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Google’s new Helpful Content Update – What We Know so Far

Nicki Betterbid

After adjusting to Google’s May “Core Algorithm” update, webmasters, digital marketing professionals, publishers, and content writers must now be prepared for next week’s launch of Google’s “Helpful Content Update.” Digital marketing teams must take this algorithm update as seriously as they did “Panda,” “Hummingbird,” and “Mobilegeddon,” or any other significant algorithm change that had a drastic impact on PageRank.

Google made this announcement on Thursday, August 18th. Its purpose is to help digital marketing professionals find that all-important balance between generating search engine optimized (SEO) content and writing content that appeals to people. With this change, Google is emphasizing what it refers to as “People-First” content.

This means digital teams must move away from prioritizing content for search engines and instead focus on content for people. Google has alluded that people-first content and SEO are not mutually exclusive. They feel that writing people-first content can go together with solid SEO practices. However, how do you find that all-important balance, and what does this recent change mean for your existing and future content pieces?

Don’t Change Anything Yet

We’ve seen this play out multiple times before. Google announces a significant algorithm change. It creates all kinds of online buzz, and numerous industry experts, pundits, and online publications prognosticate what they think the change means and what strategies if any, digital teams should enact. Some are spot on. Others aren’t.

Following these insights often means throwing caution to the wind and enacting strategies from an online resource before fully understanding the impact of the algorithm change. That’s not a winning formula. By now, digital teams have learned that sometimes you must wait to see the change’s impact before making any adjustments. That’s become the norm with most algorithm changes, but sometimes, Google provides important insight before these changes are launched.

Mobilegeddon in 2015 is a perfect example of how Google provided ample insight into what digital teams needed to do to make their landing pages and website mobile-friendly. Google set out a series of essential criteria with this change. Websites and landing pages needed to be mobile-optimized so users could scroll up or down using only their thumbs. Websites also had to adjust to any screen size instantaneously.

Much like Mobilegeddon, Google has provided insight into how digital marketing teams should adjust their content to make it people-first. Now, none of these changes can be enacted before the change goes live, so for now, patience is vital. Wait for the change to take place. See the impact of that change and then follow the following guidelines. Afterward, adjusting your content marketing strategies will be a much simpler process. 

Understanding the “Helpful Content Update”

Google’s intention with this recent change is to improve the quality of content that people consume. While we’ve heard this many times before, there are some important guidelines set forth by Google to ensure you take a people-first approach to your content.

For Google, it’s about connecting people to helpful information. Here are some things to consider to ensure you’re producing people-first content.

  • Would your audience or customers find your content valuable enough to contact you directly?
  • Are you providing first-hand insight, knowledge, and expertise within your content?
  • Is your website devoted to a specific niche, topic, or objective?
  • Does your content help solve a problem or help move someone towards solving that problem or achieving their goal?
  • Will people feel satisfied or accomplished after reading your content?

Think of the most common problems or concerns your customers have. Your content should immediately address these concerns and provide ready-made solutions. List content or step-by-step content helps readers understand how to go about identifying and solving issues. How-to content is also helpful in outlining a given concept and itemizing impactful ways to accomplish goals.

Contrary to popular belief and multiple online resources, Google doesn’t have any preference for content length. They don’t rank word count. This idea of generating content that is only 300 or 500 words should be ignored.

Producing content at that length without providing the insight readers need accomplishes nothing. Therefore, be sure your content is long enough to provide your readers with the information they need to walk away satisfied. The goal should be to avoid situations where users need to consume more content from other sources after reading yours.

  • Does your content focus too much on being found by search engines and not enough on solving problems?
  • Have you produced redundant and repetitive content to increase the likelihood of being found in search engines?
  • Are you relying on writing automation software to rank higher in search engines?
  • Are you simply repurposing content to rank higher in search engines?
  • Are you covering common topics without offering anything new in terms of insight or value?
  • Are you writing content about trendy topics unrelated to your niche, market, or customers?
  • Does all your content fall into a specific word count?

Don’t make the all-too-common mistake of focusing too much on being found by search engines. Each of these questions above should give you immediate pause about your content. Each of them is geared towards content whose sole intention is to rank higher for a given keyword, keyword phrase, or topic. Digital teams that enact these types of content pieces are only trying to appeal to search engines.

There are multiple online resources that provide SEO grades for content. They’ll outline a plethora of keywords and keyword phrases to be used within the content. Most of these are based upon high-volume search terms. Content writers and digital marketing teams often try to force feed these keywords and keyword phrases into their content as a means of ranking higher in search engines.

They achieve a high SEO grade but the article or content itself is completely unreadable. There is no natural flow to the article. It doesn’t address a concern. It doesn’t provide answers or any solutions. It’s just redundant keywords and phrases joined together with the sole intention of producing content that will rank higher.

Common-Sense Solutions from PBJ Marketing 

At PBJ Marketing, we focus on the best strategies to help increase our customers’ online footprint. We don’t opt for the cheapest or fastest solution. Instead, we deep-dive into who our customers are, whom they serve, and how best to help them reach their audience.

Our focus is simple: increase customer engagement with proven strategies that put you one step closer to your customers. If you would like to see just how we can help, contact us now.