About Google’s March Helpful Content Update - 1Digital® Agency
   Click here to talk to an eCommerce SEO Expert!
Helpful Content Update

Earlier this month, Google announced the release of a significant new helpful content update the entire purpose of which was to target (and penalize) spammy, low-quality content – their words, not mine. 

It almost feels like this was overdue. But the results, for so many in eCommerce, were disheartening. Those who may have been coasting by running with help from content mills, or worse, using AI tools, may have seen their rankings drop precipitously, and overnight. 

It almost feels like an “I told you so” moment. Over a year ago, I published “AI and SEO: What Not to Do,” as a caution to those that were hoping, with starry eyes, that AI was the answer to all their woes. 

It seemed like it, didn’t it? You could ask one of those tools to write you a completely SEO-optimized, 5000 word blog or CMS page and it would do so in about 25 seconds.

But, like so many things in life, if it seems too good to be true, it is. And it was.

So let’s unpack what this new helpful content update entailed and why and how this will affect netizens. 

Helpful Content Update

Google’s Going After Spam

All in all, to summarize this as neatly as I can for anyone reading this, Google is sick and tired of low-quality content. 

What is low quality content? Consider the following. 

  • Does it answer a question succinctly? 
  • Does it offer data or details that might support any claims it makes?
  • Is anything in the post, publication, or on the page proprietary? That is, is the information unique? 
  • Does the content contain original or user-generated photos or videos?


Any content – AI-generated or otherwise – that does not accurately and succinctly answer a search query can broadly be categorized as “low-quality” or spammy. 

Also, have you ever been reading a post and thought to yourself “When is this going to get to the point?” If so, you are not alone, and have been a victim of “fluff content.” 

Fluff content contains a lot of words and is very watery with respect to information density. What information it contains might be accurate, but is likely to be unoriginal and is padded with a whole lot of text that just doesn’t need to be there. 

Moreover, this “helpful content update” has been aimed expressly at any publisher that was generating massive sums of content, at scale, simply for the purposes of ranking effectively in search engines. 

One common “trick” that is a terrible failure in Google’s eyes, is the use of a page that promises to answer a question but then goes on and on with low-quality, spammy, fluffy filler content that ultimately reiterates the question a million and one ways but never actually answers anything. 

Now, here’s something that it’s very important to define. Both humans and generative AI engines can produce low-quality content. 

With humans, it’s usually just fluffy content that doesn’t actually answer the question and is long for the sake of being long. Remember, longer is not better unless it actually answers the questions and provide information. If you can answer a search query in 300 words, you’d better do so. Making it longer is not only not better but will likely get you penalized. 

This brings us to the use of AI in content generation. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. It’s not something you should be doing. At best, you should be using those tools for research, and honestly, I personally wouldn’t even do that. The results are too unreliable to take seriously. At least Google gives you a bunch of options to sift through so you can, you know, use the brain – the way we have been doing for 200,000+ years. 

I’m sure there are SEO wizards out there that have had great success with AI. The big names all seem to have cracked the code, right? You know, Neil Patel, Matt Diggity, et al. I’m just going to be honest. I think it’s substance-less hype. 

Helpful Content Update

Google has been savage with this last update and it looks like some websites have really tanked. I can’t prove this, but my guess is that no small portion of them were using AI to partially or wholly generate the information on their websites. 

In my experience – and I may not be Patel or Diggity, but I am no stranger to how SEO works – AI is not only not good for content generation, it is downright bad. Not only is it repetitive, it is clueless, frequently inaccurate, and wholly incapable of producing original, experiential content. Forget the fact that it lacks the human element. That’s not a ranking factor. But accuracy? Originality? Those sure are, and AI just can’t pull it. 

Now, there’s another layer to all of this. It has to do with AI content checkers. There are so many of them out there, and many of them are accurate, so accurate, in fact, that they sometimes flag human-written content as AI if it contains pointless, redundant, reiterative phrases. 

Which means it’s a matter of time before Google’s algorithm crawls and checks for, if not immediately strikes out, whatever it flags as AI-generated content. 

I think I’ve made my case. You need to be accurate and succinct with whatever content you publish. And, for the love of search engine optimization, stop using AI. How many cautionary tales must litter the halls of erudition and haute couture before we recognize that there are no get rich quick schemes? They just don’t work. At least not in the long run. 

A few other things go into this, by the way. In addition to cracking down on garbage quality content, Google also says that:

  • Buying expired domains and reviving them with the intention of capitalizing on previous DA is now considered spam, and will incur a penalty.
  • Parasite SEO, or allowing third-party websites to publish low-quality content with the intention of piggybacking off of the domain with the higher authority, is now considered spam, too.


So, now let’s get pragmatic. You have a website that tanked. What can you do now? 

Your Rankings Tanked: Now What?

Helpful Content Update

As with literally everything in SEO, this is a long-term game. If your rankings dropped but you previously had good rankings, you know for certain your content is usable and not duplicate, and you don’t use AI, the best suggestion I have is to wait it out. 

I know it sounds like non-advice, and I know it’s painful to hear, but if you have good content, and previously had good rankings, you should start climbing the rankings once more. Give it like 3 months. If nothing improves by then, you can come back to the drawing board. 

Now, if you know you’re guilty, and have been using AI this whole time, or farming out content production on an industrial scale to a content mill, then don’t hide your head in the sand and hope the tribunal will pass you by. That is not going to work, not this time. 

You need to take a deep dive into your website and either completely revise or entirely replace pages, blogs, and copy anywhere and everywhere you know it was written by AI or a content mill. 

It’s a lot of work, but nothing in life that comes cheaply is worth having. Or, as Thomas Paine said, “What we obtain too cheaply we esteem too lightly. It is dearness only that gives everything its value.” I couldn’t say it better myself.

Anyway, my point is this is a lot of work, and if you tried to game or cheat the system, well, I don’t have reassuring words for you, and neither does Google via this Helpful Content Update. You’re going to have to do this the hard way, like everyone else has been doing this whole time.



Michael Esposito

Mike Esposito is a professional SEO copywriter spurned by a love of language and creativity. When he's not at the keyboard, you may be able to catch a rare glimpse of him enjoying the outdoors or sipping fine literature.

Read All Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *