Google’s core update, the ‘Helpful Content Update’, rolled out back in August 2022. But this wasn’t the last we heard of this update.
If your business only publishes great content, then you have nothing to worry about with Google’s helpful content update. And, from studies by other sources, there wasn’t too much upset across the board back in 2022.
But, there is a key lesson with this update. Google, and other search engines, have a real focus on what we call ‘user experience‘. In other words, your content should be helpful to real people and their search queries. Search engines want to give humans the best possible experience.
The content you put out on your website is responsible for user experience.
Google’s second helpful content roll out in September 2023
In September 2023, Google rolled out more updates around the helpful content update from the 14th – 28th.
The update was altering AI and third-party content guidelines.
Google says this update includes an improved classifier and brings several significant changes to the Helpful Content System, designed by Google to promote people-first content and demote content written for search engines.
I doubt this is the last we’ve heard of of the ‘helpful content update’
Google will be rolling out more like this one, with a core focus on content quality.
With the huge boom in popularity of AI content, content quality will always be Google’s main priority. Using AI content isn’t frowned upon by Google, all they care about is the production of quality content.
Use AI right and you can create high quality content. Don’t make the mistake of solely relying on AI to write your content.
If you’re a client of ours or a regular reader of our blogs, I’m sure you have nothing to worry about
Those of you who have been reading our blogs, I hope, for your sake, you listened and actually published ‘people-first’ content. Or at least got a seasoned professional to write awesome content. Or used AI to create your content in the right way.
Here’s what you need to know about the helpful content algorithm update from Google.
Table of Contents
What was the helpful content update in 2022?
The clue’s in the name – Google wanted to show more ‘helpful content’ to humans and their search queries.
Google’s aim is to connect users on search to original content that is written by real people for real people. They want to reward content creators who give their visitors a satisfying experience.
The guidance has always been there from Google on how to create great quality content and still respecting the values of SEO.
For content creators, the goal should always be to create satisfying content that embraces SEO best practices, and gives value to searchers.
Any website that pushes out a lot of ‘low value’ content that has been unsatisfactory to users, will be negatively impacted by the update. This scoring will be done automatically through machine learning without any need for manual input.
This new helpful content update has been designed to flag up content that’s been made for search engines only. This means anything written with a misuse of SEO tactics will be targeted and punished.
Test to see if you’re producing good content
In their blog, Google released these questions to ask yourself as a content creator to weigh up if you’re producing good original content.
Answer yes to these and you should be all good with the update:
- Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
- Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
- Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
- After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
- Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
- Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?
Only producing content for search engines?
Then your website might be negatively hit when this update rolls out.
The update is not invalidating SEO best practices, it’s reaffirming how SEO is meant to be.
Google have described SEO ‘as a helpful activity when applied to people-first content.’ Creating content purely for search engines however, according to Google (and from content I’ve witnessed during my time, I might add), ‘strongly correlates with content that searchers find unsatisfying.’
Again, Google provided this list of questions to see if you may be creating ‘search-engine first’ content rather than ‘people-first’ content?
Answering yes to some or all of the questions is a warning sign that you should reevaluate how you’re creating content across your site:
- Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
- Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
- Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
- Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
- Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
- Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
- Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t).
- Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
- Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?
When did the update get rolled out?
Back in August 2022, followed up by a second update in September 2023.
Google updates do take some time to roll out entirely, they always take a couple of weeks to complete.
What the update means for your business
Google has always prized content for people first. Clear mention of this can be found in Google’s own user guidelines. For example, the use of ‘site quality algorithms’ are in place to find and promote ‘high quality sites’.
In short, this means Google has always loved anything written to provide value to other people. Original blog posts, interesting website copy, landing pages that offer an awesome experience, engaging services pages, and any other original content on a website.
If you already write great content with an aim to help people, your site should be entirely unaffected by the new policy!
Only those websites that push low quality content, such as repeat copy and self-targeted messaging, that will notice the effect of this automation on their rankings.
If you are hit hard by the update then it’s time for you to change your thinking around content and how much you value it.
Be honest with yourself, does your content help people?
It’s quite simple to tell if you truly respect content enough and dedicate the time it deserves.
If you plan your content? Do you:
- Really think about who it is you’re talking to?
- Understand their needs and paint points?
- Can you provide them with a solution and the answers they need?
- Do you write in a way that best relates to people coming to your website?
- Do you follow all the steps to write up high quality content? Or do you work with a professional content writer/copywriter?
Yes to pretty much all of those? Then you my friend are doing a good job.
On the other end of the scale, if you don’t do any of the above points, or you’re working with a cheap copywriter or you’re just repurposing content already out there, this update will catch up with you.
What to do if you have ‘unhelpful’ content?
The Google algorithm continuously scours the web. That means that if you take the time to really respect creating content then you over time can improve your website’s ranking.
Want our advice?
Scrap your low value content. Just delete it. Forget about redirecting it.
If any of your content isn’t helping people coming to your website then it certainly won’t be helping your business.
Need guidance to create your own ‘helpful’ website content? Check out these downloadable templates – created by professional copywriters and marketers. You may be most interested in the Website content writing template.
What you can do moving forward
Simple – respect content creators, the process of creating content, and those coming to your website for help.
Create content that’s truly helpful to those who land on your website. Don’t write content for the sake of it, write content that’s meant to be read and help someone.
Your passionate, helpful, and original content doesn’t need to be stuffed to the brim with SEO.
Not a content creator?
That’s ok, admit it now and focus on how you can make sure you’re creating original, quality people first content.
Whether you’re looking to create new content or you need me to take a look at revamping your website, drop me a message. I’d be more than happy to help you and your business.
Google’s advice if your content is negatively impacted by the helpful content update
“If you’ve noticed a change in traffic you suspect may be related to this system, then you should self-assess your content and fix or remove any that seems unhelpful. Our help page on how to create helpful, reliable people-first content has questions that you can use to self-assess your content to be successful with the helpful content system.
A natural question some will have is how long will it take for a site to do better, if it removes unhelpful content? Sites identified by this system may find the signal applied to them over a period of months. Our classifier runs continuously, allowing it to monitor newly-launched sites and existing ones. As it determines that the unhelpful content hasn’t returned in the long-term, the classification will no longer apply.
Periodically, we refine how the classifier detects unhelpful content. When we do this in a notable way, we share this as a “helpful content update” on our Google Search ranking updates page. After such an update finishes rolling out, and if the refined classifier sees that content has improved, then the unhelpful classification from our previous classifier may no longer apply.”
Why we’re excited about this update
If you’ve ever come across our content previously, then you’ll know just how much we love content. We’re storytellers at heart and we only ever produce content that helps real people and gets them the answers they need.
This new focus on pushing content written by people for people is a great development. I can’t say it’s new, because we and many other top content creators have always believed in this and lived by these values.
Content that’s been written by real people, with a mind to create helpful, interesting, and easy to read copy deserves respect.
We couldn’t be more thrilled to hear that well written, original content is going to be valued for the high quality it really is.
Producing original content takes a lot of work. It’s a skill and now it’s getting the attention and respect it deserves.
Need some support in creating helpful content for your website?
TJ Creative has always been on a mission to create website content that’s useful. The Helpful Content Update will only make that easier to accomplish for businesses like yours.
But if this is a change for your SEO strategy, we’re here to help.
Get in touch with us easily via email to let us know your worries and start creating the helpful content Google wants to see more of together.
Professionally Certified Digital Marketer, Tom Blake, founded his content agency, TJ Creative Marketing Limited, back in 2017. Tom has worked with the likes of Sony Music, BSM, and Checkatrade. Tom’s speciality lies within creative strategy, digital content and user experience. Drop him a message with any questions about your content or digital marketing.
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