As with any major update to its search algorithm, Google's Helpful Content Update caused quite a stir and its fair share of confusion. Below, we explore what exactly has changed, why Google has made the changes, and what the impact of those changes has been.
What Is The Google Helpful Content Update?
The only major update to Google's search algorithm in 2022, the Helpful Content Update, is designed to "better reward" content that meets a user's expectations. In other words, if your content answers the question that led a user to it - it was helpful - then it's likely to perform better in Google's SERPs.
In Google's own words:
"People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value."
This latest Google algorithm update will – for the moment – only impact English language content, but it will most likely be expanded into other languages in the future.
Importantly, the helpful content update is a sitewide change that could impact the performance of your entire website.
So, for example, If you have a site with 500 blog posts and 50 of them are considered “unhelpful”, it could negatively impact the performance of your entire website.
How Will The Helpful Content Update Affect SEO?
Naturally, there has been a lot of discussion about how this new update will affect websites. It is even questioned whether this update will be similar to what happened with Panda, where there was a drastic drop in the rankings of many websites offering low-quality content.
For this reason, the article below will…
1. Address frequently asked questions
2. Discuss the impact this algorithm is having so far
3. Share practical and actionable tips to help you better prepare
Why Has Google Launched the Helpful Content Update?
With this update, Google is aiming to devalue content written only for rankings and, without the user in mind, remove it from search results. At the same time, it will reward sites that have created content based on their audience's interest.
And it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The algorithmic change brought by this update fits perfectly with Google’s ongoing effort to serve content that aligns with user expectations. For Google, it is crucial that when someone uses its search engine, they leave satisfied.
Google Helpful Content Update vs. Google Panda
Google Panda is an update Google launched in February 2011 created by Google Engineer Navneet Panda. Its primary aim was to tackle websites that offered plagiarized or duplicate content, misspelled words, was of poor quality, and/or was considered spam.
Many websites were penalized by this algorithm update and lost their position in the SERPs, but many others were rewarded for their quality content and rose in the rankings.
Google Panda changed how SEO was done, and strategies based on best practices started to be implemented. It is now part of the core of Google's algorithm, allowing it to show higher and higher quality results.
The helpful content update is an extension of Panda. One does not replace the other, although they seem to have similar central objectives - to reward high-quality content.
What is Helpful Content, According to Google?
At this point, you are probably wondering how you can know whether your content is helpful or not. And a good place to start would be to develop an understanding of Google E-A-T, one of the guidelines Google uses to assess whether your content is of value to readers.
Beyond creating a good basis of knowledge, Google recommends asking yourself questions that will help you detect whether the content you are offering your audience is helpful.
If your answer to any of the questions below is no, it’s time to conduct an internal audit of your website. Consider removing any content that doesn’t align with what Google is looking for or what your users need.
1. Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if it came directly to you?
2. Does your content demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise from having used a product or service or visiting a place)?
3. Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
4. After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they've learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
5. Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they've had a satisfying experience?
6. Are you keeping our guidance for core updates and product reviews in mind?
Although it is still too early to establish correlations and draw conclusions, there is some relevant information to share about the update’s initial impact.
A week after launch, Sistrix noted that “the update has not (yet) presented the expected shifts in the search results.” However, it noted that…
“A potential case is the domain foodandwine.com: it has lost Visibility in both the US and the UK as of the date of the update. If you go deeper into the analysis and check with which keywords the site has lost rankings, you will find that in terms of content these are rather thin
recipes – some of them even many years old.”
4 Ways to Survive Google’s Helpful Content Update
1. Offer Quality Content & Meet Users’ Needs
If we promise that when they click on our results, they will find certain information when they land on that page, they must find what they are looking for and leave satisfied with that search.
This will prevent a high bounce rate, improve the time on the page, and improve the user experience, which makes Google satisfied and therefore have a greater chance to improve rankings.
2. Don't Get Obsessed With Word Count
Although the number of words in an article is important to avoid offering poor content, there is no exact rule that says how many words an article has to have to rank in Google.
It is more important to satisfy that search by creating useful and complete content for the user than to obsess over the number of words. The most important thing for a long time has been to focus on writing for your audience, something that Google will like and could help to improve rankings.
3. Review Existing Content
It is easy to lose control over all the content written and published on a website, especially when a blog is created for it. People often make the mistake of not reviewing everything that has been published.
We have come across many cases in which a lot of content was outdated, published years ago, which can affect its classification and consideration by users.
It is important to remember that not only Google is interested in fresh content but also our audience, which should not be neglected.
So, it is key to carry out a thorough audit of the current content that exists on your website to consider updating and even removing what is no longer useful to your audience.
4. Focus on Purpose
When you obsess about getting traffic to your website, it is easy to get sidetracked from its primary goal and lose sight of who your audience is.
Often, less is more, and it is better to have less quality content than poor content.
The key is to show that our content fits the purpose of our website and demonstrate expertise by sharing fresh, valuable, and useful content for users.