What is Google’s helpful content update?
Google announced last week it will be rolling out a helpful content update in the coming days. Here's what you need to read and know about the change.
Hello and welcome back! Shelby here, back in the saddle after sleeping the majority of the weekend away. Some weekends, I walk over 10,000 steps. Other weekends, I watch a lot of reality competition shows. It’s called balance.
This week: What we’re all talking about: Google’s helpful content update. It was announced last week that Google will be rolling out this update in the coming days, and us in the news SEO sphere are especially anxious to see how this will affect the search ecosystem. We break down what the update is and provide a handful of resources for you to prepare your publication.
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In this issue:
What is the Helpful Content Update?
How to prepare/what to read
What is Google’s helpful content update?
Last Thursday, Google announced that it will be rolling out their helpful content update this week to “better surface original, helpful content made by people, for people, rather than content made primarily to gain search traffic.” According to Google, the update is part of a “broad effort” to show more unique, authentic information in search results.
As more and more sites are recognizing the impact of search on their business goals and editorial decisions, there has been an influx of search engine-first content. This means a lot more sites, including publishers, are creating articles that only target keywords rather than providing value to their readers. And because of that, Google received a lot of flack lately for poor quality results.
The update will:
Focus on people-first content: Do your readers feel like they have had a satisfying experience and feel like they’ve learned something?
Avoid ranking content for search engines first: Search is a vessel to find information. It should not be the driver of information.
Reward niche sites: Those that have put emphasis and effort into creating an authority around a topic will be rewarded more than those who cover a wide variety of topics for the clicks.
How will this update work?
The update will begin to roll out this week and will be a new site-wide (meaning all content will be affected) signal for ranking web pages. You can monitor Google’s ranking updates page (or Google’s Twitter) for when it begins and when it is fully rolled out. This can take up to two weeks.
Is this a core update? Nope. We experienced a core update in May, which focused on the rankings to provide "high standards of relevancy and quality." We wrote about that update and what to do if you were affected.
Read more: Lily Ray breaks this update down very well in this Twitter thread.
THE HOW TO
How to prepare for the Helpful Content Update
I could sit here and give you my personal advice, but there are much smarter people on the internet already giving you a full, comprehensive look at how to prepare for this update.
Overall, your site should focus on quality, authoritative journalism that aligns with your publication’s niche.
For example, if you are a sports site and you’re writing about pop culture because you know it drives traffic, but isn’t an area you explore regularly, you may want to consider whether to continue this strategy.
Without further ado, here is a list of resources to help you prepare for the helpful content update:
Lily Ray created an incredible guide on what this update encompasses, the importance of expertise and authenticity, and how to avoid search engine-first content.
Aleyda Solis compiled all of the questions outlined in Google’s blog about the update into a spreadsheet and added what type of question they are. Make a copy and answer “yes” or “no” to each of the questions. If you answer no, that means you have work to do.
Marie Haynes collected some useful tweets from search experts to help you navigate the update (she also wrote about it extensively for Search Engine Land).
Jonas Sickler analyzes the language behind the update announcement and provides a content audit template.
The Press Gazette took a look at what this update could do to publishers.
Barry Schwartz thinks this update will change SEO much like the Panda update of 2011-12 did.
NicheSiteLady went through how she deleted 40 per cent of a site in preparation for this update.
Also: “Helpful content update” was trending on Twitter earlier, so be sure to check out what the SEO community is saying about it.
The bottom line: This update will have an impact on the way we do SEO in the future, but it is a good signal as Google regains control of its ecosystem. Prepare by reading the resources and, as always, focusing on creating quality, informative and authoritative journalism.
Barry Adams on Twitter: Google has updated its Article structured data documentation. Find the full list of differences using DiffChecker.
Barry Schwartz on Twitter: Google added URL-level data in the example URLs within the Google Core Web Vitals report.
SEMRush is hosting a webinar on an underrated SEO tasks: Optimizing your About page with Mordy Oberstein and Crystal Carter.
Kristina Azarenko on Twitter: Buttons vs. links – which should you use?
Ryan Restivo on the SEO for Journalism Slack: Ryan is collecting data on the tools that the news SEO community uses most often. Fill out his short survey.
Have something you’d like us to discuss? Send us a note on Twitter (Jessie or Shelby) or to our email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Written by Jessie Willms and Shelby Blackley
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Wonderful, concise, and informative. Thanks, Jessie and Shelby. I hope to send more of my readers your way so that they can wrap their heads around SEO (without the headache!)