If you didn’t know, Google and other search engines often tweak and change their algorithms to improve how search results are delivered, and for the most part, these search engines often don’t tell us when they do these changes.
For the most part! Google is usually pretty good at letting us know when they release larger changes to their algorithm, just like the latest one which has been called the ‘Helpful Content Update’.
Google have said that this change is part of a ‘broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people in search results’.
What does that mean?
We’ve been talking about ‘useful’ content for years in terms of blogging, copywriting and on social media. It’s not a surprise to see Google putting even more focus on this with their latest large update.
Google wants its users to have positive experiences, because if they have positive experiences the chances are they will continue to use Google and perhaps its other services too. For years they have been telling content writers to write for their audiences and not for search engines, and that’s something we’ve always been keen to promote too. SEO as we used to know it no longer exists, the focus is on the customer – not just for us as businesses, but for Google too.
The new update focusses on people-first content, and not search engines first. How can we achieve that?
The first step is to ensure we know who our audience are. Who are we trying to target? How does this affect how we speak when we’re using our brand? What help do they need or what challenges do they have?
By keeping our audience in mind at all times, we’re definitely making sure that our content becomes ‘people-first’. In fact, one of my favourite things to do when thinking about content to post in our blog or on social media, is to think about the questions that I get asked most when hosting workshops or webinars. That way, I know my content is helping my audience, and providing value to them.
What we’re aiming towards with this new algorithm, is ensuring that visitors to our website don’t need to go anywhere else once they’ve read our content. In essence, it was useful enough that they’re happy they have the information they were looking for.
What to avoid
Google have been really helpful in terms of what they are recommending you avoid with this new algorithm update. Here are some queries that Google has proposed which will help you avoid producing the wrong type of content:
- Are you creating a lot of content on different topics, in the hope that it will perform well on the search engines? Remember, keep your content in line with your business services.
- Are you using automation to produce content on topics? Automation can often mean content isn’t ‘human focussed’, so beware of that.
- Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value? This is a huge one if like us you blog regularly to help your audience. Make sure you add value to your own content for your audience, and don’t just create content for the sake of it or because someone else in your field has.
- Are you writing about things just because they are trending? Don’t hop on the bandwagon, make sure content you write is relevant to your business, and of course your audience.
- Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information? This is what we want to avoid, not only because it’s a pain for your visitors but you may be losing potential custom, and you want to create quality content that means those visitors return to your blogs in the future.
- Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard Google prefers that? Well, Google say it themselves: they don’t! That’s something we’ve always said too, there is no minimum or maximum magic number, just create content that your audience finds useful and helpful. That could be 300 words or 3000!
- Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer? Now this final query from Google I found very interesting. The example they use is ‘such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?’. Google are moving you away from creating ‘click-bait’ content, after all, that type of content just annoys the audience and Google are really worked hard on creating a valuable and helpful search engine.
What else do we know?
Google have already started rolling this update out, and they estimate it’ll take about 2 weeks for this to be complete.
The update introduces a ‘site-wide’ signal as well as signals for specific pages, and the new update will also automatically identify content that seems to have little value, low-added value or is otherwise not helpful.
In terms of how quickly your website may increase/decrease in terms of your ranking, we are looking at months rather than anything too sudden. However, I’d recommend keeping a close eye on those rankings (for the keywords and phrases you expect to rank for) straight away.
If you’d like to discuss your search engine optimisation, get in touch.