What is Google’s Helpful Content System?

Google Search's helpful content system

Google’s Helpful Content System is a machine learning algorithm that decides if your content is likely to be helpful to a searcher. If your content doesn’t meet those predictions your site could be labeled as having ‘unhelpful content’ and impact your organic traffic and rankings.

This is part of Google’s broader AI initiative to improve search results. Google’s AI powered systems like Search Generative Experience (SGE) and Bard AI chat technology are changing the way we search, so aligning your content with these systems is more important than ever.

Google’s Helpful Content System is part of its search algorithm and affects how content is ranked and shown in search results. From an SEO perspective it’s important to understand this system to create content that meets Google’s quality guidelines and increase your website visibility.

Google’s View: The Helpful Content System and Your Site

Google has plenty of resources on the Helpful Content System. According to Google Search Central the system generates a signal that Google’s automated ranking systems use to make sure original, helpful content written by people, for people is shown in search results.

The Helpful Content System aims to reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a good experience. Content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well. The system generates a site wide signal that is one of many signals used in Google Search including Google Discover. It automatically identifies content that seems to have no value, low value or not helpful to people.

Interestingly any content on sites with a lot of unhelpful content overall will perform worse in Search. Because there’s expected to be other content elsewhere on the web that’s better to show. So removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.

The classification of content is automated with a machine learning model. It works globally across all languages and is not a manual or spam action. It’s just one of many signals Google uses to rank content.

So content on sites labeled as having unhelpful content could still rank well if there are other signals that identify that content as helpful and relevant to a query. The signal is also weighted; sites with a lot of unhelpful content will see a bigger impact.

To create content that works with the Helpful Content System Google suggests creating people-first content not search engine first content. They provide questions to ask yourself when reviewing your content.

A common question is how long will a site improve if it removes unhelpful content. Sites labeled by this system may see the signal applied to them over months. The classifier runs continuously so it can monitor newly launched and existing sites. The classification will stop applying once it determines the unhelpful content hasn’t returned in the long term.

Google refines the classifier periodically and when they do they announce it as a “helpful content update” on their Google Search ranking updates page. After the update rolls out and if the new classifier sees the content has improved then the unhelpful classification from the previous classifier will no longer apply.

This is further proof that creating high quality, helpful content that meets your audience’s needs is important. And that you should regularly review and update your content to make sure it’s still helpful and relevant.

John Mueller from Google said about SEO and Google ranking: “No ranking factor can make up for lack of relevance or user interest.” He also said we often forget that a site doesn’t rank on its own; it ranks for a query.

SEO Expert Marie Haynes

Marie Haynes is an SEO expert who has studied Google’s AI systems and how they impact search rankings. She says the key to ranking is to align with Google’s quality descriptions in the Quality Rater’s Guidelines.

Haynes says Google asks questions like, “Is this article insightful or interesting and not obvious?” or “Is this page more valuable than other pages in search results?”

Google uses a bunch of machine learning models to create signals that can be used in their ranking algorithms. The goal is to show the searcher the pages that will be helpful to them.

Haynes says when it comes to ranking nothing is more important than aligning with Google’s criteria for quality that they have outlined in their documentation on helpful content, essentially a summary of the rater guidelines. Read her Google’s Helpful Content & Other AI Systems May Be Impacting Your Site’s Visibility article.

Marie Haynes on Google’s Helpful Content System

Marie Haynes on Google's Helpful Content System
Marie Haynes on Google’s Helpful Content System

Tips and Tricks for Creating Helpful Content

Know Your Audience: Understand your audience’s needs, interests and search habits. Create content that answers their questions and provides value.

Align with Quality Rater’s Guidelines: These guidelines give you a roadmap for what Google considers quality content. Read them and make sure your content matches.

Insightful Analysis: Google likes content that offers unique insights and analysis. Don’t just state the obvious and make sure you go deep.

High Quality Writing: Bad grammar, spelling and sloppy writing can hurt your content’s perceived quality. Always proofread and edit before publishing.

Don’t Duplicate Content: Google punishes sites with duplicate, duplicate or redundant content. Make sure your content is original and unique.

Use Relevant Keywords: Keywords help Google understand what your content is about. But don’t keyword stuff as it can get you penalised.

Opt for Mobile: Most searches are on mobile so make sure your content is mobile friendly.

Improve User Experience: A good user experience will increase your site’s dwell time, reduce bounce rates and tell Google your site is helpful to visitors.

Keep Content Fresh: Updating your content regularly means it will stay relevant and helpful to users and Google will reward you.

Use High Quality Links: Linking to authority sites will boost your content’s credibility and rank.

Based on Google’s Helpful Content System this checklist will help you as you create a new piece of helpful content.

Even with technical SEO and backlinks if your organic traffic is below a certain level it’s possible Google doesn’t see your site’s content as helpful. By understanding Google’s Helpful Content System and implementing these tips you can improve your content’s quality, align with Google’s standards and boost your SEO.