Google is cracking down on publishers creating “unsatisfying content” aimed purely at ranking on search with a new human-friendly search algorithm update.
A common complaint among searchers and marketers alike is the abundance of web content written for the purpose of ranking in search engines, such as recipes that hide the ingredients list or click-bait headlines that fail to provide the information they promise.
Rolling out this week, the new ‘Helpful Content’ algorithm aims to downgrade ‘SEO-first’ websites while promoting more helpful websites designed for humans.
In a blog update, Google said this is an “ongoing effort to reduce low-quality content and make it easier to find content that feels authentic and useful in search”.
Google’s latest update will also crack down on stories that, it said, “promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed”.
Google also warned content creators to evaluate whether they are “producing lots of content on different topics in the hopes that some of it might perform well in search results” or “writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience”.
Human versus machine: tips for modern SEO writing
Google provided a guide for copywriters on how to avoid falling foul of the new algorithm by answering ‘yes’ to the following questions.
- Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you? Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
- Does your site have a primary purpose or focus? After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they've learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
- Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they've had a satisfying experience?
Google also provided a checklist of key content traits to avoid:
- Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
- Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
- Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
- Are you mainly summarising what others have to say without adding much value?
- Are you writing about things simply because they seem to be trending and not because you'd write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
- Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
- Are you writing to a particular word count because you've heard or read that Google has a preferred word count - when it doesn’t?
- Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you'd get search traffic?
- Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there's a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn't confirmed?
Unlike many Google algorithms that get applied on a page-by-page basis, the new Helpful Content update will be sitewide.