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What publishers should know about Google’s recent “helpful content” update

Posted 2 years ago by Adriana Harseva

Google recently announced that they are updating their page ranking algorithm. The update, known as “helpful content system,” has been designed to favour original, people-first content over SEO-first content.

What is people-first content? 

People-first content refers to writing content with the main target audience of people, readers and visitors rather than search engines. This audience is at the core of your content, connecting with people through your writing and meeting their specific needs and requirements.

Google’s aim is 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”. 

Will this impact your SEO?

If you’re publishing relevant, useful content with editorial integrity and expertise that your readers love, it means that you’re already in line with SEO best practices and it’s likely that this new update will further reward these efforts.

However, if you’ve been focused on quantity over quality, repurposed and repeated content, or even worse, creating AI-generated content, you might see your organic traffic penalized in the upcoming months. 

When the algorithm changes, what was considered “good” content previously changes too. This is why publishers previously considered “good” may see their ranking reduced and find articles fall out of the top 10. Only 10 articles can be in the top 10 and competitors may better meet the “good” criteria. 

How to write more helpful content? 

Google outlined a series of questions that content creators and editors should ask themselves to confirm that they’re following a people-first approach. These questions include:

  • Do you have an existing or intended audience that would find the content helpful? 
  • Does your content demonstrate relevant expertise and knowledge? –  A good idea is to include a paragraph on top of each article explaining why the person writing the article is an expert on the topic. 
  • Does your content demonstrate first-hand experience? – Showcase first-hand experience with the product by using more personal phrases and unique perspective (i.e write from the point of view of a software engineer instead of just highlighting the technical specifications of a new laptop)  
  • Will readers of your content feel like they’ve had a satisfying experience? – Make sure your articles are relevant to what the user is searching for. This will ensure lower bounce rate and signal to Google that your content is high quality. 

Publishers should ask themselves these questions to ensure that they’re on the right track. It is important to note that sites that have high volumes of unhelpful content are likely to be penalized altogether in search results, so it may be a good idea to review your current content and remove or edit any that go against the guidelines.

We will keep you informed on our understanding of the impact of the update as the guidelines evolve and new data on its effect becomes available.

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