Updated: Aug 8
Most content creators have known it for some time, but until now have gone about creating content in much the same way as they always have – search engines before people.
But who really wants an internet full of content where 'us', the readers/visitors are secondary, and the answers to our queries not relevant or satisfactory?
Thankfully, Google feels the same way…
That’s why, in August 2022 the ‘helpful content’ update kicked in, a change to the algorithm designed to devalue content created exclusively for search engines and promote genuine helpful content.
What is helpful content?
Despite what some people might think or suspect, Google’s main aim is to ‘better connect people to helpful information’. Which basically means, delivering helpful content, written by people, for people.
So, in short, helpful content is what the term suggests – content created to be helpful. A huge simplification? Well yes, there is a bit more behind the meaning, but in this case, keeping it simple is key.
How do you know if you’re creating helpful content?
You’ve spent ages creating all that content, so it’s only natural you want it to be successful and to perform well, but how can you tell if your content is satisfying Google’s helpful content update?
This is where Google have come to the rescue and produced a document that lists a number of questions to ask yourself about your present and future content.
We’ve re-written and expanded on the list below, but feel free to click over to the original document, which you’ll find here
1. 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?
To put it simply, this means when writing any content, including blog posts or web pages etc., are you adding content that really would excite your visitors, or are you writing it (and stuffing it with keywords) with no real thought for the reader at all?
Look at it like this – would you be interested in what you’re creating? As an authority in your industry, if you were to come across that blog or web page you’ve written, would you look at it and think ‘that’s original’, or would you think ‘seen it all before’?
2. 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)?
You understand your industry. You know the ‘lingo’, the ‘geek speak’ etc., so when someone who doesn’t really get it but claims to get it, writes a piece about it, it’s glaringly obvious, and as a result rarely provides anything satisfying or new to read.
So, go through your content, including web pages and blog posts, and ask yourself, does it give a genuine behind the scenes look at your industry, expand on details of a product and/or service that only a real user would know, or is it simply ‘hire us or buy this’?
3. Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
Online trends are hard to ignore, especially when you see others seemingly capitalising on them. We’ve all seen those websites and blogs that have a primary subject but start veering off topic the moment a big trend breaks.
We can’t be more direct here – ignore trends unless they relate directly to your ‘primary purpose or focus’. If you run a car mechanics, don’t post a blog about the latest superfood, even if you do tenuously link it to carburetor care.
4. After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they've learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
This is about finishing. You’re not writing a soap opera with a tantalising cliff-hanger. You’re writing content that delivers an answer in the most complete and satisfying manner, a piece that answers all the readers' questions and more.
To make sure your content satisfies this part of the helpful content update, scrutinise each piece, and if it finishes without delivering a decent answer, either unpublish it or rewrite it, adding answers to questions your competitors haven’t thought of.
5. Are you keeping in mind guidance for core updates?
A ‘core’ update is an update Google implements that’s significantly broader than their usual daily updates, and it's recommended these updates are kept in mind if you’re creating content as professional, or as a business that wants its content to rank high in the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages).
Most content creators however (in our opinion) don’t need to panic too much about core updates, as long as they’re creating helpful content following Googles guidelines. Yes, algorithm changes may mean your site loses its lead in the SERPS, but it might also mean it jumps ahead.
If I add helpful content, how long will it take for my website to rank higher?
If you make the changes listed above and follow all of Googles guidelines for creating helpful content, you’ll likely start seeing changes within a few months.
However, even if your content is helpful, if a competitor is providing something better, you may not notice any significant changes – which goes to show, creating amazing content is always worth the effort.
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Source: Google Search Central