December 2022 Google Helpful Content Algorithm Update

Google has confirmed that a Helpful Content System Algorithm update was released on the 5th of December 2022.

As is tradition with these kinds of algorithm updates, Google announced the update through the Google Search Central Twitter account stating that they would be rolling out the update across all languages and regions over the next two weeks.

The Dec. 2022 helpful content update was released Dec. 5, starting to become more visible today & will take about two weeks to fully roll out. It improves our classifier & works across content globally in all languages. Our help page explains more:

The December 2022 Helpful Content algorithm update is another iteration of the Helpful Content Update which was announced back in August 2022.

Update: Google has followed up this update with a concurrent Link Spam Algorithm Update which was announced on the 14th December.

What about the helpful content update in August?

The Helpful Content ‘system’ update back in August was the introduction of a new ranking signal or system that will be used by Google. Now, Google is making revisions to the latest change to their latest ranking system with this latest algorithm update.

Google now uses helpful content as a confirmed ranking factor in their algorithm. This update is a revision to that ranking system and is designed to improve the way that Google understands helpful content.

Just like all of Google’s ranking systems, they are constantly changing. This is the first update to the helpful ranking system; however, we do not expect it to be the last. Google will continue to make changes to the way that they judge, rank, and reward helpful content.

Will the December 2022 helpful content update impact rankings?

The fact that Google has announced this update at all means that we should expect to see some notable shifts in rankings.

Google releases thousands of minor updates to their ranking system each year. Over that period, they may choose to announce 5-10 of those including core updates and smaller updates like this one. Any time that Google takes the time to announce changes to their ranking system means that they are bracing publishers and webmasters for changes to website rankings and overall search visibility.

I wasn’t affected by the last helpful content update – will I be impacted this time?

The original helpful content update which rolled out just over two months ago was a bit of a head scratcher in the SEO community. In the weeks that lead up to the update, many SEOs were fearing an Armageddon type shift to rankings and a complete change in SERP results. What we saw was a very minor series of tremors that left the SERP results largely unchanged. Yes, some egregious offenders that were using thousands or millions of doorway pages to an affiliate site were punished, but by and large – the effects were very small.

At this stage, we are seeing a larger shift in rankings than the previous helpful content algorithm update. It is impossible to say how much things will change over the coming fortnight as things continue to rollout, but we would recommend benchmarking your site performance and looking out for shifts in rankings and organic traffic to see how your website is affected.

What exactly Is ‘Helpful Content’?

Back in August 2022, Google released a document titled “More content by people, for people in Search”. The document outline what the helpful content update means for publishers with two key elements covered in the document:

Better ranking of original, quality content

Google is making it easier for users to access original, high-quality content. That means publishers that are publishing original, unique, and valuable content should see improvements. Some of the benefits from this include:

Google's Documentation on better ranking of original guidelines for the helpful content update

To our interpretation, this also means that niche specific websites should see improvements in the way that their content is ranked. If you are a roofing company that is providing unique, valuable insights – then you should see better rankings than a general niche website that has inexperienced marketers writing about the same topics.

More helpful product reviews from experts

The second major focus of the “More content by people, for people in Search” document was improved visibility for product reviews written by experts.

Google's Documentation on the product reviews and the helpful content update
  • Access to better content from real experts
  • Easier for users to find valuable, original insights
  • Easier access to high-quality information through search

Again, this means that product reviews (think tech) that are published by experts with original thoughts, opinions, and real world-testing data should see better rankings than publishers that are regurgitating a spec sheet from a manufacturer.

What now?

Sit tight, the December 2022 helpful content algorithm update has just started rolling out. We usually see the biggest impacts in the first 3-4 days of Google announcing an update, however, it will take around two weeks for things to roll out.

We recommend benchmarking your rankings and organic traffic over the next week against the same period last month and last year. Positive or negative changes to rankings and visibility should be used as an indicator of how this latest algorithm update has impacted your rankings. From there, we recommend reviewing Google’s “More content by people, for people in Search” document to understand how you can publish better, more authentic content for readers.

Update 1: Google released a follow-up link spam update on the 14th December 2022 which utilises RankBrain AI to detect websites that are buying or selling links for the explicit purpose of improving SEO performance.

Update 2: Google released a further update to the Helpful Content Update in September 2023 that marks three further changes to the way that helpful content is determined – read more about the September 2023 Helpful content update here.

safari digital call to action