As marketers, we all rely on Google. It’s as simple as that. From SEO to organic traffic to just everyday research, Google remains a regular (and necessary) part of our workflow. So when the tech giant makes a change — we pay attention.
And the company’s latest announcement? An algorithm change, but not just any algorithm change.
Google recently announced the upcoming rollout of a change to its search ranking algorithm that’s shaping up to be the most significant in over a decade. They’ve branded the change: “The Helpful Content Update.”
What is Google’s “Helpful Content Update”?
In short: The update targets websites with large amounts of “unhelpful content”, or content “that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines rather than to help or inform people.”
As a result, Google aims to reward content that they feel gives visitors a more satisfying and authentic experience. The change is part of an “ongoing effort to reduce low-quality content and make it easier to find content that feels authentic and useful in search.”
Additionally, the update currently only impacts English global searches, but Google plans to extend to different languages in the future.
And what types of content might be affected the most? Google stated these:
- Online educational materials
- Tech-related content
Why these areas? These verticals have historically been more geared toward search engine optimization rather than simply the human experience. Plus, Google is also looking for content that goes against a company or brand’s core mission or value proposition.
Another thing to keep in mind is that this change is a sitewide algorithm. What does that mean? The “helpful content update” affects your entire site — even if certain landing pages are deemed “helpful” by the algorithm. So a small amount of “helpful pages” might not be enough to stop Google from penalizing the “unhelpful” ones.
So, Should We Still Optimize Our Content?
Of course, but it’s all about balance. Optimizing your site’s content and landing pages for top SEO performance isn’t a bad thing — but it is possible to be over-optimized.
What’s the difference between optimized and over-optimized? Over-optimized content focuses on quantity rather than quality, typically describing the same thing multiple times in order to boost search engine rankings. Perfectly optimized content uses Google’s SEO best practices as guidelines and reflects the proper balance of valuable, educational content and popular keywords.
So don’t be afraid to optimize your content for strong SEO rankings, but always make sure the added value is authentic.
When Will The Change to Go Live?
The rollout can start as early as next week, but it could take as long as two weeks to be completed. Google will also post on its ranking updates page when the rollout begins and let users know when it’s done.
Expect A Slightly Bumpy Road Ahead
(But not forever).
Like with any update to its algorithm, Google expects an adjustment period for site owners.
The new classifier acts as one of the signals that Google uses to rank content. What exactly does this mean? The algorithm will run automatically, and a site’s ranking hit by the changes could take several months to recoup its losses. The reason for this being that a site penalized for publishing “unhelpful” content would need to prove itself to Google, showing that it no longer creates that type of content. So, if you do find yourself in a position where Google’s algorithm detected too much “unhelpful” content, it is possible to get that classifier taken off of your site — it just might take some time. But do expect a decline in traffic over the next few months if Google detects any unhelpful pages on your site.
What Does This Mean for AI-Generated Content?
For marketers using the power of AI writing and copywriting tools to boost their content efforts, this Google update seems like even more of a gray cloud.
But does Google’s “Helpful Content Update” really mark the end of a chapter on AI-generated content? No — and in fact, it may even help improve said AI-generated copy.
Given the nature of the update, it’s natural to wonder if the algorithm will start targeting and subsequently penalizing sites that use AI-generated content.
But just like the internet can contain both high and low quality content, AI writers can be used to create both good and bad content. That being said, for marketers and copywriting using AI tools to their advantage to churn out exception content, this Google algorithm change is actually a good thing.
Why? No one will ever win with subpar content — especially now that Google is cracking down. So, not only will the “Helpful Content Update” encourage us to create good content in general, it will also incentivize the improvement of AI platforms and tools overall.
Tips for Using AI to Produce High-Quality Content
- Do your homework first. It’s important to understand your audience and their needs before you go about creating any sort of content. Have this established first, and the content that follows will be exponentially better.
- Use AI to improve your existing copy. You don’t necessarily need to start from the ground up. Use a copy rewriter tool to spruce up what you already have and make it more Google-ready.
- Create only relevant content with AI. AI tools should be your helper. And in that case, only turn to them to create articles or landing pages that fit the needs of your site and your audience.
Google’s Advice On Handling The Update
To lend a helping hand, Google released these recommendations on how to navigate the upcoming changes. Google also advises content-creators, marketers, and publishers alike to make sure they follow its guidelines on building high-quality sites and creating content for people.
What exactly does people-first content look like?
Content creators with a people-first approach publish “satisfying content,” meaning it’s rich with value and information, while also using SEO best practices to bring additional value to visitors. But the key is to not go overboard.
In order to determine how your site might be affected, ask yourself these questions from the search engine. If you answer “yes,” then your content is probably already on the right track.
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?
Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?”
So what are the action items for marketers and site owners looking to avoid Google’s new classification?
- Determine what content can be improved upon per Google’s standards.
- Re-strategize and implement future content that follows these guidelines.
- Clearly define the purpose of each page (plus, re-evaluate and restructure if needed).
- And of course, it never hurts to take a look at what competitors are doing.
How to Create Human-First Content
And if you happened to answer “no” to any of those questions above, now’s the time to start creating people-first content!
Before we dive headfirst into a people-first content strategy, we must first ask ourselves why it’s so important to have one (Google update aside). Per a HubSpot study, 86% of consumers prefer honest and authentic brand/business personalities on social networks. Consumers don’t want to feel as though they are being constantly sold to — and content created with only SEO in mind can sometimes come across too strong (and inauthentic).
Step One: Know Your User
There can’t be a human-first content strategy without the human. So — who is your customer? To understand this, it’s important to nail down the basics of how you will reach each visitor. Ask yourself:
- What social media platforms does my customer use most?
- What value is my customer seeking ?
- What types of sites and what types of content does my customer/visitor want to see?
- What tone and style would my customer resonate with the most?
Use Google Analytics to get a better idea of how your current visitors are interacting with your site. This data will show you what’s working, what could be improved, and how to move forward in the future.
Step Two: Create a Strong Customer Persona
Once you understand how your customer operates, it’s time to figure out who your customer actually is. Using the data and insights you learned in step one, it’s time to create your customer persona. Figure out the basics, such as:
- Education Level
- Pain points and daily challenges
And once you have all of these factors in line, use Anyword’s Customer Personas feature to create perfectly streamlined copy written for your specific audience base. College students? Recent retirees? Dog owners? Whoever your target customers may be, tell Anyword and get tailored copy in just a few clicks.
For a more in-depth how-to on creating a complete customer persona, check out our guide here.
Step Three: Tell A Story & Provide Solutions
At the end of the day, your visitor or customer wants to feel understood and valued.
Have you identified your audience’s main problem or pain point? Good, now create the solution! And in 2022, we get to be exciting and authentic as we do it!
Always be sure to account for the emotions of your audience, and of course, per Google’s request, only publish and promote content that brings genuine value to the reader or viewer.
And for more information on how Anyword helps marketers navigate the tricky world of content, book a demo with us today and get started!