The Impact of the Unhelpful Content Update

by Ivan L.

The recent “Helpful Content” update has caused significant turmoil in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Unlike previous updates, this one has had a broader impact, affecting a larger number of websites across various niches. While there is hope that the SERPs will settle and improve over time, it is important to recognize the chaotic nature of this update. In this article, we will explore the unhelpful and unpredictable consequences of the Helpful Content update and discuss the implications it has for website owners.

Dominance of Big Brands

One noticeable trend in the SERPs is the dominance of big brands like Pinterest and PetSmart. These brands have managed to secure top positions not only in the pet niche but also in other niches. While this phenomenon is common in updates, the Helpful Content update has taken it to a whole new level.

Unexpected Winners: Government Agricultural Websites

Surprisingly, government agricultural websites, such as the Georgia Department of Agriculture and the Florida Department of Agriculture, are now winning informational keywords in the pet niche. These sites not only occupy the top spot but also multiple positions for different informational queries. However, upon closer examination, it is evident that their optimization and information provision are subpar. These sites lack word count, headings, and valuable information, making them unhelpful for users seeking answers to their queries.

Inconsistencies in Site Category

Another interesting aspect of this update is the mismatch in site categories. While most informational sites fall under categories like pets, animals, hobbies, and leisure, these government websites appear as law and government. This inconsistency further adds to the confusion and shows that the update has disrupted the expected patterns in SERPs.

Rise of Forum Sites

The Impact of the Unhelpful Content Update

Alongside government websites, forum sites like Reddit and Quora have also seen a surge in top rankings for informational queries. This further upheaves the SERPs, as these platforms don’t always provide accurate or useful information. The update has clearly affected even the most reliable sources of information.

No Site Is Safe

Contrary to popular belief, no website, regardless of its type or quality, is immune to algorithmic updates. Even websites that have invested heavily in creating high-quality informational content are not protected from the impact of updates like the Helpful Content update. This unsettling reality emphasizes the dynamic nature of the SERPs and the continuous need for adaptation.

Detrimental Results

The results from the Helpful Content update have been disappointing and, in some cases, harmful. Not only are unhelpful sites taking the top positions, but spammy sites with potentially damaging information are also rising to prominence. This raises concerns about the efficacy and intentions behind the update. While Google’s end game may be to increase revenue, it does not align with the interests of website owners who strive to provide valuable and meaningful content to their users.

Uncertainty about the Future

The question arises: Will the SERPs settle after the Helpful Content update concludes, or will we continue to witness nonsensical results? The optimization strategies employed by forum sites, such as targeting keywords in URLs and meta titles, may eventually lose their effectiveness. However, the current chaotic state of the SERPs raises doubts about the future outcome.

The Role of On-Page SEO

Although authority plays a significant role in SERP rankings, it is not the sole determining factor. On-page optimization, surprisingly, also holds weight. Therefore, it is essential for website owners to consider both aspects when strategizing for SEO success.

Navigating the Turbulent SERPs

Navigating through the unpredictable SERPs requires a multi-faceted approach. While the results of this update may seem discouraging, it is important to understand that changes in the SERPs are not permanent. By employing various techniques, website owners can work towards reclaiming their positions in search rankings.


The Helpful Content update has undoubtedly caused chaos in the SERPs. The dominance of big brands, the rise of government websites, and the prominence of forum sites have disrupted the expected patterns in search results. Additionally, the update has debunked the notion of safety for any type of website, be it informational, e-commerce, or affiliate. The ever-changing nature of SEO necessitates constant adaptation and perseverance from website owners. While the results of the Helpful Content update may be frustrating, there are strategies to regain visibility and overcome this setback. The future of the SERPs remains uncertain, but with determination and flexibility, website owners can navigate through these challenging times.

FeaturePre-Update ScenarioPost-Update Scenario (Helpful Content Update)
Dominance in SERPsDiverse brands and websitesMajorly big brands like Pinterest and Chewy
Winners in Pet NicheSpecialized pet websitesGovernment agricultural websites
Content Quality of Top SitesInformative & well-optimizedVarying, often subpar (e.g., lack of headings)
Category ConsistencyStable and matched intentInconsistent (e.g., government sites under law)
Forum Site PresenceModerate and variedSignificantly increased, often top rankings
Website Safety from UpdatesHigh-quality sites generally safeNo site, regardless of quality, is safe
Usefulness of Top ResultsMostly reliable and usefulOften unhelpful, sometimes spammy or misleading
SEO Strategy FocusMore predictable outcomesUncertain, with previous strategies possibly less effective
On-Page SEO RelevanceCrucial for rankingStill important, despite chaotic SERPs
The Impact of the Unhelpful Content Update


How can website owners recover or protect their rankings after the Helpful Content update?

Website owners should focus on several aspects:

Ensure that their content is high-quality, relevant, and user-centric.
Maintain robust on-page and technical SEO.
Observe the emerging patterns in SERPs and tweak strategies accordingly.
Diversify traffic sources to mitigate risks from future search engine updates.

Why are government agricultural websites ranking for pet niche keywords despite suboptimal content?

The article suggests that the Helpful Content update has introduced unpredictable and somewhat incongruent ranking patterns. It might be due to changes in algorithmic priorities or weighting of ranking factors, causing these government websites to inadvertently benefit. However, the exact mechanics behind such unusual ranking patterns are not entirely clear.

Why have forum sites like Reddit and Quora started ranking higher post-update, despite potentially unreliable content?

The exact reasoning is not defined in the article, but this might be due to certain ranking factors that forums tend to excel at, such as user engagement, content freshness, and a vast amount of user-generated content. Algorithmic updates might have shifted the weight of these factors, favoring forum sites in rankings.

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