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Google’s Helpful Content Update: Key Takeaways

Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.

Google is ever-evolving. Often this evolution comes in the form of algorithm updates whereby the formula Google uses to calculate rank has a substantial change.

In mid-August, Google announced the “helpful content” algorithm update. This update is similar to past changes and is designed to connect searchers to better content.

Typically, algorithm updates come with a lot of anticipation in the SEO world. Who will be impacted? How substantial will the changes be? How do sites recover if they see a decline in traffic as a result of the algorithm update?

At Pathfinder SEO, we coach our subscribers to follow a holistic approach to SEO that places the audience at the center. Fortunately, this strategy is long-term and insulates our campaigns from algorithm changes.

In short, we don’t have to invest substantial energy into algorithm changes — it’s business as usual.

That being said, this is a substantial update to Google’s algorithm, and it's worth understanding it in more detail. So allow us to break it down further for you.

What is the “Helpful Content” Algorithm Update?

This algorithm update aims to ensure that people discover content “written by people, for people” in the search engine results.

That’s good news if you are already writing content that is helpful to your audience. That is to say, the content that your target audience looks to your expertise in. Why is this relevant? As new business owners, sometimes, it can be easy to try and mimic others vs defining your brand’s unique voice.

The recent algorithm update supports unique brand voices. Google’s guidelines have long encouraged that your content should be “people-first”. Now they are going to hold marketers accountable for it.

To determine if your content meets these guidelines, here are some guiding questions from Google that you can ask yourself:

  • Does your content target a specific audience?
  • Would this audience find your content helpful?
  • Does your website have a primary focus? Does your content stay on topic within that focus?
  • Is your content substantial enough to leave a reader encouraged that they can apply their learning to meet their goals?
  • Is your content satisfying?

If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then you are in a great place as this algorithm update goes into effect. Your audience-first content marketing and SEO strategy is and was ready.

The primary action to avoid is creating content that is search engine-first. Flags that content is search-engine first include:

  • Writing on many different topics, some of which are outside of your expertise.
  • Targeting specific word counts for SEO.
  • Producing large volumes of content in hopes that a few posts excel.
  • Using substantial automation or AI to write your content.

When Does the “Helpful Content” Update Go into Effect?

This algorithm update started rolling out on August 25, 2022, and could take up to 2 weeks to fully go into effect. That means that come September 8th the new algorithm will be fully tracking “people first” SEO content.

What Do You Need to Watch?

The same data we analyze monthly for our websites and our client's websites are applicable as this algorithm update rolls out — keyword rankings, sessions from organic search, and top organic landing pages.

If you see improvements, this may be the result of the algorithm update and is something you can talk about with your team or your clients. This further validates that your holistic approach to SEO is working.

Alternatively, if you see declines, then it’s time to go back to your content strategy to realign it to match a people-first strategy. You can revise past posts, remove those that may stray too much from your topical expertise, and update your upcoming content calendar to ensure the topics are in line with Google’s best practices.

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Our coaches have in-depth experience with SEO across industry verticals and content management systems. Get the advice you need to ensure your SEO strategy is on the right track.

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Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.
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