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Helpful Content Doesn’t Equal Sitewide Quality

Content Roadmap

Google’s Helpful Content Update Targets Websites Lacking Sitewide Quality

Google’s latest algorithm update, dubbed the Helpful Content Update (HCU), aims to highlight websites that provide truly helpful, useful, and beneficial content for users. The update targets sites that may have some high-quality articles but still contain a significant amount of low-quality, unhelpful content across the website.

The goal is to ensure sites are offering a consistently great experience for searchers seeking information. While individual helpful articles are appreciated, they are not enough to override a history of poor quality content overall. With this update, Google reveals that having sporadic helpful articles sprinkled between many mediocre ones does not constitute sitewide quality.

There’s been a lot of debate about sites claiming to have been unfairly hit by Google’s Helpful Content Update. I wanted to share Lily Ray analysis of some of these sites, and a key takeaway: Sometimes what we think is helpful doesn’t match what readers actually find useful.

Brief Background on Google’s Focus on Helpful Content

Providing helpful content that satisfies user intent has long been a priority for Google. The search engine giant has rolled out various updates over the years aimed at surfacing websites and pages that offer a useful, beneficial experience for searchers.

Some notable examples include:

  • Medic Update (2020) – Targeted health websites providing inaccurate, harmful, or misleading information.
  • Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) Update (2014) – Focused on websites covering topics directly tied to user wellbeing like finance, health, and safety.
  • Panda Update (2011) – Penalized low-quality sites with thin, duplicate, or auto-generated content.

The Helpful Content Update represents Google’s latest effort to weed out unhelpful content and give sites producing truly useful articles an advantage.

The Purpose and Goals of the Helpful Content Update

So what exactly constitutes “helpful” content in Google’s view? With this update, Google wants to highlight websites with informative articles that:

  • Provide valuable information readers are searching for
  • Are well-researched and accurate
  • Use expertise or firsthand experience to offer a unique perspective
  • Have a clear purpose and present information in a logical, easy-to-follow format
  • Utilize headings, lists, images, videos and other elements to enhance the content
  • Are useful and beneficial for the reader, satisfying the user intent

In short, Google wants to surface content that leaves searchers feeling like they’ve found the information they were seeking and gained real value from the website.

Primary Keyword Targeted

The primary keyword Google seems to be targeting with this update is “helpful content.” Searching for this term provides a mix of articles discussing the update itself, as well as guides on how to create genuinely helpful website content.

This suggests Google is working to highlight sites with authoritative, useful advice around optimizing content for searchers, while demoting sites simply churning out articles to capitalize on the update announcement.

Google Aims to Highlight Websites Offering Truly Helpful Content

While Google has always tried to reward helpful content as part of its core algorithm, the Helpful Content Update makes this an even bigger focal point. With this update, Google wants to give sites producing truly useful, high-quality content an advantage in rankings.

At the same time, it aims to demote low-quality sites that may have some decent articles but still have large volumes of content that don’t actually help or inform readers.

Useful, Beneficial Information for Users

Google isn’t just looking for generic “good” content with this update. They want to see informative articles that provide real value to the reader.

For example, a detailed guide on “how to start a blog” with actionable tips and recommendations is much more beneficial than a vague article simply defining what a blog is. The former satisfies the user’s intent while the latter does not.

Creating content specifically tailored to match searcher intent is key. Sites doing this well should be rewarded by the Helpful Content Update.

Individual Helpful Articles Are Not Enough

Here is the critical point the Helpful Content Update makes – having some helpful articles on your site does not override having a significant amount of low-quality, unhelpful content.

Google has made it clear they are evaluating overall website quality, not just cherry-picking certain pages. Having sporadic high-quality articles peppered between mediocre or thin content does not constitute consistent sitewide quality.

Need for Consistent Quality Across All Website Content

With this update, Google reveals they expect sites to maintain a high standard of helpfulness across all their content, not just a handful of pages. Having 1 or 2 well-researched, useful articles out of 100 is not enough.

Poor quality content like thin articles with little substance, duplicate content, or content created just to target keywords will still get sites penalized. Helpful content should be the norm, not the exception.

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Google Conducts Sitewide Assessments

A critical aspect of the Helpful Content Update is that Google is evaluating the overall quality of sites, not just individual pages. Having a few helpful articles sprinkled across a site with mainly poor content will not fool Google.

History of Unhelpful Content Can Still Get Sites Penalized

With this update, Google makes it clear they are looking at the full history of a site’s content quality. Sites can’t just churn out some high-quality articles after years of low-quality ones and expect rankings to improve overnight.

Google will assess whether the majority of a site’s articles have been unhelpful or not fully meeting user intent over time. If so, the site may still be demoted even after publishing some newer helpful content. Improving quality needs to be an ongoing, sitewide effort.

Examples of Sites Impacted Despite Having Some Helpful Content

The Helpful Content Update revealed that even sites with some legitimately helpful content were still vulnerable if the rest of their content didn’t meet the same standards. Here are a few examples:

  • Health and medical sites with a mix of well-researched articles and content promoting unproven supplements or products
  • Finance sites with mostly useful budgeting and investing tips but also pushing “get rich quick” schemes
  • Tech tutorial sites with some helpful “how-to” articles but many thin articles just targeting keywords

For these sites, the problem wasn’t that they had no helpful content, but rather that this content represented only a small portion of what the site produced. The majority of their articles were still low-quality or unhelpful.

Metrics That May Have Triggered the Update

Google likely used metrics like click-through rate, time on site, and E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) to identify sites where helpful content was the exception, not the norm.

For example, if the majority of a site’s articles had low CTRs and dwell time, it suggests the content quality was not satisfying user intent overall across the site. Google picked up on these quality gaps, which the Helpful Content Update aimed to address.

Steps Sites Can Take to Improve Overall Content Quality

For sites impacted by the Helpful Content Update, the path forward is clear – improving content quality across the board, not just on a few pages. Here are some best practices:

Conduct a Content Audit

  • Review all site content using both qualitative checks and metrics like CTR. Flag low-quality or unhelpful articles.
  • Categorize content by quality – good, average, low. This will reveal areas needing work.
  • Identify common issues dragging down quality – thin content, lack of research, etc. Fix these systematically.

Optimize Existing Content

  • For previously published articles, prune and enhance content identified as low-quality during the audit.
  • Ensure content provides value, meets searcher intent, and is easy to consume.
  • Add new sections, multimedia, research sources and links to authority sites to improve articles.

Raise Standards for New Content

  • Update content guidelines to require factual accuracy, sources, multimedia, useful length etc.
  • Provide writers with training and resources around creating really helpful, engaging content.
  • Implement stricter oversight and editing for new articles to ensure consistent quality.

Conclusion: Helpful Content Alone Doesn’t Equal Sitewide Quality

The key takeaway from Google’s Helpful Content Update is that sporadic high-quality articles are no longer enough. While these individual helpful articles are certainly appreciated, sites must maintain quality and usefulness across all content to avoid loosing ranking positions in the SERPs.

Going forward, sites should continuously audit content using both qualitative checks and metrics like CTR. Identify low-quality articles and systematically improve or remove them. Useful, well-researched, accurate content tailored to searcher intent should be the norm for every article.

By taking steps to improve overall content quality, sites can provide the consistently helpful experience Google wants searchers to have. The path forward is clear – don’t rely on just having some helpful content. Make sitewide quality the priority.

Jesus Guzman

M&G Speed Marketing LTD. CEO

Jesus Guzman is the CEO and founder of M&G Speed Marketing LTD, a digital marketing agency focused on rapidly growing businesses through strategies like SEO, PPC, social media, email campaigns, and website optimization. With an MBA and over 11 years of experience, Guzman combines his marketing expertise with web design skills to create captivating online experiences. His journey as an in-house SEO expert has given him insights into effective online marketing. Guzman is passionate about helping businesses achieve impressive growth through his honed skills. He has proud case studies to share and is eager to connect to take your business to the next level.