On Thursday last week, Google started rolling out its new algorithm update, aptly named “the helpful content update”. They state that its main goal is to boost content created for people and demote the type of content created for SEO purposes. But how will it affect you?
What is the Google Algorithm?
Whenever you use Google to search for something, the platform uses a combination of algorithms and ranking factors to show you the most relevant results. Depending on the query, the page may contain definitions, locations (with links to Google Maps included), products, answers to your questions or just a list of websites.
Search engine results pages (SERPs) lists are not random, so it is key to know what will make your website go to the top of a specific search. And while Google does not disclose everything, people in the SEO industry always find ways to “artificially” push pages up in the ranking.
In order to provide users with quality results, Google will adjust its algorithms periodically. This leads us to today’s topic: the latest major update, named “the helpful content update”.
What we know so far about the helpful content update
On Google Search Central blog, Chris Nelson stated:
“Google Search is always working to better connect people to helpful information. To this end, we’re launching what we’re calling the “helpful content update” that’s part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.”
So, in order to keep your site ranking as before, your content should be created for humans, not search engines.
He continues to state the update will introduce a ranking signal impacting sites who publish a lot of content with little real-user value. But the good news is that good articles posted by such sites will still be able to rank. Also, for now the rollout will affect only english written content.
Things you should consider
When preparing for the inevitable rollout of this algorithm update, here are a few things to consider about your content strategy:
- Content for people, not search engines – As already expected, try to create content aimed at your target audience, without relying on over-optimized posts. SEO is great, but over-optimized pages may leave real users unsatisfied, especially if they don’t find what they were searching for.
- Satisfying your visitors expectations – By always keeping your visitors in mind (people-first content), create the type of pages they would like to see and read. Provide them with your knowledge and expertise, in an uncluttered and clean way and try avoiding misleading titles.
- Focus on your know-how – Cover only the topics that are related to your expertise. It’s tempting to jump on trends, even if they aren’t your normal content, but this is exactly the type of articles Google is targeting with the update.
- Provide sufficient answers – The desired effect here is to have users leave your website thinking they got what they were searching for: an answer to a question, a recipe, a marketing or branding presentation, etc. They do not care if the recipe reminds you of your grandma, and will probably skip that part of the article anyway.
What to do if you are affected
If you see a decline in your search traffic in the following months, “the helpful content update” might be to blame. So check your topics and see if they go against the guidelines.
You might choose to remove them entirely or just noindex them. And since Google routinely scans indexed websites, the penalties might be retracted.
So, what do you think about The helpful content update?
Will it be useful for real users or will it give Google another chance at diverting traffic away from creators and keeping people in its own pages? Do you feel that algorithm changes will affect your SEO career?