How organizations of all types can adapt to Google’s “helpful content update”.

There is a lot of information to analyze in the “helpful content update” announced by Google on August 18, 2022. The company takes a stand against content it deems “unhelpful”: content designed primarily for search engine traffic.

SEO as a practice is going nowhere, but this update means companies need to plan and write their content more carefully so people can discover it online. Whether you run a smoothie shop, a B2B software company, a nonprofit, or any other type of organization, here’s how to make sure you’re staying on the right page with this new guide from Google and maximizing the chances that your content will be seen by your target audience.

1. Be clear about your niche – and show expertise

Google aims to provide consumers with the best possible search experience, which means deciphering the intent behind their searches and showing them search results that it believes meet their needs. With this update, Google is pushing that goal even further.

The search engine states that when a site has “a primary purpose or focus” and your content demonstrates “first-hand expertise and in-depth knowledge,” those are signs you’re living up to their “people-first” approach.

Think about what your company’s niche is and stick to planning content within that industry. When writing your content, draw on your expertise and showcase it. For example, if you run a personal training business and have been certified in the field for years, make sure the content you write reflects that. Avoid deviating from the focus of your business and expertise by writing about pet health on your website, for example. If you want to address this topic, think about how you can do it in a way that still connects to your organization’s niche. For example, you could write about keeping dogs safe while running. That’s a creative angle that still manages to showcase your knowledge.

2. Creative and thoughtful brainstorming topics

It will be more important than ever for businesses to come up with creative and thoughtful content angles.

Google states that primarily summarizing the thoughts of others without contributing much value and covering topics just because they’re trending are two warnings that should make creators reconsider how they create content for their sites . In addition, the company warns against “producing a lot of content on different topics in hopes that some of it will perform well in search results”.

So don’t just write run-of-the-mill content. Don’t just throw topics against the wall and hope that something sticks. For example, if news comes out about your industry, don’t summarize it on your company’s blog. Instead, look for creative alternatives that give your company an advantage in terms of content. One way to do this is to see if you can get a subject matter expert (SME) at your company to sit down for a short interview on the latest news and then post a lengthy description of their analysis. This is content your competitors won’t have because they don’t employ this SME. Or you could look at what your competitors are writing and think about any items they don’t cover – and then write an article discussing those overlooked items.

3. Keep an eye on your target audience

Google says in the update that SEO best practices, as outlined in the company’s own guide, can still be helpful alongside its recommendation for content first.

So, you should definitely not leave SEO out of the equation. Instead, it’s important to approach your SEO strategy in a way that puts your intended audience first. One way to do this is to focus on the questions people are searching for (e.g. “how can I adopt a dog?”) rather than just keywords and keyword phrases (e.g. “a adopt a dog”). By focusing on questions, you’ll have an easier time creating in-depth content that, as Google notes in the update, people read and “leave feeling like they’ve learned enough about a topic to reach their goal.” ‘ and feeling that ‘they have had a satisfying experience.’

Whenever you plan and write content for your organization, ask yourself if being in the position of your audience would help you get the answers you want or need. For example, if you write an article that focuses on the question, “What are the benefits of shooting with a DSLR camera?” but you don’t clearly discuss how exactly photos taken with DSLR cameras differ from photos that are recorded with a smartphone, a reader might feel dissatisfied.

Consider one of the questions Google asks in the update: “Does your content make readers feel like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?”

Ultimately, you should create content that is so informative, thoughtful, and unique that readers don’t feel the need to look elsewhere. How organizations of all types can adapt to Google’s “helpful content update”.

Rick Schindler

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