Google’s Helpful Content Update
On 9th September, 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 of Google’s helpful content update out of the way, what can you do to avoid getting beaten down by 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. It might seem like a good idea to write content with various topics, casting a net for yourself to rank better on the search engine results page – but this is precisely what the helpful content update warns against. Producing content on many different topics might be a sign of content written to perform for search engine results, and is likely to be flagged by the machine-learning model as unhelpful content.
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 to provide insightful responses for your site’s users, so that 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. Add value for your readers by answering questions you think they might have, so that they don’t have to turn to another site to get their boggling minds satisfied.
Use your personal experience or insight that you have about a matter to help your readers resolve any potential queries they could 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, you can start by removing the unhelpful content. Unhelpful content is likely to fare worse in rankings and might be found down on the results page. By removing them and adding improved content, Google’s AI model can reclassify your site’s content to be helpful again in just a few months.
Google has also mentioned that removing unhelpful content on your site could help to improve the ranking of your other content. Thus, it is pertinent to constantly review content on your sites, even on pages that might appear to be less frequented 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 for users on your web. Try to include a menu that can facilitate your site users in accessing subpages they are interested in, as well as visual elements like images and videos that can help to improve their understanding of your content.
Where many today access content on their mobile phones, ensure your site is optimised for mobile devices and has minimal loading times to avoid user disruption.
Keep in mind Google’s guidance for Core Updates & Product Reviews
Core updates refer to any significant and broad changes that Google makes to their search algorithms and systems. By staying updated with Google’s guidance, you’ll be sure to never miss an important update like this one – so that your content can always be in tune with what Google is looking out for.
For Product Reviews, Google lists some best practices for businesses to help shoppers better evaluate your products from review pages. This could include outlining differences between your product from your competitors’, providing links to other helpful resources that could aid your audience in their purchase decision, as well as providing evidence – photos, videos, audio – to support your review’s authenticity and veracity.
Certainly, this helpful content signal is only one of many other signals that Google evaluates in ranking sites on its pages. However, this newly-added ranking signal will impact all search results, and businesses must stay on top of this to ensure that your well-crafted sites maintain high organic visibility.
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.