Google’s helpful content algorithm update


 Google's 'helpful content update' can either make or destroy your website rankings!

The update is aimed at phasing out content made solely for search engines rather than solving people's queries.

That said, Google is done with all the irrelevant content sitting in its index which is purely made for getting quick rankings.

This update is an effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for the people while following best SEO practices.

Its also clearly emphasizing how AI or bot-generated content will be brutally targetted and will no longer work in getting rankings.

Furthermore, Google's official blog release states this update will “tackle content that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines rather than to help or inform people.”

What is Google’s helpful content update?

In short, this update does exactly what it says on the tin, it’s focused on ensuring users see unique, helpful content that has been written for people, not search engines. Search results will aim to reward the content that helps to satisfy and meet visitors’ expectations. In theory, content should always be produced with the end user in mind, adopting a people-first approach. However, the reality is it can be easy to produce solely ‘SEO-focused’ content that’s main aim is to help boost a site’s rankings. While SEO best practice will of course still be an important consideration when producing content, it should no longer be the main consideration following the launch of this update.

To help ensure the content you are producing is on the right track, Google has released a list of questions that should be considered when producing content:

  • Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
  • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  • After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
  • Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
  • Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?

By answering yes to all of the above questions you can feel comfortable in the fact that your content is adopting a people-first approach. 

Creating content for people, not search engines

While the main focus behind this update is to think of the person reading the content, not the search engine displaying it, that doesn’t mean the traditional SEO best practices are now invalid. Google’s SEO Starter Guide should be the go to introduction to all things SEO, if you want your site to rank in Google, taking advice from Google directly is the best place to start. 

With the roll out of the latest update, it’s important to find the balance between content that works well from an SEO perspective and content that is people-first. At the end of the day, you can write the most helpful piece of content that gives loads of useful advice, but if it isn’t appropriately optimised it’s far less likely to rank in the SERPs, and vice versa.  

Again, Google has released a list of questions you should consider when producing content to avoid a search engine-first approach:

  • Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
  • Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  • Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
  • Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
  • Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
  • Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
  • Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t).
  • Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
  • Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?

Of course, it’s likely to be impossible to ensure your content doesn’t do any of the above. For example, this blog post is based around a trending topic and summarises the information Google has shared, however, the main intent is to provide helpful content that answers searchers’ questions. 

How will the update impact you?

With the initial roll out beginning last week, and the completion expected to take a couple of weeks it may be a while until we see the true impacts of this update. Ultimately, the update should have very little impact on a content/SEO strategy. Gone are the days of the old black hat SEO strategies, and in theory, all content should have a reason for being produced, even before this update. 

That being said, now is a better time than any to carry out a review of the content on your site, or client’s sites, to ensure everything is in line with the update. If there is any content that was produced purely for the sake of SEO, this should be either removed or reworked to ensure it is helpful and focused on the user. There is no set time frame for how long it will take for your site to see the benefits of removing outdated content, Google mentions it could take a few months for the new ‘helpful’ signal to be applied to a site and the classifier is constantly running to monitor existing and new sites regularly. 

Of course, rankings are all relative. In theory, an ‘unhelpful’ piece of content will see its rankings drop, however, only if the competing content is deemed to be helpful. Additionally, this update will impact sites as a whole, as opposed to just individual pieces of content. If a site has a lot of unhelpful content its rankings across the board will be impacted. Furthermore, the more unhelpful content a site has the stronger the effects of the update will be felt. 


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