This could be massive for a lot of website owners…
Google just announced the launch of an upcoming search engine ranking signal called “helpful content update.” This new signal should start rolling out around the 25th of August 2022, and this is a site-wide signal.
Google has published a detailed guide about this upcoming “helpful content update.” Here I have summarized Google’s post, along with some of my tips to prepare for this upcoming algorithm update.
What’s Google’s helpful content update all about?
This update is all about rewarding content that focuses on people first. According to the official page
The helpful content 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.
Google has long recommended publishers to create high-quality content while keeping SEO in mind. However, lately, we have seen the rise of AI writing tools such as Jasper that could generate automated content that looks real and is SEO friendly, but at the same time offer bad advice, as it is machine-generated.
At the same time, some publishers are working with low-quality writers and generating only SEO-friendly content without having any real value. In my opinion, this new signal is targeted toward all such content, which is written only for search engine and does not add real value to the users like you or me.
How to know you satisfy Google’s helpful content updates?
Google has published a set of questions, and if you answer “yes” to them, then you are on the right track. Here are those questions:
- 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 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?
Let’s decode some of the questions listed above.
- Question number 2: It seems to reward people who create content based on experiences. Using actual product picture, travel photographs, and personal anecdotes should give a better signal to Google.
- Question number 3: This IMO is for niche websites, as multi-niche websites do not have a primary focus. There might be an exception when you are targeting a group with your multi-niche websites, such as “students,” “ex-pats” and so on.
- Question number 6: As publishers realize that writing reviews are a gold mine for affiliate conversions, they are churning out a lot of content. This question focuses on the recently published Google guidelines on product reviews. If you have not gone through it, this is a good time to revisit it.
Warning sign for search engine-only content:
Google is not against the on-page SEO or creating SEO-friendly content. However, the problem is that publishers focus solely on the search engine and do not keep their end users satisfied.
In this section, Google has shared a list of warning signs if you say yes to these questions:
- 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? (My comment: Content cannibalization is something you might want to pay attention to)
- 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 mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
- Does your content promise to answer a question that has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?
How to keep track of Google’s helpful content update rollout:
Google has published about this signal on 18th August 2022 and suggested the roll out should happen in a week’s time, which is 25th August 2022. You can monitor Google’s search ranking updates page to get notified when this and other future updates will be rolled out.
This rollout should take about 2 weeks, and I suggest brace for a volatile August end and September beginning.
However, there are a few things that you could do meanwhile to ensure your website is not impacted by this update.
- Remove your outdated and un-helpful content. If you are deleting some outdated content, the video below will help you spring clean the SEO residue.
- Update the existing content by comparing it with other pages on the web. Ensure your page is better than other pages for the target query. This doesnot have to be an SEO comparison but an overall quality comparison.
- Optimize your website home page to offer a clear value proposition. Use Social proof whenever possible to help your readers understand why they should believe you.
- Improve the internal links, which is a proven positive SEO signal. It helps the search engines understand the context of your entire website.
If you have been creating content based on experience, keeping users in mind, and talking help of SEO best practices, you have a little to worry about. However, Google search engine update rollout is never 100% perfect, and a good website could often become a victim of the rollout.
This upcoming update is completely automated and is not a manual action. If your website is impacted due to Google’s helpful content update, you need to do a complete audit of your content and take the right action. It could take 2-3 months to see your website recover.
IMO if your website content is worthy and you are focusing on your readers, you should be ok. If you find yourself on the other side of the fence, instead of worrying, try to see why Google has penalized your website and re-work to improve the content quality and give better signals.
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