On 18th August 2022, Google announced their new update, which could shake up content and SEO much like the Penguin update back in 2012. Let’s take a look at what Google’s helpful content update is and how it could affect your site.
What does Google’s helpful content update mean?
Google’s content update will favour original and helpful content. The aim of the update is to give Google users a better search experience by providing content that provides searchers with what they are looking for.
Focus on people-first content
Google’s content update rewards content that meets the searcher’s expectations, as a result, content that doesn’t meet expectations will be ranked lower. But how do you know if you focus on people-first content? According to Google, if you answer yes to the following questions, you’re probably already taking a people-first approach:
Do you have an existing audience 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?
Does your site have a primary focus?
After reading your content, are people leaving your site feeling like they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
Do readers of your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
Very often, content creators will create content solely focused on search engine optimisation (SEO). Whilst SEO best practices are still extremely important, Google‘s helpful content update is mitigating sites that are too focused on creating content for search engines first.
How do you know if your site focuses on creating content for search engines first? According to Google, if these questions apply to your content, you might want to re-evaluate your content strategy:
Are you producing lots of content on various topics because you think they’ll perform better in search results?
Are you using extensive automation to create content on many topics?
Does your content simply summarise similar articles, without adding extra value?
Do you only write about things that are trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your audience?
Is your content leaving readers looking for more information from other sources because your content didn’t help them?
Are you writing to a particular word count because you think that Google has a preferred word count?
Did you enter a niche topic area without any expertise because you’re looking to get more search traffic?
Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer?
How Google’s helpful content update works
Any content that appears on sites that have been deemed overall to have large quantities of unhelpful content will not perform well in the search engine results page (SERPs). However, this is only the case if there is more helpful content elsewhere to display instead.
Now you may be asking yourself; if unhelpful content is removed from my site, how long will it take to rank well again? In short – this could take a couple of months. Google’s classifier for this update is continuously running, monitoring newly-launched and existing sites. If it is determined that the unhelpful content has not returned in the long-term, the classification will no longer apply.
Note: Google’s classifier process uses a machine learning model, making it entirely automated.
It’s important to remember that due to the update using automated ranking signals,some people-first content on sites classified as having unhelpful content could still rank well. This is because there could be other signals that deem your people-first content as being relevant to the searcher’s query.
The ranking signals used by Google are also weighted. As a result, if a site has a lot of unhelpful content, they may notice a stronger effect of the update.
In upcoming months, Google will refine and improve how the classifier determines unhelpful content, further rewarding the efforts of people-first content.
What should I do if Google’s helpful content update impacts me?
If the update impacts you, we recommend that you take a look at our content audit strategy – we will help to identify any pages with unhelpful content on your site and rectify it as soon as possible.
Remember: If your content is primarily built for search engines, it’s likely that you will see a drastic decline in search traffic.
If you want to ensure that your future content is people-first, make sure that you focus on keyword research. Take a look at related searches and people also ask in the SERPs in relation to the keyword to understand what content searchers want to see.
Get in touch
We are content marketing experts – if you are concerned about what this update means for your site, get in touch! Content marketing can help to:
→ Educate your potential customers and prospects about the products and services you offer
→ Convert more one-off purchasers into loyal customers
→ Connect with your audience to show them how your products and services solve their challenges