today and a few years down the line.

Wait, What Are Google's Helpful Content Updates?

As content changes, so do the search algorithms. There's more and more of it competing in the SERPs, so Google tweaks the algorithms to better assess which content pieces meet the search intent best. 

These tweaks addressing the content quality are most commonly known as "Helpful Content updates" because, at the end of the day, Google wants to provide helpful content as fast as possible so the searchers keep using its search.

How Do Google's Helpful Content Updates Affect Your SEO?

  • If your content meets the searchers’ needs in full, they won't run the same query again, signaling to Google that you've given them the answers they need.
  • Once enough searchers do the same, Google increases your ranking, so your results climb to the top as the most helpful.
  • Your page authority increases, affecting your overall ability to rank, so it becomes easier to rank every new content piece.
  • If there is an update with new guidelines you should adhere to, and you don't, your rankings could drop, as they did for HubSpot and Search Engine Journal.

In short: helpful content is a must, in addition to good technical SEO foundations and backlinks.

What Is Helpful Content? (With Examples)

  • Content that provides the answers to the search intent as directly as possible.
  • Content that doesn't only regurgitate information already available online.
  • Content that gets authority signals (quality backlinks, page engagement, last stop in the search journey).
  • Content that demonstrates Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.
  • New - Content that provides a perspective the audience resonates with.

Now, what I want to discuss here is that last point - perspective. Google recently announced the Perspectives tab, where they'll show a mix of text, video, and forum content to help searchers "find hidden gems."

google helpful content guidelines

If you look at 99% of content online, you'll notice it's very dry and often doesn't fully meet the intent. Because a lot of it is written by people who are not experts, it's hard to offer the subjective information that searchers crave.

Suppose you're buying a used car. 

Looking up the reviews online with: "Is [XYZ car] reliable," you'll find factual information - engine performance, specs, equipment, etc. 

You won't find a first-hand account such as the following unless you go on Reddit or the car brand owners' forums:

  • "I love my [XYZ]! Made over 300k miles with it, and it's never left me stranded with a huge issue," or
  • "Decent car, owned it for 3 years, but know that the model has a factory fault, so the oil can leak more than usual. Get that checked 1x a year."

Now, as a website owner, you can provide factual information, but you can also talk to that model's owners and include their perspectives in your content so they leave your site feeling fully educated.

This type of information is what Google means by hidden gems. And if your content includes it, you can bet it will be helpful!

Similarly, imagine you’re creating a comparison guide between the best CRM tools. 

The competition is tough, but you may find that most SERP results drone on. It’s hard for the reader to get information without spending 2 hours sifting through the content.

You could turn things around by including a comparison table at the very top, looking at the criteria your audience needs (I love using Reddit and review sites to get to the bottom of this), and even including a video at the beginning of your article. 

comparison table example

Great comparison table example from LowFruits

How to Adapt to Google's Helpful Content Guidelines

1. Look for Hidden Gems

Do deeper keyword research to find People Also Ask and Related queries. Then, look beyond your usual sources: talk to your customers about the topic, use social media and forums, and talk to subject matter experts to provide richer answers.

The key here is to go the extra mile. While your competitors are regurgitating content, add something original, leverage fresh perspectives, and use real-life anecdotes and examples.

example of reddit research for helpful content

Reddit is great at helping you understand where your searchers are right now. In this case, you’d gauge they’re pretty new at this and need beginner’s advice for cold email deliverability – why not include it in your content, too?

Learn More: Optimizing for the E-E-A-T Score

2. Add (Original) Value

Being the most comprehensive result in the SERP is good, but it’s no longer enough. Conduct your own research, surveys, and polls to get proprietary data your searchers won’t easily find elsewhere.

If you post product reviews, test the products yourself. You wouldn’t believe how many website owners want to skip this crucial step!

Tooltester is a fantastic example. They are an affiliate website, but they employ writers who test products before writing the guides (and they’re pretty successful, too):

great affiliate website content example

3. Keep Your Content Fresh

One of the key reasons why big content players like HubSpot and SEJ were deranked after one of Google’s Helpful Content updates was because their content wasn’t fresh enough. 

Google’s algorithms have a good “spidey sense” of how often content in each niche should be updated.

Whenever there’s new information associated with one of your topics, update the content!

4. How Long Should Your Content Be?

Although everyone’s speculating about the optimal post length for SEO, there aren’t any confirmations. The key is to answer your searcher’s query as quickly as possible and with as many details as they need.

In some cases, this means creating a short, 500-word blog post that directly addresses their questions.

In others, you may need a full field guide.

But no matter what, keep the intent in mind. Will someone really want to go through 4000 words just to get a straightforward answer? In this day and age, that’s unlikely.

5. Aim to Delight (and Get Bookmarked)

In January 2023, Yandex’s search engine signals were leaked, among them the engine’s ability to track how many times a page was bookmarked. The question of how often your posts are bookmarked is also another one of Google’s helpful content guidelines. 

Whether Google can track it or not, it’s always a good idea to provide such a comprehensive resource that your audience will want to come back to it. 

Typically, the content I see bookmarked often includes:

  • Checklists
  • Templates
  • Videos
  • In B2B, additional resources your audience can share with other stakeholders

Remember, go the extra mile!

lead magnet example

Fenwick Media’s lead magnet is absolutely bookmark-worthy! They use their proprietary research to outline the key steps for a successful onboarding email flow. 

6. Optimize for Topical Authority

And this doesn’t just mean hitting every keyword under the sky. Instead, keep your content update-proof by:

  • Strengthening your digital footprint and partnering with other websites. Cross-market by creating posts and campaigns, sharing and analyzing your data together, and more.
  • Building a solid internal linking structure that organizes your content around pillars that your audience can easily find.
  • Considering different content distribution channels. In addition to SEO, share your content on social media, promote it with ads, and build a mailing list. 

What Can We Expect from Upcoming Google Updates?

One thing is clear: there’s never been more content, and it’s never been easier to outrank it. Since everyone’s optimizing for comprehensiveness, this often results in content that doesn’t fully meet one specific search intent with the depth it demands.

If you can come in with expertise, original research, and a human-first perspective your audience will relate to, you can rank – no matter the updates ahead.

Want to make sure you’re ranking as predicted? Start using SiteGuru and get a weekly to-do list that shows you how to reach your SEO goals!