Understanding Google’s ‘Helpful Content Update’ | What it means for SEO

Posted: 12 Sep 2022

Google app on phone

Last month, Google announced its ‘helpful content update‘ as part of its ongoing efforts to “ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.” The update was recently completed and some sites have already begun to see an impact from the change, with many more bound to acknowledge fluctuations in the coming months. 

If you’ve only had a quick glance at Google’s guidelines around this update, you can be forgiven for feeling a bit confused. On one hand, the search mammoth is saying that content “primarily [made] to attract people from search engines” will be negatively impacted. On the other hand, they acknowledge that SEO best practices aren’t the behaviours they’re targeting with this update. Any confusion you might feel is valid! 

So we’re here to help you better understand Google’s helpful content update, arming you with some suggestions for how to limit any negative impact your site may experience now that the rollout is complete. 

Breaking down Google’s helpful content update

It remains to be seen exactly how many websites will be affected and to what degree, but Google lists several questions to ask yourself to identify if your website or content will be negatively impacted by this update. In the table below, we’ve tried to translate each into behaviours that we believe Google is trying to deter – and included ways you can mitigate the risk to your site and blog.  

What Google saysWhat we think it meansTip for limiting impact
Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?If your content is designed specifically for search engines, rather than human readers, you might be at risk.Rewrite any lower-quality SEO content that your site might have live. Do an audit of your content to ensure it’s ‘human-friendly’ first, rather than appealing to search engines.
Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?Successful SEO strategies are based on focused topic areas, rather than a scattergun approach. If your website content isn’t focused on specific topics, you might be at risk. Think strategically about a small number of keywords or topics you want your website to rank for and remove any content that doesn’t match those topics. Use an SEO consultant to help you devise a keyword strategy. 
Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?If you use an AI copywriter (without also having a human edit that content), you might be at risk.Chances are, AI is certainly going to have a place in online content in the future – but only when paired with human expertise. Make sure to have a knowledgeable editor to review all AI-generated copy.
Are you mainly summarising what others have to say without adding much value?If your SEO content isn’t saying anything new, or providing any additional value to what is already out there, you might be at risk.Always add something unique to your content, even if an article is about a well-trodden topic. There are always opportunities to add something new to content, even if it’s just an opinion or two.  
Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?Again, if your focus isn’t on a cohesive topic, you might be at risk.If a topic is trending, our advice is to only create content if you have something insightful or worthwhile to say. 
Before you start producing any content, ask yourself if the topic aligns with your SEO strategy topics – if it doesn’t, it might be best to leave it alone. 
Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?Be sure to fully answer the questions that your readers are asking, in order to avoid users clicking back to the search engine result page (SERP).Analytics is your friend here; look for any website pages with high bounce rates and look to improve the content on those pages. An SEO consultant will help you to delve into your analytics more thoroughly and advise on pages that require some changes. 
Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count?According to Google, word count is not a direct ranking factor. Mix up your content types. Create short and long-form content and use different types of content too, such as video, infographics and always caption your images. 
Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?You have to show Google that you are an authority on a topic before you branch out into more niche topic areas.Before jumping into a niche topic, make sure you’ve built some authority on a topic through higher-level, detailed content.
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?Don’t write clickbait!
Make sure that all your content delivers on what it promises, to ensure searchers get what they are looking for. 

Does that make Google’s ‘helpful content update’ a little clearer? We hope so. 

If you need support and expertise in creating search-friendly content that delivers, or want to improve the authority of your website, please get in touch. At Detail Marketing, we can help you add real value to your website.

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