Have you heard about the latest algorithmic uproar on the internet? Google recently rolled out a new update that is shaking up the SEO realm. The Google Helpful Content Update (September 2023), as it is referred to, is intended to recognise and reward websites that provide high-quality content.
This update has resulted in uncertainties and speculations in the SEO community, so we decided to put together this guide to help break it down.
This article will define the Helpful Content Update and clarify how it will impact your SEO efforts. Continue reading to find out!
What is the Latest Google Helpful Content Update All About?
The Google Helpful Content Update is a new algorithm update meant to reward websites that produce high-quality content for people.
Here is how they put it in their own words:
But what exactly do they mean by “primarily to gain search traffic?”
More often than not, websites see fit to publish articles that will help them rank high in SERPs. While this can be beneficial for website traffic, are they driving traffic from individuals who are intending to buy? Content written solely for SEO and keywords often lacks a human touch. It pays more attention to how many times a word or phrase that someone is searching for will be used throughout their article than the value it gives to their readers.
When a content is written for people, value comes first. The article focuses on delivering the information they want while keeping it easy to understand. While keywords can naturally be included, the content is far more focused on the human components than on SERP rankings.
To be regarded as high quality, your content must be informative, well-written, and give value to the reader. This update addresses the rising tendency of low-quality content being published online.
How often have you browsed for something online, only to be disappointed when you click on a result? This happens all the time, and Google is working to rectify it.
With this update, they’re basically saying that “If you want to rank high in our search results, you need to produce helpful content.”
Google’s Stance on Machine-Generated Content
Google also omitted a few sentences that plainly stated its stance on leveraging AI in content creation. Google removed the phrase “written by people” and replaced them with “helpful content created for people in search results.”
This implies that humans don’t necessarily need to produce a piece of content for it to be deemed helpful by Google.
The Need for Self-Assessment
If you believe the latest helpful content update had a negative influence on your site, Google advised you to assess your content. They went on to say, “If you’re producing helpful content, then you don’t need to do anything; in fact this system may be good for your site, as it is designed to reward helpful content.”
“If you’ve noticed a change in traffic you suspect may be related to this system (such as after a publicly-posted ranking update to the system), then you should self-assess your content and fix or remove any that seems unhelpful,” said Google.
Changing of Dates in a Content
Among the most common phenomena is when websites update or, worse, fail to include dates on their content. Google questioned “Are you changing the date of pages to make them seem fresh when the content has not substantially changed?”
We see it all the time: sites make minimal changes to their content from years ago, update the date of publication, and repost it. This is a common SEO “strategy” Google is well aware of.
How to Rank Well in Google’s SERPs with the New Update
To achieve high SERP ranks with the latest update, you must work on producing useful content, and useful content only. Easier said than done: Good execution requires a sound plan.
Below are a few tried and tested tips you can begin with:
Write for Your Targeted Audience
Before you start writing, it’s important to know who your targeted audience is.
Who are you writing this piece of content for? What are their needs and wants? What kind of problems do they need help resolving?
Your content should be produced in the purpose of helping your target audience in some way. If it does not, however, Google will not consider it useful, and you will not notice any improvements in your SERP ranks.
Google’s thoughts on what makes a piece of content relevant for users are as follows:
Using keywords is one thing, but so is the relevancy and the target audience of your content.
So, how do you determine who your target audience is? Take a look at your Google Analytics data if you already have a website or blog. This gives you a sense of who is currently reading your content and what topics they are interested in.
Check out their demographics, including age, location, and language. You can also observe their behaviour, like if they are new or returning visitors, and whether they use mobile or desktop. Each of these data can help you gain a better understanding of your intended audience.
If you don’t already have a website or blog, you’ll need to do a little digging to determine who your target audience is. Try looking up similar businesses, products, or services online to discover who they’re catering for. This will give you a solid starting point.
Write Content That Satisfies Your Audience Members
One of the quickest ways to determine whether your content is helpful is to ask yourself, “Will my audience members feel satisfied after reading this?”
If you answered yes, you’re on the right track. If the answer is no, then make some adjustments.
Remember that being satisfied does not mean that your readers will be pleased with every piece of content you bring in.
It is nearly impossible to satisfy everyone all the time. However, as long as the majority of your audience members are happy after reading your content, you’re setting yourself up for success.
For instance, if you have a blog about aesthetics, a helpful article can educate readers on the latest FDA-approved procedure. They may not be entirely thrilled with the idea, but if it is helpful and they learn something new, they will likely be satisfied overall.
An unhelpful article, on the other hand, is one that fails to teach your readers anything new. It might be poorly written or rehash facts they already know.
In any case, a useless article will not satisfy your readers, and it will certainly not satisfy Google’s Helpful Content Update algorithm.
Produce Content with First-Hand Expertise
When it comes to crafting helpful content, first-hand expertise is essential.
In other words, don’t simply repeat what you’ve read elsewhere. Instead, offer your unique views and insights.
Your readers will be able to tell if you’re an expert on the subject or not, so be truthful. It’s okay if you’re not an expert! You can still create useful content by conducting ample research and sharing what you’ve discovered. Not everyone will be a subject matter expert, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to give valuable information.
However, if you pretend to be an expert when you aren’t, your readers will likely see directly through it, and Google will not deem you helpful.
Make Sure Your Site Has a Primary Goal or Purpose to Begin With
Every website or blog should have a primary goal or purpose.
A culinary blog, for example, may have the primary goal of teaching people how to cook. A travel blog’s principal goal may be to assist folks in planning their ideal vacations.
Having a defined primary goal can really help you produce highly useful content for your target audience.
If your website or blog lacks a purpose, spend some time determining what it should be. Once you have a clear purpose in mind, you can begin writing content that will be considered helpful by Google. This process is very similar to identifying your target audience.
Stay Up-To-Date With Google’s Updates and Guidance for Product Reviews
If you’re looking to create helpful content, you should be aware of Google’s updates and guidelines for product reviews.
Product reviews are the mainstay of consumer behaviour in the e-commerce industry and may appear on numerous pages of your website.
Understanding Google’s policies on affiliate links, endorsements, and sponsored content can help you ensure that your content fulfils what Google is looking for.
You can also steer clear of any potential penalties that may be levied if your content does not match Google’s guidelines.
For example, assuming you have a gaming blog. You decide to write a review on the best gaming keyboards.
You recommend five different keyboards in the article with affiliate links attached to each of them.
However, what you weren’t aware of is that Google only accepts affiliate links in product reviews if certain prerequisites are met.
This includes the following:
- Links aside, your website should include valuable and helpful content.
- When declaring affiliate links for buyers and search engines, you should be transparent. It is also crucial to look at local regulations concerning affiliate links.
- To declare an affiliate link to search engines, site owners should utilise the rel=”nofollow” or rel=”sponsored” link attributes.
If you are unaware of these terms, your article could end up being penalised.
To ward off problems like this, stay current on Google’s latest updates and guidelines. This allows you to produce content that satisfies their requirements while also being actually helpful to your audience.
Breathe New Life Into Old Content While You Still Can
If you published a blog about a marketing trend two years ago, readers may not find it as helpful now. The Google Helpful Content update may consider some previous examples of information to be “un-useful.” Suddenly, that content is a liability rather than an asset.
In some cases, this implies removing or redirecting older, less relevant content to one that is fresher and more effective.
Bear in mind that you don;t have to be in the digital marketing field to experience this problem. Any business that moves swiftly, such as fashion, technology, or medical, risks having content turn from helpful to unhelpful in an instant.
You also don’t want to delay this for too long because it takes time to recover from the penalties.
According to Google, “sites identified by this update may find the signal applied to them over a period of months. Our classifier for this update runs continuously, allowing it to monitor newly-launched sites and existing sites. As it determines that the unhelpful content has not returned in the long-term, the classification will no longer apply.”
The Google Helpful Content Update is a major update that will impact SEO efforts. Understanding what Google looks for in terms of helpful content allows you to make sure that your content fulfils their requirements and avoids any penalties that may jeopardise your SEO efforts. Writing to impress algorithms is now a thing of the past; today you must write for humans.
- Does updating content improve SEO?
Yes, updating your content can be beneficial for SEO. Google favours websites with new, relevant, and captivating content. By updating your content on a regular basis, you are signalling to Google that your website is active and worthy of ranking. Examples of updates include eliminating broken links, eliminating any reference to a prior date or year, and upgrading outdated pictures.
- How often should I update my existing content?
There is no hard and fast rule on how frequently you should refresh your content. The most important thing to keep in mind is that updating your content involves keeping it current and relevant.
A good rule of thumb is to go back over each piece at least once a year. If you have a trend article for a given year, set a reminder to revisit and update it for the next year.
Finally, the best thing you can do is to look at your website traffic to identify which posts are being read and which are not. You’ve worked hard to generate this content; don’t let it go to waste. Updating it will provide signals to Google that it is helpful, thus helping you with your rankings.
- How can I make my content helpful in the long run?
Focusing on producing evergreen content is one of the best strategies to fulfil Google’s Helpful Content Update.
Evergreen content is material that remains relevant and valuable regardless of when it was written.
Evergreen issues include the following:
- How-to guides
- Tips and tricks
- Product reviews
You can ensure that your content is constantly helpful and pertinent to your audience by developing evergreen content.
You can also keep your evergreen content fresh and up to date by updating it on a regular basis. This will prove to Google that your content is always relevant, which will improve your SEO.