Google unveiled the so-called “helpful content update” to promote content that prioritizes people not search engines. Here’s how it can affect your company’s digital marketing.
How Google’s Helpful Content Update Will Impact Your Business’ Digital Marketing Efforts
Tech giant Google has completed rolling out its latest algorithm tweak called “helpful content update” as part of a wider effort to prioritize people-centric content. This change reflects the perpetual challenge among digital marketers to constantly adapt to changing practices–what might have worked five years ago may no longer apply today. As complacency is the biggest enemy of a marketer, here’s everything you need to know about Google’s helpful content update, how it might impact your content, and how to use the new algorithm to your advantage.
What Changes Were Introduced as Part of the August 2022 Update
The helpful content update began on August 25, 2022 and was completed on September 9, 2022. Google said the main objective of this change is to “better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.” The update urges marketers to “create content for people, not for search engines” and targets high-ranking content built primarily to satisfy Google instead of human searchers.
The update is affecting Google Search and adopting a site-wide signal to determine content with little value or not helpful at all. Through a machine-learning model, Google automatically classifies unhelpful content, including those from newly launched sites. If unhelpful content is detected, it will send a signal to local search engines to pull down its ranking. It is, however, possible to rank well for people-centric content even if the site it is from has been detected with too much unhelpful content.
How Google’s Helpful Content Update Will Affect Your SEO
Despite uncertainties in the lead-up to the completion of the algorithm tweak, most SEO marketers, including those handling multilingual SEO, received the rollout not with a bang but a whimper. International SEO experts said the helpful content update has so far less impact than other algorithm updates such as Panda, which was introduced in 2011 to counter black hat SEO. Most apparent impacts are said to be limited to websites for lyrics and ringtones, which are often generated content.
What is Considered Unhelpful Content
Examples of unhelpful content #1: AI-generated SEO
Generally, there are two types of content that Google considers “unhelpful.” The first one refers to copy generated using technology. AI-generated content remains a contentious topic among international SEO experts because while it helps a website rank well in local search engines in terms of relevancy score, quality, ethics and plagiarism are concerning issues. According to Google’s webmaster guidelines, content generated using AI tools will be flagged as spam and incur a manual penalty. This is similar to spun-off copy where a human writer uses synonyms, paraphrasing, and other tactics to spin off original writing. In its latest guidelines, the tech giant warned that using automation to produce extensive copy on a range of topics may result in being classified as unhelpful content. Overall, if your website is heavily reliant on articles created by AI tools, be prepared to be on Google’s radar.
Examples of unhelpful content #2: Google-friendly but unuseful
The other type refers to Google-friendly content written by humans but often employs old SEO practices in hopes of improving the click-through rate such as keyword stuffing or article spinning. Content like this often combines multiple topics into one site and mixes and matches information from other sites without adding new insights.
What is Considered Helpful Content
In contrast, your content will be considered as helpful if it is comprehensive and answers the readers’ questions. Popular content formats that employ this strategy are interviews, product or service reviews, anecdotes and testimonials, and first-person narratives.
Your site’s user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) will also affect your SEO efforts and Google ranking. Some things to consider are the structure with easy-to-spot call-to-action buttons, mobile-friendliness, loading speed, and navigation.
How to Align Your Website With Google’s Helpful Content Update
1. Write for People, Not Engines
The core component of Google’s helpful content update is to incentivize digital marketing agencies, including SEO service providers, who think of their users first before creating content. Make sure that your content speaks from a first-hand experience, displays deep knowledge about the topic, and gives the readers a sense of satisfaction once they exit your page.
2. Identify Unhelpful Content and Update
Conduct a site audit to see if you are guilty of producing unhelpful content. Focus on pages that are likely to cause an issue, starting with your content calendar, relevant tags, and categories. Once you have identified your problematic pages, you have the option to edit, rewrite, classify as no index, or remove them altogether.
3. Prioritize Content Transparency
If articles with clickbait headlines helped boost your click-through rate before, that may no longer be the case with the latest algorithm tweak. Make sure the rest of your content will revolve around your headline and give the readers added knowledge after going through your site. Your audience’s interests should take priority over keywords and word count. To build your topical authority, boost your link-building efforts by connecting with other reputable websites.
4. Focus on Niche and Add Value to Audiences
In its update, Google reminds content providers to stick to their area of expertise and avoid tackling too many topics at once. Revisit who your target audiences are and ensure that your content revolves around their interests. Focus on facts and stay out of topics with uncertain answers. Older Google ranking practices such as link building will continue to help by boosting the authority of your website.
Have an SEO Audit and See if Your Site is Producing Unhelpful Content
Worried that your site might be affected by Google’s helpful content update? Or that you might be unknowingly producing search engine-centric copy? Digital marketing agency New Digital Noise will help you weed out bad copies and media and turn it into people-centric content that will help you rank better. From creating SEO-friendly copy to improving click-through rate, link building, and more, our Hong Kong digital marketing agency has the best solutions for you. Book a free consultation with one of our local search engine and international SEO experts now to know more.
Q1. Will the update influence the ranking of Chinese and multilingual SEO websites?
Google said the helpful content update will begin with global English searches before expanding to other languages “in the future.” While no definite time has been set for Chinese websites, it appears that those practicing multilingual SEO outside English can take a breather for now.
Q2. What to do if your site’s ranking drops?
The update does not give a manual “penalty” but rather a “signal.” Luckily, you can still remove this classification and improve your content as well as your ranking. Once Google’s classifier has identified that your content improved over a few months and is now considered “helpful” based on their threshold, the downgrading signal will either be reduced or removed.