Google’s mission is to continuously improve its user experience, which is why the company continuously rolls out updates to its search algorithm. This way, users can find what they are looking for easily. The latest effort Google has made to this end is the helpful content update, aimed at rooting out content written for search engines rather than humans.
In this article, we’ll go over the most important things you need to know about this new update. We’ll also share how you should apply the best practices Google laid out with its algorithm update announcement to your new and existing content.
What is the Google helpful content update?
On 25.08.2022 Google started rolling out its helpful content update which it had announced a week earlier. The goal of the update is to better identify content that has been created with the search engine rather than the end user in mind.
What they mean by this is content that has been created for the primary purpose of appealing to the search algorithm to rank higher in the SERP (search engine results page). Content like this often reads as spammy and doesn’t provide a good user experience to the people who read it.
This helpful content update is just one of the ways Google evaluates the quality of your website content. It’s based on machine learning and runs automatically. The roll-out should be all done by mid-September.
The update judges the overall quality of your website content, which is why now’s a good time to do a content audit on your website to flag any content that could be considered unhelpful to readers. You can then choose to remove or rewrite this content to better serve your website visitors.
Below, we’ve outlined some dos and don’ts based on the best practices Google outlined in its helpful content update announcement.
Do focus on creating expert content for your niche
The easiest way to provide genuinely helpful content to your website visitors is to write about a topic you’re an expert in.
Even if your business operates in a very specific niche, with some careful content planning and keyword research, you’ll find plenty of topics to cover without straying too far from your main area of expertise. In fact, working in a niche where there’s not too much content out there can be incredibly fruitful, as you can establish yourself as a thought leader in your niche relatively fast.
Remember the old adage: jack of many trades, master of none. Your efforts are always more fruitful if you focus on showing off your passion and expertise on a specific topic.
Don’t write content simply because it’s trending or has a high search volume
When you see a specific topic or keyword trending, it can be tempting to try to capitalise on this uptick in interest. However, if that topic has little relevance to your business, your efforts in creating this content are unlikely to be fruitful.
First off, as we outlined above, you may well struggle to write something genuinely useful if you don’t know the subject well.
Second of all, if the content you create stands alone, unrelated to anything else on your website, your existing audience is unlikely to find it helpful. And any people who find your new piece of content through Google are unlikely to stay on your website past reading it, making a conversion unlikely.
Finally, Google itself will struggle to categorise your website accurately if it’s a hodge-podge of content on a large number of unrelated topics.
Do make sure you add to the conversation
When you’re thinking about potential content topics, think about whether you have something unique to add to the conversation. This way, you’ll give your website visitors something they can’t find anywhere else.
We’ve said it before on this blog - SEO content writing doesn’t have to mean reinventing the wheel with every blog post you publish. However, it’s important to see what other websites have written around your chosen keyword and then try to improve on what they’ve put out. This might mean expanding on something others haven’t explained well, adding a new point of view to the subject, or giving a more up-to-date overview of the topic.
This is why it’s important to write about a subject you have expertise in - otherwise, providing that unique point of view will be much harder.
Don’t leave your readers wanting more
One of the pieces of advice Google gave around its helpful content update was to provide a comprehensive answer to the reader’s search query. If, after reading your content, they have to go away and do more research, this tells Google your content is not as helpful as it could be.
Of course, we all do more extensive research at times - we might for example want to read product reviews from multiple sources. However, you should always aim to give a solid overview of your chosen topic. Essentially, you need to meet the expectations you’ve set for yourself in your page title and meta description.
Plenty of topics are so expansive it’s hard to do them justice in something like a single blog post. If that’s the case, make sure to manage your readers’ expectations by explaining you’ll be providing a brief overview of your topic or a closer look at a specific aspect of it. This gives you a good opportunity to create several pieces of content on a single topic and create some internal linking.
Do keep SEO best practices in mind
All of this is not to say that you shouldn’t pay attention to SEO when writing content. SEO remains a vitally important part of making sure your well-written, informative content finds its audience on Google.
Instead, Google’s helpful content update simply reminds us that our primary focus in content creation should always be to provide a good experience to end users, not search engines.
Think of it this way - even if you managed to get a piece of content that doesn’t follow the best practices outlined here to rank high on Google, would it lead to conversions? If someone comes to your website and has an unsatisfying experience, they’re unlikely to stay. At the end of the day, traffic without conversions will do little to grow your business.
With that in mind, the best way to view Google’s helpful content update is as an ally to help you appeal to your target audience better. So go forth writing content with readers in mind, using SEO to make sure it finds the audience that will benefit from it the most.