man sitting in front of two computer screens with Google browser open in front of him

When digital marketing professionals hear of an algorithm update, it is usually met with groans of despair! When I learned of Google’s Helpful Content Update, I had no feelings of dread at all!  While generally helpful in the long run, algorithm updates can skew our data and create havoc on our marketing campaigns-changing feeds, engagement, impressions, and search results. Learn more about why I am excited about Google’s Helpful Content Update and why you should be too!

What is Google’s Helpful Content Update?

Google Search truly wants its users to easily find the answers to their questions. Google’s Helpful Content Update is one way Google has refined the practice of producing quality search results. In other words, does your content answer the query asked and how well does it do so? Does the content your website shares enrich the lives of others or provide value?

The Helpful Content Update was released in August of 2022. When search engines crawl, index, and rank your website, they look for indicators of what the content is about. The Helpful Content Update looks for sites that have created content that accurately reflects content that provides true value to your audience. It will prioritize content that is truly helpful. 

So how do you know if your content is truly helpful? Let me explain. 

Write for People – Not Search Engines

SEO best practices include writing for people and not for search engines. The Helpful Content Update prioritizes sites that have done just that. 

What do you mean by “Write for People Not Search Engines?”

Use Shorter Paragraphs and Natural Language

When you create content for web pages or blog posts, use shorter paragraphs and natural language. Your word choice should be the same as when you speak to a potential customer or your target audience. You may be fluent and comfortable in the technical jargon of your business, but your audience may not. While there are exceptions to this rule depending on your audience, most website content should be simple terms in everyday language written in shorter paragraphs. 

Use Headers and Incorporate Your Keyword or Keyphrase in Your Content

Search engines look for keywords within website content that signal to them what the content is about. A keyword or keyphrase is the main idea of the content on your page. Yes, the search engines can and will scan all of your text, but employing headers, meta descriptions, and a URL with your target keyword included helps to reinforce that your content subject matter focuses on that keyword or keyphrase. 

But Don’t Incorporate “Keyword Stuffing”

Poor SEO practices (known as Gray hat or Black Hat SEO) try to manipulate search engines by stuffing the keyword in multiple times rather than allowing the keyword or keyphrase to flow naturally in the content. This is what is meant by writing for search engines and not writing for people. No one enjoys reading content that is stuffed with a repeating keyword. 

While organic search and rankings may increase at first with these gray and black hat SEO practices, Google will eventually catch on and penalize the site. Google’s Helpful Content Update is aimed at weeding out the sites that have employed these poor practices. 

Let me give an obvious (and exhausting-to-read!) example. Perhaps I am writing content for my fictional coffee shop titled “Beth’s Coffee Shop.” I want to create content to try to rank for “Coffee shop in Montgomery, AL” Using poor SEO practices (known as keyword stuffing) it could read like this:

“Beth’s coffee shop in Montgomery AL is the best coffee shop in Montgomery AL that you can find! Stop in our coffee shop in Montgomery AL to sample our cappuccinos, lattes, and organic blends! You will not find a better coffee shop in Montgomery AL than ours! Beth’s Coffee Shop in Montgomery AL has free wifi, a casual atmosphere, and the friendliest vibe of any coffee shop in Montgomery AL. “

Do you see how I stuffed my target keyword in that content 6 times in 5 sentences? This is writing for search engines and not for people. Yes, you learned important facts about my shop but no human wants to read that (and I hated writing that!)

A better way to write this content would be: 

“Beth’s coffee shop, located in Montgomery AL, is the best place to sit and enjoy your favorite cup of coffee. We are located minutes from Gillem College and we offer free wifi and a casual atmosphere with a friendly vibe. Stop by and enjoy our signature cappuccino, a hot latte, or sample our wide selection of organic coffee blends.”

Note that although I want to rank for “coffee shops in Montgomery AL” I have not used that term in my content here because it is not natural. Instead, I referenced Montgomery, and a local (fictional) landmark, Gillem College, that I would hyperlink to in the content if it were a real place. I will make sure that my Google My Business Profile is great looking, active, and accurate with my business details. These are SEO best practices and Google’s Helpful Content Update will recognize and hopefully reward my work with higher search engine rankings!

The Bottom Line For Google’s Helpful Content Update

Google’s Helpful Content is one more way that Google prioritizes a user-friendly experience over sites that use technical aspects to rank higher. I love the fact that Google places such a high priority on making sure that your audience learns from your content, your site works well when they visit, and that your site answers the questions they are searching for. 

To me, Google’s Helpful Content Update boils down to good ole’ customer service. Are you providing value in the content your site shares? Are you speaking to them in a language that they can understand and also want to read? Are you communicating effectively on your site? If so, know that Google values this, and the Helpful Content Update is aimed at rewarding this. 

Evaluate Your Site Content

Many of you reading this will not have keyword stuffing as an issue with your content, but on the other end of that I ask “Does your content accurately communicate what your business is about to both people AND search engines?” There is a way to seamlessly and correctly blend the two. If you would like more help with content creation that writes for people and communicates strongly to search engines, contact us to learn more!

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