Google's Helpful Content Update, and what to do about it

September 26, 2022

Dull, copycat content at the top of a search results page… That’s what Google is targeting with its recent Helpful Content Update.

As they put it: content created primarily for search engine traffic is unsatisfying. So they’re tweaking the algorithm to reward content that is useful, insightful, satisfying.

We think this is great news. Yet we’ve noticed some nervous social media chatter between content marketers about the update.

If you’re already creating thoughtful, targeted, effective content that’s fun to read, you should be excited about the update! And if you’re a paint-by-numbers SEO hacker, it’s not too late to change your ways.

So let’s take a look at it, to make sure you can be excited… or get on the path to excitement.

🤖 Google’s Helpful Content Update explained

Google releases updates throughout the year. Some are targeted at discrete components (eg. product reviews) while others are broader (eg. “core” updates).

The Helpful Content Update is sort of in between. It’s targeted at content quality, but ‘quality’ can be a hard thing to pin down.

So Google’s main prescription for this update is: think of quality content as “people-first content.” Basically: pages written for humans, not search engine bots.

According to Google, people-first content…

  • Is useful to your audience
  • Demonstrates first-hand expertise
  • Provides a satisfying reading experience

The kind of content it seems to be describing is rooted in very basic marketing fundamentals: knowing an audience, solving their problems, speaking their language.

🏄 What you can do

Take a read through Google’s guidelines for high-quality sites.

Then ask yourself:

  • Are you creating content that fits this criteria?
  • How can you improve your existing content by these standards?

The list of questions on the guidelines doc is pretty long. Even the most competitive content teams could probably find at least one area to improve. Here are a few standouts:

Does the article provide original content, research, or original analysis? Basic takeaway: each piece should have something unique, even if it’s just point-of-view.

For top-funnel content, this can mean simply including a section that describes your brand’s perspective on a given pain point or technology.

If you do have some original research or white papers in the library, consider finding ways to weave that data into existing posts throughout the sales funnel to enhance their insights.

Is this article written by an expert… or is it more shallow in nature? Basic takeaway: involve a subject matter expert in the creation of every post.

That doesn’t mean engineers need to write every post. But interviewing subject matter experts (SMEs) in the process is essential – especially if the writer isn’t an expert.

A quick 15-minute chat can inform the angle of a new post. And a few choice quotes can be inserted to existing posts.

Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend? Deep in your heart, you know the answer to this one. Stay honest.

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