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5 Things You Should Do in Light of Google’s Helpful Content Update

Google rolled out what they called a Helpful Content Update back in August and September 2023, and it has had mixed reviews. Now, months later, we’re taking a look at the fallout and the realities of what this helpful content update has done and how you can respond to it.

Overview of Google’s Helpful Content Update and How It Impacts Bloggers

It began in August. Google released a blog about a new update they were rolling out and the reasons for that update. Then in September, only two weeks later, another update was rolled out over the span of two weeks.

According to Google, the idea was to lower the ranking of sites aimed primarily, or only, at ranking well on the search engine.

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We’ve all seen it, and many of us have done it. You stuff keywords into your articles, so they end up sounding more robotic than articles written entirely by AI. Your goal, of course, is to get recognition from the search engine so your audience can find you.

We learn what the search engine wants, we do what the search engine wants then our audiences can find us. Our readers get helpful content and potentially products and services that meet their needs; we get advertising revenue, affiliate marketing revenue, and ideally new clients for our products and services, and everyone is happy!

It could be a perfect world.

The problem is that many, many, many individuals and businesses began stuffing keywords into articles that did not provide helpful content. Rather, the language was neither enjoyable nor often readable, and the reader never even got an answer to their question. They certainly did not get their product or services needs met. And they did not walk away happy.

As a result, Google has updated their algorithm to rank websites more highly on their pages that provide helpful content without aiming at the search engine first. In short, use keywords, but in natural language that makes sense to your content.

Google promises that if you’re providing helpful content, your voice will not be lost amid the millions of robotic, AI-generated, keyword-stuffed articles out there competing with you.

Google requires a certain format for bloggers to be ranked on their search engine, we meet those demands then because there will always be people who learn to rig the game in their favor, the requirements change, and those of us working to be authentic suffer.

Negative impacts

So, while I understand the purpose of Google’s Helpful Content Update, it seems to have had a largely negative impact on both readers/searchers and legitimate bloggers trying to provide helpful content.

As of the latest threads, it looks like most searches typed into Google’s search engine will now produce a list of one- to three-word answers you can click on that will direct you to a number of websites, a handful of the “most helpful” websites responding to your question, a “people ask” section to compare your question to, a section of “discussions and forums,” and a “related searches” section.” 

This order has changed over the last several weeks, and it can change based on the search words. If your question is related to a product, you will also see links to buy said product. Type in “best tea for a cold,” and you’ll see what I mean.

At first, Reddit and Quora were the first sites to pop up in response to a search, followed by sponsored posts. It could take a full Google page to get to any sort of blog or article that actually addressed the question or search in full.

Balancing out

It seems things are beginning to level out a bit since the initial upheaval.

Of course, we have to consider that we now live in a world where sometimes people only want a one-sentence answer. They don’t want context, they certainly don’t want 2,000 words on the topic, and they don’t want to have to navigate through your life story just to find a recipe for macaroni and cheese. We’ve all been through that.

At the same time, many people are actually looking for more than a single answer. They want the context. They want to know both what the best tea for a cold might be and why.

It seems Google is trying to create that balance.

Now, it is on bloggers and readers/searchers to learn to navigate this new space.

Anyone who has been through a Reddit or Quora thread knows the sites are hit or miss. Sometimes you’ll get great information; sometimes you won’t. It’s a literal crap shoot. People will figure that out and start to scroll past those options, past the product links, past the sponsors, and to the experts blogging on their topic of choice.

Just like with self-checkouts in grocery stores and automated customer service responses at banking and utility call centers, we will adapt.

It is up to bloggers to trust that they are providing helpful content to a crowd who will want to hear from them, and it is up to the people who want to hear from people to continue to look for and stay determined to find them.

So, what can you do right now as a blogger in response to Google’s helpful content update?

1. Don’t Panic

Look, if you’re good at what you do, you have nothing (or at least very little) to worry about. The thing to keep in mind is that Google is responding to the needs of the searcher. That has to be true as it is the only way Google can make money, by keeping their users happy.

So, Google responds to the reader, and we respond to Google. We simply have to adapt to the changing times and find new, creative ways to get our helpful content to the readers.

Remember that blogging is a constantly changing industry, and it is up to you to bob and weave. This website, Social Med Sean, has been through a number of massive core updates, like Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird, and we are still chugging along because we continue to write useful, helpful content aimed at answering questions and solving problems.

This can be true of any website aimed at doing the same.

2. Evaluate Your Content and Your Site

Like with any updates, now is the time to evaluate your content. Maybe you’ve gotten a bit lax, maybe you haven’t been keeping up with the times, maybe you just need a little push in the right direction.

This is it.

Is your website mobile friendly? Most people navigate the internet from their smart phones now, so your site must be readable and navigable at the touch of a touch screen.

Run it through Google Core Web Vitals. Is it passing?

Is your site over-optimized, stuffed with keywords, full of unnecessary links? Go back and check and make necessary changes.

In short, if Google thinks you’re producing content for the search engine, for any reason, your rankings will likely drop. You can adjust accordingly.

3. See It as a Reminder to Diversify Your Traffic

See this update as an opportunity to check out new ways to gain traffic. If you’ve been “resting on your laurels” as your blog sat high up on page one, gaining organic traffic, now is the time to explore your options.

Get into email marketing, which is a great way to connect with your readers in the long term.

Consider getting more involved in social media marketing. Have you heard Pinterest is one of the best ways to generate traffic to your site?

Whatever you do, let this shift push you to stretch out of your comfort zone and into new avenues for connecting with your users. They’ll thank you for it.

4. Keep Writing Helpful Content

Don’t give up.

Look, major upheavals like this one are always a way to weed out those working from a place of inauthenticity.

Those who have seen blogging as a quick way to make a buck, and started heavily leveraging AI, stealing from well-designed sites, and pushing out content that is neither helpful nor authentic, are going to lose. Those people always do.

The bad lawyers, bad doctors, bad cops, bad teachers, bad money managers, bad real estate agents, bad bricklayers — you name it — always get weeded out once the market is saturated and regulations come into play.

It is the nature of the beast, the nature of the market.

Take heart in the knowledge that you know your stuff and you are providing helpful content. You will have to bob and weave, but don’t stop writing!

5. Explore Supplemental Options

Finally, think outside of the box. In the same way you can diversify your traffic, you can also start supplementing your blogs with content of other types on other platforms. This allows you to reach new audiences, stretch your creative limbs, and drive traffic back to your site all at the same time.

Consider turning your blog posts into podcast episodes or YouTube videos, and you can take snippets of those videos and post them on TikTok or Instagram Reels. Start a Facebook group that generates discussion around your topic and allows people with similar questions and concerns to connect and visit your website.

The possibilities are endless. So, instead of seeing this update as the death of your site, see it is as the potential for you to grow and thrive in your area of expertise.

Who knows, maybe it will lead to a whole book on your subject!

What do you think of Google’s helpful content update? How have you been handling it? Let me know in the comments.