I’ve been waiting YEARS for it, and it’s happening! Google launched what they’re calling their “helpful content” update for search. It’s VERY good news for you and bad news for big companies. “The helpful content update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well,” says Google on their developer forum.
To keep it simple, Google will begin punishing low-quality content that is long, non-educational, and doesn’t answer the question being searched. You know what this content looks like. Try searching for “how to toast bread,” and you’ll be met with a 1,400 words exposé outlining the history of flour, baking, and grain production in the early 15th century. Even though they deny it, writers have long suspected Google rewards longer-form content. Apparently, those days are over.
How to take advantage of the “helpful content” update
Although Google will never tell us what they’re changing specifically, they have dropped hints. Yoast (a phenomenal SEO tool) has a great summary right here. But what does this mean for writers and content creators? I’ll tell you what I’m advising clients to do.
Did you use AI tools to write content? Erase it.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you on this one. In early 2021, I wrote a piece on this very site titled “Don’t use AI to write articles.” These tools are impressive, for sure, but what they’re actually doing is simply copying content that already exists elsewhere. It’s fancy plagiarism and using a tool will probably be noticed by Google—and not in a good way.
“They’ve been cranking out patents for proposed improvements to their algorithms, like the information gain patent that looks at what documents have in common to find something that stands out from the commonness,” Edwin Toonen explains while writing for Yoast. Put simply, they have better AI writing tools than that free online tool; you’re not doing yourself favors by using it.
Don’t write about things just because something is trending.
As a writer for various clients in different fields, I can spot some trends months out and get ahead of them. Truthfully, I’ve written about some of those trends, although it’s important to point out I do tie them to my communications focus to get traffic. I’ve done this because I don’t want Google categorizing me into a different category. I want to rank in communications and PR for tech companies.
Although it’s unclear what will happen if you continue to write about trending topics outside of your expertise, it looks like you will be downranked if you try to jump onto trends just to get traffic. The implication here is simple: stay in your lane. Niches make riches.
It might be good to delete and 410 some of your content or redirect it if it’s not well within your expertise wheelhouse.
Length doesn’t matter. Be precise.
Google is saying length doesn’t matter anymore (and saying it never did) when they were quoted as saying, “Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t).” Yea, well whether you believe that or not, it’s good news if true.
The fact is, great writers can summarize big ideas with few words. For this reason, great writers can be punished for being poignant. Hopefully, the era of content bloviation is over.
Buh-bye “skyscraper technique”
The “skyscraper technique” has long been a strategy to outrank competitors. The idea is simple: see what content ranks well, then rip it off and do it better. This means original creators with original ideas can be outranked by bigger competition with their own unique ideas. Not cool, guys.
Supposedly, that era is coming to a close. For content creators like myself who spend a lot of time writing original content, this is great news. If you’ve copied a bunch of content, it’s probably best to erase that and knock it off. You’ve been put on notice.
Instead, try listening to your customers or audience and write content that actually helps them. Try providing value for once, dummy.
Great writing for people, not just search engines.
Write and edit great pieces for people, not for search engines. Use good sources. Do great research. My clients have already outranked competitors 10x their size or bigger because they write high-quality content. Historically, I’ve pulled this off simply because I train them how to be first on new hot questions emerging in their space.
Moving forward, this “helpful content” update will be a huge boost for them. As large content houses are scrambling to re-write and edit content that provides zero value, my clients aren’t changing a darn thing. It’s business as usual.
Take advantage of Google’s “helpful content” update. Go now!
If you’ve been thinking about starting an organic content strategy but were nervous at the amount of competition. NOW is the time to get started. This is the update people like me have been waiting years for and if you have unique expertise, you now have the advantage. Need more help? Sign up for my newsletter