As an online content creator, it’s essential to pay close attention when Google makes algorithm updates.
These changes can directly impact how your content ranks on the search engine results pages (SERPs). This means being prepared to adapt your strategy to the algorithm to secure a spot on the coveted first page of Google. You might think this task is challenging, but it’s all about staying up to date with Google’s best practices.
The most recent update, announced in August 2022, is the Google Helpful Content Update. The update seeks to better identify low-value content, meaning high-quality, people-first content will generate more organic traffic and rank higher.
And since it finished rolling out on September 9th, we wanted to explore everything you need to know about the Helpful Content Update and dive into what it means for you and your content marketing efforts.
What is the Google Helpful Content Update?
To better connect people with information that brings them value, Google says that they prioritize ranking “original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.”
Combined with the rest of Google’s ranking signals, this update will settle into an algorithm that detects low-quality content lacking meaningful engagement. It is a site-wide signal that homes in on sites with a large quantity of unhelpful content before penalizing them by decreasing site traffic.
Frustrated users express on social media or blogs that they land on pages that provide no solutions to their search questions but rank on top pages in search engines. So, Google has taken these conversations to heart and wants to use the algorithm to reward creators who provide human-first content to their readers.
The Helpful Content Update is just one part of a large effort to make it easier to find helpful content when searching. While this update might not feel widespread yet, it has caused some shakeup in search results as the algorithm works to recategorize sites.
What Does the Google Helpful Content Update Mean for Content Marketing?
Since websites that engage with their audience to provide helpful content will climb higher in the SERPs and generate more organic traffic, it’s important to know what will affect you as a content marketer.
After all, when Google makes changes, you’ll also need to make changes to your content strategy. Here’s what you should know:
Focus on People-First Content
The term “people-first content” comes directly from Google. But what exactly does this mean? First and foremost, it’s about providing great content and a positive experience for your website readers.
If you post content to your site, it’s your job to think about the target audience of your content and write with them in mind. Does this mean you should abandon the SEO best practices you’ve been implementing all this time? Absolutely not. It just means you should focus on creating high-quality content first and then incorporate search engine ranking factors to provide additional value to searchers.
To ensure your website and its content have a people-first approach, Google encourages you to ask yourself the following questions. If you can answer yes to them, you’re likely on the right track.
- Does your intended or existing audience find the content useful because it came directly from your business site?
- Does your content establish first-hand expertise and in-depth knowledge?
- Is the purpose or focus of your site clear?
- When someone reads your content, will they leave feeling they’ve gotten enough knowledge to achieve their goal without needing to search elsewhere?
- Will reading your content leave someone feeling like their experience was satisfying?
- Is guidance for core updates and for product reviews kept in mind?
Don’t Make Search Engines Your Primary Focus
We get it. You want your content to rank, so you implement all the SEO best practices the experts recommend. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it does become an issue when that’s all you’re focused on. If you aren’t prioritizing your human reader, your content (and rankings) will suffer.
To determine if you’ve previously been taking a search engine-first approach with your content, Google has shared the following questions to ask yourself. If you answer yes to the majority of these questions, consider reevaluating the content on your site to focus on people first.
- Does content draw people from search engines over prioritizing content made for humans?
- Do you produce large quantities of content on different topics in hopes that some could perform well in search results?
- Do you use automation extensively to create content on many topics?
- Do you end up summarizing other existing content without adding new insight?
- Is your content focused on what’s trending instead of topics you’d write about for your existing audience?
- Do readers finish your content and feel like they need to do another search for better information?
- Is all of your content a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (They don’t.)
- Are you exploring a niche topic area but lacking real expertise because you thought you’d get search traffic?
- Does your content promise answers to questions that have no answer, like mentioning a release date for a product, movie, or TV show that hasn’t been confirmed?
How to Abide by the Google Helpful Content Update
There are a few things you can do to transform your content strategy moving forward. Following these tips will ensure you focus on your readers and keep Google happy by extension.
1. Stick to Your Niche
Once you’ve narrowed down your niche, Google’s advice is to stick with it. After all, it would be a little confusing if we started publishing recipes on The Write Blog, wouldn’t it? We know our niche and understand that our audience comes to us to learn everything possible about creating high-quality online content.
If you’ve been publishing content outside of your niche, it’s time to make a change. You don’t want Google to think you’re more focused on search engines and rankings than your human reader. From here on out, focus your approach and create content that establishes your authority in your industry.
Confused about what your niche should be? There are a few things you can do to find your business niche. This is essential to show your industry differentiators to your audience through the content you craft. You’ll know for sure your base comes to you for your product, and now that you’re creating quality content, the leads that find you will know from the beginning why they ended up on your site over a competitor.
2. Showcase Your Expertise and Authority
Are you helping your readers when you write about topics you don’t have experience in or passion for? Probably not. These topics require a knowledge base you don’t have, and a reader can usually tell when you have the correct experience. For instance, the last thing you want to do is write a review about a product or service you’ve never even tried.
Instead, focus on content that allows you to showcase your expertise and authority on a subject. Which topics can you talk about confidently for hours on end? What does your product do, and do you have a long-form blog to help your potential clients understand why it’s important? By putting thought into the content you produce, your strategy is more focused on the authority you have in your field.
In time, people will begin to see you as a trustworthy resource. This keeps people coming back to you when they need information about your industry. Now, you’re establishing your brand and building a back catalog of content people can return to over and over.
3. Make Sure Your Website Has a Clear Purpose or Focus
It can be tempting to cover a wide array of topics on your website to attract more readers. However, this is unlikely to generate the best results. For one, your target audience will have a harder time getting to your website, and they’re the ones whose attention you need to grab. And now, the Google Helpful Content Update craves focus for your website’s content.
The content that you publish should have a primary purpose, and Google has the ability to crawl your site and find the focus of your content. If readers can’t find the main idea because you’re all over the place covering every topic under the sun, they won’t find your content helpful. Instead, they’ll be confused. Additionally, search engines will have a difficult time understanding your website, and it won’t be categorized correctly.
If your content has one main subject area, Google will know where to put you when searchers start looking for information that’s part of your expertise. You’ll avoid falling victim to trending topics that are outside your niche, and your target audience will find you more easily.
4. Provide Plenty of Information to Address a Reader’s Questions
When you open a blog post you found after conducting a Google search, you expect it to answer all of your questions, right? But in reality, we know that far too often, this isn’t the case. We stumble upon lackluster content that barely addresses our needs. It’s frustrating and winds up sending us back to the Google search page to find another resource instead.
Even before the Google Helpful Content Update, your content marketing should center on a human-first approach. Provide articles with statistics, verifiable evidence, and information so your reader doesn’t feel the need to conduct a second search to find better content. One way to determine this is to look over your content and search for specific statements that offer actionable advice or information to answer questions successfully.
Don’t be afraid to go above and beyond by providing detailed, long-form blog posts. Not only will your reader appreciate having access to all of their desired information in one place, but Google will reward you by pushing up your page in the SERPs.
5. Always Deliver a Satisfying Experience
The overall experience you provide to your readers makes a difference. If you want people to come back to your site and Google to rank you high in the SERPs, you need to deliver a satisfying experience every time. This means that your content should be clear, answer all the questions a reader has, and focuses on the topics that interest them. You want your audience to stay on your site for longer, and when they leave, they should be satisfied with the answers they found.
It’s also smart to consider the user experience of your website. The last thing you want is to send a reader running because your website is slow to load, has confusing navigation, or is cluttered with too many ads. If you’re not sure if your website is impressing visitors, have a friend or colleague visit your website and give honest feedback about how they think your site functions.
Get People-First Content Written by the Experts
Express Writers is a content writing agency focused on developing people-first content for our clients. We aim to provide you with the highest quality articles to boost your business. And our SEO content writers understand Google’s algorithm as an additional asset. That means we make sure to put your audience first with every piece of content we craft. This way you can be sure you always deliver a satisfying experience.