What Google’s Helpful Content Update Means For Your Website

A website displaying many colorful text on a computer screen, offering helpful content updates.

In its never ending quest to give searchers the best, most useful search results possible, Google recently launched its new search algorithm. Known as the Helpful Content algorithm update, this update is meant to positively impact websites that publish genuinely helpful content, and is slated to have a significant impact on search results. Here’s how it works.

What is the Helpful Content update?

According to Google, the main goal of this update is to reward websites that write content for people, and penalize those who write primarily for search engines. Content that’s written specifically with the goal of ranking well is often not particularly helpful or useful, and these are the websites that will likely see penalties as the dust settles. While this update finished rolling out on September 6th, algorithm updates usually take some time to show the full scope of their impacts on search rankings.

Google shared a list of helpful questions for content creators as they assess their sites in the wake of the Helpful Content update:

  • 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?
  • Is your content primarily meant 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, they 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?

What does it mean for you?

As you read the list of questions Google published, assess your content with a critical eye. It’s important to note that this is a sitewide update, meaning that this update doesn’t just impact individual pages on your site. Even if you have a significant amount of content that is helpful, having unhelpful content will still cause those pages to be hit by this update, so make sure you look at everything. 

If you’ve been doing search engine optimization (SEO) for a while, this update won’t come as much of a surprise. Google has been championing people-first content and design through many updates over the years, so writing thin content designed to rank well and not do much for the humans who visit your website isn’t going to do you much good. However, if you’re brand new to SEO and you’re realizing your website has unhelpful content, it’s time to think about a redo.

We Can Help

Not sure how your website will fare through the Helpful Content update? Tired of being surprised by algorithm updates? We hear you. Our team of experts have been building websites for the last 20 years, and we’ve seen it all. Set up your free consultation today.

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