Google has rolled out another algorithm update. Cue inbound marketers uttering the old Quantum Leap catchphrase: “Oh boy!”
But seriously, Google’s algorithm updates often involve trying to make the user experience better and, really, isn’t that already one of the biggest components at the heart of inbound marketing? This rollout is referred to as the “helpful content update” and, to quote Google directly, the update “aims to better 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.”1
What does Google’s August 2022 helpful content update mean for inbound marketers? As with the root of any SEO endeavor, it ultimately comes down to what’s best for the searcher — and that’s the mindset inbound marketers would be wise to take.
A Searcher’s Perspective
We’ve all googled things. Imagine yourself at home making any number of searches. A new recipe. That weird twinge in your back and what it could be. A list of the Oscar nominees. What kind of content on each topic are you hoping to find?
You’ll likely want a recipe that gets to brass tacks and doesn’t start with a 300-word life story. You’d probably want an informative article about back pain from experts to figure out what may be troubling you rather than a bot-written, keyword-packed jumble from a random site with “health” somewhere in the URL. And you’ll almost certainly want a relevant list of current Oscar nominees, not a related article about where some previous Oscar nominees are right now.
The internet is riddled with content that doesn’t get to the point or may even be composed by artificial intelligence (AI) using a mishmash of keywords and phrases that seem right for any given topic but don’t really have much to say. It feels written just to attract search engine traffic — and that’s exactly the kind of content Google wants to push to the side in favor of more informative content for the searchers’ benefit.
What Kind of Content Won’t Be Considered Helpful?
As with any algorithm update, we won’t know the full measure of Google’s tactics here, but the company has advised creators to not generate content geared toward search engines first. According to Google, their systems will be able to see content that isn’t providing value or is just plain unhelpful to people searching for a given topic.
Content that could be considered unhelpful includes:
Content that feels made for search engines rather than people
Websites with a myriad of random topics in an attempt to get high search rankings
Excessively automated content on a wide variety of topics
Content that’s there just to jump on trending topics
Content that doesn’t really answer searchers’ queries
Content for niche topics without any actual expertise
Content that only summarizes what others have to say and doesn’t add anything new
Content that promises to answer a question that doesn’t yet have an answer
This won’t just affect that particular piece of content, either. Google will also dock any other content on a website that they’ve found to have a lot of unhelpful content overall, making those entire sites less likely to rank well in search results.
Why This is Actually Good News for Inbound Marketers
The whole point of inbound marketing is to be helpful to people. Google boosting results that help people is actually going to work in marketers’ favor.
The goal here is to create content designed to truly answer people’s questions and provide useful knowledge. Inbound marketing caters to personas, and each piece of content should be aimed at a specific persona. If you have that persona top of mind when developing content, you’re already in great shape, and chances are good your content will show up in related searches.
Creating Helpful Content
When planning content, ask yourself this primary question: What value will you add above and beyond what’s already been published? You want the reader to feel rewarded for reading your content, feel as if they truly learned something new and had their curiosity satisfied. Will they?
Focus on creating content that offers experience or a depth of knowledge on topics that make sense. Write that content for your specific audience rather than just thinking about which random topics will get the most traffic.
For agencies who may have limited knowledge on some of the topics they’re working with, this may be a good opportunity to set up interviews with subject matter experts and even get direct quotes from them to add credibility. Collaboration with experts will go a long way to boosting the content’s value with this new algorithm.
Another idea? Think quality over quantity. You may need to adjust your cadence and publish fewer — but higher quality — items. Instead of reaching for new topics to fill your weekly blogging schedule, skip a week and spend the extra time interviewing an expert for a single, highly informative and helpful blog.
Bottom line: Write about things you know about firsthand or collaborate with someone who does.
SEO Still Matters
This update doesn’t mean search engine optimization won’t play a role in content anymore. In fact, this helpful content update reflects what SEO is truly about anyway — getting to the bottom of a searcher’s intent. In a sense, Google’s update is giving this a boost that will benefit searchers, decluttering the results to serve up only the best content for queries.
We recently hosted a webinar going over some of the most crucial SEO components inbound marketers and businesses should consider. It’s called Demystifying Search Engine Optimization, and if you missed it, we recorded it for you! Just click below to start accessing your free recording of our webinar today.
Posted by Chelsea Drusch Chelsea has years of inbound experience, but it’s her smart creativity that really packs a punch. As an Inbound Marketing Consultant with deep experience in SEO, content development, and HubSpot automation, she lives to challenge the status quo and is always looking for new and innovative ways to attract, engage, and delight customers. Prior to joining Weidert Group Chelsea launched and ran a successful inbound program for a large mutual insurance company for over 5 years.