At the end of August, the internet was flooded with click-bait level tags like “Google Is Releasing the BIGGEST Update Since Panda in 2011” and “Google’s New Helpful Content Update—You Should Be Worried!”
The news on the grapevine was that Google’s algorithms were on a manhunt to find low-quality sites and demote entire sites that didn’t make the cut. However, in the two weeks since the update first launched, the consensus around the web is that as far as updates go, Google’s Helpful Content update has been rather underwhelming.
Understanding the Update
Let’s cut through the chatter and understand the motivations behind the Helpful Content update. As with many of Google’s updates, the goal is to ensure that content floating around the search engine is helpful, new, and focused toward human searchers more than appeasing search bots. Sites that have a clear site structure and content that satisfies search intent shouldn’t be worried.
The Goal of Helpful Content
The motivation behind the update is to improve user experience. With marketing’s push toward SEO, it can be tempting to gear content toward search engines, but reading content that is clearly stuffed with keywords and formatted for Google can be a frustrating experience. On the other hand, content that is written for people while still following SEO guidelines makes for a much more enjoyable reading experience.
The mindset behind the update is not new. It is part of an ongoing effort to improve searcher experience, a mentality that has fixed Google as the default search engine in the minds of so many, to the point that the company’s name has become a verb that means “to search.” Google plans to achieve their goal by refining the update every few months, each change bringing its own major launch, so keep your eyes open.
How the Update Works
The core principle of Helpful Content is straightforward. Based on a series of ranking factors and statistics, Google marks content as either helpful or unhelpful. If a site has a high percentage of unhelpful content, it will not rank well, and the site is disabled.
Before the Helpful Content update launched, the gossip was that it would punish those relying on AI writers. Simply utilizing an AI writer is not a sure way to get your site pulled. If you are knowledgeable about your topic and only use AI to fill the bulk of your content while you still do your fact-checking and manual editing, then you should be fine.
The update is not considered a manual or spam action, so if your site is pulled, it won’t be flagged, a fact that has increased the anxiety surrounding the update’s launch. However, if your content adheres to Google’s guidelines, your site should have nothing to worry about. Below, we cover a few of the key guidelines to follow to make sure your site stays put.
Is Your Site Safe?
The Helpful Content update is designed to make sure the information mulling around on the internet is helpful and comprehensive. You can guard your site against being pulled by asking yourself a few questions as you upload content.
Does Your Content Adhere to the Purpose or Focus of Your Site?
Sites trying to bring in traffic based on trends and current events should make sure that their content is still relevant to their business or product. For example, internet users are not likely to go to their chiropractor for information about upcoming elections or the trend of gas prices. Content on a chiropractor’s site should center on topics that are relevant to their field.
Do You Have Experience in Your Topic?
In the Information Age, anyone can pose as an expert on anything. That’s one reason that if you search a given topic, the first search page will be full of people saying the same thing in different ways. This is one of things the Helpful Content update is trying to curtail, so to protect your site, you might do a bit of soul searching to see if you are actually creating content or just shuffling around the information other sites have already produced.
The content you upload should not be an amalgamation of what other sites are saying. Add content about topics you can speak on with understanding and new insight. If you can add a new perspective to a given topic based on your training or education, that content is helpful for those seeking to educate themselves.
Is Your Content Geared Toward Search Engines or Humans?
It is not fun to read content that was obviously formatted for a search engine. As you add content to your site, have a heart-to-heart with yourself. If you answer yes to these questions, it’s time to rework your content:
- Are you adding the content because it is trending rather than because you have something unique to add to the topic?
- Are you writing toward a specific word count even though to do so made the content wordy and repetitive?
- Does your content make promises it doesn’t deliver on, such as hinting at but never revealing release dates?
- Does your content leave people feeling they didn’t find the answers they were looking for?
The Helpful Content update is not something to be feared. It is an opportunity for all of us to make sure the information we’re adding to the internet is helpful and worth sharing. For help on creating people-geared content that still ranks well, reach out to Performance Driven Marketing today.