What is the helpful content update?
Google’s helpful content update, released in late August 2022, is a new Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) ranking algorithm that will evaluate the quality of website content site-wide on a regular basis. This update is part of Google’s efforts to deal with low-quality and unhelpful content found in search results and focus on creating people-first content. Many websites have content written specifically for SEO, so they can rank higher in search engines without helping or educating people. With over 1.9 billion websites online, Google’s latest algorithm update is bound to have a huge impact on the internet.
An effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results
Who will it affect?
In the latest update, sites that have created content primarily for search engines to rank high or make thin content that adds zero value for the visitor will be heavily impacted. The helpful content update will see a significant reduction in the amount of content generated by AI on sites as well.
This update will tackle content that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines.
Initially, only English language searches will be impacted. Still, Google plans to expand this update to target additional languages in the near future. As of now, the helpful content update algorithm will only affect Search in the Google Network (Display, Shopping, Video, and Discovery will remain unaffected for the moment).
Update: On the 6th of December 2022, Google rolled out an additional update in which the helpful content will now affect all languages, impacting a larger number of search queries.
Who will it affect?
The algorithm update will target any content that is unhelpful. Content that offers no value and makes the searcher have to search again to get better information from other sources will be deemed as unhelpful content and the site will lose its visibility and ranking. At the same time, Google will prioritise the more relevant and helpful results, rewarding sites with helpful content a higher ranking on the SERPs.
If your content does not solve the searcher’s intent or is considered unhelpful by Google, a site-wide signal known as a classifier will be imposed on your site. The classifier impacts your whole website ranking performance even if only one of your site page’s content is detected as unhelpful. The signal is site-wide therefore, your entire site ranking will drop drastically. A lower ranking on the search result page has a massive impact on your website visibility and ability to attract traffic.
The update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well
Impact it will have on the SEO world
In short, you will no longer be able to write SEO-specific content that only serves the purpose of ranking high in the search results. The newest update will affect all current content and any future content going out on your website. While SEO is still a hugely important factor to include in your content, you must concentrate on creating useful content for your visitors. According to some discussions on Reddit, SEO specialists will have to rethink strategies to adapt to the latest Google helpful content updates.
It is also worth noting that Google will not notify you which pages have unhelpful content, so you must ensure that your entire site provides value and meets the searcher’s intent. This will present a bigger challenge: checking all your content to ensure it meets what Google considers helpful and relevant.
How to know if your existing content is at risk
While the Google helpful content algorithm update will not tell you specifically what pages have unhelpful content, Google will now be crawling pages to see how ‘helpful’ the content is. So, if you use Screaming Frog, Moz, or any other SEO tool, there are a few things you can look out for. While these might not necessarily mean your content is unhelpful, these indicators may require further investigation.
- Low word count: While your word count doesn’t necessarily impact your SEO, the lower the content, the higher the risk of being considered ‘thin content’, which will have a negative impact. Go through all your pages with low word counts and ensure the content that is there is helpful and adds value to your website.
- Low link metrics: Similar to low word count, low link metrics may negatively impact your content. Your ranking depends on your authority, relevancy, and trust among your users, and having low link metrics puts that at risk. Find all at-risk links and ensure they are trustworthy and offer value to your website.
- Low traffic & low revenue: Lower traffic and revenue on a particular web page may be an indicator of thin or irrelevant content on the page. Refreshing your content may be the way to go here if this is the case. Once you have updated your content, monitor it in the coming weeks to see if it remains the same or if there is any change.
It is important not to panic if your site displays some of these telltale signs, especially if your site is just starting out, but if you have experienced a sudden slump in traffic or revenue in the past few months, it might be worth looking into redefining your site’s content.
What to do if you’ve been hit with Google’s Helpful Content Update
If you have been flagged with the classifier, your entire site will be affected, but recovery is possible. While you can recover your ranking once you have improved your content to be helpful, you must keep in mind that the classifier is constantly running; therefore, the content should be strategically planned to be people focused on the long run, not just the short-term unless you want to find yourself signaled again and ranked lower.
Sites identified by this update may find the signal applied to them over a period of months. Our classifier for this update runs continuously. As it determines that the unhelpful content has not returned in the long-term, the classification will no longer apply.
To prevent a reoccurrence, you will need to review all content on your website and determine what content you are either going to remove from the site or improve to make it more helpful.
As the update continues to develop, Google has provided guidelines you can go by when trying to improve your content:
- “Are you mainly summarising what others have to say without adding much value?”
Publish helpful content by adding your own first-hand experience on the topic. You can add value by incorporating detailed explanations, high-quality photos, and videos.
- “Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?”
Ensure your content provides enough information about a topic to help visitors achieve their goals. Think of the answers the searchers are looking for in your content.
- “Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?”
Make sure you are talking about a subject you have first-hand knowledge of or are an expert in. Don’t talk about subjects that have nothing to do with your business.
- “Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?”
In the age of the Helpful Content Update, you should avoid using AI copywriting to write your content. Google can usually detect AI in text.
Tips to remember going forward
In order to make your website more helpful to users, we recommend auditing and improving all current content. When developing new content, think about your visitor’s interests and why they are on your site in the first place – this will help you create content with a people-first focus.
Create content that goes above and beyond helping visitors find the answer to what they are looking for, not just the bare minimum. Include content that has relevance to your website.
In summary, with Google’s helpful content update, you need to stop creating that is focused on ranking in the search engines. You are not writing for Google; you are writing for humans. Despite the fact that SEO is an ever-changing field, this latest update will certainly be a game changer. In the coming months, this will be an interesting area to watch.
If you have any concerns about your SEO strategy or simply want to get it off the ground, then get in touch with our digital marketing team.