Google’s New Helpful Content Update: All You Need to Know
It was bound to happen! Google had to find a way to review content on many topics and eliminate the over-optimized, keyword-stuffed subject matter that was clogging the search results.
Those of us in the SEO industry that practice ‘white hat’ SEO, have long been concerned that we were competing with others that were creating content that was written specifically for the search engines, but not actually helpful for people.
Google Redefines the Search Engine’s Primary Purpose or Focus
Google never loses sight of the fact that they have a responsibility to their customer to provide the best search results possible. And their customer is the person using the search engine — not website content writers or SEO professionals.
The latest Google update, Helpful Content Update, with a release date of August 25, 2022, will begin focusing on whether content is actually helpful for their customers or written just to rank on the search engine results pages (SERPs).
How is that possible?
As Google has become more AI and Machine-Learning-focused, their ability through some sophisticated language models — MUM and BERT — allows them to be able to read content, understand the actual meaning, and then form deep knowledge about the content’s topic.
That means Google will be able to discern whether your blog is helpful and intent-focused or unhelpful, repeating, keyword-laden nonsense.
Google’s Advice as the Update Rolls Out
Like Core Web Vitals that launched in the summer of 2021, Google understands that this will have a major impact on how many websites will rank.
Google’s advice is simple and two-fold:
- Keep your focus on people-first content! Ask yourself these questions:
- Does your content represent deep knowledge and first-hand experience of the subject?
- Does it relate directly to your business?
- Will it provide a satisfying experience for the reader?
- Will a person leave your site feeling like they can achieve their goal?
- Don’t create content geared towards search engines first! They aren’t invalidating SEO so much as clarifying its purpose.
- Is the content created for humans?
- Are you over-reliant on content automation tools?
- Do you create content by summarizing other’s work without adding any additional value?
- Are you creating content based simply on SEO trends?
- Do you create content based on word count thinking that Google a preferred number?
Potential Site-Wide Impact
While this update will impact Google Search initially, it may be expanded to other Google surfaces like Discover. And while Google has been mum about what penalties will be attached to the new update, it has said that this is a ‘site-wide algorithm’ which means that even if you have a single page with unhelpful content, your whole site will be impacting in the SERPs.
According to Search Engine Roundtable, the impact will be ‘meaningful’ per Google and will primarily impact the entertainment, shopping, online-educational materials, and technology industries.
Additionally, the Google Search Console analytics will not identify unhelpful URLs, so global site review and compliance is critical.
Once penalized, it can take several months to recover search rankings after your content has been improved.
What Can You Do to Ensure a Smooth Transition for Helpful Content and Google Updates 2022
Let’s talk about what you can do to avoid having your whole site penalized.
While Google is purposely vague about specifics for any new updates, they do give us clues as to what they are looking for and what the consequences will be. Try these steps to ensure Google sees your site as relevant and helpful to its customers.
Let’s start with the basics. You want to review your content, e.g., pages, posts, eBooks, case studies, white papers, everything. Ensure that each piece of content can demonstrate firsthand expertise, deep knowledge about the subject, and add something to the conversation. If it’s a niche topic area, even more important.
According to Google, to perform well in search it’s ok to use keywords and SEO practices, but as an adjunct to educating your reader.
Stop Using AI Automation to Produce Content
Google has long stated that AI-produced content is contrary to the experience they want to create for their customers. In fact, according to John Mueller at Google Search citing the Google webmaster’s guidelines, “Content automatically generated by AI content writing tools is considered spam.”
Regardless of repeated warnings, AI content generators have become more, not less, popular and are used extensively by SEO pros who want to scale content generation. Consider the Helpful Content Update to be a ‘shot across the bow’ for firms or individuals using extensive automation to produce their content.
In other words, use them at your own peril!
Improve the User’s Experience and Win at Google’s Information Gain Scores
If you have ever searched for a topic and the first page is several ‘Ultimate Guides’ on the same subject, you are probably seeing ‘copycat content’ at work. That’s where someone creates content based on other similar articles but doesn’t add anything new to the conversation. Not a great user experience.
According to GoFish.com, Google uses information gain scores to determine if “additional information is included by a page beyond the information contained in other pages already presented to the user.” (And don’t bother looking for your score – they aren’t available to the public.)
So, ensure that your content adds to the user experience and if you use article ideas that have similar content already available, be sure to add something more to the discussion.
Implement More Video Content
Video content is incredibly popular and only becoming more so (and Google loves it) — but be sure to keep it updated and to ensure that you aren’t over-stuffing keywords in descriptions, transcripts, etc.
Increase Linking to Authority Sites
There is still a huge benefit in using links to show authority. Linking your content to sites that demonstrate authority carries weight with Google, as does backlinking authoritative site to your web pages. Sites that carry a .edu, .gov, or a major company site shows Google that you have real expertise in your field.
Limit the Use of Affiliate Sites
A long time issue for Google, affiliate sites and site links don’t add any authority to your site. In fact, it can detract from it.
Google knows that there is a money motivation involved instead of a genuine recommendation based on your knowledge or expertise. It’s no secret that they include paid reviews for commission and product review updates.
While a lot of small sites rely on the income, just know that they can negatively impact your SERP ranking in the future.
Be Sure to Keep an Eye on Your Analytics…Daily!
Analytics is where you will see the impact the new Helpful Content Update is having on your site. Be sure to ‘birddog’ those numbers and don’t let anything slip by or it could take months to rebound from the damage.
This is Overwhelming — HELP!!!
While it will take a few months to really understand the impact of the Helpful Content Update, you don’t want to wait until you have a problem to make any necessary adjustments to your website. There is help available.
With digital marketing such an important component of business success, the last thing a business owner wants is to lose ranking on the SERPs (even for a few months).
Engaging a full-service digital marketing agency, like Lounge Lizard, is a terrific way to ‘bring in the experts.’ Lounge Lizard offers a full SEO Audit designed to review your entire SEO and content strategy, while recommending proven changes that can protect your current rank and even boost your site’s overall rank on the SERPs.
In addition, Lounge Lizard is watching the impact of the update closely and will be able to accelerate any additional requirements for clients as things unfold. Like with the Core Web Vitals Update, the Lounge Lizard SEO team is expert at monitoring and responding to major (and minor) changes in Google’s algorithms.
After all, this is your business and it’s crucial to have an optimized website working on your behalf.
Contact Lounge Lizard to learn more about SEO updates 2022 and some solutions for a smooth transition with the helpful content update.