Google’s Helpful Content Update: What It Means
Google’s mission is to put user experience at the centre of what they do, and its latest ‘Helpful Content Update’ is designed to do just this. This sitewide content specific update rewards sites that are created, “by people and are for people”. The algorithm assesses whole sites to see if the content is useful for users and not designed primarily for search engine optimisation. The results of the helpfulness audit will have a direct impact on a website’s Google ranking.
How Does the Helpful Content Update Work?
Google is using Machine Learner (ML) classifiers to assess websites. In particular it is looking for what it deems ‘unhelpful’ content, such as: keyword stuffing and AI produced literature. It also targets content which uses a scattergun approach to hit trends and zeitgeists, and anything designed to attract computers not humans.
Any unhelpful content detected will result in a lower SERP (Search Engine Results Page) ranking. The algorithm is looking to reward human created content that is geared towards a satisfying experience for your site’s intended audience. Sites with a clear audience, which share expertise and experience with a human touch, may well find themselves moving up Google rankings in the next few months.
What You Need to Do to Your Website
As this is a sitewide signal it is important that the whole of a website be reviewed. Google has indicated that even some unhelpful content can affect rankings. It appears that unhelpful content is more damaging than helpful content is beneficial.
It is important to remove unhelpful content sooner rather than later, as this could have a significant impact on a site’s performance.
Measuring the overall user experience and how users interact with sites, will enable firms to assess how useful it is for their intended audience. Metrics such as CTR, time on page, bounce and exit rates, give an indication of how a website is providing value for its visitors. We have our friendly SEO team at Bobble who can help you with this.
Google has produced a set of questions to audit the helpfulness of a site’s content:
- 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?
- Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?
In addition to the above, Google has produced Google’s Search Quality Rate Guidelines on what it classifies as a good webpage and a good website.
What is Unhelpful Content?
Unhelpful content is content that is geared towards machines rather than people. AI generated content is a big part of this as are the old SEO Black Hat tricks such as, key word stuffing, invisible text, doorway pages, page swapping, and blog comment spam. Google is now actively looking to demote sites it detects doing these as they have no benefit to user experience and are designed solely for search engine optimisation.
Google warns that answering yes to even some of the below means a site needs to reconsider its content:
- 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?
The rollout was complete as of the 9th of September 2022, meaning that Google is now continuously checking and assessing sites. The bad news is that if a site is deemed to be unhelpful it can be several months after the unhelpful content is removed before Google reassesses it. Businesses reliant on Google rankings should waste no time in auditing and assessing their sites now.
Contact us today for more information on optimising your website and see how our team of experts can help you.