All content marketers must stay on top of search engine updates. Google updates are especially crucial as the search engine still holds the biggest market share at 90.82%. So whenever Google releases an update, marketers pay attention and apply changes to their content marketing strategies.
On Sept.9th, Google finished rolling out what’s likely one of its biggest updates of the decade: the Google Helpful Content Update, which focuses on ensuring users see more original, helpful content that’s written by people for people.
How can it affect your content marketing strategy? And what can you do to strengthen your tactics amid the update?
Google’s helpful content update (HCU) aims to present users with content that satisfies their experience. The algorithmic ranking signal detects low-quality, purposeless content. If your website contains too many unhelpful articles, these pieces will negatively impact the visibility of your site, leading to manual actions like de-indexing the page. When a page or a site is deindexed, this means it can no longer appear in Google searches, and usually marks a reduction of traffic to practically zero, if users can no longer find the page or site.
This update rewards content that delivers satisfying results and user experience while penalizing content and websites with low-value content.
The HCU aims to focus on two things:
This will ensure that low quality content won’t rank in search results. The updated ranking signal works best with results related to entertainment, shopping, online education, and technology.
For example, if a user looks up information about a new book, Google will bump up pages containing unique reviews and insights about the book. In addition, if that page exists in a website that Google recognizes as a site that consistently delivers authentic and legitimate information, then the page on that site may be prioritized.
Reviews play a major role in helping people decide what to purchase. Google has refined its ability to filter in-depth and more insightful reviews based on first-hand buyer experiences. People can expect to easily find original and high-quality reviews with the rollout of the HCU.
So how does the HCU affect your content marketing strategy?
Yes, optimization is key to your content performing well and your site’s visibility. But rather than building your content marketing strategy around Google updates, like the HCU, put your efforts toward a better user experience.
Google has provided the following questions to determine whether you have been taking a search-engine first instead of a user-first approach. If you answer “yes” to the following, audit your content and update your content marketing strategy.
Google has repeatedly put an emphasis on ‘people-first content,’ which means content that serves customers better, providing them with in-depth information and a positive experience.
Any form of content on your website should be made with your target audience in mind. This means that optimization tactics should come second in terms of prioritization.
To know if your website uses the people-first approach, answer the following questions. If you answer yes to most of them, then you’re in the right direction.
Google’s advice is to focus on your niche once you’ve found it. Consistency is important because it doesn’t confuse web crawlers, sending them random signals.
For example, if your website is about vintage cars, stick to that niche. Don’t write about movies or books merely because these topics are trending and might drive traffic to your site. If you write about anything else aside from your niche, you’re sending a signal to Google that you’re more focused on ranking than providing quality content for your users.
Experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (aka E.A.T.) wth the subject matter increase a website’s value for the user, and by extension, for Google.
For example, a reader will more likely trust a medical blog if the article is written by a licensed physician or someone with a background in medicine, as clearly indicated in the author bio with the appropriate links (if they’re affiliated with organizations with an online presence to validate their credentials) or social signals (social media profiles).
Similarly, a reader will trust a review from someone who covers substantial details and provides insight more than someone who’s giving general observations about it.
Your content strategy should also focus on elevating your website’s authoritativeness in the field. Consistently publishing content with this in mind will help people see your site as a trustworthy source over time. So when they need information about that particular subject matter, they will return to your site repeatedly.
Provide articles with verifiable statistics, evidence and data, so your user won’t feel the need to leave your site and do another search. If a user goes to another site after clicking away from yours without any further interactions with your site (or as Google calls it, a bounce), it’s sending the search engine a signal that their experience with your site was unsatisfying and/or did not match their search intent.
With a high enough bounce rate, Google will start pulling down your ranking, as every bounce is a vote about the lack of value your page is giving the user.
No matter what type of content you’re including in your marketing strategy, from blog and social media posts to product descriptions and about us pages, always add value with relevant, detailed information that will help the user to solve a problem or achieve a goal.
Whether that goal is getting a recipe for blueberry pancakes, or looking for cheaper insurance alternatives, or looking up the roster of the Yankees in 1999, the information should be provided clearly, and blacked up with supporting details that are relevant to the user’s intent. .
Users return to websites that made it easy and enjoyable to get what they needed. Whatever that need was, a return visit plus a conversion would mean you’re doing something right.
So what will it take to improve user experience?
Your content marketing strategy will not have to change too much if you’re already putting users first over influencing search engines. If not, now is the time to pivot toward a user-first approach, and prioritize users over search engines when planning your content.
Optimization efforts and following algorithmic changes are crucial, but putting user experience first has become paramount. It’s what people who use Google expect and it’s what the search engine aims to achieve.
The helpful content algorithm pushes you to find the balance between creating people-first content and staying updated with changes. It’s important to optimize but never at the cost of user satisfaction.
So stay faithful to your current and future customers, and Google will reward you in the long run.
Itamar Gerois the founder of SEOReseller.com, an SEO Services and digital marketing solutions provider that empowers agencies and their local clients all over the world. When he isn’t working, he’s traveling the world, meditating, or dreaming (in code).