Google has been pushing “content quality” for years
While some people are starting to freak out about Google’s announced “helpful content update”, we’ve been repeatedly warned about it over the past several years.
We all knew “it” was coming, and no one should be surprised.
Not only is it not new, but if you’ve really thought about how Google makes money, you’ve been focusing on creating content for people (adequately formatted for search engines of course but FOR people) and you should have no reason for concern.
Your people-focused content may even get a boost as other search engine-focused content gets “demoted”.
Google has been pushing E-A-T for years
E-A-T stands for Expertise, authority, and trust.
While millions of words on this topic have been published, does it really require explanation?
Give people answers.
If you’re not an expert in a topic, get answers from people who are before you publish.
Credit those experts.
Explain how they (or you) became an expert.
Tell the truth.
Is this update going to shake the SEO world? Like Penguin did in 2012?
But if it results in better search results, we would want that, right?
What makes content “people focused”?
The simple litmus test is, if search engines were not a thing, would the content still be relevant? Interesting? Useful? Worth publishing?
If the answer is anything other than an unequivocal yes, that content was, to some extent, written for search engines, not people.
To learn more, read this… it’s very good: Google’s helpful content update: What should we expect?
Is this update another form of penalty?
If what Google says is true, it will definitely penalize people who produce low-quality content.
So for those content producers, yes, it will be.
But for people who produce user-focused content, it should be exactly the opposite.
However, as it either hasn’t rolled out yet or is just starting to, it’s too early to know for sure.
But this update does not involve manual penalties, so from that perspective, the answer is no.
Does this update target pages, or sites?
According to an article published on Search Engine Land on 18 Aug 2022, the update targets SITES, not pages.
So if you’ve got crap content on any of your sites, now would be a good time to start purging it.
How will this affect non-text content? Like infographics? Or video?
I personally od not know, and when I searched for an answer to this question, I found nothing useful.
Only posts about why images, videos, etc, are important and should not be neglected.
Having said that, Google works with words.
Images don’t contain words per se, at least not in a format Google can parse, and while Google can parse words out of videos, they still do so very poorly, as anyone who has used the YouTube speech-to-text feature can confirm.
So, my “educated guess” is that you will still need to provide a transcript or description of any video, and a description of any image, in order for Google to have something to parse.
Below is an example of an infographic embedded into a short blog post where the main content is the image, and the text provides a clue to the search engine as to what the image is about.
What content strategy makes sense now?
Write for people.
But, format for people AND search engines.
While the search engine spiders are getting “smarter” over time, robots (software and hardware) only do what they’re programmed to do. No more and no less.
So while you write for people, you need to be aware that in order for a search engine to bring your content to the attention of people, it most definitely helps to format your content to make it easy for the search engines to “understand”.
This applies at the level of the site and the post and includes technical SEO and text formatting.
At the post level, things like a title, properly formatted as an H1, section headers, properly formatted as H2, H3, etc, and the use of bold text where appropriate, are helpful both for your readers AND for the search engine spiders.
In closing, write for people, but understand that technical SEO and text formatting matter, at both the level of the site and the level of the post.