Neil Patel

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How Does Google’s Helpful Content Update Impact SEO?

How does Google's Helpful Content Update impact SEO?

Have you heard about the uproar of algorithms on the internet in recent history? Google recently released a new update that is shaking up the SEO world. The Helpful Content Update, as it is called, is designed to reward websites that produce high-quality content.

This update has caused a lot of confusion and speculation in the SEO community, so I decided to put together this piece to help break it down.

This article will explain what the Helpful Content Update is and how it will impact your SEO efforts. Keep reading to learn more!

What is Google’s Helpful Content Update?

Google’s Helpful Content Update is a new algorithm update that is designed to reward websites that produce high-quality content written for people.

Here’s how they expressed it in their own words:

Google's Helpful Content Update

But what do they mean by “primarily to gain search traffic?”

In the past, many companies have written articles to rank high in SERPs. While this can be great for website traffic, are they really driving traffic from people who have intent to buy? Content written strictly with SEO and keywords in mind often lacks a human touch. It’s more focused on how many times a word that someone is searching for will be used in their piece than the value it offers their readers.

When content is written for people, value is the priority. The article focuses on providing the information the reader is looking for and making it easy for them to digest. While keywords can be included naturally, the content is much more focused on the human components than on SERPs rankings.

In order to be considered high-quality, content must be informative, well-written, and provide value to the reader. This update responds to the growing trend of publishing low-quality content online.

How often have you searched for something online, only to click on a result and be immediately disappointed? This happens all the time, and Google is trying to fix it.

With this update, they are essentially saying, “if you want to rank high in our search results, you need to produce helpful content.”

How To Achieve High SERP Rankings For SEO With The New Update

To achieve high SERP rankings with the new update, you need to focus on creating helpful content. It sounds simple on paper, but requires a plan to execute properly.

Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Write For An Intended Audience That Will Find Your Content Helpful

Before you start writing, it’s important to know who your audience is.

Who are you writing for? What are their needs and wants? What kind of problems do they need help solving?

A graphic of side view of a head with a target and arrow hitting bullseye along with animated people looking at it.

Your content should be designed to help your target audience in some way. If it doesn’t, then it’s not going to be considered helpful by Google, and you won’t see any benefits in your SERP rankings.

Here are Google’s thoughts on what makes a piece of content relevant for a given user:

Google's thoughts on what makes content relevant for the user.

So keyword usage is one thing, but relevant adjacent content as well as the intended audience of your content all factor in.

So how do you know who your intended audience is? If you already have a website or blog, take a look at your Google Analytics data. This will give you insights into who is currently reading your content and what kinds of things they are interested in.

Look at their demographics such as age, location, and language. You can also see their behavior, like whether they are new or returning visitors and whether they are mobile or desktop users. Each of these details can help give you better insight into who your intended audience is.

If you don’t have a website or blog yet, then you’ll need to do some research to figure out who your target audience is. Try searching for similar businesses or products online and see who they’re targeting. This will give you a good starting point.

Will Your Audience Members Feel Satisfied After Reading Your Content?

One of the best ways to gauge whether or not your content is helpful is to ask yourself this question: will my audience members feel satisfied after reading this?

If the answer is yes, then you’re on the right track. If the answer is no, then you need to make some changes.

Keep in mind that being satisfied doesn’t necessarily mean that your readers will be happy with every single piece of content you create.

A graphic using a pie chart and data to determine if content is king.

It’s impossible to please everyone all the time. However, as long as a majority of your audience members feel satisfied after reading your content, then you’re doing something right.

For example, if you run a blog about cooking, a helpful article might teach your readers how to make a new dish. They might not be perfectly satisfied with the recipe, but if it’s helpful and they learn something new, then they will likely feel satisfied overall.

On the other hand, an unhelpful article would be one that doesn’t teach your readers anything new. It might be poorly written, or it might regurgitate information that they already know.

Either way, an unhelpful article is not going to satisfy your readers, and it’s definitely not going to satisfy Google’s Helpful Content Update algorithm.

Create Content With First-Hand Expertise

When it comes to creating helpful content, it’s important to have first-hand expertise.

In other words, don’t just regurgitate information you’ve read elsewhere. Instead, share your own experiences and insights.

Your readers will be able to tell if you’re an expert on the topic or not, so it’s important to be honest. If you’re not an expert, that’s okay! You can still produce helpful content by doing your research and sharing what you’ve learned. Not everyone will be a subject matter expert, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide valuable information.

However, if you claim to be an expert when you’re not, your readers will likely see right through it, and you won’t be considered helpful by Google.

Here’s how I communicate my expertise on every blog I put out:

Image of Neil Patel and his bio.

As soon as you start a blog, you instantly know who I am, what I do, and what I’ve done in the digital marketing world. Not too shabby.

But more importantly, it establishes my expertise in the world of digital marketing.

Everyone needs content in one way, shape, or form. Check out my article, packed full of great content writing tips, for more help on creating your content.

Be Sure Your Site Has A Primary Objective Or Purpose

Every website or blog should have a primary objective or purpose.

For example, a cooking blog might have the primary objective of helping people learn how to cook. A travel blog might have the primary objective of helping people plan their dream vacations.

Having a clear primary purpose will help you create truly helpful content for your target audience.

If your website or blog doesn’t have a primary goal, take some time to figure out what it should be. Once you have a clear purpose, you can start creating content that aligns with that purpose and will be considered helpful by Google. This task fits neatly with finding your ideal audience.

Be Up To Speed On Google’s Updates and Guidance For Product Reviews

If you want to create helpful content, it’s important to be up to speed on Google’s updates and guidance for product reviews. In the e-commerce industry, product reviews are the main driver of buyer behavior and may live on multiple pages of your website.

This includes understanding Google’s policies on affiliate links, endorsements, and sponsored content. By understanding these policies, you can ensure that your content aligns with what Google is looking for.

Additionally, you can avoid any potential penalties that could be imposed if your content doesn’t meet Google’s standards.

For example, let’s say you run a blog about cooking. You decide to write a helpful article about the best cookware for beginners.

In your article, you recommend three different sets of cookware, and you include affiliate links to each one.

Can You Still Make a Living Off Affiliate Marketing? The TRUTH About Affiliate Marketing

However, what you didn’t realize is that Google only allows affiliate links in product reviews if certain conditions are met.

This includes:

  • Your website should provide valuable and unique content separate from links.
  • You should be transparent about declaring affiliate links for users and search engines. It’s important to also check local regulations regarding affiliate links.
  • For search engines, site owners should use the rel=”nofollow” or rel=”sponsored” link attributes to declare an affiliate link.

If you’re unaware of these conditions, your article could be penalized.

However, if you’re up to speed on Google’s guidelines, you can avoid this potential penalty by ensuring that your article meets all of the requirements.

To avoid this type of situation, make sure you’re up to speed on Google’s latest updates and guidance. This way, you can create content that meets their standards and is truly helpful to your readers.

Be Sure To Refresh Old Content

I want to share a poll that went out shortly after the update went live in early September:

A poll on Twitter asking businesses if Google's Helpful Content Update is impacting their websites.

Initially, the impression was that the “worst offenders” were the sites hit hardest by the update. However, given a little more time, we’re seeing plenty of credible sites that saw notable changes. See below:

When my team was looking at the Helpful Content Update’s impact, we made sure to start close to home with some of the biggest names in the digital marketing industry. Here’s some data we found:

  • Moz saw an 11.1% drop month-over-month in August for total keywords
  • Search Engine Journal saw an 11.97% drop month-over-month in August for total keywords
  • HubSpot’s blog saw a 8.55% drop month-over-month in August for total keywords
  • Backlinko saw a 8.72% drop month-over-month in August for total keywords

Chances are that a lot of you know of or follow these sources along with my blog. So you know that they are putting out regular streams of useful content. So what went wrong here?

It boils down to old content.

If you put a blog out about marketing trends 2 years ago, it may not have the same value to the reader today. The Google Helpful Content update can deem these older examples of content as “un-useful.” Suddenly, that bank of legacy content is a negative versus a positive.

My team got the message loud and clear, and realized we need to work hard and fast to update old content to make it useful once again.

In some cases, that means sunsetting or redirecting content that is similar to newer, more effective content.

Note that you don’t have to be in digital marketing to have this issue. Any industry that moves quickly, like fashion, tech, or medicine, runs the risk of content going from helpful to unhelpful just like that.

You don’t want to wait too long to get doing this, either, as it takes time to recover from those penalties. Google explains that “sites identified by this update may find the signal applied to them over a period of months. Our classifier for this update runs continuously, allowing it to monitor newly-launched sites and existing ones. As it determines that the unhelpful content has not returned in the long-term, the classification will no longer apply.”

FAQs

Does updating content improve SEO?

Yes, updating your content can improve your SEO. Google prefers websites that have fresh, relevant, and engaging content. By regularly updating your content, you’re signaling to Google that your website is active and worth ranking. Updates can include updating and removing broken links, removing any mention of a previous date or year, and updating old images.

How often should I update my content?

There isn’t a hard and fast rule for how often you should update your content. The most important thing to remember is that updating keeps your content fresh and relevant.

A good rule of thumb is to revisit pieces at least once a year. If you have a trends article for a specific year, set a reminder to come back to that piece and update it for the next year.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do look at your website traffic to see what posts are being read and not read. You’ve created all this content, don’t let it go to waste. Updating it will give signals to Google that it’s helpful and will help with your rankings.

How can I make my content more helpful?

One of the best ways to satisfy Google’s Helpful Content Update is to focus on creating evergreen content.

Evergreen content is the type of content that is always relevant and useful, regardless of the date it was published.

Some examples of evergreen topics include:

  • How-to guides
  • Lists
  • Tips and tricks
  • Product reviews

By creating evergreen content, you can ensure that your content is always relevant and useful to your audience.

Additionally, you can update your evergreen content on a regular basis to keep it fresh and up-to-date. This will show Google that your content is always relevant, which will help improve your SEO.

What are Google updates in SEO?

Google updates are changes that the company makes to its algorithms. These updates can have a major impact on your SEO, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on them.

Some of the most recent and significant Google updates include:

Does Google like new content?

Yes, Google does like new content. In fact, one of the best ways to improve your SEO is to regularly publish fresh, relevant, and engaging content.

New content signals to Google that your website is active and worth ranking. Additionally, it gives you an opportunity to rank for new keywords and phrases. Just be sure not to duplicate content across your site. If you find any, use this article for help removing duplicate content from your site.

Conclusion

I want to share a poll that went out shortly after the update on Twitter:

The Google Helpful Content Update is a significant change that will impact SEO efforts. By understanding what Google is looking for in terms of helpful content, you can ensure that your content meets their standards and avoids any potential penalties. The age of writing to please an algorithm is over, you need to write for people.

Google’s Helpful Content Update should highlight that no matter what industry you’re in, your content should always be useful to your audience first and foremost.

What changes are you making in the wake of this update?

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