Jacqui Smit

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing the game in every industry, including marketing. In fact, content marketing in particular is a prime example of how these technologies are changing the way we operate. The ubiquitous algorithm is all-powerful, and it’s imperative to keep pace with it.

There’s no finer example of this high-speed chase than good old Google, one of the most trusted brands in the world. To maintain that loyalty and confidence, the search engine mammoth is constantly fine-tuning its algorithms and ranking systems to give users the best possible searching experience. 

Have you ever accidentally gone down an hours-long Wikipedia rabbit hole, finding information about every topic under the sun except the one you were looking for? Chances are, you can feel unbridled frustration just thinking about that scenario.

That’s why Google constantly churns out updates geared toward improving search result quality and relevance. In essence, they aim to provide users with the most helpful and accurate information when they conduct searches. 

While many of Google’s updates pertain to spam, backend coding, reviews and the like, one is of particular relevance to content marketers: the Google Helpful Content Update. Here, we’ve outlined the update for our fellow marketers to wrap their heads around it. Let’s take a look:

What’s the Update About?

In short, Google is enhancing its search ranking algorithm to give searchers the most relevant content possible based on their search query. Forget what you know about word counts, title tags, alt text, headings and other SEO technicalities. Well, not really, because all those things are still very important, but basically, this update will prioritize content quality above all else. What will that look like in practice?

Put Your Users First

Marketers need to remember that they’re ultimately creating content for people. This means that although they need to optimize for the algorithm, they also have to bear in mind that a living human is going to be consuming the content once it’s ranked.

To that end, it’s imperative that content is useful to the reader, viewer or listener, rather than designed for the sole purpose of ranking highly, because that won’t work anymore. Content must directly relate to the keywords users are searching for. 

So, marketer should:

  • Avoid generating heaps of content on a bunch of irrelevant subjects in the hopes that something sticks in the results pages. 
  • Steer clear of relying heavily on automation (we won’t name names) to produce content.
  • Eschew plagiarism. Your collateral needs to be value-laden and unique, demonstrating your expertise in the field and originality. 
  • Make certain that the content actually answers the searcher’s query, rather than dancing around the topic (or, worse yet, being totally unrelated).
  • Keep away from covering trending themes or issues unless they’re applicable to your brand.

How the Update Works and What You Need To Do

Google will reward content and sites that meet searchers’ needs by ranking it higher. The search engine will award first place to pages that leave users satisfied. In doing so, it will downgrade unhelpful content that was created for search engines rather than human beings. 

Keep in mind that this update doesn’t apply only to content you’ve produced since its launch in August 2022. The algorithm is going to use a signal to scan entire sites for unhelpful content published even before the update went live, so you may benefit from going back and deleting or re-optimizing old content to make it palatable to search engine crawlers.

Additionally, you must follow the essential best practices and guidelines by:

  • Making sure you haven’t reinvented the wheel by posting multiple pieces of content on the exact same topics with only minor variations. 
  • Fact checking all your content (both old and new). 
  • Combing through content for grammatical and spelling errors.
  • Reviewing content to ascertain whether there’s any obvious bias.
  • Keeping advertising on content pages to a minimum to prevent seeming spammy.
  • Ensuring the content is thoroughly researched and well-written or designed.

For now, the update will affect only content that’s in English, but that will eventually change in coming months to include other languages. The signal might take some time to adjust to newly updated content, so you may have to be patient for a little while. In the meantime, make certain you adhere to Google’s best practices, and your content should rank highly!

Additional Resources