If you keep your ear to the ground regarding all things SEO, you’ve likely heard chatter recently about Google search becoming less and less useful. In fact, there’s a good chance the thought has crossed your mind when you’ve been trying to answer a simple question using the search engine.
The tech giant themselves have also noticed this trend, and their response comes in the form of the Google Helpful Content Update.
Either way, it’s a good idea to audit your site and, if necessary, recover it now that the update is fully rolled out.
Released on August 25, 2022, the Google Helpful Content Update is an update to the ranking algorithm. It took about fifteen days to fully roll out this update for English searches worldwide, and it is expected that the update will be expanded to other languages down the road.
It’s worth understanding that this is a new signal rather than a Google Core Update, spam action, or manual action. This new signal is a tool that Google will use to evaluate and rank content. On top of that, it’s also a site-wide weighted algorithm.
If your site focuses on health, finance, or law, you’ll also want to know about the YMYL update and how it could impact your business.
This new update means that a site might be flagged with a classifier if the machine learning algorithm decides that the bulk of the content on a site isn’t helpful to users. This will impact the website’s overall visibility on search engine results pages.
It could potentially take months to recover from this update if you are negatively affected, as you will need to refresh the content that is already on your site. To climb back up the search rankings, you will need to eliminate any content that isn’t helpful and demonstrate that your website follows the best content practices that are “people-first.”
Any new content you publish should begin from the place of being user-friendly.
This Google update focuses on sites largely filled with unhelpful or unsatisfying content to the users. These sites generally write their content for search engines rather than for actual people. In short, your ranking and traffic could be harmed if you wrote articles with the goal of a good Google ranking rather than providing value to your audience.
The helpful content update was rolled out to help users actually find high-quality content that answers the questions they ask and provides a satisfying experience.
You may have noticed that content written for the primary purpose of ranking in search results has become increasingly popular. Unfortunately, this means that people using Google have become less and less satisfied with the results that pop up when they enter a search query.
This algorithm hopes to remedy this problem by penalizing websites full of content that isn’t written with the end-user in mind and elevating human-designed and useful sites.
Google stated that this update is part of their:
“ongoing effort to reduce low-quality content and make it easier to find content in Search that feels authentic and useful.”
If you’ve noticed that your visibility or ranking has gone down significantly recently, it might be because of this update. You will want to familiarize yourself with Google’s recommendations and make the necessary changes to recover your site. It is thought that recovery likely takes a few months.
Google has usefully released a list of questions for site owners to ask themselves in response to the helpful content update. In this document, Google explains that this update is:
“[a] part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.”
A content audit is when you systematically assess and analyze all of your site’s content. The goal is to identify both the strengths and weaknesses in your content development workflow and your overall content strategy.
Once you have performed an audit, you can change your content plan so it is best suited to achieve your new content goals.
This content update aims to reward content that provides a satisfying user experience and penalizes content that doesn’t meet visitors’ expectations.
Some of the questions you’ll want to ask yourself when auditing your content include:
Google states that you are “probably on the right track with a people-first approach” if you answer yes to these questions.
Google still suggests that you should follow SEO best practices when creating content. However, they want you to apply SEO best practices to content that has been written people-first rather than primarily creating content for search engine traffic. The reason for this is that the latter is “strongly correlated” with content that is unsatisfying to audiences.
Here are some of the questions Google prompts you to ask yourself to determine if you’ve been taking a search engine-first approach:
If you are answering yes to some of these or all of these questions, it likely means that you will need to reevaluate how you’re creating content.
Historically, Google algorithm updates have made sweeping changes to the world of content ranking without offering any guidance on what to do about them. In this instance, though, Google has published quite a bit of material to help you understand how to bounce back if the update negatively impacts your site.
There are several elements you’ll want to focus on when working to recover your site after the helpful content update:
How big of a deal it is to recover your site after the helpful content audit depends on to what extent your site was previously created for search engines rather than people. Some people might find that they simply need to alter a few pieces of content focused more on ranking than providing value to their audience. However, the most negatively affected sites will need to make drastic changes and replace the lion’s share of their content.
When recovering your site after this update, you’ll also want to familiarize yourself with Google’s content quality and helpfulness questions. You can find these in this document about core updates in the section titled “Focus on Content.”
Here are a few more pointers when it comes to dealing with the impact of Google’s helpful content update.
Rather than focusing on producing tons of new content, you’ll want to produce better content. Essentially, set your sights on quality rather than quantity. Don’t publish generic content in bulk based on keyword positions– instead, aim to satisfy the users with high-quality content.
As AI has gotten more advanced, it has become increasingly popular for people to produce content using artificial intelligence. The helpful content update wasn’t created to target AI content specifically; instead to penalize content that doesn’t inform or satisfy users and is generally of poor quality.
That being said, you should be careful to rely too heavily on AI when producing content and edit the pieces with a human eye heavily if you want to continue using these tools.
So much content these days is simply written using the other top Google results, leaving searchers less able to find content written by people with actual expertise on a topic. When creating content for your site, remember to incorporate the value only you can provide. By including your expertise, thoughts, studies, data, and real-world examples, you can help to distinguish your content from the crowd.
The helpful content update emphasizes that sites shouldn’t be all over the place when it comes to the topic. There are tons of sites out there that publish content about everything from CBD and health to finance and technology just to gain traffic or monetize guest posts. Google does not approve of this, and this update will penalize websites that follow this strategy.
Instead of picking a topic just because you believe it will get you clicks, write about something you’re knowledgeable about that seems to be lacking valuable info in search results.
If you built your site with the primary focus of receiving high rankings in Google’s search results, you can rest assured that recovery is possible. The general consensus is that recovery might take several months, but the timeframe will likely vary quite a bit depending on how extensive the changes that need to be made are.
On the other hand, if you’ve been focusing on creating human-first content for years now, this update is great news. While writing for the audience first doesn’t mean you can ignore SEO best practices; you’re in good shape if you’ve been providing expertise and useful information to a specific audience for some time now.
If you’ve noticed that your site’s traffic and rankings have taken a hit since the update was released, a site audit should be your next step. At Blue Pig Media, we offer a one-stop shop for all of your digital marketing needs, and we’d be more than happy to take the reigns in your site audit and recovery.