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The MKG Vantage: Google’s “Helpful Content” Update

Alicia Hardy, Nathan Stenberg, Anna Powers • August 31, 2022 • 5 minutes to read

The world of SEO is ever-evolving, often cloaked in secrecy. However, the goal of every update is to yield better results for the person behind the search.

The most recent update is the first major attempt since Panda to improve the quality of content ranking in Google Search. Our experts are excited by the impact and opportunities this holds for our clients, and all Googlers!

Discover what our former and current SEO Experts–Alicia, Nathan, and Anna–thoughts are on the update and the potential impact it brings…

ALICIA HARDY: Digital Strategist & SEO Expert

People-First SEO for the Win!

Google’s new Helpful Content Update targets “content that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines rather than to help or inform people.”

Our SEO services are rooted first in understanding buyers' challenges and aspirations, as well as our client's business goals. Then we recommend a content strategy that anticipates the searchers' needs based on where they are in their buyer journey . I'm excited about this update because it attempts to solve a massive problem with search results–content for the sake of content, instead of content that answers the searchers' intent.

How Will Google’s Helpful Content Update Impact Cybersecurity SEO?

Our cybersecurity clients tend to have content written by highly-skilled experts in their niche. This is the content that Google wants to rank well.

My advice is to:

  1. Double down on expert-led content that is topically connected to your products and services. This isn't the time to cut corners on content creation.
  2. Take steps to improve E-A-T signals.
  3. If your site is due for a content audit, don't push that to low priority. Check your website for low-quality content and unpublish or rewrite as needed.
  4. Don't panic. This update is aimed at spam. If some pages do lose visibility, the issues are likely fixable.

NATHAN STENBERG: Digital Strategist & SEO Expert

What? Are You Surprised? Content Is King!

At an initial glance, this update looks like it might shake up the SEO world pretty drastically. And it might, if you, as an SEO, or the SEO agency you engage with haven’t had the production of high-quality content as a core focus of your SEO game plan.

But for me, as well as the team here at MKG, building authoritative content is always central to my SEO strategies due to the simple fact that this is exactly the kind of content that Google and other search engines want to return to their customers in the search results.

How Do You Produce “Helpful Content”?

My approach to producing high-quality, SEO-focused content has been to use a Define, Educate, and Inspire content model which effectively creates a natural funnel, whether it is a module or an entire blog post, that:

  1. Sets the stage for the user
  2. Provides them with a deeper understanding of the topic
  3. Inspires them to take the next action.

When you combine thorough, well-written content produced inside of this framework along with fundamental SEO best practices for on-page and technical optimization, you end up with an authoritative piece of content that should move users to the next step of their journey, setting the stage for A/B testing and CRO (conversion rate optimization) which will help you maximize the effectiveness of the content over time.

So, as long as producing helpful content has been a key focus for a business or entity, then I don’t foresee a major impact on their site performance.

However, if they have been cutting corners and not producing authentic, high-quality content there could be some very real repercussions that may take significant resources and time to recover from.

ANNA POWERS: Digital Marketing & SEO Expert

A Google Update Over Ten Years in the Making

My teammates offered some solid advice above, so here’s a reflection on where we’ve been and where we might go.

The Helpful Content update is, to my mind, the logical progression of what the Panda update began back in 2011: Google’s deliberate redirection of the internet to be a more useful space. Back then, I was working in content production as a website editor, and I remember thinking, “We [meaning everyone on the internet] are going to need SO much more content. And that content will actually need to be good.” Also: hooray! Panda was great for content creators since it started to push the most well-researched, well-sourced, authoritative content to page one, encouraging the rise of content marketing as a discipline and E-A-T as a practice (even if we didn’t call it that yet).

Why Helpful Content Matters

Post-Panda, there was a real feeling that the best stuff would rise to the top of the SERPs. Over ten years later I still (mostly) believe that, although some of the wild, wonderful content that you found deeper in the search results—I see you, LiveJournal—has been displaced by carefully optimized long-form content promising the ultimate/definitive/only guide you’ll ever need to whatever subject it is that you’re learning about.

I’m not knocking content optimization, since it will continue to be foundational to our work as SEOs. What I am calling out is exactly the kind of content that this Google update is supposed to address: content that is devoid of personality or that isn’t empathetic to the needs of other people (otherwise known as search intent). Alicia calls this “content for the sake of content,” and she’s absolutely right. B2C and B2B content should always be, to use Nathan’s description, high-quality and authentic. I would add that content should always be humane in the sense that it is considerate of other humans, their desires, and needs. If Google’s Helpful Content update moves the internet closer to those goals, then it will benefit all of us.

What now?

Now that you have a sense of what to expect with this new update, it’s time to capitalize on the opportunity. If you could use a hand with your content strategy and ensuring SEO stays top of mind, reach out!

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