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2022

Google’s New Helpful Content Update Will Change SEO (Again)

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A picture of Google's New Helpful Content Update Will Change SEO (Again) with The King Of Search

Google’s “Helpful Content” update is positioned to change SEO as we know it again.

This new update, which began rolling out in late August (and is actually still rolling out as we speak*) encourages webmasters to create high-quality, helpful content that meets the needs of searchers.

*Update 9/12/2022

Google has confirmed that the helpful content update is now finished rolling out. The update took 15 days to roll out, starting on August 25 and ending on September 9.

“Isn’t that what we’ve been doing all along?” you might be asking.

“Isn’t that what Google Panda did?” you may be positing.

“Doesn’t something change with Google’s algorithms every other day?” you might be musing aloud, to no one in particular.

All extremely valid questions, my friend. But allow me to explain why this new update is different—and why you should pay even more attention to this one than some of the others.

Google Panda did crack down on low-quality content, and its effects are still in place. They’re “baked into” the algorithm at this point—a raisin in the proverbial banana bread. The Google Helpful Content update was specifically targeted to weed out other low-quality content that has been dominating search engine results recently. Things like:

  1. Poor-quality, inaccurate, or incomprehensible procedurally-generated content (Don’t worry, we’ll explain what this is in a little more detail later.)
  2. Affiliate marketing sites that rely on thin content to rank
  3. Those clickbait articles that make you click through 72 slides to find out what happens when a baby duck sees a kiddie pool full of water for the first time (Spoiler: He sips from it.)

Why did Google feel the need to release this “quality control” update? Why don’t they focus their unlimited resources on something more important, like building some kind of “meta-verse” that literally nobody wants?

Well, apparently, Google’s been getting some user feedback about the abysmal quality of their search results lately. (Cue that emoji with the shifty eyes.) Enough so that they’re really making a big effort to nip this problem, and drastically improve the experience of their users (presumably so everyone doesn’t stop using Google and flock back to AltaVista)

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty damn good about this Helpful Content update. It seems like Google is getting more serious about quality control. And that can only mean good things for those of us who produce high-quality, helpful content.

A picture of Google's New Helpful Content Update Will Change SEO (Again) with The King Of Search

So, how will Google Helpful Content affect SEO? Here are some things we’ve gleaned from the details that have come out so far:

#1 – It means that we need to focus even more on creating high-quality, helpful content that meets the needs of searchers.

For us, that’s business as usual.

If your site is filled with nothing but fluff pieces and poorly written articles, it might be time to change things up. Google is making a clear statement that they want to surface the best content for their users, so it’s time for us to do the same.

What does helpful content look like?

Here are a few examples:

  • In-depth articles that answer searchers’ questions
  • Informative guides that teach something new
  • Useful how-to posts that walk readers through a process step-by-step
  • Entertaining articles that “hook” your visitors and are enjoyable to consume, in addition to being informative
  • Product reviews that actually help people make informed decisions, rather than just telling them “the aggregate review score for this product is 4.3 stars, so we highly recommend you buy it

Basically, anything that’s going to help real people out and provide value. Not things they’re going to immediately regret clicking on.

It’s about providing a great user experience.

As Google says in their Ten Things We Know to Be True:

“Focus on the user, and all else will follow.”

If you’re not sure where to start, a good place is to look at the content that’s already ranking well and see what you can do to improve upon it.

If you can provide more depth, more insights, or even just better writing, you’ll be well on your way to creating the kind of content Google wants to see—and that equals better rankings, which equals more traffic (i.e. potential customers) for your business.

A picture of Google's New Helpful Content Update Will Change SEO (Again) with The King Of Search

#2 – It means that content is now more important than ever.

Remember before when we said content is king? Well, now it’s more like content is god.

If you don’t believe us, just ask Google. They’ll tell you the same thing.

If you’re not publishing helpful, informative content for your business, you’re going to fall behind.

And if you’re not sure what kind of content is helpful or informative, just ask yourself this question: Would I want to read this if I were looking for information on the topic?

If the answer is no, then it’s probably not going to be helpful to anyone else, either.

#3 – Procedurally-generated content is no longer going to dominate top search results.

What do I mean by procedurally-generated content?

This is the kind of content that’s created by computers, often with very little human input.

Lately, it’s stuff that often looks like this:

  • “5 Eye-Opening Gadgets for the Busy Mom on the Go (That You Will Love!)”
  • “Do You Love Adorable Hedgehogs? Then You’ll Love These 10 Images of Adorable Hedgehogs”
  • “5 Incredible Places to Store a Leaf Blower (You Will Be Shocked)”

(Spoiler: #4 is “on the floor.” Shocking!)

You get the idea. It’s not exactly Pulitzer-worthy stuff. Hell, it’s not even NaNoWriMo-worthy. But Google’s been giving this stuff a lot of unintentional love lately, probably because it’s easy to produce and there’s a never-ending supply of it.

Thing is, visitors hate it.

A picture of Google's New Helpful Content Update Will Change SEO (Again) with The King Of Search

And with the Helpful Content update, Google’s making it clear that we’re no longer going to stand for it. While Google hasn’t specifically said that sites will be penalized—more that sites with useful content will be rewarded—I have a strong feeling that a lot of penalties are going to be quietly handed out as well.

As with Google Panda, sites that are filled with thin, low-quality content are going to get penalized. So if you’ve been relying on useless procedurally-generated content to get by, it’s past time to start thinking about a new SEO strategy.

Google is once again rewarding content that is optimized for usefulness, not content that is optimized for gaming the system. (That Google Shyster update was very ill-advised, in retrospect.)

#4 – The effects of the Helpful Content update will be site-wide, not content-specific.

This update is designed to improve the overall quality of search results, and its effects will be applied site-wide. So, if Google detects that your site as a whole is filled with low-quality, not-useful-at-all content—you can expect your traffic to drop like a stone.

On the other hand, if your site is full of high-quality, helpful content, you can expect to see a nice bump in traffic.

This update is going to have a major impact on the way people find and consume information online—and that’s a good thing. We need more quality control in the world of SEO, and Google is finally starting to provide it.

A picture of Google's New Helpful Content Update Will Change SEO (Again) with The King Of Search

#5 – The impact of the Helpful Content update will be felt almost immediately.

Google has been pretty tight-lipped about the details of the Helpful Content update, but we know that it began rolling out August 25th, and is expected to take about 2 weeks to finish rolling out.

That means we can expect to see the full effects of this update very, very soon. And, based on what we know about previous Google updates, those effects—good and bad—are likely to be felt by businesses almost immediately.

So, if you haven’t already, now is the time to start thinking about the quality of the content on your site.

Make sure that the content you’re publishing is helpful, informative, and interesting.

You know, the kind of stuff that visitors and your customers actually want to read.

If it’s not useful, change it.

Your business depends on it.

What can you do to make sure the content you’re publishing on your company’s site is up to snuff? Here are some general tips:

  1. Make sure your content is well-researched and informative, or at least interesting. Try to make sure every piece of content answers a specific question or addresses a specific need. Avoid publishing low-quality fluff just for the sake of posting content—those days are long over.
  2. Write in a clear, concise style that is easy to understand.
  3. Use plenty of headlines, subheadings, and bullet points to break up the text and make it easy to scan—literally, nobody wants to read massive blocks of text.
  4. Use thoughtfully-selected images, infographics, and videos to supplement your written content and make it more engaging and visually-appealing.
  5. Pay attention to your site’s overall design and user experience. Is your site easy to navigate and use? Is the content easy to find and read? Or is it a cascading nightmare of shifting layout elements and modal pop-ups every 6 seconds? (If in doubt, ask a good buddy to take a look and give you their honest opinion.)

Are you ready for the Helpful Content update? If you need help getting your site’s content up to Google’s new standards, The King of Search is here to help—Get in touch with us now to learn more about our full-stack digital marketing services, and how we can help your business benefit from Google’s latest algorithm update.

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