Virtually everyone is aware by now that Google is constantly updating, making changes, and adjusting algorithms. Their goal is a simple one: to provide users with the best possible experience. While that goal may be simple in concept, it means always moving forward and seeking better ways of doing things.
Enter the Helpful Content Update.
Google has always sought to provide high-quality, relevant links whenever a user searches for a given topic. They have judged sites based on numerous factors such as appearance, ease of use, load times, and much more. Those seeking to optimise their websites have always done their best to meet Google’s standards, adjusting to each new update in an effort to appeal to the mighty search engine.
With the Helpful Content update, however, a different approach than usual may be warranted. What is this new update and how does it impact your website?
Here is everything business owners need to know about Google’s Helpful Content Update.
What is the Helpful Content Update?
With this update, Google is aiming to reward sites that put people first, rather than making Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rank their priority. Google is asking “do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?”
The saying “content is king” has been used and perhaps overused for quite some time now, but it continues to be true. Google wants to know that the content that you are providing is useful, correct, and relevant to the user’s search.
Creating content to rank well in the search engine can sometimes lead you away from what should be your primary focus. Trying to take advantage of certain high-ranking keywords, for example, may lead you to write an article or blog that is only peripherally related to your products and services. Users brought to your site via a search with that keyword may find that the rest of your site doesn’t match what they were seeking.
How Does the Helpful Content Update Work?
The Helpful Content update looks at many factors when determining how helpful your content may be. One part of the update concerns a new “site-wide signal” for ranking pages. The result of this is that the content of a post may become more far-reaching, impacting the ranking of your site as a whole.
Google has also alluded to “helpful content written by people for people.” This has generally been interpreted to mean that those who rely heavily on AI-created content will be penalized. How exactly Google will determine if the content is generated by AI is unknown, but it is something to be aware of.
At present, the update only affects English language searches, regardless of country. An English language search with English results will now be facing new scrutiny.
Who is the Update For?
The new update is, in Google’s own words, for all search users, however, it is also of benefit to any creator who is looking to earn a top spot in the SERPs with their high-quality content. It is an update for businesses that legitimately seek to offer the greatest value to their customers.
Many businesses still focus on trying to promote their own message, rather than responding to the actual needs of their clients, but for those who legitimately seek to serve their customers, this is an opportunity to move ahead based on the quality of content, rather than the most effective keywords. It can benefit a business that truly understands its customers, knows what they want, and how to speak to them.
How Can the Update Benefit Your Business?
If your business offers high-quality content that is of true value to your customers, this update should help you in Google’s ranking. The intent of the update is to provide users with an even better experience than before, which should lead to more conversions and, as a result, more money for your business.
Rather than simply providing users with links that match their keywords, this update seeks to assist them with their needs. If your company can provide that assistance, it should be a win-win for all involved.
How Can You Be Sure You Are Offering Helpful Content?
Another question posed by Google is “after reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to achieve their goal?”
A visitor to your site is seeking help or information. Are you providing it? Are you providing them with more than the minimum? If a potential client arrives on your site, reads your content, and then needs to click away to another site to get additional help, then you are not fully addressing their needs.
Your content should satisfy visitors, not leave them with additional questions. Have you been writing fluff pieces? Your website shouldn’t be offering filler. Consider the overall experience of those coming to your site. What are they looking for? Will they find it on your site, or will they have to go elsewhere?
What Does Google Have to Say About the Update?
If you want to know precisely what Google is looking for with this new update, then consider the advice that they give:
- Write to your specific audience. Don’t write for the search engines.
- Stay on topic. Don’t branch out into barely related topics.
- Provide helpful content that fully answers the user’s questions and addresses their needs.
- Write as much as you need to write, rather than aiming for a particular word count.
- Write to your intended audience or your existing audience.
What This Means Going Forward
While this is a new update, it is not entirely new in that it is simply a progression in Google’s desire to offer an excellent user experience. To make the most out of the update, site owners need to focus less on writing for rank and more on writing to legitimately help visitors. As Google continues to adjust and improve their algorithms, rank will be increasingly based on the value and assistance that you provide.
Christian is a British-born entrepreneur and founder of Marwick. For over 19 years, Christian has successfully helped businesses excel in digital marketing. Founded in 2012, Marwick has grown from a start-up to the 11th Fastest Growing Company in Canada in 2020 and expanded into the UK in 2019.