Navigating Google’s Helpful Content Update: How To Recover & Thrive

30 Second Summary:

  • Google’s Helpful Content Update emphasises people-first content, with the September update finishing rollout on 28 September.
  • Websites must adapt to provide informative, trustworthy, user-centric content if they aren’t already.
  • To recover and thrive if you’ve been impacted by this update requires investigation, adapting strategy and adding value to your content.

A pivotal change that has sent ripples through the digital landscape is Google’s Helpful Content Update. The focus on helpful, people-first content has meant a shift for many websites that were not doing this previously. Google’s algorithms have become more sophisticated than ever, aiming to ensure that users receive the most informative, trustworthy, and user-centric content possible. So, for digital marketers, creators, and website owners, understanding and adapting to this update is crucial not only for survival but for thriving in the competitive online environment – you could say it’s kind of a big deal!

To help, we’re going to delve into what businesses and creators should know about Google’s Helpful Content Update and how its impact on websites’ search rankings can be turned around. Knowing how best to recover from any ranking drops and craft content that meets Google’s quality standards should put you back in a good place if you’ve been affected.

That way, you’ll have a clear roadmap to not only recover lost ground but to establish a sustainable, long-term SEO strategy that keeps you ahead of the curve.

What is Google’s Helpful Content Update?

The Helpful Content Update signifies Google’s dedication to providing its users with the most valuable, relevant, and informative content. Launching first in August 2022, it’s since had 2 further updates – one in December 2022 and the latest in September 2023. Its primary goal is to reward high-quality content that genuinely serves the user’s needs rather than just to please search engine bots and achieve rankings.

  • A Focus on People-First Content – Ensuring that users find what they’re looking for when they search. It places a strong emphasis on content that addresses user queries, resolves their issues, and enriches their online experience – the essence of helpful content.
  • Quality over Quantity – Valuing the quality of content over its quantity. Thin, spammy, or low-value content is less likely to rank well. Google aims to promote content that offers depth, insight, and relevance to the user’s search.
  • Experience, Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T) – Google seeks to rank content from sources with a high level of experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness in their respective niches. This means that not just anyone can produce content and expect it to rank well. Establishing credibility and trust is important.
  • Holistic Content – The Helpful Content Update appreciates holistic content that comprehensively covers a topic. It favours content that doesn’t just scratch the surface and provide what’s already out there, but dives deep into the subject, providing users with in-depth knowledge and something new.
  • User Intent – Understanding and addressing user intent is pivotal. Google’s algorithms have become more adept at deciphering what users intend to find when they make a search query. Content that aligns with user intent is more likely to be rewarded.

The Impact of The Update

As with many of the algorithm updates Google introduces, there’s an impact on some websites, both positive and negative. Those who were already creating helpful content would see themselves remain largely unaffected or even boosted, whilst those who didn’t may have seen ranking drops and fluctuations since its introduction and subsequent further updates.

With the update’s emphasis on quality content, websites that had previously relied on low-quality, thin content may have seen a sharp decline in their rankings. This highlights the need to re-evaluate content strategies and focus on providing real value to users.

Websites offering genuinely helpful and informative content may have seen a boost in rankings. This increased competition among content creators means that providing high-quality content is not just a goal but a necessity for success. The hidden gems that were once hidden in forums or on smaller websites have suddenly found themselves with increased visibility in the SERPs.

Many marketers have found it necessary to conduct content audits and revamp their content strategies in response to the helpful content update. Re-evaluating existing content, enhancing its quality, and aligning it with user intent has been, for some, an extensive task that they cannot avoid.

Steps to Recover After a Ranking Drop

Experiencing a drop in search engine rankings due to Google’s Helpful Content Update can be disheartening, but it’s not the end of the road! Not by a long stretch, so with a strategic approach, you can recover and regain the ground you’ve lost. How? Well here are practical steps to help you bounce back and thrive in the wake of the update:

Evaluate Your Existing Content – Start by conducting a comprehensive audit of your website’s content. Identify low-quality, outdated, or irrelevant pages and see if you can add more value. What other questions around the topic are users asking? What other ways can you provide the information they are seeking?

Improve or Remove – For pages with subpar content, decide whether to improve them by adding value and depth or remove them altogether to prevent them from dragging down your site’s overall quality. Be careful with pruning though – just because it is old doesn’t mean it isn’t adding value, so don’t just remove content for the sake of it. Check the data to see how older pages are performing to help you with your decision.

Revisit Your Keyword Strategy – Analyse your target keywords and ensure they align with the search intent of your audience. Explore long-tail keywords that are more specific and tailored to user queries. If you are too broad in your keyword research and only go after the big search volume terms, you could be missing out on specific queries and questions users are searching for.

Optimise Site Speed – Improve website loading times to enhance UX, as site speed is a ranking factor. Think about the user POV – would you stick around on a slow-loading site when there are faster ones available or ones that offer a better experience? Google’s Core Web Vitals can help you identify where problems with your site are holding you back so you can then improve UX.

Mobile-Friendliness – Your website should be responsive and mobile-friendly, as Google prioritises mobile-first indexing. If the experience on mobile or tablet devices is not up to scratch, this can also be turning users away.

Review Backlink Profile – Examine your website’s backlink profile and identify any toxic or spammy backlinks. As the update is focused on quality, user-first content, how helpful are the pages linking to you? How relevant is the page to your website and the topic? It’s a good time to look at how healthy your backlink profile is and review it. Use Google’s Disavow Tool to disavow any harmful backlinks, which can negatively impact your site’s authority.

Encourage User Interaction – How engaged are users when they find your site? Look to implement strategies to engage users, such as adding interactive elements, improving call-to-action buttons, and encouraging comments and feedback. If the content they’re viewing is engaging them, it’s more likely to be shared by them on social media, so it’s a good indicator.

Crafting High-Quality Content

The quality of your existing content is under the spotlight more than ever before, with Google suggesting you think about whether your content is people first, publishing several questions you should ideally ask yourself here. Here’s just a few:

  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge?
  • 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?
  • Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
  • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?

All good questions amongst many others that indicate how essential creating content that meets Google’s standards for quality, relevance, and user satisfaction is. However, this isn’t anything new, as Google has always said it values reader-first content. It’s just that this time it’s in black and white so it’s clear for site owners.

Establishing and showcasing your expertise in your niche is essential and will help your content stay aligned with E-E-A-T guidelines. Authoritative content from trustworthy sources ranks higher, so back up claims with credible references and real results you’ve achieved. Is the author of your content topic a subject expert or someone with a broader background? If they are a specialist, this can help your content be more trustworthy and valuable. You’ll want to keep in mind the following too when looking to create new and update existing content:

Content Depth and Comprehensiveness:

  • Instead of superficial content, aim to create in-depth resources. Cover topics comprehensively, leaving no room for unanswered questions.
  • Utilise headers, bullet points, and clear structure to enhance content readability and make it the best it can be.

User Intent and Addressing Queries:

  • Understand the intent behind user queries. Tailor your content to answer those queries effectively.
  • Identify common questions and concerns within your niche that can be answered in your content if it isn’t already doing so.

Regular Updates and Maintenance:

  • Keep your content up to date. Regularly revisit and revise your older articles to reflect the latest information and trends.
  • Outdated content can harm your site’s credibility. See if you can update it to improve its relevancy and add more information. See if you can make it more ‘evergreen’ so that it becomes a useful resource at any time someone is searching for that information.

Originality and Uniqueness:

  • Avoid duplicate content and plagiarism. Originality is highly valued by Google and will be rewarded more so than ‘lazy’ content that covers the same thing without anything new.
  • Offer a unique perspective, insights, or solutions that set your content apart from competitors.

User-Friendly Formatting:

  • Ensure your content is easy to skim and digest for readers. Use clear headings, subheadings, and bullet points to improve the reading experience.
  • Break down complex information into manageable sections and make the content more readable so that your readers can understand clearly.

Engaging Multimedia Elements:

  • Consider incorporating visuals, such as images, infographics, and videos, to enhance content engagement.
  • Visual elements not only make content more appealing but also help in conveying information effectively.

We know that creating high-quality content that meets these criteria can be a time-intensive process, but a necessary one for SEO success post-update. Remember that the quality of your content is not focused on pleasing search engines but on delighting your audience, leading to improved user satisfaction and loyalty. If you can please your target audience and answer their questions, SERP positions will reflect that.

Investigate, Monitor, and Adapt

As Google’s algorithms continue to evolve and further updates around helpful content come along, staying ahead of the curve requires vigilant monitoring and adaptation. What works today may not work tomorrow, so keeping a watchful eye on algorithm changes will ensure that your website remains in compliance with the latest requirements. The focus now is on how helpful your content is for users, so adapting strategies around this based on the data is a good starting point.

Utilise tools and analytics to track changes in your website’s performance to give you an indicator of what is and isn’t working. Key metrics such as the amount of organic traffic, positions in the SERPs, click-through rates, bounce rates, and general user engagement – all can help you identify patterns and trends in your data so you can make informed decisions on what your strategy needs to be.

Regularly analyse what your competitors are up to and their performance. How were they impacted by the update? Understand what is working for them and where they might be falling short. This can provide valuable insights for adapting your own approach.

Listening to user feedback can also help, and you can conduct user testing to identify pain points and areas for improvement on your website. Addressing user concerns and enhancing the user experience can positively impact your rankings, so if you have had feedback on part of your site not working as intended or a clunky, unhelpful UX, it’s best that you act on it quickly.

Future-Proofing Your SEO Strategy

Remember that you don’t need to struggle alone with updating your website to be aligned with constantly changing best practices– we all need a little help from time to time. As an award-winning digital marketing agency, we’ve helped many sites ride algorithmic waves over the years. As mentioned, having helpful, quality content is nothing new and something you should ideally already be doing. Whether you’ve struggled with keeping up with updates from Google or where to take your SEO strategy next, we’re here to help when you need us. We can help you:

  • Analyse and update your content strategy.
  • Keep up to date with algorithm updates and the latest changes/guidance.
  • Focus on helpful, people-first content that considers intent and their needs.
  • Build a strong brand online to improve your overall efforts.
  • Address technical SEO aspects and UX improvements.
  • Ensure your site competes and is a resource for your customers.

If you’re concerned about any changes in rankings or performance since the latest Helpful Content Update finished rolling out at the end of September, reach out to the team today and contact us. We can help you make sense of what may have happened specifically for your website and offer expert advice and, most importantly, workable solutions to help you recover and thrive.

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