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Google Rolls Out December 2022 “Helpful Content” Update

Google is in the process of rolling out its December 2022 “helpful content” system update, which started on the 5th and is becoming more visible in search results. The company estimates it will take approximately two weeks to fully roll out.

The helpful content system generates a signal that is used by Google’s automated ranking systems to provide people with what it deems to be more original and helpful content “written by people, for people” in search results. This particular update improves the system’s classifier and works across content in all languages.

The system was designed to reward content where Google determines that visitors have had a satisfying experience and, conversely, where visitors do not find what they are looking for, the content will not perform as well. This is distilled into a site-wide signal where Google’s systems automatically identify “content that seems to have little value, low-added value or is otherwise not particularly helpful to those doing searches.”

If Google finds relatively high amounts of unhelpful content on a site, the rest of the site’s content is not as likely to perform well in Search. With this application of the system, unhelpful content is like a poison for the rest of the website. Google said removing it could boost the rankings for the rest of the site’s content. It can take months for Google to reclassify a site’s content as helpful after unhelpful content has been removed.

Google published more information on how the classifier works and what it means for rankings:

This classifier process is entirely automated, using a machine-learning model. It works globally across all languages. It is not a manual action nor a spam action. Instead, it’s just one of many signals Google evaluates to rank content.

This means that some people-first content on sites classified as having unhelpful content could still rank well, if there are other signals identifying that people-first content as helpful and relevant to a query. The signal is also weighted; sites with lots of unhelpful content may notice a stronger effect.

This is the first major update to helpful content since August 2022. At that time Google encouraged site owners to focus on creating “people-first content,” as opposed to search engine-first content. Site owners are encouraged to reference Google’s guide to “Creating helpful, reliable, people-first content,” which includes dozens of questions for evaluating whether content will be deemed helpful or not.