Google dominates the search engine market with more than 90% of the market share as of  June 2022. Every core update from Google sends shockwaves across the content marketing world. The latest Google Helpful Content update is tipped to cause seismic shifts in the way we create content

When the Helpful Content update first rolled out, it had content marketers running for cover. If the reactions on social media are anything to go by, there’s no doubt the update scared creators and SEO specialists. Many lamented the drop in YOY traffic and couldn’t resist the panic over the future of their content marketing strategy

If the update has you concerned about your traffic growth, don’t worry. In this guide, we’ll discuss what this update means for SEO and how to adjust your content marketing strategies to stay on the right path. 

What is Google’s Helpful Content Update?

If you look at Google’s updates over the past years, one thing will come out clearly: the search engine giant has always focused majorly on user experience. Google has been rolling updates aimed at sunsetting manipulative tactics such as keyword stuffing in favor of value-driven content. 

The Helpful Content update is a huge step towards compelling websites to publish helpful, educational content. The update was rolled out between August 25 and September 9 of 2022, and it seeks to reward helpful content – or content that gives users a satisfying experience.

According to Chris Nelson, Google’s Senior Staff Analyst, the update seeks to ensure users find “more original, more helpful content written by people and for the people.” The update impacts English searches globally at the moment but will be rolled out to other languages in the future. 

Google claims the system will scan your site, pinpointing content that its classifiers deem to have “little value, low-value-added, or is otherwise not particularly helpful.”  Since this is a site-wide algorithm, it doesn’t just impact the low-value, individual URLs. Instead, if a higher number of published articles are deemed unhelpful, the entire domain is less likely to rank low.

How You Can Prepare for Helpful Content Update

If the content you’ve been creating is thoughtful and helpful, there’s no cause for alarm. The Google Helpful Content update is only going to eliminate unhealthy competition — or sites that have been using unscrupulous means to outrank you. 

However, when announcing the new update, Google raised some pertinent questions. We’ll look at these questions and discuss how you should adapt your content strategy to check the right boxes. 

1. Defining Your Target Audience

Google question: “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?

Defining your target audience ought to be a standard SEO practice. If you haven’t been creating content with a target audience in mind, Google has put you on notice. Remember: Google wants you to create helpful content. 

For your content to be helpful, it must resonate with your target audience. That means to create helpful content, the type that Google sees fit for a place atop the SERPs, you must first define your target audience. 

Know who your target audience is, what their needs are, and the problems they face. What questions are they likely to type into Google when looking for a solution? From that, you can now devise a content strategy to solve the problems the cohort face.

2. Knowing Your Value Proposition

Google question: “Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?

Hundreds to even thousands of websites have the same target audience in mind as yours. So, what makes your website stand out from the crowd? What could make a user consume content on your site without ever turning to other sources?

Google wants you to clearly define your value proposition. Your website can’t be all things to all users. You have to build it around one subject area and focus on developing content that addresses users’ intent in that niche. 

3. Leveraging the Concept of Information to Gain Scores

Google question: “After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?

This is inarguably the crux of the Helpful Content update. Google wants every website to give users a satisfying experience. In other words, each article you put out should demonstrate a high information gain score. 

According to Bill Slawski, an information gain score depicts the value attached to an article for providing additional information not present in other articles on the same topic. With Google’s Helpful Content update, there’s no doubt that pages with a higher information gain score will rank higher than those with a lower score. 

There’s no place for copycat content. To snag a spot atop the Google SERPs, you have to give readers fresh perspectives and ideas in each article or page. Pull unique data and add never-before-seen expert quotes to back your ideas. In addition, create custom screenshots and images that no other page has published. 

4. Demonstrating First-Hand Expertise

Google question: “Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product/service or visiting a place)?

It’s important to understand the meaning of “helpful content.” According to Google, helpful content is unique and original. It’s written by people with real subject matter expertise.

For example, let’s say you’re writing about a hotel guide in the Maldives. You could gather details about hotels in the Maldives and whip up a lengthy piece with loyalty-free images. However, Google isn’t in favor of this approach because, even though your content might be original and unique, it doesn’t showcase first-hand experience. 

To showcase first-hand expertise, it will benefit you if you’ve toured these hotels physically. You should have an authoritative understanding of the hotel landscape in the Maldives from the first-person point of view.

Google doesn’t want you to write about something you haven’t personally experienced. If you’re reviewing software, you ought to have used the software to have a depth of knowledge about it. 

5. Optimizing Content for SEO

While Google is advising content creators to avoid creating content for search engines, it doesn’t seek to invalidate SEO best practices. Google advises that “SEO is vitally helpful when it’s applied to people-first content.” 

Your content can be satisfying, but if your target audience can’t find it, then it will be of no benefit. This means even as you create content that ticks all the Helpful Content Update boxes, you must adhere to SEO best practices. 

Navigate the Helpful Content Update With Ease

If your website has taken a swift hit in the wake of the Google Helpful Content update, don’t panic. This update is “helpful,” and if you adhere to the guidelines we offered above, your website will rise again and claim back its position on Google SERPs. 

How long it will take for the site to do better is still an open question. According to Google, your site could spend months languishing on lower pages. However, once you prune all the unhelpful content and add new value-packed content, it won’t be long before Google rewards you for the effort.