Helpful Content Update: The Sad Truth of The Modern Internet

Anyone with a website in the last 20 years can attest to the fact that we are in a very uncomfortable marriage with a rather abusive spouse, Google. According to most estimators, Google occupies 92% of the global search market, regardless of the fear of LLMs like ChatGPT. It’s likely that any paradigm shift in technology will require billions of people to change what has become their daily routine in search.

In January of 2023, the U.S Justice Department Sued Google for Monopolizing Digital Media. According to the allegations made in the complaint, Google has been involved in a series of actions over the last 15 years that are considered anticompetitive and exclusionary. These actions include acquiring ad tech competitors to either render them ineffective or remove them from the market, leveraging its dominant position in digital advertising markets to compel more publishers and advertisers to adopt its products, and hindering the use of competing products. In the process, Google solidified its dominance in the tools essential for website publishers and online advertisers, as well as the digital advertising exchange responsible for conducting ad auctions.

Every website owner in the world could has been well aware of this since Google acquired DoubleClick in 2007.

Google Giveth and, and Google Takeawayith

Perhaps the most egregious aspect of dealing with Google is the complete and total control they have over organic traffic to websites. Hence leading to a $130B industry in the way of SEO. Google continuously grapples with several challenges in its search functionality. These issues encompass a decrease in the overall quality of search results and the necessity to incorporate specific search terms like “Reddit” in a query to locate human-authored answers. One significant concern involves the proliferation of AI-generated pages that can manipulate Google’s algorithm to attain high rankings in search results, even when the content itself is of mediocre quality. To address this problem, Google has endeavored to counteract it by implementing updates to its search algorithm and employing filters to exclude pages it identifies as “unhelpful.”

In September of 2023, Google made another core algorithm change in an effort to increase “helpful content”. According to Google:

“The helpful content system aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.
The system generates a site-wide signal that we consider among many other signals for use in Google Search (which includes Discover). The system automatically identifies content that seems to have little value, low-added value or is otherwise not particularly helpful to people.

Any content—not just unhelpful content—on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search, assuming there is other content elsewhere from the web that’s better to display. For this reason, removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.”

What does this really mean? No one is really sure. If you gauge the chatter on Twitter, the winners are bragging and the losers are exhausted:

One constant to Google is that you can be doing everything right, and still get crushed.

Time To Own Your Audience

There are really only a few ways in the modern web to actually own your audience outside of any walled garden. Influencers and high-traffic organic websites live or die by the large platforms of indifference. One important way to hedge against this is by utilizing one of the most basic and widely used parts of the open web: email.

Email is a direct and effective means of communication with website visitors, customers, and subscribers. Email lists can help website owners build a community around their brand or niche. They can share relevant content, foster discussions, and create a sense of belonging among their subscribers. For websites that generate revenue through affiliate marketing or selling products/services, email addresses can be a strong source of income. Website owners can promote affiliate products, offer premium tiers, or upsell their own products/services to their email subscribers.

Most importantly, it offers website owners a chance to own their audience and hedge against future changes.


Synth is a premium mailing list service that collects emails and sends out high-quality newsletters. Publishers have control over their partnership tiers ranging from full control to having Synth fully manage the entire process. Publishers have a free version of newsletters and paid versions with premium features like giveaways, in-depth content, and exclusives.

Synth is the modern answer to regaining ownership of your audience. Synth is currently in private beta, but is open to partnerships.