Google's Helpful Content: What It Is & Why It's Important For SEO

Content Update | Proof3

Over recent years, content creators have been publishing content that caters to the needs of search engines, without always considering the user’s experience. But with the introduction of Google’s helpful content update in 2022, Google aims to resolve this issue by favouring content that is accurate, trustworthy and answers the searcher’s query. 

Let’s delve into what the helpful content system is, why it’s important for SEO, and how we can help if you are concerned about how the update might affect your site.

What Is Google's Helpful Content Update?

Put simply, Google’s helpful content update is a set of algorithm changes designed to better identify and promote content that provides a satisfying user experience. It aims to prioritise web pages that offer original, insightful information that answers users’ search queries comprehensively.

How the helpful content system works

By prioritising helpful content over non-helpful content, Google’s algorithm updates are creating more user-centric search results to provide users with high-quality and relevant results that meet the searcher’s intent.

The search engine evaluates whether the information is produced by reputable sources, reflects a genuine understanding of the subject and is credible, making it trustworthy and valuable for users.

It’s important to remember that Google not only looks at whether it perceives the content as helpful, but it also looks at the use of Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). Google uses a combination of these guidelines to assess the quality of content.

What Google considers as good content

To align with Google’s helpful content guidelines, content creators must produce material that meets specific criteria to ensure it is considered beneficial for the reader.

In short, Google considers quality content as the following:

  • Content that is created for a specific audience
  • Showcases significant expertise
  • Content must be trustworthy and credible
  • Content meets the wants or needs of searchers

By adhering to these guidelines, your content has more potential to rank higher in Google’s search results, reaching your intended audience more effectively. However, it’s important to remember that these are guidelines that Google may change over time, much like the E-E-A-T guidelines. Whilst we can’t guarantee that following the current guidelines will automatically make your content rank higher, they are factors that Google will consider when ranking your content.

Content that is created for a specific audience

When creating a piece of content, you should always consider the audience that you aim for your content to target. This can include factors such as demographics, geographical location, education and their interests.

Example: First-time parents are likely to be more interested in content that will help them and their newborn to settle, as opposed to time-consuming upcycling projects as it doesn’t resonate with them at this time in their lives.

Content features expertise

As mentioned in our previous E-E-A-T article, displaying expertise shows a deep, authoritative knowledge on a particular subject. Although displaying expertise is particularly important for Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) topics, it also remains true with eCommerce sites as it shows that you are experts in the products and services that you provide.

Example: A financial advisor writing about investment strategies would be expected to have certifications or substantial experience in finance. This can be demonstrated in the content through detailed explanations of investment principles and by including original case studies. This can also be shown in other areas of the site such as an author page that provides some background information about the writer.

Content demonstrates authoritativeness

Google perceives quality content as content that shows authoritativeness by reflecting the content creator’s standing and recognition in their field. Authoritativeness could be improved by mentioning professional affiliations, awards or recognition from peers.

Example: A health-related article written by a licensed physician would be deemed as more trustworthy and display more authority than if it was written by a non-accredited healthcare enthusiast.

Content is trustworthy and credible

Trustworthiness in content implies that the information presented is reliable, accurate, and honest. To build trustworthiness, content should be transparent about sources and include verifiable facts.

Example: A news article should provide references and links to original research or statistics to back up its claims. As mentioned previously, trust can also be established by clearly presenting information about the qualifications and background of the content creator.

Content meets the wants or needs of searcher's intent

Content fulfils this requirement when directly solving the user’s query or needs. If the search query was “how to tile a fireplace” and the content guides the reader through the process from start to finish, it likely meets the searcher’s intent.

Example: This tiling a fireplace blog post by Tile Giant includes a list of materials needed, step-by-step instructions and tips for tiling a fireplace to address searcher intent.

Why the helpful content update is important

The helpful content update has shaped the SEO landscape, focusing more on the value and user-focus of content. If your content aligns with the criteria of Google’s helpful content updates and E-E-A-T guidelines, you have a better chance to outrank competitor pages, assuming it more effectively addresses the user’s search intent.

This approach to content creation rewards creators who invest time and effort into understanding and serving their audience, rather than relying on keyword stuffing or algorithmic manipulation to gain visibility. By prioritising useful and relevant content, Google aims to ensure that higher quality, more helpful content is shown to users.

However, as previously mentioned, solely optimising for these guidelines doesn’t guarantee that your content will rank above competitors, but we can perform an SEO audit to identify any potential ranking issues with your content.

Digital experiences that deliver remarkable results for eCommerce

How to identify whether you have helpful or unhelpful content

There are several questions that content creators can ask themselves to determine the helpfulness of the content. If you answer yes to the following questions, the content is likely to be helpful:

  • Does the content directly address a specific question or issue that the target audience has?
  • Is the content presented in a user-friendly manner that is easy to understand?
  • Does the content provide unique value or insight not easily found on other sites?
  • Is the content based on factual information and supported by evidence?
  • Do the creators present their credentials or experience to establish trust?
  • Has the content been recently updated to reflect changes or new developments in the field?

By evaluating content against these questions, content creators can better determine whether their content is genuinely helpful and aligned with user needs, or if it falls into the category of unhelpful content and requires improvement to meet the expected standards.

Examples of helpful vs unhelpful content

Helpful content

Unhelpful content

A “How-to” guide on installing solar panels that gives readers clear practical advice.

A generic article about the benefits of solar energy without actionable information.

A well-structured tutorial with step-by-step instructions, photos and diagrams.

An excessively technical guide lacking clarity and visual aids.

An article featuring original interviews or research data.

Rephrased content that doesn’t add new value above what already exists online.

An in-depth review with product testing results and verified customer feedback.

A review filled with unsubstantiated claims and without source citations.

An investment advice article authored by a certified financial planner with disclosed credentials.

Financial tips from an anonymous source without any indication of expertise.

A tech manual updated to discuss the latest software version or hardware compatibility.

Outdated advice that hasn’t been revised in light of new industry standards or technologies.

What to do if you have unhelpful content

If your content has been deemed unhelpful or you believe it’s been negatively impacted by the helpful content update, it’s important to take proactive steps towards recovery and improvement. Consider these actions if any of your content doesn’t meet the helpful content standards:

  • Remove or improve unhelpful content: Ensure that content is thorough, up-to-date and addresses the users’ queries. If you have content that’s outdated or doesn’t provide the helpful information users are searching for, consider removing or improving it.
  • Refresh content regularly: Ensure that your content reflects industry changes and contains the latest information and trends. This will also demonstrate to the algorithms that your website is actively maintained.
  • Focus on E-E-A-T guidelines: Update your ‘About us’ page, include author bios and ensure your content is written by knowledgeable writers. Ensure that any factual claims are supported by trustworthy sources.
  • Analyse competitor content: Look at the content that is ranking well around the topic. Understand what they are doing right and incorporate those strategies into your own content, ensuring that you differentiate your content to add unique value.

By making these changes, your content is more likely to align with the new search algorithm updates, help to aid in recovery if impacted and ultimately be more competitive.

Remember, it’s not just about fixing a few pages but committing to a content strategy focused on delivering real value to your users.

Ready to take your eCommerce SEO to the next level? 

In a digital world where information across the internet is in abundance, it’s even more important than ever to ensure that your content gets seen above competitors.

Don’t let your site fall behind — contact us today to ensure your content is relevant and competitive.

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