Google’s Helpful Content Update – What You Need To Know

Posted On: 23rd September 2022
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Read Time: 5 Minutes
Google’s Helpful Content Update

In its latest algorithm update, Google is saying ‘no’ to SEO-spammy content (we’ve heard similar before!). In this article, we’re looking at what that means and how you can ensure your organic results stay on top form.

Google’s algorithm is what powers and orders the search results when you type a query into the search bar. It helps to decide which websites and pages are worth displaying (and which are not). Most online business owners will know that the goal is to get within the first ten organic results for key search terms, as top positions get more traffic. The famous quote, “the best place to hide a dead body is the second page of Google search” pretty much sums up why you don’t want to appear outside of the top ten.

What is Google’s Helpful Content Update?

The Helpful Content Update is Google’s latest search ranking algorithm update. This isn’t the first update of its kind. Since 2015, there have been a number of what the SEO community call Google Quality Updates. Each one aims to demote low-quality content and promote information that is genuinely useful.

Announced back in August 2022, the latest update is now in full effect. It currently only applies to Google Search, however if a large part of your business comes from organic traffic, this update is worth paying attention to.

So, what content is in the firing line? And more to the point, should you be worried about your own website?

The main reasoning behind the new update is that Google wants to weed out SEO-spammy content. This means that online content that is produced solely to please search engines rather than the people reading the content could be targeted.

Google said the update will ‘help make sure that unoriginal, low-quality content doesn’t rank highly in Search’.

So if you are writing content with the sole purpose of driving search engine visibility and traffic, you might want to rethink your approach to content creation.

What can you do to make sure your website doesn’t take the hit?

Bring the human touch to all your content! Rather than stuffing keywords or creating web pages for the sake of ranking, you should really question how helpful that content is to your website visitors. Better still, think about the end user as a decision maker. Is it useful to them? Below, we’ve created a snappy list of ways you can make your content higher quality – without ignoring that SEO is still extremely important!

How to make your content more human & less SEO-spammy:

  • Remove unhelpful content that’s not tailored to your audience – Not losing sight of your target audience and business focus is crucial when creating content. Make sure you know your customer or reader pain points – what are they searching for and what do they really need to know? Spend ample time in the content planning stage, it’s absolutely vital!
  • Offer original content – Original content is not just rewording what has already been written. It’s about offering new information or a new angle. You can build on topics that have already been covered online, although you should think about how you can present in a way that’s both unique and useful for your audience. If you can demonstrate first-hand experience or genuine expertise on a subject, even better.
  • Avoid using AI-generated content – AI-generated content has been categorised as spam by Google. If you are using automated content tools, make sure you sanity check them carefully and don’t rely too heavily on them. There’s no beating a human brain!
  • Steer clear of the trends when they’re not relevant – It can be tempting to jump on the trends, but if they’re not relevant to your business it could become empty noise that isn’t particularly useful for your target audience.
  • Give your audience everything they need in one place – Make it as easy as possible for your audience to find all the information they require and you could be rewarded with more traffic and conversions. Interlink and reference useful articles and build a sensible structure that will assist both people and search engines.
  • Remember Google actually doesn’t follow a word-count preference! Whether you’re writing 100 or 1000 words, make sure every word counts. Don’t waste the reader’s time – be specific and don’t waffle unnecessarily.
  • Avoid pointless clickbait – Promising to answer a question that doesn’t have an answer or holding back on information that you know the reader is looking for will not only annoy your readership – it could also ruffle the feathers of Google’s new algorithm.
  • Keep in mind Google’s best practices – Google has best practices for a wide range of content types. This is to ensure higher quality content reaches the top spots in search rankings. Product reviews and topics covering finances and health are prime examples. For the latter, Google identified that inaccuracies could pose a risk to readers. Advice for content creators is regularly updated, and as a content creator, you should get to know and apply the relevant guidelines for your sector.

How will you know if your website has been affected?

A drop in ranking positions from 25th August onwards could suggest that your website has been affected. URLs won’t be flagged in Google Search Console, so there won’t be a definite indicator, so you’ll need to perform educated guesswork.

The best way to check if your organic searches have been impacted is to compare your historic average rankings with current ones for key search terms.

With Google Analytics, you can add an annotation onto your organic traffic timeline to specify when you think the algorithm update took effect. If there is a sudden peak or trough shortly after this date, it could be a result of the update.

Often after Google completes a major algorithm update, fluctuations can be volatile. That means reacting too quickly to a drop in rankings might not be the best approach. Instead, it’s best to wait for the dust to settle. If this is happening, we recommend auditing your site in the meantime to generate ideas on how to make your content even better.

Also, changes won’t necessarily happen at the same time for all websites. And, some websites may experience no changes.

If your content is already of a high calibre, some of your key search terms could receive a welcome boost. If that’s the case, then great! You can bask in the glory of appearing in Google’s top spots.

If you see a drop in rankings, Google will need you to prove, over several months, that your content is actually helpful in the long run. In other words, improvements to rankings won’t happen overnight.

Key Takeaway

Think like your audience rather than focusing on Google bot! Does your content make sense? Does it read well and provide everything your user needs in a succinct, well-presented package? If not, it’s time to go back to brainstorming. A good place to start is to identify pages where SEO is a primary focus and pinpoint how you could speak to the audience in a way that’s more engaging, human and relevant.

Contact Echo today to get a website audit. Or, if you need help creating content that’s both SEO-friendly and targeted for your audience, our content and digital marketing experts can help.

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Emma Gibbs at Echo Web Solutions
Emma Gibbs
SEO Content Writer
Writing is something that Emma has always loved, and enjoys using her passion for the written word to help businesses create easy to understand content that drives results.

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