Is it Really Helpful?
And here we go again with another helpful update called the Helpful Content Update. Whenever Google releases an update for Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs), it’s always part of a bigger plan. This time is no different, either. The point of these continuous updates is to improve the content experience of the audience. As content creators, it is our job to produce content that promises high value for the audience and search engines.
The release date of this update was August 25, 2022.
What Is the Google Helpful Content Update?
People associated with the SEO industry for a long time would not be surprised by this update. Google has held a policy of producing content that helps users and promises to add value for them.
Google Helpful Content Update is for the content producers to take a departure from producing content that targets the search engines. The aim (with stringent policies) always is to create more reader-friendly content that adds value.
Google prefers high-quality, targeted content that speaks to the audience more than search engines. The point is to write human-first content, not content that targets the search engines here. Since low-quality content has fluff, the new update may not appreciate it or give it a free pass as before.
How Does It Work?
The latest update is fully automated and works as a signal. It is embedded into the machine learning algorithms that Google uses every day. So, content that is unhelpful to the users will send a negative signal to the algorithms.
Google has made it an automated process.
IS IT A PENALIZATION?
Google has not termed this update as a downright penalty. It has very carefully tiptoed the word penalty. However, it is not a manual action, is unlisted in Google Search Console, and is not labeled as spam action.
The search engine giant has declared that it is a signal and has described this change on its official documentation.
However, when the signal applies to your website, it may be a penalty.
Though the classification can also be removed when you realign your content with Google’s Helpful Content Update, so not all is lost entirely.
Do remember that this Google update will be up and running at the back end all the time. So, if the algorithm sees that your website has realigned itself with Google’s goals and is more audience-friendly, then the signal’s strength could be reduced and lifted later.
The update feels eerily similar to Panda and Penguin algorithms. The algorithms are part and parcel of Google’s core algorithms, while they were initially just filters. So, the websites with low-quality content (Panda) or unnatural links (Penguin) had an effect on their rankings. And imagine if the website with both had a double whammy.
However, if the websites clean up their act, they stand a better chance of recovering their rankings the next time Google updates its Panda/Penguin algorithms.
So, it is likely that the latest Google update will have an effect similar to Panda and Penguin updates. The website rankings will be suppressed to some degree, but they can have that lifted with the right practices. Some differences are as follows:
1. The Google Helpful Content Update Runs All the Time at the Back End
The relatively recent websites on the block will have the signal applied from day one. Also, the signal will apply to older websites just the same. So, better reevaluate the content created for search engines at your earliest convenience.
2. Many Websites Will Be Affected in Varying Degrees
This all depends on the nature of the content. The magnitude of the unhelpful content on a website will certainly not go down well with this signal. The algorithms will gauge your website from time to time to see how ‘unhelpful’ it is for the users and decrease the strength of this signal. So, over time you can have this lifted as you revamp the website.
HOW DOES GOOGLE HELPFUL UPDATE AFFECT YOU?
The long and short of this update is simply that content producers should focus more on ‘reader’s first’ approach and move away from the search engine-first approach. That also makes sense because Google is a platform for online education and benefits people.
Content that is unhelpful to the users is not helping anyone as such.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE GOOGLE HELPFUL CONTENT UPDATE?
These are the three ways the content creators can ready themselves for the implemented update:
1. Content Transparency:
Avoid fluff and clickbait content at all costs. For instance, if the readers are promised the top ten cars of 2022 or the top ten recipes for vegan fans, then stick to that. No need to insert needless keywords and fluff content that gives the wrong impression to Google.
Reader satisfaction is a must here.
2. Understand the Audience:
Most writers know what this means, but let us clarify here one more time. We need to meet the audience where they are in their journey, hoping to provide as much value as possible while we are at it. This is the case of buyer’s journey, which establishes the stage of the journey the buyers are at the moment. Understanding the buyer’s journey is necessary to target the content to their needs.
For instance, if you are selling them a course on SEO, while the incoming audience wants to know about SEO and its implications. So, most likely, they are not at the stage of investing in some SEO courses. Therefore, understanding the audience is necessary to give them what they need. Google seems to unify the goal of older and new websites now, bringing them on one page regarding understanding their audience instead of focusing on ranking in the SERPs.
3. Content That Delivers Value:
The rules of the game are still the same, but the quality metrics are tight than before. So, this is the chance to flex your expertise in your favorite niche. The article’s length is beside the point (although the content that is less than three hundred words is flagged as low-quality content by the search engines), as long as the people like what they read on the website or take away from it, everything is good. This is doable when you know the search intent of the users.
These are steps that experienced authors are already following on their websites. So, there is no reason to worry/stress about the latest search engine updates headed your way. Since you are already producing excellent content for the audience, Google will be fine with it.
PARAMETERS FOR HIGH-QUALITY CONTENT FOR GOOGLE
Yes, we all want to feature in the top ten pages of the SERPs. That is what makes us jump out of bed every day, right? In order to do that, we must understand the implication of the term ‘high quality’ content and unhelpful content.
Your content strategy should focus on the following parameters first and foremost:
- Do you trust the information in this piece?
- Is the article by an expert/enthusiast in the niche who knows his field well, or is he just thin on information?
- Does the website have content that seems duplicate, overlapping, or redundant junk that appears more or less the same with minor variations?
- Would the audience feel comfortable giving their credit card information to this website?
- Does the article have basic spelling, factual, or stylistic errors?
- Are the talking points on the website of genuine interest to the readers, or is the focus largely on search engine rankings or what might rank there well?
- Is the content original on the website, fully supported by reputable sources and original analysis?
- Does the page offer more value compared to other results in the SERPS?
- What is the quality control level of this content?
- Does the article provide both sides of the story?
- Is the website known for its authority?
- Is the website’s content mass-produced involving several creators or spread across a huge network?
- Does the article provide complete information on the topic at hand?
- Does the piece have information that is unique and exciting beyond the obvious?
- Is this a reliable website that people will bookmark, use, or recommend to their peers?
- Does the website have a free flow of ads that disrupt the user experience?
- Does the article fulfill the publishing criteria of a magazine, encyclopedia, or other reputable sources?
- Is the article lacking in important information, short, or poorly written?
- Was the article hastily produced, edited well, or appears sloppy in its flow?
- Would you trust this information for health and wellness?
- Is the website name authoritative when someone mentions it?
- Is the content produced with great attention to detail or poor attention to detail?
- Would the audience complain when they land on this website?
WAY FORWARD FOR THOSE HIT BY GOOGLE's HELPFUL CONTENT UPDATE
So, if Google certifies your website as search engine-friendly, then there will be a decline in your existing website traffic over the next few months.
However, there is a silver lining. Google has announced that the affected websites can remove the classifier and hopefully recover their rankings.
But do remember that if Google sees more SEO content on the inner pages, the sitewide signal will also notice that, which spells more bad news for you.
So, moving forward, you will need to diagnose the areas where these problems persist and work aggressively to repair them. After all, we all want to rank highly on Google, right?
However, not all is lost. You can still salvage your website by following these tips to redo it and its pages. The update is here to stay, so be ready to work on future pages after fully understanding the update and its goals.
Here are the tips for adapting your website to Google’s new update:
- Go through all the pages. Evaluate which content on the website focuses heavily on search engines instead of the audience.
- Decide which content can still be salvaged in line with the new update and which should be removed from the website/flagged as no-indexed on the site.
- Establish new guidelines to produce content that focuses on the audience/people first. This will be the blueprint for the future content published on the website.
- Look at the competitor and top-ranking pages on Google to see what they are doing right and what you are doing wrong thus far. It will provide an idea about which websites Google is rewarding and provide a way forward to improve the content.
- Read all about YMYL and EAT principles of Google to see how Google gauges your website and works within these parameters. The aim is to realign your strategy now that the Google content parameters have become more stringent.
- Be sure to clarify the purpose of every page moving forward (helping people should come first as a goal).
- Know when to cut losses and move ahead. Some websites may be hit harder than others, so figure out what is worth salvaging and the extent of this salvage mission.
There you have it. It will be smooth sailing if you follow Google’s updated guidelines and embed them in your new content strategy. Rest assured, Google provides you ample time to readjust your content goals and website content once it goes through with an update.
While the new update may come down hard on some websites, it provides others an opportunity to rise to the top and beat the competition. Google is offering you a chance to emerge front and center of your niche audience. Some tools will set you on the right path, but the journey is yours to take, as is success.