What does Google’s new algorithm update, Helpful content, do?

Google algorithm update 2022: Helpful content

We’ve become used to Google occasionally updating its algorithms to make search more accurate and improve the user experience. Some website owners dread the impact of the update on their site, while others sit back in satisfaction as they see their site ranking higher and higher for certain keywords.

If you’re in the second group and don’t want to be picking Frontin after every update, then this article is for you, as the Helpful content update is one of the biggest hits of recent times.

It is not worth overdoing search engine optimisation

Browsing the web, you can come across a lot of articles that simply overuse keywords. Keyword stuffing can even render a post unreadable – and even though this content used to be at the top of the search engine 4-5 years ago, it is now (thankfully) starting to drop out of the top positions.

This does not mean that it is not worth optimising your content for search engine optimisation, in fact! But you can use synonyms, even similes and metaphors instead of the main keywords, Google understands them all. After all, search engines don’t just look at the words, they also look semantically at the sentence and paragraph.

A varied, non-repetitive content is also more likely to be read by users, which means they will stay on your site longer. This in turn is a green flag for Google that your content is useful, so it ranks it higher.

And the search giant’s artificial intelligence is getting smarter, with MUM and BERT being a step up.

Google new algorithms: BERT and MUM

BERT and MUM – two acronyms to remember

BERT (a long-ass acronym derived from Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) came out in 2019 in 70 languages, and was a big hit at the time.

BERT is a neural network based technology, which in simple terms means that Google better recognises the meaning of words in context, during searches. For example, if you search for “crossing the zebra” or “zebra rules”, you clearly don’t mean animal.

An improved version of the BERT algorithm is the MUM (Multitask Unified Model), which not only looks at the context, but also at the entire content. This means that images, videos, and even podcasts associated with a page can be identified by the search engine using artificial intelligence.

In fact, Google can even give you complete guides without you having to do any additional searches (this is already part of the Things to Know snippet.)

Acrylic painting is cited as an example, where you can find answers to everything from getting started, through styles and tips, to removing acrylic paint, all in one search.

Google Helpful content in action

And the Helpful content algorithm update will make search more precise and accurate, according to Google. But how?

What is the Google Helpful content algorithm update for?

What is a Helpful Content algorithm update?

The update is interesting if only because it could significantly reshuffle Google’s top rankings.

This introduces a new ranking signal, a signal that will have a negative impact on sites that create large amounts of content with little value. According to Google, it is worth removing conent that does not add value but is just “there” and hanging in the air.

Based on the tests, Google experts hope that it will significantly improve content related to education, art, shopping, entertainment and tech, for example.

The update itself is not done manually, but using the machine learning model, and the signal is weighted, meaning that one website will be more affected and another less.

(It’s not hard to deduce that it will have a more severe impact on sites that produce an industrial amount of rubbish content than those with less irrelevant content.)

What you should also know is that it was released at the end of August and will take about two weeks to fully implement (i.e. it is now complete), but will only affect English language searches at first. But make no mistake, it will be here soon.

But what does it mean for you?

It depends. If you’ve always focused on creating content for readers and users and not for Google, and if your content has added value, you shouldn’t be afraid of updating and you’ll probably be ranked higher in the search engine.

It is also a big problem if you write about the same things as others. Unfortunately, there is a lot of content that is not a one-to-one copy, but there was a central source (in English, for example) and it was translated, each in their own style.

The result of this is that most of the results in the search engine bubble up the same phrases, just in a different word order, using different words.

So you can do some source research, take some ideas from the article, but it’s more important than ever that your content is unique.

But to be a bit more specific: you can have one or more super long and cornerstone contented articles. If you also have a bunch of irrelevant posts, you are unlikely to rank highly in the search engine.

Google has also shared a useful list of things to look out for in content:

  • Is the content for search engines or for people?
  • Do you create a lot of content on different topics just to get some of it to rank well in search engines?
  • Do you use any AI tools to create content?
  • Are you modifying other people’s articles without any other added value?
  • Do you only write about things because they seem trendy and not because your audience would otherwise be interested?
  • In your content, readers don’t get all the answers on a given topic, so they have to search again, on other sites, to get them answered?
  • Are you writing a specific word count because you read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, it doesn’t.)
  • Have you chosen a field where you don’t have the expertise just to get people from the search engine?
  • Does the headline and your content imply that you are answering a question that doesn’t really have an answer yet (e.g. a release date for a particular film or series that hasn’t been confirmed, etc.)
Good content and SEO are important

How to check your existing content against the Useful content update?

Here again we refer you to the list in the Google announcement, which is a very good description of what you really need to look out for when checking your existing articles.

  • Do you have a target audience? Is this audience finding what they are looking for based on the information on your website?
  • Does your content really provide in-depth knowledge of the market in which you operate? Are you an expert on the topic?
  • Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
  • After someone has read your articles do you feel you have provided them with enough information to develop further?
  • Do you regularly update product descriptions and guides?

But what does it mean? And what principles should you follow when producing new content?

It is best to start a website that focuses on a topic related to your area of expertise. For example, if you have a webshop for food-sensitive animals, it is very important that you are knowledgeable about dietetics, diseases and understand animals.

So if you’re an owner whose dog is gluten and lactose intolerant, for example, you’re probably well versed enough in the subject to be able to provide useful information to other dog owners who are in the same situation.

If we stick to this example, it’s obviously not worth writing about something that is totally unrelated to your topic, but that everyone is talking about (like the rise in the national budget).

When writing your articles, it’s a good idea to beta with someone who is not a subject matter expert and ask them the following questions:

  • How readable and understandable was the article for lay people?
  • Have all your questions been answered?

If you don’t have a main focus for your site, it’s worth picking one and narrowing down your market. In the case of larger marketplaces or webshops, for example, this is difficult, as they sell thousands of different products, so you need to expand on one category and then go through the others in order.

And it has been a trend in the past, and is still a trend today, to constantly update content, for example with new research and statistics.

To return to the example above, if you have linked to a 2018 statistic on how many dogs worldwide suffer from food intolerance, and a 2022 figure comes out, then you should link to that, of course.

And if we had to summarise all this in one short paragraph, we would say: always and at all times keep your readers and customers in mind and write about what you were interested in or concerned about when you first learned about the subject. Chances are, they are facing the same issues as you did.

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