What does Google’s new ‘Helpful Content’ update
mean for SEO?
This is what Google had to say about the new update:
Periodically Google releases a new update that has the Search Engine Optimisation industry scrambling to learn more so they can update their methodology and tactics, and, if needed, their existing content.
This August saw another major update to the search engine goliath in the form of their ‘helpful content’ update.
“Google Search is always working to better connect people to helpful information. To this end, we’re launching what we’re calling the “helpful content update” that’s part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.”
We have added the bold emphasis in the quote to highlight what we think is an important element in this statement and the wider helpful content update.
The rise of
AI (and its
impact on SEO)
Recently, there has been a steep rise in the number of AI tools available within the SEO and copywriting industry that all claim to be able to write smooth, SEO optimised copy. The quality of copy produced by these AI platforms varies wildly and most results would need some heavy editing to make it suitable before publishing (to put it mildly).
Many marketing professionals believe the helpful content update from Google has been introduced (in part) to counteract this, hence the “written by people, for people” part. Some companies, perhaps without a large marketing budget, are resorting to seemingly cost-saving platforms that may not serve their customers (who are also Google’s users) as well as using a human writer would.
If these AI copywriting tools are producing unhelpful, keyword heavy content (not to mention clunky and hard to read), this would clearly not be in Google users’ best interests. It would make perfect sense then for Google to do something about this, and many believe the helpful content update is Google’s response.
The rise of
AI (and its
impact on SEO)
So, what does Google’s helpful content update actually mean?
Well, essentially, and for any good copywriter or SEO professional, it’s business as usual.
Google has been banging the same drum for years now.
Write for people first, not search engines.
Which roughly translates to ‘write useful content for your audience that leaves them satisfied afterwards’. That satisfaction can take many forms – it could be that their questions are answered, they learned what they needed to learn, they were entertained, they found the product that meets their needs, or they just had a nice experience.
There are, of course, best practice guidelines to follow and certain ways to improve your ranking.
Some of these include:
- ensuring all pages are linked to other pages on your site using relevant text
- using keywords that your customers would use when searching online (in a natural way – not stuffing your copy full of keywords)
- ensuring your pages load quickly – no one likes a webpage that takes ages to load
- ensuring your site works on all devices – desktops, smartphones, and tablets.
But the helpful content update is more geared towards the quality of the copy on your website.
What does Google consider helpful content?
Well, in a nutshell, helpful content is content that provides the best possible user experience on your website.
How do you create the best possible user experience? By focussing on the user (people) first, of course!
By taking a people-first approach when creating your content, you will be less likely to fall into certain search-engine-first traps such as overfilling your content with keywords, using automated content production, or writing about trending topics that have little to do with your industry/niche or what your target audience is interested in.
Helpful content is considered to be answering a question to or providing a solution for what people are searching online.
Google have given the following six questions to ask of your content, and if you can truthfully answer yes to all of them, you should have nothing to worry about with the new update.
- Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
- Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
- Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
- After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
- Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
- Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?
Google’s helpful content update started to roll out on 25th August and could take up to two weeks to complete. Google claims the update will allow their system to automatically detect content that provides little value to visitors. More than this though, Google also state that it is not just the unhelpful content itself (i.e., individual web pages) that will be affected. Entire sites that are deemed to have high levels of unhelpful content will be affected and not perform as well in search results.
What do you need to do to ensure you are not negatively impacted by Googles new update?
Well, if you’ve been following Google’s advice and guidelines when creating your content, you’ll have nothing to worry about. You’ll already be producing people-first content that your target audience is interested in and providing answers to or solutions to what they’re searching online for. If you’re content is written by people, for people and you can answer yes to the above six questions provided by Google, then you’re already meeting the criteria for the helpful content update.
Could your SEO be out of date?
This is the thing with SEO – it requires constant monitoring and updating. Google are frequently changing their algorithms and ‘improving’ their service for users, which can sometimes affect your SEO strategy. For example, you may have taken on an SEO expert a few years ago and their efforts may well have worked for the older algorithms. But if your website is now classed as being built primarily for search engines, under this new update you will most likely see a rapid and significant decline in search traffic over the next few months.
If your website includes content written in the past that was focussed more on including what search engines were looking for (i.e., keyword stuffed content written with little to no added value past ranking on search engines) then you may want to rewrite the content altogether.
Whether you’ve kept to Google’s guidelines over the years or not, or had someone else write your content for you, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to review the existing content on your website (using the six questions above) and edit any that requires updating. (We can do this for you)
Home pages and other core pages in particular would be worth giving extra attention to as in the past many businesses have focussed more on ensuring they hit the right keywords than serving their target audience.
If you’ve seen a drop in website sales or calls recently, you may want to have your website content analysed.
If you’re on one of our Gold or above website packages, we will monitor your ranking and performance and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly.
Is Google’s helpful content update good news or bad news?
Put it this way – our copywriters think of the update as a breath of fresh air.
Any copywriter worth their salt much prefers to write engaging content that people want to read. Few copywriters enjoy writing content that focusses on hitting a particular word count, containing X number of keywords, is just ‘filler’ content because it’s trending, isn’t satisfying to read, or demonstrates little to no depth of knowledge.
And if you are writing your own content instead of paying a copywriter to write it for you, remember that you are just writing what you already know. Your content needs to be relevant to your site’s primary purpose or focus – which you should know about, right? So, focus on that to begin with – demonstrate your expertise and answer your target audience’s questions or solve their problems. I.e., the old writing adage – “write what you know”. If you’re doing that at the very least, then you’re on the right track.
Read Google’s own Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Starter Guide if you’d like to learn more about how to write content following good SEO principles. Just a word of warning though – it can be a lot to take in!
Or, if you’d like help ensuring your website meets current SEO guidelines and principles and want to improve your search engine ranking over time, then get in touch with us today.
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