Planning Ahead for the Helpful Content Update
In this blog, we discuss everything that business owners need to know about the soon-to-be-released helpful content update from Google. We’ll answer:
- What is the helpful content update?
- How will the helpful content update impact your website?
- What can businesses do to prepare for the helpful content update?
On Thursday, August 18, Google announced another algorithm update that has many SEO strategists reeling. The helpful content update will start rolling out the week of August 22, first impacting English websites globally and slowly expanding to other languages in the future.
Four days isn’t much time to prepare for a massive update like this, so it’s critical for business owners and marketing teams to work together to overcome the hurdles ahead. By taking time to understand the update now, you can tailor your SEO strategy to the “new rules” and find yourself closer to your target audience.
What is the Helpful Content Update?
Google’s helpful content update is a site-wide algorithm update that aims to reward content which offers visitors a more satisfying, human experience. In line with Google’s core algorithm update rolled out earlier this summer which targets AI-generated content, this new update will focus on serving users “people-first” content.
According to Google’s blog post discussing the update, people-first content is content that mainly focuses on providing a satisfying experience while still using SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value. Here’s how Google says you can tell if you’re on the right track to producing people-first content:
- You have a target audience for your business or website that would find your content useful if they came to you directly
- Your content clearly demonstrates first-hand expertise and depth of knowledge from having used or provided a product or service
- Your website has a primary purpose or focus
- After reading your content, users will leave feeling satisfied and as though they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal
- You are actively adhering to updated guidance on other core algorithm updates and Google product reviews
How Will the Helpful Content Update Impact Your Website?
The helpful content update is set to roll out the week of August 22, so its full impact is still yet to be determined. However, understanding how the update will work can help you better prepare for possible changes to your site rankings and traffic.
Details About the Helpful Content Update
Google has stated that it will post on its ranking updates page when the rollout has completely taken effect, which could take up to two weeks. With the update, a new site-wide signal will be introduced that will be used alongside many other signals to determine webpage rankings. Sites that contain content with little value, low added value, or are otherwise not particularly helpful will be automatically identified by Google’s machine-learning model.
Any website with relatively high amounts of unhelpful content can expect to perform more poorly as the rollout takes effect. Sites that have been identified as unhelpful by the update may find the signal applied to them over a period of months as the SEO team works to correct the issue by removing or rewriting the content.
The classifier for the update will run continuously, allowing it to monitor newly launched websites as well as existing ones for updates made to their content strategy. Once Google determines that the unhelpful content is gone for good, the classifier will be removed from the affected website.
How Will Your SEO Strategy Need to Change?
It’s important to understand that while the helpful content update is designed to serve more people-first content, that doesn’t mean SEO best practices should be abandoned. You’ll just need to adapt your strategy to accommodate the change and ensure your website remains competitive in the ever-evolving digital space.
Google offers some great advice for helping strategists avoid taking a search engine-first approach to their content. If you answer yes to some or all of the following questions, it’s a sign that you’ll need to reevaluate the current content strategy for your website:
- Is the content designed to attract people from search engines rather than for human readers?
- Are you creating content on many different topics in the hopes that some of it will perform well on the SERPs?
- Are you relying on AI-generated content or other automated processes to create content on many topics?
- Are you mainly summarizing what other people have written without offering additional value?
- Are you writing about things simply to appeal to what’s “trending” and not because you’d write about it normally for your target audience?
- Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from more reliable sources?
- Are you writing to satisfy a particular word count rather than to answer a question?
- Have you entered a niche topic area without any real expertise because you thought you’d get more search traffic from it?
- Does your content promise to answer a question that doesn’t have an answer (i.e. discussing a product release date when none has been announced yet)?
Be honest with yourself when answering the above questions. It isn’t easy to admit that your current strategy might end up setting your website performance back, but doing so now can help you avoid some serious headaches in the future.
What to Do to Prepare for the Helpful Content Update
With the update starting to roll out the week of August 22, SEO strategists can expect it to take full effect by the week of September 5, 2022. That doesn’t give much time to adjust, so it’s important to act quickly on the following items to remain prepared for the change:
Perform a Content Audit
Take some time to review the existing content on your website and give it an honest assessment using Google’s advice from above. Be especially on the lookout for things like:
- Keyword Stuffing: Make sure the content flows naturally and doesn’t strive to insert keywords or phrases that don’t belong or that make the sentence difficult to read.
- Vague Answers: If your content leads readers down a rabbit hole of ambiguity and unanswerable questions, it will likely get dinged by the helpful content update.
- Brief Synopses: Be sure that all the content that appears on your website is as detailed as possible and avoid simple summaries of information from other webpages.
Remove Any Unhelpful Content
As you conduct your content audit, you may find there are webpages that are beyond salvation. Remove any unhelpful content that is not absolutely necessary to your brand’s website. Examples of content that should be eliminated include:
- Topics that are unrelated to your products, services, or industry
- Content that has been written using AI or other automation
- Pages that cover niche topics that are outside your area of personal expertise
Rethink Your SEO Strategy
If after conducting your content audit you find that large amounts of content needed to be removed, it may be time to rethink your strategy. Instead of searching outward for search query data and trending topics, now is a great time for professionals to shine by looking inward and relying on their personal expertise to guide their content strategy forward.
Hire an SEO Expert
Keeping up with all of Google’s algorithm updates is a full-time job — one that should be performed by professionals to keep your site competitive. If you’re worried about how the helpful content update will impact your website performance, Word Nerd can help. Our team is constantly working to evolve the SEO strategy for our clients, delivering content that remains the cutting edge of Google’s ever-changing user experience. Request a content audit or SEO consultation for your website by contacting our team online today!