As we all know, Google Search is always working to better connect people to helpful information and in continuing this mission, they have launched their Helpful Content Update in part of their efforts to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, within our search results.
What does this mean for marketers and content creators?
Your normal reaction might be “great, just another thing I need to worry about and adapt our marketing efforts to.” But if you are truly marketing to your customer, Google Search’s new Helpful Content Update should just require a few tweaks on your part.
Focus on people-first content
The Helpful Content Update was created to better reward content where visitors feel they've had a satisfying experience verses content that doesn't meet a visitor's expectations. The later won't perform as well. To ensure you are creating successful content with the new update follow Google’s long-standing advice and guidelines.
When creating people-first content, focus first on creating satisfying content that incorporates SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value. If you can answer yes to the questions below, it means you are on the right track with a people-first approach:
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 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)?
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?
Avoid creating content for search engines first
Having a people-first approach to content does not invalidate following SEO best practices. SEO is most helpful when it's applied to people-first content. However, content created primarily for search engine traffic is strongly correlated with content that searchers find unsatisfying.
To avoid taking a search engine-first approach, if you can answer yes to some or all of the questions below, take it as warning sign that you should reevaluate how you're creating content across your site:
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?
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?
Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you'd get search traffic?
Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there's a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn't confirmed?
How the update works
The update started rolling out last week and is estimated to talk two weeks for it to be completed. This update introduces a new site-wide signal that Google consider among many other signals when ranking web pages. Google’s systems will automatically identify content that seems to have little value, low-added value or is otherwise not particularly helpful to those doing searches.
Any content, not just unhelpful content, on a site determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search.
This update will impact English searches globally to begin with a plan to expand it to other languages in the future. Over the coming months, Google will also continue refining how the classifier detects unhelpful content and launch further efforts to better reward people-first content.
The classifier process is entirely automated, using a machine-learning model. It is not a manual action nor a spam action. Instead, it's just a new signal in a list of many used by Google to evaluate and rank content.
How long will it take for a site rank better once unhelpful content is removed?
Identification of sites can happen over a period of months. You see, Google’s 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.
This means some people-first content on sites classified as having unhelpful content could still rank well if there are other signals identifying the people-first content as helpful and relevant to a query that is being looked at. Also, the signal is weighted. Sites with lots of unhelpful content may notice a stronger effect. In any case, for the best success, be sure you've removed unhelpful content.