If you frequent the blogging and digital marketing circles online, you’ve probably heard about the helpful content update from Google that is rolling out in August 2022.
Here’s everything you TRULY need to know about this update (for now) and what it means for your blog.
Long story short, Google says this update is meant to ‘ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.’
According to Google, their aim is to ‘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.’
What does this mean for content creators like you and me?
Let’s dig in and discuss.
I promise it’s not as scary as it sounds.
THE HELPFUL CONTENT UPDATE FROM GOOGLE
On August 18th, the search engine giant announced that they’d be rolling out this update over the next few weeks. You can read the announcement here.
The goal is to reward content that serves THE READER and helps them find the content and solutions they’ve been looking for.
This means that generic content full of fluff, keyword stuffing, and useless words unrelated to user inquiry will not be rewarded in search results.
AKA: will not rank on page one and will not get blog traffic.
That’s right. Content that does not answer the user query and provide a good user experience, will not be faring as well in search results.
SOME QUICK FACTS
For many years, Google has provided ‘quality guidelines’ that encourage content creators to focus on readers and avoid deceiving your audience or using a bunch of fluff in your blog posts.
The guidelines already included basic tips like: writing for humans, avoiding link schemes, and not using auto-generated content without human review.
That part isn’t exactly NEW.
But here are some thoughts that Google does want us to keep in mind when creating new content:
• Will your target audience truly find this info HELPFUL if they come to your site looking for answers to their questions?
• Does your content show genuine expertise and knowledge on the topic, or are you just trying to fill a page with words and stats that you don’t have any first-hand experience with?
• Does your site have a “primary purpose or focus”? I call this a niche focus or overall site theme. Reminder: lifestyle blogs are difficult to monetize now for this reason.
• After reading an article on your site, will your reader walk away feeling like they got their answer and they have what they need to solve their problem?
Basically, does your content answer your target reader’s query better than everyone else?
That’s our goal as content creators anyway, so don’t let that part stress you out!
RELATED ARTICLE >>> Search Engine Optimization Basics for Beginners
THE PURPOSE OF THE UPDATE
Have you ever typed an inquiry into Google looking for an answer and some random UNHELPFUL article is in spot one on page one for seemingly no reason?
Have you ever tried to look up a quick casserole or crock pot recipe and page one brings up a bunch of articles that have ‘round ups’ of random articles from 20 different sites and you have to sift through them to find what you need?
It happens to us all!
And the helpful content update is intended to help with this issue.
Google wants content creators to STOP publishing articles with a search-engine-first approach and start creating content with a human-first approach.
HELPFUL vs. UNHELPFUL CONTENT
News of this update has definitely stirred up the SEO community and digital marketing world.
Everyone is speculating about what will be considered ‘helpful content’, therefore ranking well in search results.
Google is rolling the update out over a few weeks, and the truth is, no one FULLY knows what sites and what content is going to fare well or fare badly.
They aren’t leaving us entirely in the dark though. Their update specifically states:
“How do you avoid taking a search engine-first approach? Answering yes to some or all of the questions is a warning sign that you should reevaluate how you’re creating content across your site:
- Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
- Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
- Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
- Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
- Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
- Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
- Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t).
- Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
- Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?”
Like they mentioned, if you answer yes to many of these questions, you will need to adjust your content creation strategy.
We can’t say explicitly what Google is going to see as helpful vs. unhelpful content until AFTER the update has rolled out completely and affected all of our sites.
But we can say that they’re giving us some clear hints about what kind of content we should be creating.
WHO IS GETTING HIT BY THE UPDATE?
Google isn’t giving any black-and-white list of who will be affected.
Danny Sullivan, the Public Liason for Google explains that this update is intended to make sure that ‘unoriginal, low quality content doesn’t rank highly’ in search engines.
He adds that it will especially improve search results related to these categories:
- Online education
- Arts and entertainment
- Tech-related content
When folks inquired about his statement of categories that would be affected, Danny clarified on Twitter that this update doesn’t focus on any single topic/area. But the above are examples of areas that will see notable improvement after this update.
Around here, we think the principle applies to all blogs and content creators: trying to fluff up your content or use lazy tactics to boost your ranking position isn’t going to work anymore.
Creating expert-focused content that is helpful to your target audience will be more important than ever before.
THIS IS A SIDE-WIDE UPDATE
Sometimes, Google will roll out updates that affect specific pages or posts. An example of this is their ‘product review’ update that only affected individual articles that contain product reviews.
The helpful content update is not like that.
This is a SITE WIDE UPDATE.
This means that if your overall website content is deemed ‘unhelpful’ in the eyes of Google, ANY CONTENT that is on your website is less likely to perform well in search results.
This can be harmful to sites that use a lot of fluff, lazy content creation, and keyword stuffing. It can also be harmful to sites that use a lot of link scheming for the DA boost but lack substance. And sites that use a lot of AI content that is not reviewed/improved by human writers.
Again, some of this is still considered speculation, since the effects of the update aren’t clear quite yet. But it’s safe to say, lazy content is not going to fare well in this new algorithm.
DOES ON-PAGE SEO STILL MATTER?
If you’re feeling like this update is a big relief because you can just focus on your readers questions and forget about SEO, think again.
SEO IS STILL VERY IMPORTANT.
Google specifically states in their announcement that their SEO guidelines are still important and still used in their criteria for search engine rankings. Of course.
So don’t give up on your SEO.
It’s important. It matters. And optimizing your content will always be a part of content creation.
You notice it within this article of mine, right?
I’m focusing on information that answers YOUR questions. You clicked on this article because you needed answered about this Google update… I’m focusing on facts without fluff.
But I’m still using my:
- Meta description
- Relevant interlinking
- Helpful images etc…
Because on-page SEO still matters. All parts of SEO still matters.
WHAT IF MY SITE GETS HIT BY THE UPDATE?
Many content creators are understandably nervous about this.
It’s important to keep in mind that this update involves a site wide ranking SIGNAL that is running behind the scenes all the time and adjusting ranking of all articles in search results.
Google has confirmed that this signal will not be considered a manual action or a spam action against your site, even if your site is seemed unhelpful AT THIS TIME.
It is just a signal that has been added to the list of many other signals Google uses to evaluate and rank our content.
If you adjust and improve your content, and the Google signals determine that the unhelpful content has not shown up on your site for ‘the long-term’, the classification will no longer apply to your site and your rankings will start to improve again.
They dont confirm what ‘long-term’ means at this time.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
What we know about the Helpful Content update from Google:
It is a site-wide signal that will help Google determine if your entire website is genuinely useful to HUMANS that are searching for solutions to their problems and questions.
This update confirms that Google wants us to write for humans first BUT also keep their SEO guidelines in mind and make sure you optimize your content.
It seems that ‘niching down’ and making sure that ALL of the content on your website is helpful, comprehensive, and focused on user experience is ideal.
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