Google’s Helpful Content Update

Google's Helpful Content September 2023 Update was created to incentivise content crafted specifically for human readers. This update reflects Google's emphasis on providing users with high-quality, engaging content that caters to their interests and needs rather than content designed solely to rank higher in search results. According to Google, such “helpful content” is characterised by the following:

  1. Audience-specific: The content should be created for a specific audience, focusing on their interests and needs. It should not be overly automated or intended solely to attract search traffic. For example, for this website, information for small business owners or charities about how to better manage, improve and maintain their websites is helpful to my target audience.
  2. Demonstrates Expertise: Content should be written by experts or enthusiasts, providing insightful analysis or original research. It should not merely summarise other sources but provide substantial additional value. For many business owners with expert knowledge who don’t like writing, you must work with a copywriter to produce content that communicates your expertise.
  3. Trustworthy and Credible: Content should be credible and reliable, with transparent sourcing and evidence of expertise. It should avoid factual errors and be presented professionally, without excessive advertisements.
  4. Meets the Needs of the Searcher: The content should satisfy the searcher’s query, provide helpful information, and be mobile-friendly. It fails this criterion if it leaves the reader feeling like they need to search again for better information. Google may track this by noting if someone lands on your webpage and then quickly returns to the search listings.

Moreover, Google emphasises understanding the intent of the searcher, including various micro-intents, such as “I want to know,” “I want to go,” “I want to do,” and “I want to buy.” Understanding these intents can help create content that matches what users are seeking.

Google also prioritises “helpful content” in its Featured Snippets, which can help users find what they’re looking for quickly and efficiently. In essence, helpful content should provide the best, quickest answer to a searcher’s query. To explore this further, read more about the Importance of on-site SEO and How to measure your website's success.

An important first step is to perform a content audit to discover content on your website which needs improving.


An important first step is to perform a content audit to discover content on your website which needs improving.


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Content Audit to remove content which isn't "helpful."

Finding unhelpful content on your website is crucial for SEO purposes. Content that doesn’t serve a user’s needs can result in higher bounce rates, reduced dwell time, and ultimately harm your site’s credibility with search engines. Here is how to identify and address unhelpful content on your website:

  1. Google Analytics:
    • Bounce Rate: Look for pages with high bounce rates. A high bounce rate can indicate that users aren’t finding the content helpful or relevant.
    • Average Session Duration: Short session durations on specific pages might mean users aren’t engaging with the content.
  2. Google Search Console:
    • Coverage Issues: Review the“Coverage” section for pages that have issues, such as crawl errors.
    • Performance Report: Look at pages with low click-through rates (CTR). This can indicate that the meta title or description isn’t compelling or relevant.
    • Internal Links Report: Search engines may consider pages with few or no internal links unimportant.
  3. Manual Audit:
    • Outdated Information: Information that is no longer current or accurate.
    • Thin Content: Pages with little or no value, often characterised by very short, generic content.
    • Duplicate Content: Multiple pages covering the same topic without adding additional value.
  4. User Feedback:
    • Comments & Reviews: Users might point out inaccuracies, outdated info, or other issues in the content.
    • Surveys: Conduct surveys asking users about the content's quality and improvement areas.
  5. Check for Mobile Usability: Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to ensure pages render well on mobile devices.
  6. Page Speed: Slow-loading pages can be detrimental to user experience and SEO. Use tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix to analyse your site’s performance.
  7. Readability Tests: Tools like the Yoast SEO readability score can evaluate your content for ease of reading.
  8. Competitive Analysis: Compare your content with competitors. If they offer more detailed, updated, or user-friendly content on a topic, it is a signal to improve yours.
  9. Broken Links: Use tools like Screaming Frog or Broken Link Checker to identify and fix broken internal and external links.
  10. Look for Orphan Pages: These pages are not linked to any other page on your site. They’re hard for users and search engines to find and may be deemed unimportant.
  11. Engagement Metrics: If you have tools like heatmaps (e.g., Hotjar) or session recording tools, check where users tend to drop off or where they don’t engage.
  12. Social Shares: Content with very low or no social shares might indicate that it wasn’t deemed share-worthy by readers.
  13. Backlink Analysis: Use tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush to see which pages have few or no backlinks. While not all content is link-worthy, a complete lack of backlinks can indicate unhelpful or uninteresting content.

Once you have identified unhelpful content, you can update, consolidate, redirect, or remove it. Monitor the impact of your changes to ensure they result in improved metrics. Remember that the ultimate goal is to provide value to your users, so always keep their needs and interests at the forefront of your content strategy. Do you want help to improve your website? You can request a website audit and consultation, and we can build a plan to improve your website.

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