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7 min read Google's Helpful Content Update

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

Key Takeaways

  • Define your target audience
  • Provide detailed and original content that reflects your expertise
  • Provide a positive user experience to visitors

With Google pro­cess­ing bil­lions of pages to help searchers find the infor­ma­tion they’re after, Search is undoubt­ed­ly a com­plex sci­ence. There­fore, it isn’t sur­pris­ing to learn that Google Search is updat­ed thou­sands of times a year to pro­vide inter­net users with qual­i­ty results and improve their over­all expe­ri­ence on the web.

As the web evolves, updates are vital to ensur­ing searchers have access to the most rel­e­vant pub­lish­ers, cre­ators, and businesses.

In line with con­nect­ing searchers to more rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion, Google recent­ly rolled out the help­ful con­tent update. The update is set to change the way con­tent is assessed. But what exact­ly does the update mean for you, and how do you recov­er if your rank­ings have dropped in response?

Keep read­ing to learn every­thing you need to know about Google’s help­ful con­tent update.

What Is the Google Helpful Content Update?

The Google help­ful con­tent update 2022 is designed to deliv­er infor­ma­tion that bet­ter serves searchers. It comes in response to grow­ing con­cerns over the qual­i­ty and diver­si­ty of search results. In a nut­shell, the update aims to pro­vide the following:

A better way to search

The help­ful con­tent update was rolled out from 25 August 2022 to 9 Sep­tem­ber 2022 and again on 5 Decem­ber 2022. If this trend is any­thing to go by, we can expect more updates as Google ramps up its efforts to detect unhelp­ful con­tent. Con­se­quent­ly, we can expect this update to play a major part in how Search func­tions over time.

A way to reward helpful content

The help­ful con­tent update seeks to reward orig­i­nal, help­ful con­tent that is more like­ly to leave searchers sat­is­fied with their expe­ri­ence. Low-qual­i­ty con­tent that does­n’t meet searchers’ expec­ta­tions will take a hit.

A break away from a search-first approach

Instead of show­ing searchers con­tent made for search engines, the update aims to show more con­tent writ­ten for peo­ple by peo­ple. Going for­ward, it will be cru­cial for con­tent cre­ators to con­sid­er search intent and whether their con­tent meets searchers’ needs.

A sitewide signal

The help­ful con­tent update isn’t a man­u­al or spam action. Instead, it’s just one of many sig­nals Google eval­u­ates to rank con­tent. As it is a sitewide sig­nal, it applies to an entire web­site, not just indi­vid­ual pages.

This means web­sites with large vol­umes of unhelp­ful or unsat­is­fy­ing con­tent risk low­er rank­ings, while web­sites with rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion over­all are more like­ly to see bet­ter rankings.

Is The Helpful Content Update A Core Update?

For Google to pro­vide the most use­ful results to inter­net users, its rank­ing sys­tems must be updat­ed con­stant­ly. In fact, Google’s com­mit­ment to con­tin­u­ous improve­ment has reduced the num­ber of irrel­e­vant results on search pages by over 40% in the last five years.

When Google makes broad improve­ments to its search algo­rithms and rank­ing sys­tems, they’re called core updates. Core updates reflect major improve­ments to how con­tent is assessed, mean­ing they often result in notice­able changes. While oth­er updates may not be as broad, they sup­port core updates and improve Search over time.

Google does­n’t always share details about these incre­men­tal updates. How­ev­er, when Google men­tions an update, it’s 1) a core update that could poten­tial­ly pro­duce notable effects and 2) a way to pro­vide site own­ers with action­able insights.

Although Google gave us a heads-up about the help­ful con­tent update and gave us insights to apply, it isn’t a core update. In fact, Google’s lat­est guide­lines refer to the update as a ‘help­ful con­tent sys­tem’ that gen­er­ates a sig­nal used by Google’s auto­mat­ed rank­ing sys­tems to ensure peo­ple see orig­i­nal, help­ful con­tent writ­ten by peo­ple, for peo­ple, in search results.

What Is Helpful Content According to Google?

Google’s goal is sim­ple: con­tent for peo­ple by peo­ple. But what is help­ful con­tent? What does it mean for your busi­ness and how you serve your audi­ence? For­tu­nate­ly, Google pro­vides some guide­lines on what makes con­tent help­ful. Let’s explore some of them below:

1. Narrow your focus

Google implores you to con­sid­er whether you have a spe­cif­ic tar­get audi­ence that you are com­mit­ted to under­stand­ing and cater­ing to. You can’t be all things to all audi­ences; true exper­tise and the abil­i­ty to delight a cer­tain audi­ence is a con­se­quence of nar­row­ing your focus. Here are a few ways to do just that:

  • Track his­tor­i­cal sales data to deter­mine who your most valu­able cus­tomers are
  • Make use of Google ana­lyt­ics cohort analy­sis to dis­cov­er what these high-val­ue cus­tomers have in common
  • Use the insights you’ve gath­ered to iden­ti­fy a fea­si­ble and respon­sive tar­get audience

2. Cater to your audience

When you have a clear audi­ence in mind, con­sid­er if they would find your con­tent rel­e­vant and valu­able. Reflect on whether you’re lever­ag­ing your exper­tise or sim­ply cov­er­ing unre­lat­ed top­ics that you think will do well in SERPs.

Google asserts that thought­ful­ly designed web­sites that pro­vide help­ful, author­i­ta­tive con­tent are more like­ly to per­form bet­ter. So, make it your mis­sion to cater to your audi­ence. You can do this by:

  • Explain­ing who you are and why you’re qual­i­fied to address your audi­ence’s search queries
  • Address­ing your audi­ence’s search intent by pro­vid­ing the right answers to their questions
  • Pro­vid­ing detailed con­tent or insights that reflect your expertise
  • Con­tin­u­ous­ly seek­ing feed­back from your audi­ence and using it to guide your efforts

3. Optimise for people, not search

While sites still need to adhere to SEO best prac­tices, Google warns against cre­at­ing con­tent for search engines. This is because con­tent cre­at­ed for search engines is usu­al­ly full of key­word stuff­ing and oth­er tac­tics that put searchers off.

If your strat­e­gy involves jump­ing on the lat­est trends with lit­tle regard for your audi­ence or your unique exper­tise, you’re tak­ing a search engine-first approach. A peo­ple-first approach, how­ev­er, involves lever­ag­ing your exper­tise to cater to a spe­cif­ic tar­get audi­ence. Doing so ensures searchers don’t leave your site to find bet­ter sources.

4. Prioritise original content

Google wants con­tent cre­ators to let go of arbi­trary prac­tices like writ­ing to a par­tic­u­lar word count or sim­ply repli­cat­ing what’s already out there. With the rise in automa­tion, the inter­net giant also wants to ensure that cre­ators aren’t churn­ing out tons of unhelp­ful AI-gen­er­at­ed content.

Rather, Google encour­ages con­tent cre­ators to explore new per­spec­tives and use unique data to delight their audi­ences. If you aren’t doing it already:

  • Take advan­tage of your unique exper­tise to cre­ate orig­i­nal content
  • Cre­ate case studies
  • Lever­age in-house talent
  • Make use of user-gen­er­at­ed content
  • Explore more cre­ative and engag­ing ways to deliv­er your content

5. Avoid clickbait

Google hopes to clamp down on con­tent that gen­er­ates traf­fic but does­n’t deliv­er help­ful infor­ma­tion. Direct­ing a searcher to an irrel­e­vant page is a prime exam­ple of cre­at­ing an unsat­is­fy­ing expe­ri­ence. In fact, this is one of the fastest ways to lose cred­i­bil­i­ty with your audi­ence and Google.

So, avoid cre­at­ing con­tent that makes untrue claims or mis­leads searchers. Focus on cre­at­ing con­tent that attracts and delights rel­e­vant audi­ences instead.

How Do I Recover My Helpful Content Update?

If you’ve seen a change in your rank­ings because of the help­ful con­tent update, you might be won­der­ing how to recov­er. Well, you’ll need to improve your con­tent or remove some of it alto­geth­er. How­ev­er, this won’t be a quick fix, and it can take months for your web­site to recover.

Accord­ing to Google, affect­ed sites may find the sig­nal applied to them over a peri­od of months. When Google deter­mines that the unhelp­ful con­tent has­n’t returned in the long run, it will stop apply­ing the signal.

It’s also worth not­ing that soon after the help­ful con­tent update, Google rolled out a core update. As a result, the change in your rank­ings could be cumu­la­tive. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, lit­tle is known about the core update, and Google has­n’t giv­en us any guide­lines to work with.

How­ev­er, you’ll still ben­e­fit from opti­mis­ing your con­tent strat­e­gy in the mean­time. Sim­i­lar­ly, even if you haven’t noticed any major changes after the update, it’s still a good idea to com­ply with the help­ful con­tent guide­lines. That said, here’s how to make your con­tent more helpful:

Remove unhelpful content

As the help­ful con­tent update is a sitewide sig­nal, remov­ing unhelp­ful con­tent could improve your rank­ings. Use ana­lyt­ics tools such as Google Ana­lyt­ics to iden­ti­fy low-per­form­ing pages. Then, inspect each page for qual­i­ty and rel­e­vance. Essen­tial­ly, any pages that are not help­ful to your audi­ence should be removed. Ask the fol­low­ing questions:

  • What is the pur­pose of the page?
  • Is the pur­pose of the page clear?
  • Does the page adhere to Google’s E‑A-T (Exper­tise, Author­i­ty, Trust) guidelines?
  • Does the page cater to a spe­cif­ic audience?
  • Would that audi­ence deem the page useful?

Improve user experience

Part of being a help­ful web­site is pro­vid­ing a pos­i­tive user expe­ri­ence to vis­i­tors. If your page is poor­ly designed or if tech­ni­cal aspects such as load­ing times aren’t up to stan­dard, vis­i­tors are like­ly to leave frus­trat­ed. As the help­ful con­tent update pri­ori­tis­es user expe­ri­ence, this could cost you valu­able con­ver­sions and harm your rank­ings, too.

For a bet­ter user expe­ri­ence, be sure to:

  • Address your audi­ence’s search queries or pain points right away
  • Break up big blocks of text with images
  • Incor­po­rate videos into your con­tent to increase engagement
  • Increase read­abil­i­ty by using bul­let points and num­bered lists
  • Include nav­i­ga­tion guides and tables of con­tents to encour­age ease of access
  • Fol­low Google’s E‑A-T guide­lines to ensure your con­tent is help­ful and credible
  • Opti­mise your site for both mobile and desk­top users

Make good content great again

As you’re audit­ing your web­site, don’t only focus on under­per­form­ing pages; con­sid­er top per­form­ers that are los­ing trac­tion. These pages are still gen­er­at­ing traf­fic and could eas­i­ly be improved to achieve bet­ter results. To make these pages great again:

  • Analyse top-rank­ing com­pet­ing pages and see what you can do better
  • Con­sid­er whether you have any fresh insights to add based on your expe­ri­ence in the field
  • Deter­mine whether there are any con­tent gaps that could be addressed
  • Look at whether any images or facts need to be updat­ed for rel­e­vance or recency
  • Con­sid­er whether you could add oth­er ele­ments, such as videos or tes­ti­mo­ni­als, to make them more helpful

Adopt a people-first approach

A peo­ple-first approach com­bines qual­i­ty con­tent with SEO best prac­tices to pro­vide searchers with more val­ue. While we’re still in the ear­ly stages of assess­ing the help­ful con­tent update’s true impact, the fact is that low-qual­i­ty con­tent pro­gres­sive­ly affects user engage­ment and site rankings.

As such, con­sid­er the help­ful con­tent update yet anoth­er reminder from Google to focus on pro­vid­ing qual­i­ty con­tent. The inter­net giant has always advised site own­ers to focus on deliv­er­ing the best pos­si­ble expe­ri­ence for users — after all, that’s what its algo­rithms seek to reward.

Final thoughts

The help­ful con­tent update is a call for more orig­i­nal and help­ful con­tent. And just like Google’s oth­er algo­rithm updates, the update works to ensure that Search gets bet­ter over time.

For your busi­ness to tru­ly ben­e­fit from the help­ful con­tent update, focus on opti­mis­ing exist­ing con­tent and cre­at­ing peo­ple-first con­tent. Ulti­mate­ly, this is what will set you apart from com­peti­tors and help you meet your long-term busi­ness goals

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