Hello Google "Helpful" Update

October 31, 2022
Est. Reading: 5 minutes
Jason Greenlees

By Jason Greenlees

What is this "Helpful" update?

Around a week ago we heard that Google’s “Helpful” update was coming and was going to shake up the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) world.

For those of you who haven’t heard much about SEO, there is an entire industry structured around getting your customers' sites to rank better and to provide them more leads. The problem, which seems to be simple from a customer's perspective, is so complicated behind the scenes specialists are needed.

I’m sure you’ve received that SPAM email, "Rank no.1 on Google for your keywords". A bold promise and one that tempts you to hit that “reply” button for a nanosecond. Maybe that’s not a problem for those targeting the simple unique keywords where competition is low, but there are hundreds if not thousands of factors involved here.

You can employ an SEO “specialist” for month after month and see no movement in your rankings despite them doing SEO “stuff”. It’s a tough area and one that I’ve avoided because it can be so hard going all your hours and efforts seem fruitless.

Combine SEO with paid campaigns or PPC and then an SEO specialist has at least “some” control to get those results they promise. Still, It’s not a matter of just throwing money at advertising, and they will come.

So now we’ve established a little about the industry and what SEO is let’s look at the latest update from Google and what you should be considering especially if you're pushing the boundaries on content generation. (and perhaps laziness)

Guidance from Google according to search engine journal is that this update focus on the question “Will your websites content help to people or is it designed to help search engines?”. Another term I’ve heard used is “people-first”. For a very long time content has been king and in saying that I mean quality content. We can never miss the one clear goal for Google to provide a better search experience for their user and the one they don't talk about as much, "to make as much money as possible for the evil empire."

Over the past three years we’ve seen a surge in what is called GPT-3 content generators. You input your keywords or topic and make some visual selections and these will generate a blog article for you quickly and easily. Being an average writer I was extremely excited about these when I first heard about them. I bought a few and was somewhat disappointed with what it produced.

There are however some good ones available that focus on improving your writing first and then helping with the depth of information you could be lacking. Writerzen is my favourite and not only will it allow you to do some initial keyword research up front to find topics worth writing about, it also generates a few sub-topic heading ideas to help with structure.

While we're on the topic of improving content I'll also mention some well known grammar tools which I'm in desperate need of. Grammarly by far is the next level and premium spelling and grammar checker. If you don't like ongoing, which none of us do, there's an affordable alternative Life Time Deal (LTD) you'll find on AppSumo called Linguix. I'm using Linguix right now to help me along my way.

Back to the main concern from Google, if you use a text generator simply for gains in SEO then it’s not necessarily focusing on helping humans but just getting leads to your site. In the past you could easily identify content generator content, but today it’s not as easy. Google think they have it beat in order to make good content rise to the top of rankings, and maybe they do.

Why should you care?

At the moment little is known about the exact impact or penalties of the update. You may remember the Penguin update 10 years ago that crushed the industry overnight. For most people this update is minor unless you’re paying an SEO consultant to write blogs to get you ranked higher. It’s the dodgy practices that you should steer clear of wherever possible, which has always been the case.

The update may drop your rankings or increase your them by just a couple. Unless you’ve been super obviously dodgy to get rankings I don’t see this doing much harm.

According to Search Engine Journal, it’s also not too late to get your "rank on" and the update is a continuous improvement for Google analysing sites' content to be “helpful” to humans or not. So update your sites and be helpful and make sure it’s readable by humans.

One quick tip which I'm going to try is to fix my FAQ page to have schema attached so that Google can see I'm trying to be helpful and answer my customers questions. What I'm hoping from this is that I might get what is known as a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) feature.

How can you check the impact on you?

Firstly, it’s not an overnight impact; we’re looking at rankings over the next couple of months to see if sites are effected. For RWD we use a tool called Ranktracker, but you may use something more well known like Moz or AHREFS.

The above tools will help you to check your ranking over time for specific keywords. I thought I'd also mention some other tools to check on the health of your site and even if your content is Siteguru. This tool is pretty low cost and simple for most people to use. One thing that often gets missed by designers or copywriters is that content is everywhere on a site. It's not just the written words on a page. Think META, alt title, image names, site architecture and hierarchy. Siteguru will work with you over months as a personal assistant to identify what to do next to move that needle.

What does it mean for RWD?

As many of you know, RWD is about getting local leads for local marketers to improve and support business in regional Australia. We have therefore targeted our locations based on keywords that had low competition or what is known as the golden keywords.

screen shot 2022 08 26 at 10.54.48 am

Out of the 34 locations we’re targeting at the moment, we’re ranking in the top 10 for 3 of these locations. It’s a good start seeing how we haven't been going all that but what we’re now doing is monitoring these pages to see which ones have been effected and which ones haven’t or have improved. There’s always lessons in our failures that we can celebrate; we need to take away these and apply them to others to play the game.

google analtics

Some other resources

As to be expected, "Helpful" is a hot topic at the moment, featuring on thousands of websites but not all of them are worth checking out.

Here are a few of my favourites you might like to check in with:

And lastly, to throw in a bit of a dad joke, I hope this article has been "helpful" to you humans.

Jason Greenlees

About Jason Greenlees

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