Google's helpful content update is here, are you maximising it's potential?


4 min read

Words by Wonderful Digital

Remember the days where coma-inducing keyword saturation littered throughout website copy earned it a higher Google search ranking? Reading the word ‘affordable plumbing’ 128 times across your local tradie’s website was considered good (although yawn-worthy) SEO practice – all at the expense of informative, helpful copy.


As we know, SEO has evolved considerably since then and has adapted to the needs and behaviors of users. The once popular practice of tricking Google into showing you some love by using SEO acrobatics now has the opposite effect when it comes to ranking – it’s two Google thumbs down.


Enter Google’s Helpful Content Update - an initiative born to tackle this issue head on. Launched on September 9, the update acts as a site wide signal that targets (and helps) websites that feature content that feels geared towards SEO ranking rather than doing exactly what the internet was created for – providing curious humans with helpful content.


Human-friendly first


With up to 91% of online content going unnoticed and experiencing no traffic, Google’s Helpful Content Update could not come at a better time. Visitors to a site want a simple answer delivered quickly and clearly. That doesn’t seem like a lot to ask but when it comes to creating content, old habits can be hard to break. The Google Gods simply want your content to feel human, relevant and most of all helpful. That means the traditional and clinical approach to SEO will have to take a back seat to human-lovin’, user-friendly content that audiences want to see.


Effective and engaging content should aim to answer the most likely questions your audience may have about your service or offer. This might require keyword research insights from an organisation’s customer service team, or for a small business, go old school and simply ask your customers what they want to see more of and how you can keep them better informed.


As you read this, Google is actively downgrading the ranking of websites that seem as though they have been written for SEO and rewarding those with honest-to-goodness, helpful content. However Google’s Helpful Content Update is not about being punished by Google, but rather them promoting a win-win situation. The update inspires you to create better content and therefore the internet becomes the super helpful place it was created to be.

Heads Up


When Google’s Helpful Content Update identifies your site as being ‘less content effective’, it will let you know. Think of it as a lifeboat instead of a witch hunt. Google issues you with a list of questions that helps you pressure-check your content. This checklist of sorts asks the hard questions you may have been dodging to date or have simply never thought of before.


Answering these questions helps to reposition the content as being more helpful and relevant. This might require some serious editing or even an entire rewrite of the copy. The addition of short and sharp video content that strikes the perfect balance between being engaging, informative and useful is a massive bonus. These changes may take a few months for Google to pick up before any ranking changes occur, so don’t sit there watching the kettle boil.


It’s important to remember that audiences often see right through content that has been created for ranking alone, meaning they bounce in and out of that site in a flash with no take-aways.

So it’s vital to know who your audience is, what they want and how you can best service them in order to make your site informative and well ranked.


Put simply, Google’s Helpful Content Update wants to see an online world rich in human-aimed content that is well organised, relevant and puts people before ranking.