On August 25, 2022, Google announced a major update to its algorithm that will prioritise "helpful" content in its search results. The update, which was scheduled to take up to two weeks to rollout, has been dubbed the "helpful content update".
This update is designed to surface content that is truly useful and informative for users, rather than unhelpful content that is simply keyword-stuffed or designed to game the system.
So, what does this update mean for website owners and content creators? In short, it means that quality trumps quantity when it comes to your content. The search engine will now be looking at factors like how well your content answers the questions your audience personas have, how useful your content is, and how engaging it is in order to determine where it should rank in Google search results.
What is Google's helpful content update?
In a nutshell, the helpful content update is a change to Google's algorithm that will place a greater emphasis on content that is truly helpful to users. In the past, Google has relied heavily on factors like keyword density and backlinks to determine which websites should rank higher in search results. However, this has often led to subpar content ranking highly simply because it was optimised for Google's algorithm, not because it was actually useful to searchers.
With the helpful content update, Google is changing its focus from keywords and backlinks to user experience and engagement. In other words, if your website's content is genuinely helpful and provides value to your existing or intended audience, it will now rank higher in search results regardless of whether or not it contains certain keywords or has a lot of backlinks. This change is designed to improve the overall quality of search results and make it easier for users to find the information they're looking for.
Could a website be penalised by the helpful content update?
As first suggested by Search Engine Journal, there are a number of reasons why a website might get hit by the helpful content update. First and foremost, Google is cracking down on low-quality content - not just unhelpful content. This includes content that is poorly written, contains spelling and grammatical errors, or is simply filler content that doesn't provide any value to the reader. If your website contains any of this type of content, it could be penalised by the update.
In addition, Google is also targeting websites that provide little to no useful information. For example, if you have a website about cat breeds but all of your content is just pictures of cats with no accompanying text, Google may deem your site as not being helpful. A common consequence to expect will likely be a lower ranking, which will ultimately result in a dip in search traffic.
Two common mistakes to avoid when creating content include:
- Keyword stuffing: This is when you stuff too many keywords into your content in an attempt to manipulate your ranking on search engines. This does not just seem spammy; it can also get you penalised by Google and your pages could lose rank position for the keywords you're targeting.
- Plagiarism: This is when you copy someone else's work without giving them credit or providing a link back to their original article. It can lead to penalties from Google and can also damage your reputation as a writer or blogger.
Finally, Google will also be penalising websites that are difficult to navigate or understand. If your website is hard to use or find information on, it could get punished by the update.
What can you do to avoid getting penalised?
If you want to avoid getting penalised by the upcoming helpful content update, there are a few things you can do:
- First and foremost, make sure all of the content on your website is high-quality and well-written.
- Secondly, ensure that your website provides useful information that can't be found elsewhere.
- Finally, make sure your site is easy to navigate and understand; if it's not user-friendly, Google will penalise you for it.
But in order to truly succeed with the helpful content update, your website will need to focus on creating truly helpful, informative, and engaging content for your users. Here are a few tips to help you do just that.
Steps to Take to Write High Quality Content
1. Do your research
Before you start writing any piece of content, it's important to do your research and understand what users are actually looking for. What questions are they trying to answer? What problems are they trying to solve? Answering these questions will help you create content that is truly useful for your users.
2. Keep it clear
Once you know what users are looking for, keep your content as straightforward as possible. Don't write just to hit a particular word count, and don't try to stuff keywords into your content, or trick users with clickbait titles; just give them the information they're looking for in a clear, concise, and engaging way.
3. Make it engaging
Remember that engagement is key when it comes to ranking well in Google's search results. This means keeping your paragraphs short and easy to read, using images and other visual elements sparingly but effectively, and using headings and subheadings to break up your text.
4. Promote your content
Once you've created some great helpful content, make sure you promote it! Share it on social media, link to it from other pages on your website, and reach out to influencers in your industry who might be interested in sharing it with their followers.
5. Make sure your content is well-written and free of grammar and spelling errors
It is extremely important to make sure your content is well-written and free of grammar and spelling errors. This will help to ensure that your readers are able to understand what you are trying to say, and will also make you appear more professional. There are a number of ways that you can go about ensuring the quality of your content, such as proofreading it yourself or having someone else do so, using a spellcheck or grammar checker, or reading it out loud.
6. Include accurate and up-to-date information for Google’s Freshness Score
Google content freshness score is a measure of how often your content is updated with new information. The higher your content freshness score, the more likely it is that your content will be ranked higher in search engine results. This is because Google favours content that is regularly updated with the most relevant and up-to-date information.
Therefore, if you want your content to be ranked highly in Google Search Engine results, it’s important to make sure your data, statistics or research references the most recent changes, information or guidance.
This is especially true when writing about controversial topics or those that have a lot of conflicting information available.
By keeping your information up-to-date, you can keep audiences coming back for more, increase your chance of social shares, and keep your content relevant to Google.
7. Structure your content in an easy-to-read format with clear headings and subheadings
One of the best ways to ensure that your readers will be able to understand and absorb your content is to structure it in an easy-to-read format with clear headings and subheadings. This will help them to quickly get an idea of what the overall topic of your article is, and will allow them to skip down to the parts that are most relevant to them. You can also use different fonts, colours, and sizes to help highlight important information and make it stand out.
8. Use images, videos, or infographics to break up your text and make your article more visually appealing
One way to make your content more visually appealing is to break up your text with images, videos, or infographics. This will help to keep your readers engaged and make it easier for them to understand what you are saying. You can find free images and videos online that you can use in your articles, or you can create your own infographics. By adding visual elements to your content, you will help to capture the attention of your readers and hold their interest until the end.
If you're still not sure whether your content is up to scratch, here are a few questions to ask:
- Is my content well written and free of grammatical errors?
- Is my content informative and helpful?
- Do I provide sufficient detail, without going overboard?
- Does my content present a balanced view of the topic?
- Have I included external links to reputable sources?
- Have I used images and other visual elements to break up the text and add interest?
Don’t let the Google Helpful Content update affect you
The helpful content update has now been fully rolled out. It is a major change to Google's algorithm that shook the SEO world with many panicking and deleting their low-quality content. At Innovation Visual, we always work with the Google algorithm rather than against it by following best practices and staying up to date with changes, keeping your audience at the centre of everything we do. This means we build organic traffic sustainably which de-risks our clients against algorithm changes.
Although the roll out is now finalised, you will need to keep following these rules to ensure every page of your website complies with the changes. This means creating truly helpful, informative, and engaging content for your users. By following our tips outlined above, you can create the type of content that will help you thrive with the helpful content update—and beyond!
Getting Help With Making Sure Your Website Content is Helpful
If you need some help figuring out your helpful and unhelpful content, why not contact us? We have a range of tools at our disposal, such as content audits and content strategy development, to help you safeguard the content of your website against Google updates should you feel their impact.
Other recent Google updates
It’s worth mentioning Google released two other major updates following the Helpful Content Update that could also have affected your site. According to Sistrix, Google started a September Core Update on 12th September, followed by a Product Review Update on 20th September. Both of these should be fully rolled out by 26th September.