Last week, Google announced that it is rolling out a sitewide algorithm update, called the helpful content update, that may prove to be one of the most significant updates in over a decade.
The helpful content update will target websites with a high amount of ‘unsatisfying’ content i.e., content that seems to be primarily written for search engines rather than humans.
Next week, we will launch the “helpful content update” to better ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, rather than content made primarily for search engine traffic.
Source: Google Search Central
Unlike the recent product review update, which targets specific kinds of pages, the helpful content update is sitewide.
This means that if the machine learning algorithm detects a high amount of unsatisfying content on even one page of your website, your site may be flagged by this classifier, leading to your whole website being impacted.
Although Google gave a heads up by announcing this update beforehand, a week probably isn’t enough time to prepare – especially for sites that focus more on SEO and less on value content.
If the helpful content update hits you, Google advises removing unhelpful content from your website.
However, this doesn’t mean that if you remove unhelpful content today, your site will recover immediately.
According to Google’s blog post, the classifier for this update runs continuously and assigns scores to such sites. As it determines that the unhelpful content has not returned in the long term, your score will improve and eventually, the classification will no longer apply.
In short, Google may need you to prove over several months (yes, several) that your content is actually helpful to people and not just search engines.
So, if your site is impacted by the update, it can take months to recover – that is, if you put in the hard work.