Is The Latest Content Update Looking To Penalise Webmasters Who Have “Tricked The System”? We Explore This Quarter’s Latest Update
The latest content update has rolled to a close, and with it, despite not seeing sharp volatility, there are several lessons we’ve learned from it.
While many webmasters didn’t report much action, there were many websites that saw their rankings decline. This gave us some rare and otherwise unreported insights into the latest content update.
In this article, we’ll examine what the Google Content Update was all about and what webmasters can do to ensure that their sites aren’t penalised.
It Does Not Invalidate Your SEO Efforts
Like keyword optimisation, many web admins feared the content update would invalidate their SEO efforts. However, Google has recommended that web admins optimise their content.
Content that’s penalised is often one that’s written for SEO. That means it is supposed to rank but not provide anything of value to the reader. Remember, Google wants to ensure users get something of value from their search results, so why would they rank empty or pointless content?
Google has advised web admins to create content for people first. The search giant isn’t against SEO but those gaming the system. The update’s goal was to hit websites gaming the system to rank.
What To Do If Your Website Lost Rankings?
Google does not call it a penalty. Google has been clear about penalties in the past, but they are wording it carefully this time. According to the search giant, websites that have lost rankings aren’t because of a manual action, and it isn’t spamming action. Instead, Google is calling it a signal; in other words, it is one of the many ranking signals that the search giant considers. So, if the signal is applied to a site, it may look and feel like it has been penalised.
The good news is that you can get this removed by using good content or improving the existing content on the site. It is also worth noting that the part of Google’s algorithm which classifies websites will run continuously during and after the update.
If your website’s content has shifted, and it is now helpful for those searching, the strength of the signal will eventually be reduced and lifted entirely.
What Is “People First” Content?
Google wants web admins to focus on what they call “People First” content. The way to look at this is to consider if your existing site has content that visitors will find helpful. Ask yourself whether this content would still exist if there weren’t search engines. If you say it would, then this is the type of content you need.
All local businesses want to educate their customers about their services. For instance, the NKF or National Kidney Foundation will always have published content educating patients. So, would you still create the content you are making if Google didn’t exist?
The next question you need to ask is if your content demonstrates your first-hand experience and knowledge of the product or industry. In other words, it is not enough to have content that reads well; but it should establish you as an expert.
The other point worth considering in the search quality evaluator guidelines is determining the page’s purpose. Do you want to sell a product, provide information, or want to entertain? The purpose should be crystal clear.
Evaluate if Your Content is Written for Search Engines First
This will mean an unbiased audit of your content. Something we regularly run for new clients .
If you read the content and it feels like it can use an update, or if it reads odd, that’s a sign that the content was written for search engines first.
Think of it this way, does the content attract people searching? Is it easy to read and answer their question?
Google acknowledges that some content may be weighted, so if most of your content is unhelpful, it will weigh rankings down. In other words, you will rank lower. So, the goal is to produce 80% helpful content, at the very least, if not 100%.
Super spammy sites will be hit hard, offering minimal benefit to those searching. Sites that have some content created for SEO in mind, but others that are more helpful, will probably not be hit as hard. If your website is hit, it will inevitably hit all your good content too. So, if they were ranking well before, they may not rank as well now.
It is also worth noting that many of the sites hit by the July 2022 update were pointless product review sites. Mainly these sites were regurgitating everything else already published about products online. There was very little focus on providing readers with anything of value.
What To do if The Google Helpful Content Update hits your Website?
If Google identifies your site as being primarily built for search engines, with content to go, you would have seen a decline in traffic over time. If you aren’t seeing it decline yet, it will start to decline later. It is just a matter of time.
However, Google wants web admins to know that sites that have been affected can improve their rankings with good content and have the classifier removed. The sitewide signal will impact all your content if Google sees mainly SEO content on your site.
Here is what we recommend you do if your website has been hit:
- Identify what content on your site can be considered for search engines, not humans.
- Determine if you can improve the quality of the content or if it should be removed from the site.
- Find a way to produce content beyond what is currently ranking in search results. This may include first-hand photos, user-generated content, videos etc.
- Compare your competitor’s pages that continue to rank to try and understand what content Google is rewarding and how to improve it.
- Work on improving your EAT.
- Clarify the purpose and focus of the page.
- Sometimes it’s best to cut your losses and move on.
Before Google announced the helpful content update, websites using blatant SEO tactics would rank. However, the update has changed, and the emphasis now is on content meeting users’ intent.