Google Helpful Content Update: What You Need to Know
Written byPatricia Pelegri CalderínSEO Content Manager
On August 25th, Google began rolling out its “helpful content update”, a process that would take two weeks, and which is now complete.
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, which means that it could impact your whole 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.
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 that has been written only for rankings and without the user in mind, removing it from search results. At the same time, it will reward sites that have created content based on the interest of their audience.
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, were of poor quality, and/or 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 the way SEO was done and strategies based on best practices started to be implemented. It is now part of the core of Google's algorithm, which allows it to show results that are of higher and higher quality.
The helpful content update is an extension of Panda. One does not replace the other, although they seem to have very 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 a series of questions that will help you detect whether the content you are offering your audience is helpful or not.
If your answer to any of the questions below is no, it’s time to carry out 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 they came directly to you?
2. 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)?
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 in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?
"If you have unhelpful content, it's going to be a bad strategy for success."
The importance for businesses to create helpful content (as defined above) already existed and hasn’t changed. It’s just even more important now.
Now, this does not mean panicking and making quick and, perhaps, rash decisions that could end up damaging performance.
This new algorithm reinforces that we need to focus on a people-first strategy, and stay away from black hat techniques that infringe on the best practices recommended by Google.
It is a way of realizing that it is better to focus our efforts on creating engaging content and making our audience fall in love with our expertise and quality content, rather than trying to manipulate Google.
How is the Update Impacting SEO Performance?
For the moment there is no need to be alarmed because although some websites have been affected, the impact is not very high.
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.”
How to Prepare for Google’s Helpful Content Update
Offer Quality Content & Meet Users’ Needs
If we promise that when they click on our result 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, something that makes Google satisfied and therefore have a greater chance to improve rankings.
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 in order 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.
Review Existing Content
It is very easy to lose control over all the content written and published on a website, especially when there is a blog created for it. Many times people 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, something that can affect its classification and consideration by users.
It is important to keep in mind that not only Google is interested in fresh content, but also our audience and it is something that 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.
Focus on Purpose
When you obsess about getting traffic to your website, it is easy to get side-tracked 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 a lot of 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.