Content is the primary key to successful digital marketing. But if it’s not helpful content, it isn’t helping your search engine rankings.
Written content, whether webpage copy or business blog articles, are critical content elements that can provide what Google has termed “helpful content.” And Google is now ranking search results accordingly.
What is Helpful Content and Why Does Google Care?
When it comes to search engine optimization and generating the maximum number of qualified search results, what Google cares about matters.
And Google recently released another of a series of updates that promises to have a direct and significant impact on search results. Specifically, written content, which is often produced by companies in the form of blog articles.
On August 25, 2022, Google released what they referred to as the August 2022 “helpful content” update. The rollout for this particular update was complete as of September 9, 2022.
This particular update is significant for businesses that engage in content marketing and SEO to generate website traffic.
As the Content Marketing Institute pointed out recently,
Given the update’s sitewide impact, any domain with a high amount of low-quality content is at risk of seeing a decline in its search rankings. The update uses machine learning to determine whether a site’s content is helpful, and sites found lacking in this regard will be penalized accordingly.
Google has stated that the intent or purpose of this latest update is to give ranking preference to written content and to,
[B]etter reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.
This is in line with the general thrust of Google’s previous and long-standing guidance and prerequisites for ranking well in search engine results.
The goal for any content marketing and SEO-based strategy is to achieve high rankings in what are known as SERPs, or search engine results pages. These are the web pages that are presented to users as they search for something online using a search engine, such as Google.
The “Holy Grail” of SERPs, of course, is to have your website show up at the top of the first page of search engine results. And, while this can never be guaranteed, Google is indicating that if your site’s content meets the criteria they have set for ‘helpful content’ the odds are far better.
So, what is helpful content then?
Is Your Written Content Really ‘Helpful’ to Your Audience?
One of the common issues with most online business content is that is has been produced to either:
- A) Promote the business’s products or services, or
- B) Optimize search results with SEO tactics
The problem with both of these approaches is that this type of content tends to promise one thing while delivering another – which, in essence, means failing to deliver.
There are places on a brand’s website for showcasing its services or products, but a blog article is almost never that place. And blog articles, guides, case studies, and other written content that promise an answer, a solution, or pertinent information that a reader is searching for should deliver on that promise,
Anything short of that is not “helpful” content.
Google offers a helpful guide to determine if a piece of content is ‘helpful content,’ which they define as “people-first” content. In other words, content that satisfies a searcher’s intent, while still utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value.
As Google states,
Answering yes to the questions below means you’re probably on the right track with a people-first approach:
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?
Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
So, how do you create quality content that is “helpful” according to Google’s standards?
A few tips include understanding and aligning with your reader’s intent, targeting audiences that are truly relevant to your business by creating content that’s relevant to their needs, and writing better content. This simply means “being real and human” in your content while still displaying your brand’s expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
What to Avoid While Creating Helpful Content
It’s one thing to know what an audience wants to find when searching for helpful and relevant content, but it can be challenging to know what to avoid. Especially if you’ve been focused on “writing for search engines” in your pursuit of higher ranking SERPs.
Google has provided a list of guidelines for what you should avoid, as well as what to strive for.
According to their new update criteria, when creating content you should avoid:
- Content that is written primarily to attract traffic from search engines, rather than for humans.
- Producing lots of content on different topics, hoping that some of it performs well in search results.
- Using extensive automation (AI) to produce content on several topics.
- Summarizing other people’s content without adding value.
- Writing about trending topics instead of topics that are relevant to your audience.
- Shallow, superficial content that fails to answer a question, solve a problem, or provide information.
- Simply producing a certain word count because you think that Google has a preferred word count. (They don’t)
- Content that promises to answer a question that actually has no answer.
Marketers, content creators, and small business owners can often feel frustrated by the often changing and sometimes restrictive demands of Google. However, in their defense, these updates are primarily designed to benefit those using the search engine to find content that is helpful to them.
And the key for content producers is to meet that need.
As Search Engine Land noted recently,
In short, searchers are getting frustrated with landing on web pages that do not help them but rank well in search because they were designed to rank well. This algorithm aims to downgrade those types of websites while promoting more helpful websites, designed for humans, above search engines.
Google said this is an “ongoing effort to reduce low-quality content and make it easier to find content that feels authentic and useful in Search.” This targets content written for search engines over human-first content.
The key, then, is to consistently and intentionally create and publish written content that is designed to answer questions, provide information, or solve problems that are important and relevant to your company’s customers and prospects.
And the good news is that you don’t have to do it alone.
Effective Content Marketing Doesn’t Have to Be a DIY Task
These tips can go a long way towards improving your brand’s search engine visibility. However, there is much more that should be done on a regular basis that requires time and expertise. Fortunately, content marketing functions can be easily outsourced.
And they should.
You know that effective content marketing and search engine optimization can significantly boost traffic for your business and your company’s products and services. But this requires a certain level of expertise and time to do it well and to it in a cost-effective way.
And this expertise and time that most small business owners and perhaps their marketing managers may not have.
The good news is that you don’t have to do it all yourself!
In fact, one of the best investments you can make with your marketing budget is to partner with a professional firm like BroadVision Marketing.
Click below to learn about our digital marketing services to help you make an informed decision, or call us at BroadVision Marketing at 707-799-1238.