At Big Leap, we can’t stop talking about the importance of high-quality content. And for good reason—content is the butter to the SEO bread. It’s what makes the search engine world go ‘round.
And now, we have a perfect reason for preaching to the choir again. Google has rolled out yet another search ranking update—the helpful content update.
Google’s mission is to make the search experience as user-friendly as possible. And this helpful content update supports this aim by ensuring website audiences receive information “written by people, for people.”
So how will this affect your business? We’ve got all the essential details below to help you fine-tune your 2023 digital marketing strategy.
What Is the Helpful Content Update?
The helpful content update rewards content that provides users with a satisfying experience. The reward? You guessed it—better visibility and rankings. Content that does not meet quality expectations won’t rank as well.
Google launched the helpful content algorithm update on August 25th, 2022, and finished rolling it out on September 9th.
Why Does the Helpful Content Update Matter?
It matters because it could impact your rankings, which ultimately affects:
- Your online visibility
- Your potential to connect with your target audience
- Your perceived trustworthiness
Google’s content update officially solidifies a people-first approach on the search platform. In other words, did you write that content piece to rank on Google, or to help users?
This user-first mentality isn’t new. Google has been nailing down the user experience over the past few years. For example:
- In 2011, the Panda algorithm update devalued sites with thin or low-quality content.
- In 2014, E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) was incorporated into Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines.
- In 2022, An additional E was added to E-E-A-T emphasizing the significance of Experience for content quality.
Thus, the helpful content update aims to further emphasize the importance of quality content and implement that into Google’s algorithm.
How Will the Helpful Content Update Impact Your Rankings?
The helpful content update algorithm aims to promote useful websites intended for humans rather than search engines. It also aims to downgrade sites that do the opposite or fail to offer valuable content to their users.
As a site owner, you may notice changes to your ranking/visibility. If so, review Google’s advice on quality content and what you should do to stay on the search engine’s good side.
Overall, roughly 20% of SEO professionals have noticed ranking changes (positive or negative) since Google’s content update rollout. So the impact of this algorithm update has been mild for most.
Still, it helps to understand what you need to do as a result of the change. SEO is ever-evolving, so you want to be equipped with the right knowledge and tools to help you stay on a good path in the online landscape.
Negatively Impacted? Here’s What You Have to Do
If you’re finding your site is on Google’s bad side after the content update, rest assured. There are three steps you can take to salvage your online performance.
A content audit sifts through key areas of your site to identify:
- Pages/content that can be improved or repurposed
- Any gaps in content and keywords that should be addressed
- Pages that can and should be redirected
Some examples of content issues the Big Leap team has uncovered for clients include:
- Keywords that don’t match audience search intent
- Content that doesn’t match the audience’s tone/voice expectations
- Content that is too high level
- Content that is too surface-level
- Content that isn’t formatted for readability
- Weak calls to action (CTAs)
- Contradicting statements within the same article
- Content that’s too similar to content that’s already out there.
- Outdated stats
- No linking to other internal, applicable pages
- Not posting frequently enough
To help carry out your content audit, consider leaning on tools such as:
These tools will pull relevant content data on your site for you. You can then import this data into the correlating tabs on this content audit spreadsheet template.
While a content audit focuses more on uncovering content opportunities, a deadweight audit centers on what content can be removed/redirected.
The purpose of a deadweight audit is to look for:
- Low-quality pages
- Duplicate content
Those two issues weigh down your site—hence the term deadweight—meaning they can slow down your site, take up crawl budgets, and harm your rankings. Thus, a deadweight audit offers data to help your team decide whether to index those pages/content.
You use deadweight data to make four key recommendations:
- Keep: Content is relevant and brings in traffic and conversions. Pages will remain indexed.
- Improve: Content has the potential to reel in traffic and conversions but could use an extra boost (i.e., optimize keywords, content, CTA, and other best practices).
- Consolidate: Some content pieces can be consolidated. This is especially the case with content that:
- May overlap or be similar to another piece.
- Isn’t bringing in much traffic or conversions. So it might help to consolidate it with another piece of content that is performing well.
- Redirect: Content is performing poorly and should be redirected to another more relevant page. This would improve the crawl budget.
7 Tips for Incorporating the Helpful Content Update into Your Strategy
How should this content update play into your strategy? Here are seven guiding tips on how to weave Google’s new update into your content. Some even come with nifty questions (from the almighty search engine itself) to ask to ensure you’re right on track.
1. Stay Focused on Subjects You Are Confident In Avoid Covering Multiple Topics
In other words, don’t take a scattered-shot approach and write about something just because it’s trending or you simply want to earn a high-ranking keyword. Stay focused on a topic you’re confident in and can provide value on. on one topic at a time. This grants you the time and opportunity to:
- Illustrate your expertise on a subject
- Become a thought leader
- Foster trust among your audience
- Build more engagement
Per Google, if you can answer yes to the following questions, you’re probably on the right track to creating helpful, user-first content:
- Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
- 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?
With a primary purpose or focus, users will come to you for specific information. Google will pick up on this and bolster your content’s visibility.
2. Check the Facts
Presenting accurate information is just one part of Google’s core updates—a set of evolving standards that aim to improve search results for users. These core updates are noted as one of the key factors in the helpful content update.
A part of being an expert in your field is presenting research-backed facts. Factual errors can not only encourage distrust but can also devalue the quality of your content.
Google will know whether you truly possess real expertise in an area. They so eloquently ask:
- Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
Hopefully, your answer is no. Check the facts before you publish, and use authoritative sources to flesh out your content.
3. Answer Questions Directly and Thoroughly
Be direct and thorough—this offers value to users.
- Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
- Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
In other words, you want to educate your site visitors. They should exit your site with all their key questions answered. Even better—they should walk away with practical tools and resources they can use to achieve their goals.
Here’s how you can start making content more comprehensive:
- Address the hows and whys—not just the whats.
- Weave your business’ value propositions into the content piece. For example, if you’re talking about landscaping, describe how your products/services can help people make their landscaping experience easier. Illuminate your value.
4. Keep Your Audience in Mind
Though keeping your audience in mind is a given, we’ve seen too many instances of content not being written with the target audience in mind.
Google asks: Are you writing about things simply because they seem trendy and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
If the answer is yes, you need to reassess. Here are some tips that can help you better strategize content your target audience actually wants:
- What key phrases is your audience typing into search engines? Use these keywords to identify search intent—the purpose of your audience’s online search. This will unlock insights into their pain points and needs.
- Create a persona—a fictional consumer that represents your audience. This requires sifting through user research and data. A persona builds empathy—a key ingredient to fostering authentic connections with your consumers. Empathy can help you build the right content intended for the right folks.
5. Remember E-E-A-T
Make sure you’re hitting all three E-E-A-T points to bolster the value and quality of your content.
Again, EEAT stands for:
- Experience: Show that you have first-hand experience with your subject matter. The human experience can distinguish the difference between hand-crafted and AI-generated content.
- Expertise: You illustrate your thought leadership and provide valuable insights—insights your audience cares about.
- Authoritativeness: You link to credible sources to back up your facts, and your site carries powerful backlinks (authoritative sites link to your content).
- Trustworthiness: With expertise and authoritativeness, you win trust. Users will find your content, site, and brand to be trustworthy.
6. Include Multimedia Content
Let’s take a minute to emphasize what Google said about how the “helpful content update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience.”
In addition to stellar copy, take the time to incorporate helpful visuals—like infographics, slideshows, and videos—to support the words.
Multimedia content helps brands stand out from the pack. More importantly, it offers a positive user experience. People will be more likely to engage with your content and absorb information better. Google will notice these user activities and reward your site accordingly.
7. Follow Webmaster Guidelines
Per Google, “…for the best success, be sure you’ve removed unhelpful content and also are following all our guidelines.”
Google is referring to their Webmaster Guidelines. These guidelines are tips site owners should follow to allow Google to find, index, and rank your site.
The Webmaster Guidelines also note illicit practices you should avoid at all costs. Otherwise, your site may be removed entirely from the Google index or negatively impacted by “algorithmic or manual spam action.”
Create Content That Connects and Converts with Big Leap
Quality matters. Here at Big Leap, we’ve made it our mission to help businesses like yours elevate content for the long term. Down to get onboard for the ride? Contact our digital marketing team.
Big Leap’s team entails content strategists and writers who understand how to create content for people and boost content quality. The results? More visibility, credibility, and bottom-line results.
Contact us today—and in the meantime, check out our case studies.