As digital marketers and content writers have seen over the years, every major update to the Google algorithm has led to massive changes to the very foundation of digital marketing. Today we look at the major update of August 2022 – the Google helpful content update. We also assess how it impacts content writing.
Consider Panda – the first major update rolled out in 2011. It aimed to tackle plagiarized content and keyword stuffing.
Right from that time, Google has made many updates to ensure two key objectives –
– The content is valuable for the target readers
– The content meets the search intent with which the searcher was re-directed from the SERP to the website
This denotes the immense responsibility content writing companies have for the success of SEO campaigns as per the prevalent algorithm.
Cut to the present scenario, and we see the rollout of the Google helpful content update in 2022. Let’s see what the update is and what content writers should know about it.
Google rolled out the Helpful content update on 25th Aug 2022. This update targets a key point – “to ensure that people see more original and helpful content written by people and for people in search results.”
This means that Google will better reward the content for a website that offers a satisfying experience to the site visitors. It should focus on people-centric content meant for the content readers first instead of for Google bots.
So, if your content is written keeping only Google bots in mind, then mind it! The search engine will swiftly devalue your site.
The update will penalize sites that have less-than-helpful information. It doesn’t cover just poor-quality content. It also covers sites that have a lot of content that is of no value to the readers.
A content writer will need to have this critical question in mind.
“Will this part of the content add true value to the reader?”
They need to keep this in mind when framing each and every sentence and paragraph of the content.
It is a site-wide signal. So, SEO webmasters cannot escape the penalty by removing one or two pages. They will have to do a thorough analysis of the site overall. This way, they can pluck out any page offering a ‘less than satisfactory’ experience to readers when consuming its content.
Sites that adhere to this norm will see a ranking improvement in some weeks (a month or two). The machine-learning-based algorithm update will scan billions of pages to see if the site delivers a satisfying experience.
Answers to the below questions will help you adhere to the people-first foundation of the helpful content update.
– Would your existing audience find the content useful if they visited your site directly?
– Does your site depict first-hand use/ experience of the product or service you are writing about?
– Will the readers be satisfied that they have learned enough about a particular topic after reading your content?
When you stay on the narrow with your expertise, you adhere to this update. You cannot chase after topics simply because they are trending. You should not expect search traffic as the barometer for choosing topics for your content. Such content may not be helpful if they are outside your niche.
When visitors come to your site, they should be served content that is well within your area of expertise. It is only under this circumstance that you can deliver content that is truly helpful to your target audience.
For example, if a company offers a web development service, here is some guidance:
– it should not stray to SEO services (if it doesn’t offer SEO at all).
– Many SEO-related keywords rank pretty high. If the web development company wants to go after site traffic by writing blogs around SEO, such an action can negatively impact it. Google will devalue your site.
– It’s better to stick to topics around web development.
If you are writing about a particular topic, be sure that you show first-hand experience.
Content creators need to substantiate their content with evidence like original opinions/thoughts about a particular area, a particular place of business (like a restaurant), or a particular product.
For example, many affiliate sites simply advertise a product on their website. But the site author may not have used these products/services. If you have first-hand experience, then provide evidence like photos or videos to add weightage to the content.
Suppose you are writing about a topic, ‘ Benefits of apple cider vinegar.’ You should show that you have used it on yourself in order to appear helpful to the readers.
You can add unique elements that are unique to your consumption of vinegar. Maybe you can show them how to reduce the pungent taste of the vinegar. This element will not be present in any other blog.
Such content will be deemed in compliance with the new update because –
– It is not written only for search engines (by rehashing what others have already written)
– It is not written for affiliate marketing, where the author earns a commission even though she hasn’t used the product personally.
– The content establishes that the author has actually used the product and can give a unique opinion.
Are you trying to sell many things in different niches on a single website? Then don’t do it. You may be tempted to spread it wide in the hopes that one of the topics may hit the bull’s eye in terms of rankings and perform well on SERPs.
Such a site will be extremely unhelpful to the visitors. Plus, it will confuse the search bots about the site’s relevance to a particular niche.
For example, you may have a site that covers technology, beauty, and automotive. It is clearly covering multiple niches.
– You can build 3 different websites for these three niches.
– Build blogs and website content separately on each of the three sites.
– Do not overlap one site’s business with another (in the form of unhelpful links). So, if you are writing on a beauty topic, stick to internal/ external links of only the beauty site.
After reading the content, the visitor should feel that they have adequate information needed on a particular topic.
This aligns with Google’s philosophy that content is helpful when it educates the blog readers or helps them address a particular issue for which they visited your site.
For example, let’s consider a topic “How to Grow Cannabis.” A writer needs to do in-depth research. This way, the blog will become the only blog that a legal cannabis cultivator needs to follow.
There are many factors covered within the blog. These include sub-topics like sunlight, water, lighting, temperature, and soil pH. Now, let’s consider the ‘soil pH’ section. If a writer writes:
“Cannabis prefers slightly acidic soil conditions. You can maintain an acidic level in soil for better results.“.
This will leave the reader with so many questions –
– What is meant by acidity/alkalinity levels?
– What is the right acidity level in terms of pH?
– When to check pH level?
– How to check pH level?
To get these answers, he will close your site and open another search for the answers. This means that such superficial content is not helpful. Such unhelpful content may run a risk of being devalued by Google.
The writer needs to add depth to this section as below –
“Cannabis grows will in acidic condition between 5.0 to 7.0 pH. You can maintain a level between 5.8 to 6.2 as an optimal level. You need to check the pH level every two days using a digital meter.“
Such content will provide all answers to readers related to the soil pH of growing cannabis.
Our final thoughts
Google has only recently added the helpful content update. SEO and content experts are still gauging the impact on site rankings. But these points will offer good guidance.
If you are a content writer, you will come to know how to tweak your content creation process so that Google considers your content helpful as per this algorithm update.
Let us know which other point of this particular ranking signal will influence the content writing process.