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?

What is the Google Helpful Content 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:

  1. Better ranking of unique, quality content

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. 

  1. More helpful product reviews based on first-hand experience

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.

Content Marketing Strategy Around the HCU: Where to Start

So how does the HCU affect your content marketing strategy? 

  • Don’t make it all about the search engines

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.

  • Do you prioritize attracting users from search engines more than creating content for humans?
  • Are you producing large quantities of blogs or content on various topics hoping for some of it to do well and rank well on search results?
  • Do you use AI or automation to create content?
  • Do you end up taking content from other websites without adding new information or insight?
  • Do you create content that’s focused on trends instead of writing about topics that your core readers need?
  • Do users read your content from start to finish and feel like they need to do another Google search on the same topic?
  • Do you write content that has a set word count because you read that Google prefers that particular number?
  • Have you ever entered a niche topic area even though you don’t have any expertise, just because you thought it would get you more traffic?
  • Do you create content that promises to answer questions that have no real answer, like mentioning a release date for a movie or product that hasn’t been finalized yet?
  • Focus on people-first content

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.

  • Is your content written by experts or people with in-depth knowledge about the subject?
  • Do you have an audience on your site that would find your content useful?
  • Is the focus and purpose of your site clear to you and your audience?
  • Do readers feel like they got what they were looking for after reading your content without the need to look anywhere else?
  • Do readers feel satisfied after reading your content? Did they have a nice experience after they exit your site?
  • Do you keep in mind Google’s guidance for core updates and product review?

Tips to Update Your Content Marketing Strategy

1. Focus on your niche

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.

2. Use your experience, credentials, and authority

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. Mostly customers build the social proof to using the embed Google reviews on the website to increase the conversion rate.

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.

3. Provide detailed information

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.  .

4. Always think about the user experience

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?

  • Keep your content conversational and easy to read
  • Have a good mix of evergreen and trending content in your marketing strategy
  • Give your users exactly what they’re looking for the first time they click

Put Users at the Core of Your Content Marketing Strategy 

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.

About the author:

Itamar Gero is 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).

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