Google’s ‘helpful content’ update – What needs done?

Google's helpful content update is much-needed effort to weed out unnecessary toxins from search results across the internet.

Written By Anil Kumar P.

On Last updated Sep 12, 2022
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Anil brings immense value to the digital marketing space as a techno-marketer with 30+ years of experience. He understands both eco-systems – technology and marketing. Digital marketing is the love of his life & he has been pursuing it for over 20 years. His other interests areas are Artificial Intelligence, Expert Systems, Sustainable Technology and Coding.

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Read time: 9 minutes

Announced on Friday 19th August, 2022, the helpful content update from Google is to roll out from 25th August, 2022, and it would take about 2 weeks to fully roll-out. Official launch date is yet to be announced.

As of now, this update will only effect the English language websites, however, this could change in the future. Google has termed this as a ‘meaningful’ update and said that it would profoundly effect technology, entertainment, education and shopping domains. As of now, we do not know the percentage of searches this could effect.

Marketers have began taking steps towards aligning their content to the impending (a lot of experience goes behind using this word :)) update. One of my favourite marketers  @cyrusshepard tweeted:

helpful content update

And, my favourite tech-marketer @rustybrick tweets…

helpful content update

Here is his amazing video…

Why the helpful content update?

Google has been collecting loads of date from its feedback link on its search page, other links and social media about the quality of search results across audiences.  Results say, searchers are not happy with what they are finding and this is Google’s attempt to improve the search quality.

How helpful content update works?

First, this update is slated to be a site-wide update, which means that it will effect the entire website and change ranking signals across all the webpages in there. The helpful content update will identify content that has low or no significant value to the searcher, automatically. This means that websites hosting content created solely for ‘SEO’ will be penalised.

What is unhelpful content?

“Tackle content that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines.”

“Help make sure that unoriginal, low-quality content doesn’t rank highly in Search,”

Google

Any website with pages containing unhelpful content, written solely for search engine rankings will perform poorly in search, hereon. This is reason enough to remove those pages unhelpful content, so that the other pages on the website containing helpful content could rank better.

How to classify?

This helpful content update will classify websites containing unhelpful content and apply this signal. Since the classifier is going to run continuously, coming out of this classification will take a few months to come out of. After long-time monitoring (validation of several months) of the classified website and if unhelpful content does not return, the classifier will stop applying. 

How the update classifier works?

“Continue refining how the classifier detects unhelpful content and launch further efforts to better reward people-first content.”

“A natural question some will have is how long will it take for a site to do better if it removes unhelpful content? Sites identified by this update may find the signal applied to them over a period of months. Our classifier for this update runs continuously, allowing it to monitor newly launched sites and existing ones. As it determines that the unhelpful content has not returned in the long-term, the classification will no longer apply,”

Google

The classifier is fully automated and it does not come with any manual actions. However, Google has not specified a time-line on this classification, and is not expected to be specified. To add, it is a site-wide signal making it mighty harmful to thin-content websites and the ranking degrade could be quite harsh.

The effect of classification will depend upon the ratio between helpful content and unhelpful content on a website. Classification will depend on this ratio. So, more the helpful content, less the signal weightage.

So, websites that exist on the basis of ‘SEO’ will need proper pruning to survive and prosper beginning now. The content on such websites is normally thin and offers little or no value to the reader.

Will the helpful content update change SEO forever?

Did the ‘panda’ and ‘penguin’ updates change the way we practice search engine optimization?

helpful content update

According to our experts, the helpful content update will change content strategies across the board. Remember how the Penguin and Panda updates changed content and link strategies respectively, a few years ago? This update, we understand along with most marketers, will be a successor to the Panda update and have a similar bang with a different flavour.

How does it hit you?

The tremors will hit the Google search planet and not on other Google surfaces, but it will spread quickly. Being a site-wide update, it is imperative that we audit the content across the website and just not the webpages that have thin content. SEO content creation will not be the same again after the helpful content update.

Being a site-wide update, SEO tweaks or tricks like moving thin-content pages to a sub-domain or to other folder will not work. To add, a #noindex tag will be of no help because it does not prevent Google from looking at those pages. The only way out is to remove the content classified to be unhelpful or make it supremely helpful.

“Any content – not just unhelpful content – on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search, assuming there is other content elsewhere from the web that’s better to display. For this reason, removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.”

Google

Content marketing will change forever!

What kind of content should you create?

“How can you ensure you’re creating content that will be successful with our new update? By following our long-standing advice to create content for people, not for search engines. People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilising SEO best practices to bring searchers addition value. Answering yes to the questions below means you’re probably on the right track with a people-first approach:”

Google

“How do you avoid taking a search engine-first approach? Answering yes to some or all of the questions is a warning sign that you should reevaluate how you’re creating content across your site:”

Google

Google asks these content questions. concisely, we think the following is the best pruned list.

The questions:

  1. Is your content focussed on attracting visitors from search engine results?
  2. Are you using AI content or any other automation to produce content on varied topics?
  3. Is the objective of creating content is to rank better on search engines? 
  4. Are you rehashing other’s content with adding any value to it?
  5. Is your content holistic or are your visitors looking to search again for the same information?
  6. By the way, Google doesn’t have a word count, are you counting words to keep search engines happy?
  7. Are you an expert on your topic or just skimming it for search engine performance.
  8. Is your content answering questions or just beating around the bush?
  9. Is your content ingenue meaning you lack expertise in what you are writing?
  10. Do you keep Google’s core updates and guidance for all kinds of content you create?

Does your content need a revamp?

Besides answering the above questions, does your content meet the wants and needs of the visitor? Or does it meet the search intent?

We have already discussed the classic classification of search intent in our article on search intent optimization. Besides the broad intents we discussed there, there are certain sub-intents that you will need to consider while creating or revamping your content.

We have a guide to understanding helpful content update and answering Google’s questions – a part of this update

4 Wants of the visitor

As a part of the sub-intents we discussed above, we can classify wants of a visitor as 

  • Want to know – Visitors looking for information. Also called the ‘know’ query.
  • Want to do – Visitors looking at DIYs and How-Tos. Also called the ‘do’ query.
  • Want to buy – Visitors looking to purchase something. Also called the ‘buy’ query.
  • Want to go – Visitors in local search looking to go somewhere. Also called the ‘visit’ query.
6 Needs of the visitor

We do not exactly call these wants, but these are the emotions that a searcher experiences going through the search process. Besides satisfying intent, the content should help connect to the searcher emotionally. Emotions affect search behaviour directly and understanding these emotions is critical to your content marketing.

  • Help: The visitor needs help and thus wants to connect through a search.
  • Surprise: The visitor surprises himself with more possibilities or could be entertaining.
  • Thrill: The visitor is adventurous and finds new ideas or possibilities.
  • Reassurance: It reassures the visitor to find answers because of the search.
  • Education: Education or learning new things through searching can be a very satisfying experience for an inquisitive visitor.
  • Satisfying: The visitor is impressed and happy with the way his search has gone once he or she finds the required information.

Adhering to the above simple and straight-forward rules to tweak your content can get you into Google’s featured snippets with ease. Getting into ground “0”SERP is now easier but not guaranteed,

Let us know if you need a content revamp across your website for helpful content update. We will be happy to discuss and our team will do a prefect job of it.

Search intent – Our unique perspective

Google’s core web vitals update from 2021 is absolutely in line to create a level playing field that will fulfil its objectives along with this helpful content update. In it’s objective towards organizing the world’s information, Google is going ahead with its plans to consolidate its search supremacy with great aligned objectives that will remove the unneeded stuff from its index and help create a neutral, honest and a level-playing platform.

helpful content update

Search intent optimization, when taken into account with this update makes a lot of sense. When search intent is taken into account along with SEO and executed with the above content guidelines will help create valuable content in line with the helpful content update. This will go a long way in ensuring that you top the search engine rankings with honesty (white-hat).

It would now be easier to create an awesome, long-term marketing strategies that will go a long way in giving you expected results creating a sustainable business. All in all, a better bang for the buck.

Think about it, talk to us for help.

Conclusion…

If you have any questions, please ask them on the comments. We will keep you updated on developments of this helpful content update. Keep watching this space.

The above quotes by google were published at Search Engine Journal on 18th August, 2022.

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2 Comments

  1. Colonel Achal Sridharan

    How would I know if our website is Search Intent Optimised or Search Engine Optimised? Especially for me who is not Tech savvy?

    Reply
    • Anil Kumar P.

      Hi Colonel,

      To ascertain that, we would need to do a site audit in conjunction with buyer journeys that have been mapped before or, audience profiles that have converted well in the past. Search intent optimization is a part of search engine optimization, only it helps place converting keywords across the marketing funnels helping buyers to convert better.

      Again, all this after ascertaining user intent and analysing converted customer heat maps.
      Do, let us know, if you need help on that.

      Thanks
      Anil

      Reply

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