Google Updates are what every SEO dreads. They appear, out of the blue, and change how we understand search engine marketing. They represent major and fundamental changes to how Google views the internet – and as a result how it chooses to portray search results to users. Google’s latest update – the Helpful Content update – may be the most significant yet, with massive repercussions on how Search Engine Optimisation works. Google’s big idea is to make sure that content is ‘people-first’. What does this mean in practise, and how can you tell if your content is ‘helpful’ or not?
The Helpful Content Update
First things first, what is the Helpful Content Update (HCU), and how does it actually change things? We need to try and understand how Google sees the internet – and how it views attempting to optimise your site.
Google views the internet through the prism of whether a user is satisfied with the results of their search query. As far as we understand, Google wants a searcher to feel like they have found a satisfying answer to their search as quickly as possible. If they are searching for a product, this means showing that product at the top of search results. If the user is searching for the answer to a question, then can Google present them with the answer easily – preferably in the form of a featured snippet.
The way that Google decides whether a site contains the answer to a search query is through its concept of ‘Helpful Content’. From now on, the content on sites will be judged by whether they are ‘helpful’ to users or not. Obviously, terms like helpful are subjective. This means that Google needs to provide a definition of what is helpful and what isn’t.
Broadly speaking, Google doesn’t want you to do SEO. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use any form of Search Engine Optimisation, but it does mean that you shouldn’t try to optimise your site exclusively for search engines, rather than building them primarily for people.
What Sort of Content is Affected?
Google Updates are not generally targeted at specific types of content. Instead, they are general site-wide updates, aimed at all websites on the internet. However, certain types of content will be affected more than others by the changes in the HCU. These are primarily:
- Tech Updates
- Arts and Entertainment.
Google wants you to be able to demonstrate direct expertise on any subject you write about. These are the topics that Google has identified as being the most likely to contain inaccurate or misleading information. According to the HCU notes that Google has put out, content on your site needs to demonstrate a clear ‘first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge’. The examples that they give show that posts written exclusively to rank on search engines do not demonstrate a depth of knowledge, and will henceforth be ranked lower.
What you Should Do
Google’s advice is always somewhat unhelpful – so in that vein, here is some equally unhelpful advice – write good content. In less facetious terms, the best way for your content to rank highly on Google is to write the best page. In Google’s estimation, that means:
- Knowing what you’re on about – Your content needs to give people the answers they are looking for, in a way that demonstrates your clear understanding of the topic.
- Having a target audience – you need to know who you’re writing for, and produce content that is likely to meet that audience’s needs, not everyone in the world.
- Answering Queries – you need your content to actually provide an answer. Don’t write a blog to answer a question that doesn’t have an answer yet!
What You Shouldn’t Do
The fundamental message of the HCU is that you shouldn’t try to produce content that doesn’t have a genuine purpose. Content that has been written solely to try and rank for particular keywords is not considered ‘Helpful Content’. However, this is not the only metric that Google has determined to rank poorly. They might also consider:
- Are you using extensive automation? – Google wants you to be producing genuine content that expresses your expertise, not using bots or content farms to produce as much content as possible with the hope of ranking.
- Are you just saying what everyone else says? – Some topics have a lot of content already written on them on the internet. If all you are doing is summarising these other articles, without adding anything new, your content doesn’t count as helpful.
- Do you not have a genuine answer? – Some sites like to answer questions that don’t actually have an answer – such as proposed release dates for films. This is to try and catch attention from searchers, but doesn’t actually solve their search query.
How can you React?
As far as we understand, it is perfectly possible to still produce content that will rank for particular search terms. As much as Google insists that it wants us all to write whatever we want, and it will sort everything out into the right positions, it is still based on algorithms, not on subjective criteria like ‘good writing’. This means that it is more important than ever to have people create your content who are as familiar with Google criteria as is possible.
At Gumpo, we are specialists in producing the sort of content that Google understands as helpful. We know how to write content on almost any topic as if it were our own niche – while still hitting Google’s definition of useful and well written content. Whether you write about bathroom designs, or financial planning, we can produce content that can help you rank on any topic you like.