Whilst the content side of SEO can seem daunting when you first embark on optimising your web pages, it’s not such a dark art when it comes down to it; Google simply wants you to create content that’s human centred.
This is the philosophy behind 2023’s Helpful Content update from Google, and in this article, we’ll explain what Google’s Helpful Content system is, how it works,and how you can create helpful content for your users.
What is Google’s Helpful Content system?
Gone are the days of writing content purely to appease search engine algorithms; those algorithms think like humans now more than ever, and they can spot a bit of keyword stuffing a mile-off. The focus now is on ‘person-centred’ content,which means that search engines will reward sites with content that genuinely helps its user.
Google’s Helpful Content system identifies web pages that contain content that give users a good experience without having to hunt high and low and leaves them closing the tab with their questions answered - before they’d even thought to ask them in many cases!
How does Google’s Helpful Content system work?
The helpful content system kicks in once the most relevant content has been established (which is why keywords are still important); it can then be examined for what is most helpful.
Could my web pages be impacted by Google’s Helpful Content system?
If you’ve created content geared towards search engines first and people second,you may find you slip down the rankings. This makes the chance of getting in front of the eyeballs of your target customer when they’re primed and ready to engage with a business like yours rather small!
The good news is that you can fix it by replacing that content with a version that better meets your users’ needs. Google has suggested that even if you have some helpful content and some unhelpful, the rankings of the web pages with helpful content on could be negatively impacted by the presence of the unhelpful content on the same site. Removing this unhelpful content completely could help all that other helpful content be rewarded with higher rankings.
The August 2023 Helpful Content Update
In September 2023, Google announced that a Helpful Content update would be rolling out from 14th September, taking the usual 2 weeks to bed in across the world.
Whilst the changes Google makes to its algorithm are never published in great detail, we do know that Google have removed ‘written by people’ on their Helpful Content page when referring to helpful content published to a site. What was ‘to better ensure people see original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results’ is now ‘helpful content created for people in search results.’ This could suggest that AI tools can write helpful content for users.
Alongside this sits alongside updated guidance on third-party content, which could hit low-quality sites existing on ‘rented out’ subdomains.
Unlike some updates, the Helpful Content update not only promotes sites, but it can demote them too - so creating helpful content for your users benefits you and searchers two-fold.
As always, if you feel that your web page rankings have dropped following a Helpful Content update, we’d suggest self-assessing your content so that you can better create content that serves your users, and gets into Google’s good books.
How can I create helpful content?
Very helpfully, Google has been quite clear on how to create this content,though what you talk about and how it’s helpful to your users will require your own knowledge of the people who will be looking for your website. Let’s look at what you can do to make your content helpful:
Define what’s helpful to your audience
You can’t just include ANY helpful content on your site; you’re looking to specifically appeal to the audience that your site and business attracts.
For example, anyone who’s into cooking will find recipes helpful, and thousands search for dinner how-tos every day, but if you run a car dealership, chances are that your users will find recipes on your blog pretty useless there and then. It’s more likely they’ll want to know the options for funding their car, how the car buying process works, and what the rules are around vehicle tax,for example. Keep to your niche (and your expertise) to stay helpful.
Make your content high quality
Another broad topic, we know, but bear with us, because it makes all the difference.Google rewards content that:
- Adds value - Adding first-hand insights and experience instead of simply regurgitating other sites adds original value to your content
- Answers your users’ questions - If you’re teaching your users something, or helping them achieve or complete a task, your content could be seen as helpful
- Summarises your content - headings are your friend!
- Is written for humans, by humans - Write naturally without the help of AI technology like ChatGPT, and without employing those outdated techniques that make the content designed for search engines and not people. For example, overusing keywords is obviously unnatural, and will make your content sound stilted and odd; not very helpful!
Provide a good experience
You want to be a one stop shop for your users’ needs - you don’t want them heading off elsewhere in search of other puzzle pieces! Photos and videos that complement the text could enhance the user experience and therefore be seen as more helpful.
If you're looking for additional advice, Google has some hand advice on understanding google page experience to help you improve your webpages..
Audit your content
Page content is never a publish-and-run part of your website; it should be subject to constant review. In order to ensure your content is helpful, we’d strongly recommend using Google’s Self Assessment questions to workout where your content could be improved.
Do Google update the way they look for helpful content?
Yes, Google is constantly tweaking the way they assess and rank content, and part of that is how they determine what content is helpful. Whilst we can’t always be ahead of what Google might bring in through some of their larger Helpful Content updates, we’d recommend ensuring that all of your content is helpful using the tips above, and keeping abreast of Google updates so that you can see if any of your pages drop rankings in the wake of them.
Can I get help with making my page content helpful?
Creating helpful content is an integral part of what we do for our clients, who span a range of different industries; from blogs to on-page changes, we ensure we meet and exceed the expectations of their users. We handle all the other elements of your SEO too, keeping track of your rankings so you don’t have to. Get in touch with us today to find out more.