Called the Helpful Content Update, the most recent Google Search Engine Ranking Update began rolling out on August 25 2022, and will take up to two weeks to complete.
This update introduces a new site-wide signal, one of many signals that Google evaluates to rank content.
The update mainly targets websites determined to have relatively high amounts of search-engine first, unhelpful content for human readers.
In case you’re wondering, Paul and Florin have been warning our audiences about this for a very long time now. Just check out the podcast and the 4 Types of Duplicate Content episode. Ecommerce owners and ecommerce marketers usually make huge mistakes with their product descriptions and get penalized by Google. With this new update, ecommerce people need to be more careful than ever.
Should you be concerned that this may negatively impact your rankings?
The answer is another question:
Take a look at your content and ask yourself this:
Did I write this piece of content just to rank on Google or did I write it to help/inform my audience?
If you’re creating content for search engines without prioritizing your audience, the Helpful Content Update 2022 is another reminder that even when you create SEO content for the purpose of ranking, your readers should be your NUMBER ONE focus.
Helpful, comprehensive, original content that shows real expertise = GOOOOD
Low-quality, duplicate, thin or mass-produced content = BAAAAD
More on Google’s Helpful Content Update 2022
Google’s helpful content update is sitewide (meaning it has the potential to impact all pages) and is a part of a “broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.”
With this update, Google rewards people-first content and devalues content that’s primarily created for ranking well in search engines.
It’s also worth noting that this update doesn’t mean Google discourages using SEO best practices to rank content on Google.
As Google puts it:
People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value.
So, what exactly is people-first content?
And how do you determine if your pages and blog posts qualify as people-first?
We’ll cover that next so that you know what to look for.
Best Practices for Creating People-First Content
Here are the most important things to keep in mind to ensure you’re creating people-first content based on the advice and guidelines provided by Google. Move over to the next sections to find what Squirrly has in store for you, both in Squirrly SEO AND in Education Cloud PLUS by Squirrly.
✅ Publish high-quality content that is useful, comprehensive and demonstrates first-hand experience.
Create informative, insightful resources which thoroughly answer your audience’s questions, teach them something, help them accomplish certain tasks, or complete a goal.
After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
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)?
^ the answer should be YES.
❌ Don’t make promises when you can’t deliver.
Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?
With this guideline, Google advises content creators not to promise to answer a question that there is no answer to.
This usually applies to content that talks about rumors or speculations.
If you choose to write about something ambiguous / something that doesn’t have a definite answer, make sure you’re not misleading your readers. Your article should fulfill the promise you’ve made when creating your headline.
✅ Focus on creating ORIGINAL content which stands out.
Make sure you don’t have content you’ve straight out copied from other pages online (or re-phrased slightly).
Do original research and do your best to come up with something one-of-a-kind that adds value beyond what already exists online.
If your content is just a mish-mash of information you collected from other sources online, it may not be very helpful for your readers.
❌ Using extensive automation to produce large quantities of low-quality content.
In their statement, Google emphasized the fact that this update is meant to connect more searchers with helpful content written by people, for people.
With this line, Google seems to be cautioning content creators against using extensive automation to produce lots of content on many topics.
It’s like Google saying:
You know that random content you’ve been creating using AI writers /software in bulk? We know you’ve put ZERO effort in creating that, and we don’t like it because we also know that searchers are tired of seeing the same re-hashed content everywhere.
Now, this doesn’t mean Google is starting a war on content generators/ AI writers, writing Assistants, and so on…
The update targets low-quality AI-generated content or content made with content spinners.
Keith Gillespie did a fantastic job explaining this with a comment which was originally posted inside our JourneyTeam Facebook Group.
Check it out:
✅ Make sure visitors will have a satisfying overall experience when reading a piece of content on your site.
It’s possible for a visitor to land on one of your pages, appreciate the content, but still leave feeling disappointed or unsatisfied.
In this case, a poor overall reading experience is usually at fault.
For example, consider someone searching for a tutorial on how to build a bird box coming across an informative step-by-step article that only features written instructions.
It’s unlikely that the text alone will satisfy that searcher’s needs and meet their expectations. In this instance, photos or graphics are needed to complete the experience.
❌ Don’t over-optimize.
Over-optimization (stuffing your content full of keywords) will make it difficult for your audience to see the value of your content.
✅ Stick to your area of expertise
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 this line, Google seems to indicate that you should write about what you know.
You may be tempted to cover a niche topic area just because it’s trending and you want to capitalize on high-volume keywords to get search traffic.
But if you do this often and IF you don’t have any real expertise in those areas, it’s likely to alienate your existing audience who comes to your site expecting to see content around a certain theme.
Instead, focus on building topical authority and don’t stray too much from your area of expertise.
❌ Avoid producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results.
One question that Google is urging content creators to ask in order to evaluate whether or not they are on the right track with a people-first approach is this:
Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
With this question, Google is suggesting that websites should have a clear niche (one main subject area).
A jack of all trades is a master of none. Plus, combining too many topics into one site makes it difficult for Google, as well as human visitors, to understand what your site’s about.
The Helpful Content Update 2022 currently affects English searches worldwide, but will expand to other languages as well.
As Google continues to refine its efforts to detect unhelpful content over the next months, more updates will follow.
For now, make sure to follow Google’s advice and, if needed, consider making some improvements to make your content more helpful.
In their announcement, Google doesn’t mention HOW exactly they will measure the helpfulness of an article.
How effective the algorithm is in determining ‘helpful content’ ?
That remains to be seen.
At this time, we just have a set of guidelines signaling what Google wants us to do with our content moving forward.
So, I would say: don’t rush into anything or start implementing large scale updates right away.
Keep an eye on your rankings and visibility and see if any changes occur over the next couple of weeks. Wait until the update is complete to assess the impact it had on your site and see where you land.
If you are hit by the helpful content update, Google recommends removing unhelpful content from your site.
Last but not least, continue using the Squirrly SEO features that help you create people-first content (more about them below).
Squirrly SEO Features That Help You Create People-First Content
I know it seems like you need to keep a lot of things in mind in order to please Google’s ever-changing algorithms.
Luckily, if you’re using Squirrly SEO, you already have access to features and guidance that help you create content that will be successful with Google’s Helpful Content Update 2022.
Here are some examples:
🎯 FOCUS PAGES TASKS
– Traffic Health Tasks –
In this category of Focus Pages, Squirrly checks if your Page Bounce Rate is under 50%.
Why is this important?
A high bounce rate means that your users just click on your search listing, visit the page and then decide they’ve seen enough (meaning: they’ve had enough; because it seems low quality) and bounce off to another page on the web.
A high bounce rate could indicate your visitors don’t find your content relevant or HELPFUL enough. This usually happens when you do SEO in the wrong way and you don’t match the content you’ve created to the visitors’ intent.
If you’ve been following our CEO Florin’s lessons on Education Cloud PLUS, (you can go to the Meet the Authors section to check out Florin’s courses) then you already know that Excellent SEO is all about supply and demand. Supply what the audience demands and make sure you 100% satisfy that demand. – Once you learn that, all your content will start matching your visitor’s intent, and Google won’t have a problem with your content anymore.
With this category, the Focus Pages system also checks if the average time on page is at least 2 minutes.
Looking at the average time on page helps you better understand how visitors engage with your content. Analyze this metric in relation to the number of words on your page.
If you have a lot of words on your page, but people don’t spend much time reading, your content may not be helpful enough. It’s also possible that there’s something you can do to complete your visitors’ experience when reading that piece of content.
– Write 1,500 Words Task –
In order for Google or any other search engine to understand what is on your page/article, you need CONTENT.
Look, in their official statement, Google said they don’t need to see 1,500 words on a page, which is total BS, given all that our algorithms surfaced from over 600,000 websites in the world using our solutions. Sometimes taking SEO advice from Google is like taking gambling advice from the Casino owner.
Plus, we only ask for 1,500 words, to make it easy for our users to get a bare minimum. I would go for 2,000 or more, based on the data.
If you have just a few words written on that page/article, then there is a big chance that Google will NOT understand exactly what you want to say or how your particular page can help others.
Pages that have just a few words is what we call thin content.
There is a purpose for it as well (meaning: there are times when you might choose to publish Thin Content), but NOT if you want to rank your pages and outrank your competition.
Google cares about seeing quality in your pages to rank you higher. And you can’t really put that much value into a blog post that only has 200, 300 words, right?
So, the more words your blog post has, the more value you can provide to your audience. – unless your text is BORING. Which brings us to the next one:
– Reader’s Experience Task –
Getting over 1,500 words / page can give you better SEO results, as long-form usually suggests the topic is treated more in-depth.
However, making an article longer does not mean you should fill it with fluff or make it boring.
Writing words just for the sake of making an article longer won’t make it more useful for your audience.
So, in order to check that the length of the page was increased properly, Squirrly also take into account if website visitors love this page (have a great experience).
– Fresh Content Update Task –
With this task, Squirrly reminds you to keep updating your blog posts and pages so that they continue to be relevant and helpful for the people who reach them.
– Add SEO Context Task –
With this task, Squirrly shows you the importance of optimizing your content for multiple keywords to make it easier for search engines – as well as human readers – to understand the EXACT topic and context of your page. (read the blog post linked there, if you aren’t an ACE at SEO Content yet)
Optimizing your articles and pages for multiple keywords also helps you cover a topic thoroughly and demonstrate depth of knowledge. Plus, great SEO context also means that Google can’t go too wrong by recommending you to searchers on the web, because you would seem to have a high probability of being on point.
✅ THE SEO LIVE ASSISTANT
As you are typing your article, the SEO Live Assistant provides instant feedback to ensure that:
- Your article is long enough to keep readers on page.
- You have a strong introduction and conclusion for your article, in which you specify the topic you’re writing about.
- You don’t have any excessive and annoying repetitions in your writing.
- You avoid keyword stuffing.
- You don’t over-optimize your article.
There is an entire section of the SEO Live Assistant with checks that are meant to help you create articles and pages that sound natural and are easy to read by human visitors.
Recommended Courses: Learn How to Be a People-First Content Creator
There are many different courses that you can take right now inside Education Cloud PLUS that will help you create valuable, useful content for your audience (the kind that Google’s Helpful Content Update 2022 rewards).
Here are THREE POPULAR COURSES we recommend adding to your list now:
1️⃣ SEO for Humans
With this course, you’ll learn how to think like a reader and create human-centered content that ranks high on Google with seven proven lessons featuring ready-to-use content marketing worksheets.
- The 6 Aspects that Make WordPress Sites Take Off, Or
- Optimizing Your Content For Humans: Identifying Your
- Optimizing Your Content for Humans Part II
- Finding the Right Spin You Can Give Your Article to
Have it Spread Like Wildfire
- Sourcing Real-Time Intelligence to Make Humans Love
What You Write
- Writing for Humans, Not Just for Search Engines
- Tracking and Measuring the Success of the Content
You Optimize for Humans
Available now inside Education Cloud PLUS!
2️⃣ An Actionable Guide to Creating EPIC Content
Get powerful tips that will instantly improve your writing and learn proven best practices for identifying winning content topics.
- Lesson 1: Identify Your Customers Struggles to Write Useful Articles
Your Customers’ Problems Are Content Opportunities
Make a List of All the Questions You’ve Received
Know what Problems You Can Solve by Listening
Identify what Type of Content Your Audience Shares the Most
Monitor Your Competitors
Use Google Analytics
Create Buyer Personas
- Lesson 2: Content Best Practices from a Best-Selling Author
Take a Walk in Your Reader’s Shoes
Give Your Content a Tone and Voice
Focus on Readability
Be Honest with Your Readers
- Lesson 3: Create Well-Documented, Media-Rich Articles
Validate Your Ideas with External References
Include Trending Information
Make Your Content More Visually Appealing with Images
Learn as You Write
- Lesson 4: Write Irresistible Headlines That Convert
Focus on the First and the Last 3 Words Of Your Headline
Use Long-Tail Keywords
Don’t Copy Someone Else’s Headline
Take Headline Capitalization Preferences into Account
Address Your Readers Directly – Use You/Your
Use a Headline Analyzer
Include Words that Tap into People’s Emotions
State the Benefit
- Lesson 5: Brainstorm to Perform: The 4 Stages of Productivity
The [Killer Content] Preparation Phase – (conscious)
The Incubation Phase – (subconscious)
The Illumination Phase – (subconscious)
The Verification Phase – (conscious)
Available now inside Education Cloud PLUS!
3️⃣ Content Creation Secrets to Save Time & Wow Readers
Discover the secrets of creating compelling content that readers love, learn new workflows, and leverage proven tools to boost your productivity.
- Lesson 1: Winning Content Creation Tips from the Experts
Do this before you start creating content
Know your audience like the back of your hand
Keyword research is essential
Do not skip the research phase
Focus on creating EPIC content
Always proofread your content
Make visuals a priority
Let your content see the light of the internet
- Lesson 2: Content Creation Tools Every Writer Should Know about
HARO (Help a Reporter Out)
Answer the Public
CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer
Thesaurus and Grammarly
Trello and Google Drive
- Lesson 3: How to Create an Editorial Calendar
Why you should have an editorial calendar
What to do before starting your first editorial calendar
What should an editorial calendar include
- Lesson 4: A 3-step Research Formula for Becoming a More Efficient Content Writer
Organize your ideas first
Find core and secondary keywords
Use keywords to focus your research
- Lesson 5: How to Fine-Tune Your Content Creation Skills
Understand your data
Improve your design skills
Don’t underestimate the power of collaboration
Available now inside Education Cloud PLUS! (unlock instant access to this course and 40 others with a Premium Pass)