After releasing the Core Web Vitals in 2021, Google is now rolling out its "helpful content update" — another major step toward providing all users with a better experience.
The rollout began on August 25th, and it's expected to take up to two weeks.
This content update has already been compared to other algorithm updates like Penguin and Panda, which altered the way SEO experts and content creators produce and optimize content.
This isn't just a tiny blip in the grand scheme of things. It's something that's expected to change the SERP drastically.
Read on to learn more about the upcoming changes and how to prepare yourself for them.
Google's helpful content update will introduce a new sitewide signal that will be considered when building the SERP.
The signal will target content that has been primarily created for search engines and ranking as high as possible (also known as SEO-first content) rather than being helpful and providing people with the best information possible (people-first content).
As Google said:
"This ranking update will help make sure that unoriginal, low-quality content doesn't rank highly in Search, and our testing has found it will especially improve results related to online education, as well as arts and entertainment, shopping, and tech-related content."
For now, the signal will impact global searches in English, but we can expect to expand to other languages as well:
"We plan to extend to other languages in the future."
Before we move on to the questions that will guide you in producing helpful content, we should clarify:
You shouldn't mistake applying SEO best practices for producing SEO-first content. Using popular SEO techniques is still an essential part of your content strategy. As Google suggests:
"Our advice about having a people-first approach does not invalidate following SEO best practices, such as those covered in Google's own SEO guide. SEO is a helpful activity when it's applied to people-first content."
To apply the people-first approach 100% of the time, make sure that your content checks the following boxes:
On top of that, you should aim to answer NO to all questions below. Otherwise, you’re focusing on satisfying search engines rather than people:
Revisit these checklists whenever you work on a new content piece (or audit an existing one) to create content that Google ranks higher.
The bad news is that if Google classifies your site as one with high amounts of unhelpful content, all of it (people-first content included) might take a hit and perform worse in SERP.
I said might because, as Google said in their documentation:
"Some people-first content on sites classified as having unhelpful content could still rank well if there are other signals identifying that people-first content as helpful and relevant to a query."
Nevertheless, sites with lots of unhelpful content will notice a stronger negative effect.
The good news is that the helpful content update is another signal that will be added to many of the others that Google uses to rank pages. It isn't a penalty, spam, or manual action. You won't see it listed in your Google Search Console.
And more importantly - Google's classifier for this update runs continuously. This means that if you take care of your unhelpful content, the classification can be dropped in the future.
So going back to the question at hand - the best two ways to deal with a situation where your site is classified as unhelpful is to:
If you think your content has been wrongly classified as unhelpful, you can use the feedback form for this update.
When the Core Web Vitals were first introduced, everyone thought they would be the new standard, and if you want your site to rank well, you need to pass them all.
We're now in a similar situation where the upcoming update is expected to change the game entirely.
However, a quote from John Mueller on Core Web Vitals' importance from 2020 fits today's situation perfectly:
"In general, we (Google) prioritize pages with the best information overall even if some aspects of page experience are sub-par. A good page experience doesn't override having great, relevant content."
Producing valuable and informative content will always be a rock-solid strategy for ranking well in SERP.
However, with CWV, and the new helpful content update, Google hints at a future that belongs to those who can strike the right balance between excellent user experience and high-quality content.
And while we cannot produce content for you, NitroPack can optimize the path to better site performance and UX – easily what people struggle with the most.
Luckily, with NitroPack, everything happens automatically.
Our product will take care of your site's performance, allowing you to pass your Core Web Vitals, improve user experience, and ultimately - increase conversions.
No coding or tech skills are required. It will take you no more than 3 minutes to add NitroPack to your site, and we take it from there!
You can test your website with NitroPack and see the results for yourself.
Google has officially rebranded the Webmaster Guidelines as "Google Search Essentials."
The reason behind this decision was that Google wanted to present all site owners with a "refreshed, simplified version of the Webmaster Guidelines" to give them an overview of best practices when it came to building a site:
On top of that, for the last couple of years, Google has been gradually removing "webmaster" as a term from its branding (e.g., "Google Webmaster Central" is now "Google Search Central."), saying that it's a dated term that doesn't include all content creators.
But apart from the name, what's different about Google Search Essentials?
Well, nothing has fundamentally changed.
The whole information included in former Webmaster Guidelines has been separated into three categories:
And each category includes links that redirect to Google's best practices and requirements.
But the best part is that the page's content was rewritten by Google's Search Quality team, using precise language and specific examples that are relevant in 2022.
Niko has 5+ years of experience turning those “it’s too technical for me” topics into “I can’t believe I get it” content pieces. He specializes in dissecting nuanced topics like Core Web Vitals, web performance metrics, and site speed optimization techniques. When he’s taking a breather from researching his next content piece, you’ll find him deep into the latest performance news.