You know that awesome feeling you get when you predict something and it *actually* comes true? Yeah, I’ve got that feeling right now.
For the last year or so I’ve been predicting that Google was going to shift back towards placing a stronger emphasis on the quality of content when determining where it ranks websites. Some of the backlinking / off-site activities were getting a bit too dodgy and out-of-hand. I felt it in my bones that eventually Google would have to step in and correct this.
And the latest algorithm update would suggest that I’m on the right track.
Google’s Helpful Content update
Earlier this month Google announced and rolled out a new algorithm update titled ‘Helpful Content’. This new signal that feeds into The Algorithm (the algorithm that determines where your website will rank in Google) is specifically designed to identify helpful content. Websites with more ‘helpful content’ will be ranked higher, while websites with content that is determined to be unhelpful will be penalised.
Helpful content is content that adds to the conversation. Content with purpose, that presents new ideas or information, or contributes to the body of information that is already available online about that topic.
So, websites that are producing new, high-quality content on a regular basis are going to really benefit from this Google algorithm update. And websites that are scraping content from other sites are going to be negatively affected.
What is ‘content scraping’?
Content scraping is where content that is already available online is copied and rewritten. It is not ‘duplicate’ content because the words are all different – but it is the same information, often replacing words in the article with synonyms, or shuffling paragraphs around to present the same article as being ‘new’.
Think of it kind of like the cheap knock-off handbag you bought last time you were in Bali – it looks ok from a distance, but when you actually inspect it, it is poor quality. The stitching is wonky, the brand label is misspelt as Chenal, and it just isn’t the same quality as the original.
Well, Google’s Helpful Content Update is going to be inspecting all of your SEO copywriting – and articles with poor sentence structure, inconsistent tone, and unoriginal content are going to be dumped in Google’s metaphorical bin (otherwise known as Page 2 of Google).
What does this mean for your website copywriting?
The latest Google algorithm update means that it is no longer enough to have a strong backlink profile. You need to have good content to back it up.
There are a lot of pages currently being indexed on the first page of Google that are utter crap. There are pages ranking for high-search volume terms that barely have 300 words on them, all because they have thousands of backlinks pointing to them. Meanwhile informative and in-depth pages are hidden in positions 11+ (also known as Page 2 of Google).
The latest update to Google means that the playing field will even out. Backlinks will still be important but having good copy on your pages will be equally important. That means your copywriter needs to be writing 100% of your content from scratch – no rewrites or repurposing. No using AI tools or cherry-picking the best of everyone else’s ideas to combine into ‘the ultimate guide for XYZ’.
What is “quality content”?
Quality content is unique; it is insightful and informative; and it offers ideas or perspectives that haven’t been seen ten times over. It is the kind of content that requires a specialist to participate in producing – someone who has lived experience relating to the topic and can provide unique insight that you won’t see anywhere else.
Quality content will be backed up by research and information – it can link to and reference other quality content, but it needs to add something to the conversation. It needs to build something new from the information, rather than regurgitate it or reword it.
It is one-of-a-kind content that requires time and consideration to plan and produce. It cannot be produced by an AI tool (whose very nature scape the internet for content and information).
What should I do to prepare for the Google algorithm update?
Unfortunately it is a little too late to prepare for the Google algorithm update. The Google Helpful Content Update train has left the station, and you’re not on it. But it’s not too late to jump in an Uber and catch up to it.
The best thing you can do is tidy up your website. Go through your blog archives with a fine-tooth comb and do some much-needed spring cleaning.
Assess each blog article by asking the following questions:
- Was this article written by a human or by an AI tool? (Hint: if you purchased the article from an overseas supplier for $10, it was not written by a human)
- Is the topic relevant to your main product or service offering? (see the note on content relevance below)
- Have you dumped ‘fluffy’ non-informative content onto a page simply to make it rank higher? (The recipe genre of content is the worst for this. Think about those recipe sites that give you a 3,000-word essay about the first time the author ate an apple before they give you the recipe for their famous 3 ingredient apple pie)
- Does your content make a lot of unfounded claims? Do you spout statistics or provide figures/numbers without providing details of where those statistics come from?
These are all things that need to be fixed. Any statistics need to be referenced back to research papers (a simple link will do); fluffy content needs to be removed, and irrelevant topics need to be removed.
Where possible it is much better to update/fix the content than to straight out delete it. Fixing your content is the longer route that will pay dividends in the long run. But if you’ve noticed that your website is quickly sinking into the deep dark depths of Google in the past few weeks and you don’t have the resources available to fix all the unhelpful content, then you might need to start throwing the dead content weight overboard as quickly as possible.
A note on content relevance
It is also worth mentioning that Google’s Helpful Content Update doesn’t just look at the quality of your content. It also looks at the relevance of your content. And your relevance as an author on that topic.
Relevance of your content: Are you writing about a topic that is relevant to your brand, your website, your product / service offering? If you sell portable air conditioners and decide to publish a really well-written, well-researched, and insightful editorial piece on the benefits of owning a Porsche… Google is not going to like that. There is a time and a place for your Porsche Opinion Piece, and it is not on your portable air conditioner website.
We need to remember that Google’s ultimate goal is to provide the best possible experience for its users – it doesn’t want to send people to an air conditioning website to learn about Porsches.
Relevance of your experience: Google is keeping tabs on you and your brand. It tracks brand mentions, looking at your social media profiles and connects all the dots. Publishing content on industry websites or receiving lots of brand mentions on industry forums are going to help build your ‘authority’ as an expert on that topic.
Things like having a detailed LinkedIn profile that outlines your industry experience and contains lists to all your published articles will give you authority/weighting as a subject-matter expert. This in turn can help the articles you publish on your website under your name perform better on Google – as Google can see a trail of breadcrumbs throughout the internet that indicate/support your knowledge and experience.
BeKonstructive Marketing’s content-first approach to SEO:
I have previously written in detail about our content-first approach to SEO (the publish date of that article is well in advance of Google’s latest algorithm update).
We have always taken a content-first approach to SEO. Our process has always remained 100% in-house since day one. And we have always worked closely with our clients to interview them and gain their unique perspective to weave into our SEO content.
All our SEO clients have seen improvements in their SEO rankings this month. As Google rolls out the new Helpful Content algorithm update, our sites are getting reindexed higher than ever before – because we write high-quality SEO content.
If you’d like to learn more about our approach to SEO services then please get in touch.