Google Announces “Helpful Content Update”
Yesterday (Thursday August 18th), Google announced that it will be rolling out its new “helpful content update”, which will begin rolling out next week.
The purpose of this update appears to be an attempt by Google to devalue content, which on its surface, looks like it is meeting a user’s needs, but in fact, does not provide the information needed to satisfy the user’s expectations.
This update has a couple of explicit callouts, both of which should already be part of your approach to content.
However, now they are being specifically targeted by an element of the algorithm, they are more important than ever.
- Ensure your content is written for people, by people
- Avoid creating “search engine” focussed content
People focussed content
Our customers are people.
Seems an obvious statement, doesn’t it? But some content is still created without this as a primary consideration.
People focussed content is the premise of writing content that is genuinely designed to satisfy the needs of our real customers – providing them with all the relevant information they need.
This doesn’t mean we forget about SEO, far from it, but we need to ensure that we are incorporating SEO best practices into content that is truly designed to meet user needs.
So, what do we need to consider here?
Well first, we need to think about what audience we are writing this content for.
- What do you they want to know?
- What do they NEED to know?
Using this as a starting point will help ensure you are covering what a real customer wants to see.
On top of this, showcasing genuine expertise and knowledge is key.
- Why should a customer trust you?
- What makes you the right person to be providing them with this information?
Highlighting why you are a subject matter expert through examples or experience is going to be key here.
Finally, you should always consider what you want the reader to take away from your content.
Has what you have written answered all potential questions and will the reader leave feeling that they have learned all they can about the subject?
If so, then you’re on to a winner, if not, you may need to rethink your content.
Avoid writing search engine focussed content
This also seems a little bit like being taught to suck eggs, as those who have been practising SEO properly over the last few years are already avoiding this.
However, it’s now even more important to ensure you are not writing content for the sole purpose of ranking for specific search terms.
While trying to rank for relevant terms is still of course the aim of our content, it must serve a greater purpose than just ticking the old “SEO boxes”.
Like I said earlier, this doesn’t mean that SEO optimisation isn’t needed. Of course, it is, but it does mean that you must do that and much more for your content to perform well.
The content itself must be genuinely insightful and answer the question a reader is looking to have answered.
If your content leaves a reader still looking for more information, then you are failing here.
So what does this mean?
Essentially, if Google determines that your content is more designed for search engines than users, then you are likely to see a decline in performance.
Content that is people focussed, relevant and genuinely insightful to users will be preferred, and therefore likely to rank much better.
This process is automated.
You won’t get a manual action if Google deems your content to not meet its new standards, it’s being folded into a part of the algorithm.
The new signal is also weighted, therefore if your site has large amounts of unhelpful content, the impact is likely to be felt more. It is therefore imperative to keep an eye on your ranking performance over the next few weeks as the update is rolled out.
If you do see performance declines, it’s important to look at the terms impacted and review the content on the pages affected. Updating the content to make it more helpful, or even removing elements that are unhelpful, will help towards restoring performance.
Timeline and what’s affected
The update will begin rolling out next week (w/c 22nd August) and is expected to take a couple of weeks to fully roll out.
For now, this update will only impact English language searches, but Google plans to roll it out to other languages in the future.
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