In August 2022 Google launched what they called their “helpful content update”. This is a set of improvements and algorithm changes to identify and promote more people-first focused content.
In this article we will explain this update and how to ensure you follow the new rules and guidelines so you can keep ranking well in Google’s search engine.
Table of Contents
- Understand Google’s Definition of “Helpful Content”
- You lost all your traffic after a Google update. Now what?
- Avoid creating content for search engine first
- Site wide signal
- Conduct a Content Audit
- Improve Content Quality
- Incorporate User Intent
- Optimize for Search Engines
- Final Thoughts
Understand Google’s Definition of “Helpful Content”
Google rolled out their helpful content update on 25th August 2022. This is an important update and all bloggers and website owners need to understand what Google means by “Helpful Content”.
What Google considers helpful content
Google wants to connect people with helpful information. This is part of a broader attempt by Google to show the most unique, fresh, original, reliable and helpful content on the internet.
Google wants to ensure the content is written by people, for people.
How to align your website with Google’s definition of Helpful Content
So, as a blogger or website owner, how should you create content that aligns with Google’s definition of Helpful Content?
Focus on people-first content
Ensure your content leaves the reader satisfied. By that, I mean it provides answers to the question or query the user asked.
If you failed to satisfy the user (indicated by a higher than normal bounce rate or poor time spend on reading the article) you can expect your ranking to fall.
Ensure you are following Google’s guidelines on building high quality sites.
Can you answer YES to the following questions?
- Do you have a pre-defined group of people, either existing or potential, for your business or website who would find your content valuable if they visited your site directly?
- Is your content a clear representation of your firsthand experience and extensive knowledge, such as using a product or service yourself or visiting a place, that demonstrates your expertise in the subject matter?
- Does your site serve a niche?
- Will your content provide enough information on a topic for someone to feel they have gained sufficient knowledge to accomplish their objective?
- Would the readers of your content feel fulfilled after reading it?
If too many of your articles are ranked poorly by the helpful content algorithm your entire site could receive a site-wide penalty.
You lost all your traffic after a Google update. Now what?
Google implements Core Updates a few times a year. These can be large changes that can have a big effect on your ranking positions. Some sites may receive site-wide penalties and drop out of the rankings entirely.
What do you do if your site has been negatively impacted?
Focus on your content.
Focus on ensuring you are providing the best content you can.
In summary, your content should provide the following:
- Be fresh and original, ensure you are not duplicating content from another site
- Offer a thorough and exhaustive description of a topic
- Present an insightful analysis or provide compelling details that go beyond what is readily apparent
- Does your content utilize external sources without simply duplicating or rephrasing them, but rather adding significant extra worth and novelty?
- Does the headline or page title present a clear and useful synopsis of the content?
- Would you consider bookmarking, sharing with a friend, or recommending this page to others?
- Does the headline or page title refrain from being sensational or overstated?
- Do you believe that this content is appropriate to be included in, or referred to, in a printed magazine, encyclopedia, or book?
To summarize, Google is asking are you an expert in a niche and are you using your experience and expertise to provide helpful, reliable and authoritative answers to user’s questions and queries.
It’s recommended to read directly Google’s advice about focusing on content.
Avoid creating content for search engine first
First of all, SEO is a useful practise when applied to people-first content. In this scenario you apply SEO techniques to content that is written for people.
However, content written primarily with search engine rankings in mind correlates strongly with content that readers find unsatisfactory.
How do you avoid creating content that is aimed primarily at satisfying search engines rather than people?
Write content for people then optimize for search engines.
Don’t produce lots of content on different topics in the hopes you can rank well for something.
Don’t use extensive amounts of automation and AI tools to produce content. AI tools are useful for outlining articles, proofreading, and idea generation. Read more on the AI for website owners.
Don’t summarize other people’s content without adding any extra value.
Don’t just write about what’s trending instead write about important topics and subjects for your readers.
find a niche and stick to it.
Don’t leave readers feeling they have to search again after reading your content. Ensure you provide comprehensive answers to the topic or subject you are writing about.
Don’t write to a particular word count. Write enough content to thoroughly cover the topic and provide useful, helpful content to the reader.
Don’t write about a niche unless you have enough experience and expertise to provide useful, relevant and helpful content to your readers.
Site wide signal
Google’s update introduces a new site-wide signal for helpful content.
Google will process all your content and determine whether each page is helpful or unhelpful. Too many pages that are classified as unhelpful will cause Google to apply a site-wide penalty to your website.
Google’s helpful system will penalize content that has:
- little value
- low-added value
- content not particularly helpful to those doing searches
Be aware, because of the site-wide penalty, even good content that Google determines is helpful could lose ranking positions because of the presence of unhelpful content on your website.
For this reason, removing all unhelpful content from your website could help restore and improve the rankings of your helpful content.
The site wide signal is weighted. What does that mean? It means, the more unhelpful content found on your site the bigger the sitewide penalty will be.
The helpful content system runs continuously. Fix your site and your rankings well improve.
Conduct a Content Audit
You can conduct a web audit to determine the quality of your existing content. Determine, for each page, whether it contains any unhelpful content (not people-first focused content) and remove it.
If you are suffering from a site-wide penalty then remove the content immediately. You can always work on the content and re-publish at a later date.
SEO tools can quickly audit your entire site for you. This allows you to identify the pages that should be removed or reworked quickly.
Improve Content Quality
By now, the importance of creating high-quality, original content that meets Google’s standards can be well understood.
Consider creating content using the following steps:
- generate content ideas (use AI tools to help or do competitor research)
- do keyword research to ensure their is enough monthly search traffic and the difficulty isn’t too high
- create a first draft of your content
- add images and other visual elements (bold sections, add subheadings, callouts, quotes etc)
- refine your writing to improve it’s readability and clarity
- proofread your content looking for spelling and grammar errors
- publish your content and request indexing (use Google Search Console)
- check your other published content for internal linking opportunities to your new content
That is only a suggested set of steps. Create your own set of steps to follow each time you create content.
Consider using the following tools to help you with these steps. Here are some recommendations:
- SEO and Keyword Research: SE Ranking, other popular tools: Ahrefs and SEMRush
- Proofreading and blog ideas: Chat GPT (read How to talk to ChatGPT, and ChatGPT for copywriters)
- Images: Canva and Midjourney for AI generated images using a text prompt
Allow comments on your blog or website so you can get user feedback on your content. Check your visitor metrics to see which pages are popular and consider rewriting content that doesn’t get much traffic.
I use Clicky for collecting visitor metrics (using Google Analytics is complicated and I don’t have the time to set up and configure it properly).
My analytics is added like this:
How you add an analytics script to your website will vary depending on your software and theme. Generally it only requires adding a script to the bottom of each of your pages.
Incorporate User Intent
To provide helpful information to visitors you should incorporate user intent (sometimes called search intent) into your keyword research.
I’ve talked in more detail about the importance of search intent for bloggers before. Please be sure to read the article for a more comprehensive discussion of the topic. In brief users have a few intentions when searching, these are:
Writing your content knowing the underlying intent of the search will make your content more helpful and therefore less likely to be penalized by Google.
Optimize for Search Engines
While your content needs to be people-first that doesn’t mean people only. Once you have written your content for people then it is fine to optimize for search engines (SEO).
SEO is a huge topic, here is an article giving you some SEO tips and tricks to get you started but you will need to devote some time to studying and applying SEO techniques to boost your ranking potential.
I hope you found this article useful. Here is a quick summary of the main points:
- Google’s Helpful Content update boosts people-first content
- Content written primarily for search engines will be penalized
- Too much unhelpful content on your site will result in a site-wide penalty
- Audit your website for unhelpful content and remove it
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