With Google’s new Helpful Content Update, the search giant can help marketers create meaningful customer experiences that start with search.
Google’s announcement of updates to its search engine algorithms has become less of a big news story in the last few years. Updates to popular searches are so frequent that the news feels blurry and of little interest.
But this latest change from Google is certainly bold, introducing a user-friendly name and important user-friendly signals that marketers and consumers alike can embrace.
Google is introducing a Helpful Content Update to its search engine. Evaluate how well your content satisfies your users. Google presents a great opportunity to help marketers create meaningful customer experiences that start with search.
How useful content updates work
Helpful Content Update (HCU) is an algorithmic ranking signal. Check how well a given site page complies with Google’s core search guidelines. For example, providing sufficient description, clear source attribution, and original research and analysis within the content. It is intended to devalue overly optimized content that impacts search engines.
At first glance, this signal is nothing new. Search guidelines date back to 2019. Many of HCU’s recommendations seem like they’ve been shared for a long time to prevent black hat SEO tactics that are well known to SEO and marketing professionals. Black hat SEO is a tactic of overoptimizing page elements to influence search engine query results.
But well-intentioned content tips to fend off deceptive tactics have leapfrogged sharks, with content creators from diverse backgrounds experimenting with different search engine optimization techniques that span black SEO tactics. They produce searchable content, but much of the content was not in a neutral Wikipedia-style tone. This type of content, even without keyword stuffing in the metadata and his H1 tag, hints at a response that may not be a good answer for the reader.
Additionally, some publishers were too fixated on following algorithm changes, even though the announced change would be one of hundreds of algorithm improvements. was just one of the search improvements in .
Bring balance to your SEO tactics
HCU Signals are part of a larger effort by Google to balance what users see in the content they find on the search engine. Google added a proposal earlier this year that allows marketers to include the strengths and weaknesses of their products and services in structured data. When you add them, they appear in rich snippets query results. Goggles offers a rich results test to validate recognition in search engines.
In fact, the name Helpful Content Update is an interesting attempt to rebalance expectations. It is a label of the words of an amateur. Over the past few years, Google’s search engine algorithm changes have been well known for codewords such as Pigeon, Hummingbird, and Panda. But the shift to choosing phrases that speak to a typical user, while seemingly trivial on the surface, represents the final step in a series of algorithmic changes that reflect the technical aspects of queries.
The idea behind Google’s most well-known algorithm change was to address how the HTML elements of a website page are positioned relative to a query. Search algorithms now have a sophisticated way of distinguishing intent between web page elements. Additionally, SEO techniques have evolved to identify where keywords can be better placed and to consider links as signals of interest.
Related article: How to Use Keyword Density in Your Modern SEO Strategy
Leave search power to creators
The Helpful Content Update is the next step in Signaling and will focus on creator usage rather than HTML. This allows creators to choose content in a more natural way for people to appreciate, instead of focusing too much on page syntax. It also recalibrates publisher expectations by focusing on major changes rather than a series of minor changes that have no impact on the customer experience or page content.
This change also recognizes that the ecosystem facing Google is different from the early days of search engines. Organic search remains strong when it comes to building discoverability for sale, and Google retains the majority of search-generated traffic and usage.
But other platforms have emerged as starting points for the customer journey, and the resulting customer experience is changing. People search on Amazon the same way they search on Google and Bing, but they usually already have a product in mind. Customers at home are more likely to ask Alexa for nearby services in the same way they search from their smartphones, and they won’t be using their laptops at home.
This means Google needs to take these new attribution points into account and enable content providers to envision these touch points when planning their content. Such considerations show up when reporting adjustments to tools such as Google Analytics 4 and Google Search Console. Content is now part of the standard marketing strategy and materials are measurable and useful for attribution.
Related article: What marketers can expect from Google MUM
People are still searching for answers
Moreover, not everyone who uses a search engine is just a customer or potential customer. People use Google for many purposes. People expect to solve their problems through advice, inspiration, or guidance, so they rely on his Google search results for a variety of content they deem factually appropriate.
As such, helpful content updates demonstrate how Google perceives the long-lasting social cost of bad content. Misinformation and its role in major cultural issues and political events over the past few years has revealed how products can be misused. is the first step towards addressing these issues.
This will undoubtedly flow some capacity into YouTube as well. YouTube is his second largest search engine after Google and is central to some of his online activity (see my post on CTV for an example). YouTube videos have different optimization considerations than website pages, but the philosophy behind the Helpful Page Update is taken.
The Helpful Content Update rollout went live this week, with more support features coming in the coming months. Google also has a page where updated information is shared and tools to see if updates affect his website. A marketer, along with the move from his current UA to her GA4, can use this time to identify ways managers can improve content and put people at the center of their digital presentations. should be