As a search engine, Google’s main goal is to match users with content that’s relevant to their search. Over the years Google has made strides toward providing more relevant and tailored results through the implementation of algorithm updates.
The latest step towards this goal comes in the form of the “helpful content update” which aims to evaluate the content on websites and determine its usefulness to searchers. So, what does this update mean for SEO planning and search engine marketing as a whole?
What to Know About the Helpful Content Update
Google has since confirmed that the helpful content update will begin to roll out on August 25th and will take about two weeks to be fully implemented within the platform. Like its name, the update is mainly targeting the content on websites and analyzing it to understand if it was created to be a “helpful” article for the reader or if its purpose is solely to rank well on Google. The objective is to reward sites for informational and unique content and devalue content that was written for the algorithm effectively making the search results more useful for consumers.
As of now, the update is only impacting Google Search but has the potential to be rolled out on other Google platforms in the future. Only English language searches will be affected at this time but it’s likely to expand to all languages. It’s not currently clear what percentage of searches will be impacted by this update which is why it’s crucial to monitor your site’s rankings during this time to understand how you’ll be affected.
Here are tips on how to survive this update and come out on top.
5 Tips for Surviving the Helpful Content Update
1 . Write Content for the User
This one may sound a bit obvious, however many websites produce content with the sole intention of ranking well on Google. When creating new content be sure to ask “what function does this serve?”. It may be to answer a commonly asked question related to your vertical or to provide entertainment to the reader. Whatever the reason is, it should provide some sort of value for the user. If your reason behind creating content is purely for rankings, it’s very likely Google recognize it and begin to devalue your site leading to a drop in traffic.
Another way to avoid being flagged is to stay away from AI-generated content. This style of content writing may be quick and easy but often the final result is a mashup of information already existing on the web with no real value add. AI-written content cannot provide extensive knowledge on a topic in the unique brand voice the user is interested in.
2. Prove Yourself as a Knowledgeable Source
Remember, the entire purpose behind this update is to provide users with the most extensive information on a topic possible. Google will value content that feels as if it was written from first-hand experience with expertise that can only come from an established leader in the vertical. When writing new content, think of the niche topics within your industry that you are able to provide a wealth of knowledge on and provide a considerable amount of details. Broaching niche subjects with only surface-level information can hurt your chances of ranking.
Without going in-depth on the topic, especially a popular topic, it’s likely you are only summarizing what other sources have to say. Due to the inability to prove what information is new and unique, it’s crucial you provide as much as you can.
3. Choose An Overall Theme
Part of establishing yourself or your brand as a knowledgeable source is by creating content around one main theme throughout the site. The search engine should be able to visit your site and easily identify your topic of expertise. Producing and publishing content around a myriad of unrelated subjects lessens your credibility, and increases the chance of Google identifying the content as a ranking and traffic-only piece. Stay away from trending topics that do not relate to your field and stick to things your existing audience will find captivating.
Choose a topic closely related to your product or service and do a deep dive into every facet of it. This may result in multiple articles that cover the different elements of the broader topic.
4. Don’t Rely on Word Count
Creating content with a particular word count as the main objective may be a good indicator that the content is for the algorithm and not the person. A good article will go as in-depth as needed with the topic and won’t include superfluous information as a means of making the article longer.
Google has previously stated that the algorithm doesn’t have a preferred content length. Unique content that communicates the needed information to the consumer will outperform longer content that remains generic with the new update.
5. Optimize for User Experience
At the end of the day, you want users to leave your site feeling satisfied with the experience and the information that was provided to them. If the goal of your article was to answer a question, ensure the answer is clearly laid out within the content. Framing your content around a topic or question without providing a clear answer or in-depth information leads to user frustration, high bounce rates, and poor rankings.
It’s no surprise that Google is making advances towards a people-first search experience.
We’ve seen this trend in the past with previous updates including the Google BERT update and passage indexation. So as long as you’ve taken note of these trends and write your content with a user-first approach your hard work should pay off with this update.
If your site does get classified as “built for the algorithm” Google has stated that it’s possible to work to get the identifier removed and recover some lost rankings.
Remove the “built for the algorithm” classifier by completing the following steps
- Review existing content
- Identify the content that is written for the algorithm
- Refresh current content to put the user first
- Alternatively, remove the old content off the site entirely
To help you identify if you are producing poorly written content, Google has put together a list of questions to ask yourself when evaluating.
Overall, the helpful content update has the potential to cause big changes to your site depending on your approach toward content writing. This update is sure to have lasting effects on the search landscape and those who invested in good SEO and quality content will reap the benefits.
– Erin Gerety, SEO Strategist at Direct Agents