Google Search is running a new major algorithm update next week. This introduces some new ranking factors that will, they hope, improve the quality of the content served in the SERPs.

What you need to know:

  • The update is coming out next week. It will take two weeks to complete, in English only.
  • If you are hit, you can recover by removing “unhelpful” content
  • It is a sitewide signal
  • It has been added to the Google Algorithm toolkit: it will always be running in the background.
  • Because this is a sitewide signal, being dinged for unhelpful content will probably affect you… sitewide.
  • It is, however, weighted:  “sites with a lot of unhelpful content will find the signal stronger for them”.

How does Google determine unhelpful content?

Google is going to use some entirely automatic ML signals to determine what is “unhelpful.” This means that there might be some unexpected content that is flagged as “unhelpful.” These are some of the signals that they see as examples of “unhelpful content”.

  • Content that is primarily to attract search engines instead of users.
  • Content on “different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well”
  • Extensive automation
  • Summarizing what others say without adding value
  • Writing about trendy things without thinking about your own audience
  • Writing to a particular word count
  • Entering a niche topic area without “any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?”
  • Promising to answer questions with no answer (suggesting a release date for a product/tv/movie where one isn’t confirmed, etc.)

Our current hypotheses include:

  • If your content is too similar to other content that is currently ranking, that might be considered unhelpful
    • This could mean the content you get from sources such as suppliers, real estate MLS, and review content.
  • Google may be crawling more next week to gather information for this update: ensure your site speed is good and any unhelpful content has been removed before that time. 
    • It might also be a good idea to not release any major SEO-related website updates next week. 
  • It’s important to avoid being hit by this update if you can since it can take months to recover.

Other initial thoughts

  • There are places we can see this algorithm has already been rolled out. Bespoke content is king.
  • Listicle-type content is probably a target
  • Expect volatility

And questions that we don’t have the answer to yet:

  • What does this mean for location pages?
  • Is AI content toast?


LSG is continuously monitoring the effect this has across sites: we’ll let you know how this goes.


You can read more about this update from Google, and Glenn Gabe has a helpful article here.

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