Google’s Helpful Content Update: What it Means for Your Site

On August 18, 2022, Google announced that it will be launching the helpful content update “to tackle content that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines rather than to help or inform people.”

It is expected that there will be significant shifts in the search results from this update. According to Google, the goal of this update is to improve search results by making sure that unoriginal, low-quality content doesn’t rank highly in Google search. In order to keep the search results relevant and helpful, this update will weed out content “designed to attract clicks rather than inform readers.”
Google has identified that this update will especially improve results in the areas of online education, as well as arts and entertainment, shopping and tech-related content.

The search engine released the helpful content update on August 25, 2022, noting that the rollout could take up to two weeks to complete.

How not to get penalized

In a blog post by Google, the search engine warned that web publishers should avoid creating content for search engines first. Instead, websites should focus on creating content for people first. This means creating content intended to give solutions or answers to what people are searching for.

How do you know that you are creating content primarily for the search engines and not your visitors? According to Google, answering yes to some or all of the questions is “a warning 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? (No, we don’t).
  • 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?

Google’s Helpful Content change is not page-based but site-based. If your website gives unhelpful content as determined by the above questions, your website is at risk of getting negatively ranked in Google search results.

Google’s Push to Improve Content

Google has long been tweaking their algorithms to reward sites with good content and push down, if not altogether remove, low-quality sites with poor content.

The Panda update that first rolled out in 2011 resulted in a major upheaval in Google search rankings and set the bar for site quality. This algorithm change introduced new signals designed to remove web spam and content farms that created uninspired content targeted to search engines. Content farms that scrapped the internet for information to create thousands of pages designed to rank high in Google proliferated back then. In a blog post, Google revealed that the Panda update with punish low-quality sites and reward sites that produces high quality content

 This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.

Another important update that focused on content was the Google Quality Update launched in May 2015. Google didn’t immediately acknowledge the update nor did it give specifics as to what this update targeted other than “how it assesses quality.”

Google continues to improve the quality of its search results by pushing refreshes of these algorithm changes targeting low quality content, from content farms to product reviews. In April 2021, Google released a new search ranking to reward “product reviews that share in-depth research, rather than thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products.” Another product review update was released in March 2022  aimed to prioritize in-depth and authentic reviews with evidence of products actually being tested.

Through all of the various algorithm changes, Google has always emphasized the following basic principles in creating content as specified in their Search Optimization Started Guide:

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
  • Don’t deceive your users
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.

How Growth Skills can help you

Major Google updates such as this can have a massive impact on many websites. Given that the changes are still rolling out, oftentimes it is not easy to make the determination how your site has been affected (if it is). Remember though that Google’s updates can appear immediate for some websites, but take longer for the rest to see the impact.

At Growth Skills we specialize in helping brands grow in highly regulated markets like cannabis, CBD, alcohol, finance, fintech, gambling, sports betting etc. Our strategies and content has always had to be better than good.

We strictly follow Google Webmaster Guidelines in improving search traffic and developing content for clients. We also focus on creating engaging content like calculators and widgets that are designed to attract the intended audience while demonstrating expertise and depth of knowledge on the topic.

For example:

  • Strain Pages: We built strain pages on Flavor Fix that talk about cannabis strain information but also show you what food, music and alcohol the cannabis strains pair with. No other website on the internet has this and the feedback from website visitors is that they love that information.
  • Calculators: We also focus on building interactive calculators and widgets that are inherently useful. Widgets like this CBD Dosage Calculator for Flavor Fix helps website users find information that is specific to their needs. For a brand it improves website metrics like time on site which shows Google that people spend time with the content we develop.

If your website has been affected, there are a number of ways Growth Skills can help you. Growth Skills specializes in helping brands strengthen their digital presence through an integrated approach that includes search and content marketing.

Growth Skills can help you plan how to correct and gain back the rankings that you lost due to this update, and work with you to create the type of content that Google loves. From doing in-depth analysis of your search engine traffic to a deep dive of your content strategy and analysis of the competitive landscape, Growth Skills can help you improve your reach online and engage audiences. Request a proposal today and let Growth Skills help increase the quantity and quality of your traffic organically.

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