How “Helpful” is the “Helpful Content” Google Algorithm Update?
On August 23, 2022, Google released the “Helpful Content” update to their algorithm with promises to be a big game-changer for website content and SEO as a whole. This update is potentially the biggest update since “Panda”, which targeted spammy content in 2011-2012. With Panda, Google hoped to demote substandard sites that were dense with keywords, had unbalanced relationships between advertising and content, contained irrelevant meta information, or was filled with thin content that was of no value to the viewer. In a way, the Helpful Content update could be viewed as the next logical extreme.
What Does the Algorithm Update Target?
While the Panda update helped demote spammy content from websites, many sites started producing spam to fill out their blogs instead. For example, popular sites about the entertainment industry producing blogs about the release date for a movie or new TV show that has not actually been announced yet. As a response, the Helpful Content update is designed to prevent spammy content across an entire site from reaching the top of the SERP for a given query.
Because many of these spammy blogs are included on otherwise reputable sites, Google has designed a system where their algorithm will target websites that meet a certain thin-to-thick content ratio. If your website is deemed to have too much spammy content, then your entire site is contaminated in Google’s eyes. Instead of having just the spam targeted, your entire website would suffer. It’s the old rotten apple analogy.
Google has not stated the percentage of thin-to-thick content that is required to stay above the threshold—probably in hopes of dissuading websites from producing just enough good content to prevent their website from being dinged. However, Google has made a comprehensive list of questions to help us determine what is considered “helpful” and “unhelpful” content, which we can use as a guide.
What is Considered “Helpful” Content?
At its most bare-bones, helpful content is user-focused content. Instead of writing copy targeting Google’s bots with keywords, the copy is user-friendly, accurate, and authoritative.
The user-friendly content is easy to read, not only from a graphic design angle but from a writing perspective as well. This content is also marketed to an existing, intended audience and is focused on either entertaining or informing that target market.
Your website content also needs to be accurate. The content needs to target questions people are actively searching for and answer them concisely. If users leave your site feeling that they have learned enough about a topic to achieve their goal, then your website has accurate information.
Lastly, there is authoritative content, meaning that your website copy should focus on a specific topic or group of topics. The topics you choose should either come from first-hand experience or extensive research and should fit in with your depth of knowledge. For example, our blog discusses SEO, social media, and other digital marketing topics. To keep our blog precise, our articles stick to those topics instead of following what content is trending.
If the content on your website checks all of these boxes, then your website is likely to be promoted under the new algorithm change. However, having user-friendly, accurate, and authoritative content does not guarantee that you’re in the clear. Because the new algorithm is designed to ding an entire website for having a certain percentage of spammy content, your website can still suffer consequences for having just a handful of bad blogs. That is why it is also important to note how the algorithm update defines unhelpful content so we know what to avoid.
What is Considered “Unhelpful” Content?
Unhelpful content falls into two main categories: SEO-first and low-quality.
While SEO-first content sounds like it would be a good thing, this style of writing prioritizes what the algorithm wants over what users are searching for, which is exactly what the Helpful Content update is trying to target. This includes computer-generated content, content focused on trending topics, and content trying to hit the magic word count that makes Google promote your post.
Google consistently says there is no magic word count for website copy. However, a simple rule of thumb is to write enough copy to sufficiently discuss a selected topic or answer a specific question.
The second type of unhelpful content is low-quality. If the user leaves your site feeling unsatisfied, then it is likely low-quality content. Google is specifically targeting websites that contain content connecting unrelated industries, summarizing others’ content without adding value to the conversation, or discussing a niche topic without the expertise or research to back up your claims. If your content requires further searching to get a question answered or is designed to punk your audience into thinking you’re answering a question with no answer, then that content will also be flagged as unhelpful content.
Get Help Producing Helpful Content
Even with a better understanding of how the latest Google algorithm update defines helpful and unhelpful content, it can still be difficult to consistently produce website copy, blogs, and other content that clears Google’s requirements. While this can be done in-house, hiring an effective marketing team can be expensive, especially for smaller firms.
By partnering with a company like BluShark Digital, you can have the perks of a well-trained specialized team at your disposal. To learn more about our business model and how your business could benefit, call us today for your free consultation.