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Last week Google announced the imminent launch of a so-called ‘helpful content’ algorithm update. The rollout begins this week and will be fully in place by early-September. What does this mean, and what do you need to think about when it comes to creating content for your website?

The days of keyword stuffing might be behind us, but there are still all sorts of ways that content creators and website managers aim to optimise for SEO. It’s understandable as average click-through rate falls sharply after position one in search results and so it’s important to get your content at the top of the SERP to stand a chance of being seen. Google’s new update attempts to combat the rise of these SEO tricks and tactics that lead to content that isn’t actually that helpful ranking above authentic content.

Here are a few things to note about Google’s new update and what this means for brands:

  • The new update introduces a new ranking signal across your entire site – this is a big change from what’s come before, where pages were ranked on an individual basis, and means that all the content on your site will be impacted. If there’s low-quality content on your site, it could hinder the performance of your top-quality pieces, so consider if there’s anything you need to remove.
  • The update aims to prioritise content written for real people – using AI to generate content is a big no.
  • Content that clearly demonstrates first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge will be rewarded. It’s important to demonstrate the author’s expertise both within the piece through technical terminology and relevant subject matter concepts, and elsewhere on your site through author bios.
  • Links are still important – but blog posts crafted solely with the purpose of linking out to another internal page will suffer. Showcase your expertise and accuracy by linking out to relevant sources, and make your content useful to your reader by pointing them in the right direction for additional, related information.

In short, this update aims to prioritise content actually written for real people vs content written purely with an SEO purpose. For brands this means not using machine learning to create content, focusing on the core topics you know well and on which you can provide useful insight, avoiding clickbait headlines, and ensuring factual accuracy.

At the end of the day, the principles of good content rule and there’s no point cutting corners. Focus on creating high-quality content with your audience in mind, not just on gaming the algorithm.


Hannah Porritt is a digital account manager in Cognito's London office.