Everything You Need to Know About Google’s Helpful Content Update

With Google’s helpful content update for search result pages, businesses need to re-evaluate the content that they are putting out to rank well on SERPs.

Google’s Helpful Content Update 

On 9th April, Google posted the completion of its helpful content update, 15 days after it confirmed the implementation of its revised search ranking algorithms. 

Google implemented the helpful content update with the intent to prioritise a “people-first” content approach, by weeding out unhelpful content written solely for search engines. 

With this as its largest search algorithm update in years, Google’s Helpful Content Update is likely to significantly impact content creators who might now need to rethink their strategy to increase organic visibility for their sites.

What is Google’s Helpful Content Update?

So, what exactly does the helpful content update entail? 

Google’s new helpful content update is part of the site’s wider efforts to promote authentic and relevant content written “by people, for people”, in search results. 

This means that having content written with a people-first approach, providing useful content that users seek, is likely to improve ranking signals for your site. On the contrary, content that appears catered for search engines without much added value for users is likely to be classified as “unhelpful content” – demoting your site down the results page. 

The categorisation of helpful and unhelpful content is entirely automated, using Google’s machine-learning model that evaluates rank content. Google also indicated that its update introduces a new site-wide signal that is to be considered among many other existing ones for ranking web pages. 

What Does This Mean for You?

While the helpful content update aims to better bridge people with helpful content on search engine result pages, businesses might need to take a step back to re-evaluate the content that they are putting out in the digital space.

Content made purely for ad monetisation, higher clickthrough rates and targeted search engine top spots might not work just as well anymore. Instead, you might need to start looking at revising your content to have clearer aims, a more focused audience and subject-matter expertise to convince Google’s AI machine-learning model that you’re the real deal. 

While Google has not mentioned any manual penalties for publishing unhelpful content, the algorithm update is likely to result in such content losing organic visibility in search engine result pages. 

FAQs for Google’s Helpful Content Update:

Does this mean that SEO is not relevant anymore? 

In short, NO. 

Google has ascertained that its people-first content approach has no intention to invalidate following ideal SEO practices. In fact, SEO remains beneficial when added to people-first content. With good SEO practices, you can continue to build a website that benefits your site’s users, optimising the user experience. 

As it is still important to follow search engine optimisation best practices in content creation for the Web, the update merely makes it imperative that you keep the human element in mind when writing. 

You may wish to find out more about Google SEO’s practices here.

How long does it take for my site to do better after removing unhelpful content? 

Google recommends removing unhelpful content to improve the rankings of other content on your site. You may be wondering – How long would it take before your site rankings improve? 

This entire process may take several months. With Google’s machine-learning model classifying sites dynamically, it monitors both newly-launched and existing sites simultaneously. Once the AI model verifies that the unhelpful content has not returned for a predetermined (although unknown to us), sufficiently long period, the content would then be reclassified. 

You might be interested to know that this classification is entirely automated, instead of a manual action that involves a human reviewer at Google screening through your sites. The classification is just yet another signal of many that Google uses to rank your content on its search engine result pages. This signal is weighted, and sites with more signals of unhelpful content may see larger effects of demotion of the site on search engine results pages. 

What do you mean by “content written for search engines”?  

Google has provided a checklist of questions for you to evaluate if your site is displaying content written for search engines.  

We have summarised them for you, as content that: 

  • Covers many topics with no clear aim in mind 
  • Uses extensive automation to produce broad topics with no clarity 
  • Merely consolidates existing information online without added value 
  • Is trending, but has no relation to your site’s expertise
  • Is uninformative and requires readers to scout for more answers
  • Fails to deliver what it promises to answer

What Can You Do Now?

Now that we’ve got the definitions out of the way, how can you overcome the new algorithm signals? 

Here are 5 tips that your business could adopt today:

Ensure your site has a primary aim 

To avoid convoluted discussions, ensure that each site has a specific subject area of focus. Writing content on numerous topics to improve search engine rankings may seem beneficial, but the recent content update advises against it. Diverse content could signal an attempt to manipulate search results and might be identified as unhelpful by the machine-learning model.

Instead, try to stay focused and stick to publishing content that is within your niche area, and catered to the audience of your site.

Provide expert insight and in-depth analysis 

Google forewarns against writing about trending topics just to get search traffic. It is important that you write content about topics and products that you are familiar with, or have a credible source of information to turn to. Use expert knowledge in your area of specialisation. Try to provide insightful responses for your site’s users. This way, you are classified to be adding value to the vast array of content available on the Web. 

Avoid merely summarising what has been written on the web in hopes to have extra clickthrough to your site. Provide value to your readers by addressing anticipated questions, saving them from seeking answers elsewhere to satisfy their curiosity.

Use your own experience or insights to help readers address any queries they may have.

Review and remove unhelpful content 

If you have observed low visibility of your sites and you suspect it might be due to Google’s updated algorithms, start by purging. Unhelpful content is likely to fare worse in rankings and might be found down on the results page. By replacing them with better content, Google’s AI can quickly reclassify your site’s content to be useful again within a few months.

Google has also mentioned that removing unhelpful content on your site could help improve content ranking. Therefore, it’s important to regularly review content on your websites, including pages that seem less visited by users.

Ensure a great user experience (UX) 

Having a site that is informative and easy to navigate is key in enabling a satisfying experience. Include a user-friendly menu for easy navigation to subpages and use visuals like images and videos to enhance content understanding. 

For mobile users, optimize your site for quick loading times to prevent interruptions.

Keep in mind Google’s guidance for Core Updates & Product Reviews 

As a guide to see if your site is following a people-first approach, Google advises to keep close their guidance for core updates and product reviews

Core updates refer to any significant and broad changes that Google makes to their search algorithms and systems. Stay current with Google’s guidance to never miss vital updates like this one. Keep your content aligned with Google’s preferences.

For Product Reviews, Google lists some best practices for businesses to help shoppers better evaluate your products from review pages. This could involve highlighting variances between your product and competitors’, sharing useful resource links, and utilizing visuals such as photos to increase credibility.

Conclusion

Certainly, this helpful content signal is only one of many other signals that Google evaluates in ranking sites on its pages. This new ranking signal will affect all search results. Businesses must monitor this to keep your well-crafted sites visible organically.

Start reviewing the content that you put on your sites today. With helpful content, your site is likely to receive a site-wide ranking boost, amplifying your organic marketing efforts. 

We know how challenging it might be to navigate these seas of change. As an experienced digital marketing agency, we are equipped to help you with your SEO strategies. Don’t hesitate to contact us