Google announced in mid-August 2022 that they would be launching a new major sitewide algorithm update called ‘helpful content’ soon. This roll-out was officially declared complete on September 9th, 2022, and if there was an impact on your website as a result, you’ve likely noticed it by now, at least in part. To further muddy the waters, Google released a core update shortly after ‘helpful content’ was completed, so if your website only saw changes after September 9th, it could be due to the impact of the core update rather than changes to website content. This article focuses on sites that may have been impacted by the helpful content update and what to do about it.
What exactly is the ‘helpful content update’?
Essentially, this is an update designed to reward websites that provide unique and ‘helpful content’ written for humans first, rather than search engines. Google has strongly suggested that these websites should begin to rank higher than those with less useful content, and Google has confirmed that this is a sidewise issue; if you have some content that is ‘helpful’ and some that are not, the unhelpful content on some pages may be affecting the rankings of your great content on other pages as well.
Google has long stated that this is the approach they prefer for websites to take, so the difference now appears to be that their most recent algorithm update can better determine what ‘helpful content’ is and isn’t. What does this mean for search engine optimization and content marketing?
What constitutes ‘helpful content’?
According to Google, their people-first approach seeks content that:
- Is designed for a specific audience that is relevant to the site in question and offers them something useful.
- Demonstrates genuine expertise and breadth of knowledge on the subject matter
- Gives the reader enough information to satisfy them on the subject.
It adheres to its previous content guidelines, such as product reviews and the E-E-A-T principles (known as E-A-T before December 2022)
Follows best practices for search engine optimization, but isn’t geared toward search engines over real people.
Google Update’s helpful checklist for content creation
When it comes to creating new content, whether it’s blog posts, product copy, or educational/informational content, we’ve always put “people first,” which aligns perfectly with Google’s helpful content update. More about our approach can be found in our introduction to content design. We’ve also created a quick checklist for you to use when planning content to ensure that it meets the criteria for ‘helpful content’ that puts users first, while also ensuring that organic search visitors can find what you’re offering and thus get what they need on your website.
For each potential new content idea, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the content meet a specific need/solve a problem for your target audience, or does it provide an answer to a relevant question that is important to them?
- Do you (or someone else in the company who can assist you) have enough knowledge of the subject to provide unique, credible, trustworthy, and useful information that they can’t find anywhere else online?
- Will the content provide the user with enough useful information to help them achieve their goal or at the very least progress on their journey?
- Is the content delivering what the title/heading promises?
- Is this the type of content that someone would share, recommend, or bookmark for future reference?
- Are there any search terms or phrases that match the user’s intent when looking for answers or information on this topic that you can use to help keep the content optimized?
By going through this checklist for any new content plans, you can help ensure an audience-first approach to your content strategy that not only aligns with Google’s latest update but also ensures that you’re providing your target market with all of the information they need to become a customer or client of your business!