Google’s New Helpful Content Update Devalues Search-Engine First Content

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Google’s mission is to better connect people to helpful information, which is why they have released the new ‘helpful content update’. It’s part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original and helpful content written by people and for people in search results.

This is possibly one of the most significant changes Google has made in over a decade and will have a meaningful impact on the search results, targeting websites that have content written for search engines instead of people.

What is Google’s helpful content update?

This update aims to “better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well”. Essentially, any content written for search engines will not perform as well as content written for people. I’m sure you’ve come across a website that seems like it has what you’re looking for, but doesn’t live up to expectations, this update will help reduce the chances of that happening.

Google released an announcement alongside this update, “More content by people, for people in Search” and an article titled “What creators should know about Google’s helpful content update” explaining how the update works and how to have a people-first approach to your content.

When will Google’s helpful content update be rolled out?

Google will start rolling out the update next week but will take up to two weeks to complete. Once it has launched Google will update their search ranking updates page, along with a confirmation once it has been completed. This update will initially launch for English-language searches globally, however, Google plans to expand to other languages in the future.

Google’s helpful content update is a sitewide algorithm

One of the most important aspects of this update is that it’s a site-wide update, this means that if Google determines a significant portion of your website’s content to be ‘search engine first’, there’s the possibility that it could lower the rankings of all the content on your websites. This includes high-quality content that is following the guidelines.

What types of content will be most impacted?

Even though this update will have an impact on all niches, the types of content that will be most impacted are:

  • Arts and entertainment
  • Online educational materials
  • Tech-related
  • Shopping

The reason why these areas will be impacted the most is because the content has historically been written more for search engines rather than people. This in turn will improve the results in those areas, ensuring that the content people search for is high-quality and useful.

The impact could be long lasting

Due to the ‘helpful content update’ being a sitewide algorithm, websites that are impacted could possibly take months to recover, as a website needs to prove that it only publishes people-first content over its whole website and will continue to in the future.

According to Google: “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.”

How to avoid writing for search engines and take a people-first approach?

Google still recommends their long-standing advice and guidelines on how to create content for people, and not search engines. However, Google has shared a couple of questions you can ask yourself, answering yes means that you are on the right track with a people-first approach:

  • 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?

You may need to evaluate your SEO content strategy around the advice Google has provided and be prepared for a possible impact. Even though it’s too soon to understand how large the impact will be at this stage, it’s important to keep updated with all the changes and announcements from Google.

At GA Agency we have always believed in user-centric content and have built an in-house team of skilled copywriters experienced in SEO, but also focused on products and conversions. When starting a copywriting project we ensure we understand our clients products and services first, then we conduct keyword research to create engaging, high-quality content that converts and ranks. We are an international, award-winning agency offering SEO services to increase revenue and grow businesses. Get in touch to find out how we can help you succeed.

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