Google’s Helpful Content Update – What It Means for Your Rankings
It’s been 10 years since the Penguin update shook how businesses approached SEO worldwide. Are we in for another drastic change with the Helpful Content Update?
Although not as much as a decade ago, search results are still populated with content written solely for rankings.
Content that is stuffed with keywords or formatted to game the system is out there.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with optimizing your content for SEO, but adding fluff to increase word count or scrapping content with no original thought isn’t going to work anymore.
Google has long been on a mission to make search results as relevant as possible to any given search query. And this “Google Helpful Content” update is just another step in that direction.
For most, if your content is original and well-thought-out, the update could actually be a blessing in disguise.
However, if you fear your rankings might take a hit, we’ll share a few tips you can use to fix your content asap.
Helpful content is an algorithm update aimed at diversifying search results to promote original content written by people for people.
At the heart of this update, Google plans to better address search queries. Therefore, content published to please Google’s search engine is less likely to rank.
Helpful content means a piece of information that satisfies the search intent with a proper action plan. Let’s discuss a general example:
Let’s assume someone is looking for tips on how to make a bird feeder at home.
A helpful piece of content would be one that provides a thorough step-by-step process. A list of equipment needed is there. In short, it covers everything in 1500 words.
Now, there’s another piece of content that’s 3000 words. This one contains a general overview of what a bird feeder is. Then goes into why you need it and then talks briefly about making one with very generic information. Clearly written for keywords.
The first type of content will easily outrank the latter after the update rolls out.
Google’s main objective is to target AI-generated content with this update and they make it pretty clear in their blog post.
Having said this, there still is a place for AI-generated content in content marketing. But, you’ve got to make sure you add value to the content you publish.
What really caught my attention from the above extract is the term “part of a broader effort” because this means Google will introduce more updates or changes in their algorithm to value original and well-researched content.
Visitor satisfaction is also being taken into account. Google will penalize content that doesn’t satisfy the visitor’s expectations – regardless of whom it was written by.
Impact of the Update
It’s still very early days and we’ll know more in the future.
In my opinion, this update will massively impact search results and change how marketers design their content strategy, much like how Panda and Penguin changed the way we get backlinks today.
Those like us, who focus on quality and original content, will win.
Ranking content will become challenging, nigh impossible for sites that rehash or rephrase strategically to game the system.
As a business owner or marketer you might be freaking out.
Is there a chance that you could face serious consequences with this update?
After all, you worked pretty hard to get here and losing your traffic means losing business.
Well, yes, on the surface, it seems the update will have a major impact if your content isn’t up to scratch.
The first thing you need to do is perform a thorough content audit of your pages. Prioritize the pages that need prompt action. And start making changes.
Below are some actionable tips to help you ride the wave and minimize the damage as much as possible.
Writing for your audience means knowing what your readers want and writing from the specifically, while staying in your niche.
But what do you do if you run out of content ideas?
Instead of pouring a new wine into an old bottle, you should slowly work outwards.
Action: Move outwards with the correct angle.
Let’s say you start targeting coffee brands in your fitness blog with the “correct angle.”
An excellent example of this is a blog post titled: should I drink coffee before working out?
This title keeps your content relevant to your target audience and within your niche.
Valuable content satisfies search intent.
To measure the value of your content, Google might evaluate how users behave on your pages.
Time spent on page and bounce rates are more important than ever.
Action: Add adequate information in your blogs and cover everything that needs to be covered under the title.
For example, a guide on how to make a bird feeder should cover all the aspects of the subject with internal links to more in-depth blogs, if needed.
A blog post on “what is a bird feeder” might pass if you don’t cover every aspect of the topic in detail. But make sure to mention all types of bird feeders here so that the information is complete.
We have already established that the “helpful content” update will value content that satisfies search intent more so than it works in keywords and word counts.
But what is search intent?
Simply put, search intent is the reason behind the search.
Giving the user what they want will likely benefit your content after the update rolls out. And satisfying search intent doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write long-form content.
This is because Google clearly stated that targeting word count means you are writing for search engines.
Action: Focus on answering the search query rather than adding content and keywords to rank higher.
Even a 300-word content piece might beat a 1000+ word piece of content if it provides more value.
In addition, your titles should be indicative of what’s to come in the body of your content because many blogs have catchy titles to reel readers in but don’t content to back it up.
Fix that, and you’re good to go.
Google’s helpful content is definitely going to change how SEO is viewed. But businesses targeting their audience instead of Google have nothing to worry about.
A content audit should be priority number 1.
Check if your published content is up to standard.
If you have too much on your plate to do this, perhaps working with a content-driven SEO agency like ours could help. We’ve long been proponents of quality content for SEO and our clients are set to reap the benefits.