As we know, Google regularly updates the algorithm for search rankings. This is great as it is a driver for websites to improve. By which we mean quick loading, mobile friendliness, stability, security, and most importantly in this instance, including helpful content. The update that took place in August 2022 focusses on rewarding helpful content. But what exactly is helpful content, why does it matter, and how do you achieve it?
What is the helpful content update?
This update was rolled out in August, and rewards content that gives a ‘satisfying experience’. Pages that are written for the user and not for the search engine. So content should fully answer a question and provide sufficient information about a topic, product or event. Importantly, this update applies site wide rather than simply on a page by page basis. So if there’s a lot of unhelpful content loitering on your site, it’s probably time to do a bit of an audit.
What is helpful content?
Basically, you should create content that is for a human and not for a search engine. So maybe we’re being terribly ironic by trying to define helpful as the search engine sees it! Let’s not go down that wormhole now. To make sure you’re providing helpful content in the Google sense of the term, these are the key priorities:
Why is helpful content good?
This may seem like a redundant question - surely there’s no question that helpful equals good? The key here is to understanding why it’s good for users, websites, and content creators in a broader sense.
By creating content that is composed by humans for humans, everyone has to dredge through less keyword loaded baggage to find the information that they want. The humans who are drawn to your site through google traffic are more likely to return if they find the information or product that they want on the first visit. It all comes down to that age old principle of customer satisfaction.
Google’s updates aren’t altruistic. By driving content towards helpfulness, the user can often glean what they need to know without ever leaving the search page. It’s generally in the interests of the search engine to satisfy its customers, the user. They need the trust and loyalty of users to keep searching. Therefore, since so many sites base their SEO on these principles, it’s also in your best interests to play a part in this process. Ultimately to create the content that will satisfy Google’s user. It’s the circle of search life where everyone’s a winner!
How do you create helpful content?
If you’re currently creating content that aims for transparency, then you’re already on the right track. Whether that’s through blogs, product pages or landing pages, it all builds up to make your site on the helpful list. These are the basic foundations that your content approach should work from.
Understand your user
Users are only helpful to your business if they’re the right user. For e-commerce, you ultimately want a user to become a paying customer, so you have to understand who this customer is. Write directly to your user. Writing in the first person makes information easier to process, and is more satisfying for your reader.
Convey added value
You don’t need to be an authority on everything under the sun. However, you should add your own expertise or opinion to the content that you present. Review sites, for example, which aggregate words from other sites without adding any further layers of information are unhelpful.
Empower the user
Your content should recognise that humans are not passive. They interact. This is where feedback areas and comparison functionality come in. Especially when it comes to e-commerce sites, this interaction is vital to enable your users to interpret your content in a way that they find helpful.
Include layers of information
Of course, your site is likely to attract a variety of users, who themselves have differing levels of expertise. For informative content, then, a helpful approach is to include layers of information. This may be to provide broad answers (the information that appears in a ‘featured snippet’) that then delve deeper further on in an article. Alternatively, specialist organisations may choose to attach white papers or journal features to a more broad blog post.
Ensure information is complete
If your content is intended to answer a question, provide a ‘how to’ guide, or list specifications for a product, then completeness is vital. Back up words with demonstrative images, or video. Include dimensions, reviews and further sources. In addition, spelling and grammar must be accurate and correct. This all contributes to how satisfying your content is.
Don’t let your content drift once it’s published. What was helpful content at one point in time could become unhelpful if it is the kind of information that becomes outdated. In this way, consider updating existing articles rather than focussing on always producing new ones. This will positively impact your site-wide helpfulness as far as Google is concerned.
Understanding searcher intent
People search for a variety of different reasons. Their intent may not currently be to engage in business with you, but this doesn’t mean that they never will. By offering helpful content that fulfils different searcher intents, you can begin relationships with users that subsequently build your business. However, humans are, well, human and searcher intent is actually way more complex than this. So this is really a broad answer to this point, which we’ll delve into deeper in another post.
Remember that these are very basic categories. In 2019 Google outlined six searcher ‘needs’: Surprise Me, Thrill Me, Impress Me, Educate Me, Reassure Me, and Help Me. In addition, people’s intent often overlaps, or is muddled or unsure. The best start for your content is to keep things relevant and satisfying to consume. This will always have the benefit of never being unhelpful.