Google’s Helpful Content Update

Author - armstrong-admin

How will Google’s ‘Helpful Content’ Update affect B2B websites?  

2022 has been a relatively quiet year for Google updates compared to 2021 (10 updates in 2021 compared to 6 so far in 2022). The ‘Helpful Content’ update released in August is one of the notable updates judging by what I am currently finding in ranking data from various websites this month.

The Helpful Content update has been introduced to help websites that feature content users will find useful rank better in the search results. The official advice is to create content that is aimed at users rather than search engines.

How will I know if my website has been affected by the Helpful Content update?

The consequences of creating content that doesn’t fit these criteria can be seen in the below chart tracking the ranking position of a keyword:  

Tracking keyword rankings over time can reveal patterns. The dividing lines indicate when the various algorithm updates have taken place this year and when rankings have slumped or risen as a result.

If there is a slump in rankings immediately following an update affecting multiple keywords on a single website, then this could be an indication that a website has been impacted by an update. The chart above shows a clear slump from the number one position on Google to page 2 of search results in the space of just 4 weeks following the introduction of the Helpful Content update.

So what can B2b website owners do to improve search engine rankings following this update?

Having access to historical Google rankings data provides a good head start to diagnosing any issues. We continue to use this to improve the search performance of websites we manage over time to identify any issues before they become embedded and difficult to solve.

In this particular case only a handful of pages were affected by this update and we were able to identify that in this particular case thin content was to blame for the downgrade in rankings. The web page had just one line of text which didn’t offer a satisfactory user experience even though it had featured in the top position on Google up until that point.

So what is classified as ‘thin’ content?

This can be something of a grey area much the same as asking what constitutes enough good content to make a web page rank?

You may hear that there is a minimum word count required for a web page to perform well in search or that it must have a prescribed amount of headings and liberal use of keywords. Focusing only on these rigid parameters can, unfortunately, lead to the very penalties being handed out by Google to content that is aimed at search engines rather than users.

What is ‘helpful’ content?

For content to be genuinely helpful, it should be providing enough information to leave the person reading it satisfied they have been given the information they were searching for. Google is now much better at recognising useful content although there remains room for improvement hence this latest update.

So reviewing content that might have been affected by the Helpful Content update should include some analysis of how well a web page answers the questions a user will be asking. If this question can be answered succinctly and doesn’t need a long explanation then this will be fine. Google doesn’t specify a minimum or maximum word count for content.

Also where keywords are being used in content, these should be used during the natural course of the article construction rather than simply being added in volume leading to articles not making much grammatical sense.

Writing quality content for b2b websites should not be difficult as long as articles and web pages are written by people who have expertise in the subject.

Content that aims to take advantage of the latest search trends or copies what others have written without offering anything new to say is more likely to be hit by penalties than web pages that offer unique perspectives and a more nuanced exploration of topics.  

In contrast with more general consumer websites, most b2b website owners are far more likely to have access to specialist knowledge which can be shared via the company website. This will not only help future proof the website against any Google updates, but also improve search visibility over time.

More advice from Google on the Helpful Content update can be found here