Born in London, I currently live and work in Accra, Ghana. I am a writer and creative entrepreneur.
Google's New Helpful Content Update Will Change the Game
Google's Helpful Content Update
Google’s updates can either make or break you as an online entrepreneur, blogger or content creator.
When Google launched the Panda update in February 2011, the goal was to eliminate shady black hat SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing, cloaking and automated robots. The update obliterated whole businesses overnight and SEO professionals had to rethink their strategies.
Initially the update focused on weeding out low-quality content however, it hit sites that produced high-quality content too. Often, niche blogs are associated with low-quality, content produced by content farms however, there are many niche blogs out there that produce high-quality content that were also when Panda was rolled out.
At the time, my company owned a regional news website, packed full of high-quality journalism and science-backed lifestyle content however, it took a hit, we quickly switched our content strategy from news-related content to focus on detailed business news content. It worked, we saved our site.
Initially, our site focused on short, snappy, yet informative news content with some helpful, science-backed lifestyle advice thrown in for good measure. The site was a massive money-spinner for us and our loyal readership never left our site throughout the whole Google Panda update saga.
During the early stages of the Panda roll-out and especially when Panda 4.0 was introduced in 2014, top, high-traffic sites took major hits. According to Searchmetrics, one of the biggest losers at the time was the online auction marketplace, eBay.
Other losing sites include:
Ask.com, Biography.com, and Retailmenot.com.
In 2022 and beyond, Google is working on cleansing the Internet of low-quality, search-first content. The goal is to reward high-quality, human-first content with higher search visibility and penalize low-quality, search-first content.
What Does This Mean?
Here’s a quote taken Google Search Central:
“Google Search is always working to better connect people to helpful information. To this end, we’re launching what we’re calling the “helpful content update” that’s part of a broader effort to ensure people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results.”
It’s clear that Google’s goal is to prioritize helpful content that’s written for humans, not for search engines. Therefore, if you create content with the sole intention of selling an affiliate product without providing, high-level, human-first information, your site or blog posts won’t rank or, you will notice a dip in your search-based traffic.
An Emphasis on People First Content
"The helpful content update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.” — Google —
Here’s a checklist to make sure your content meets the helpful content guidelines:
- Do you have a current or planned audience for your company or site that would appreciate the information if they visited you directly?
- Does your content provide valuable, expert-led, detailed information? If you write product reviews, have you used the product before? Do you have first-hand experience using the physical or digital product you’re writing about?
- Does your site have a clear focus?
- Will your readers take actionable insights from your content?
How will Google’s helpful content update impact niche blogs?
Firstly, what is a niche blog?
A niche blog is a blog that covers a very specific topic. The key to having a successful niche blog is to have a loyal, engaged readership who appreciates the content you produce.
Contrary to popular belief, a niche blog is not a site that focuses on a broad topic like “gaming” for example. When you niche down, you focus on a very specific target audience.
For example, instead of writing for gamers as a general audience, you focus on writing for female gamers over the age of 30. You might even niche down further by focusing on a specific type of game such as Minecraft or Roblox.
Your target audience should have specific pain points and your blog should answer their questions and provide detailed solutions to the problems their facing.
Here’s another example:
Golf is a profitable topic however, golf is a broad topic. You could niche down and focus on golf for college students.
With this example, you would create content that appeals to college students and you would focus on building value-packed content for college students who are interested in learning more about golf.
If you own a niche blog and you currently publish lots of generic content based on low-competition keywords, the new helpful content update might negatively impact your site.
Here’s how to avoid this:
✅Go through all your posts and update them with detailed information and expert advice. Avoid cookie-cutter content and try to add a unique spin to your content.
✅Add stats, infographics, expert quotes, and detailed step-by-step instructions.
✅You might need to delete posts, change titles and create a list of new, helpful titles.
✅You can focus on low-competition keywords however, make sure you produce value-packed content to answer the questions that humans ask in the “people also ask” section on Google for example(see screenshot below).
✅Visit groups on Facebook and Quora and ask questions. For example, if your target audience is single moms who work from home. You want to ask single moms who work from home what their biggest pain points are. Once you’ve gathered a list of questions, start crafting detailed content to answer these questions.
✅It’s best if you’ve had first-hand experience as this will give your content the edge over someone who is writing based on similar content that is already published online.
✅Search for content that answers similar questions and try to create a more detailed, informative article.
Should You Forget About Low-Competition Keywords
I don’t think you should forget about low-competition keywords, I also don’t think you should avoid keyword research altogether. This new update will improve the quality of content found online and it will improve SEO tools for the better.
You can still use tools like ahrefs and SemRush to conduct keyword research but instead of creating generic content, you will need to create content that provides in-depth answers to very specific questions.
Use the tools to find relevant keywords but forget about over-using keywords to attract higher rankings.
Focus on writing for humans first.
Good News For Experts
If you are an expert in your field, it’s good news for you. For example, niche blog owners will more than likely need your help.
There are many online media companies that own multiple niche sites, some are owned by solo entrepreneurs and some are owned by large media houses.
Often, the smaller sites are run by an individual who researches, writes, and publishes the content. Mostly, niche blog sites are not run by experts and with the recent influx of AI writing assistance tools, more and more niche blogging businesses are publishing AI-generated content.
If you are an expert, you can firstly, raise your rates, and secondly, you can build authority sites using your expert knowledge. Some site owners focus on building content for search engines and they might not be experts in a specific topic, experts are going to run the Internet therefore, this is the best time to hone your craft.
Knowledge is power.
Warren Buffet says it all the time:
“The more you learn, the more you earn.”
If you want to make it in the field of niche blogging or content creation for platforms like Medium, Hubpages, or Vocal, you need to build your knowledge. Learn more, read more, absorb more information, and implement what you’ve learned.
You might not be an expert in a specific field however, if you have first-hand experience with a particular product, place, or service, you can create a detailed article about it, also, a detailed YouTube video. Then, link it to the video version and create a mini-hub of value-packed information for your followers.
Here’s a quote from the book ‘The Wealth Coach’ by Bradley J. Sugars:
“In life, I will be paid to work from either the neck up or the neck down. Neck up pays better, so the more I learn, the more I earn.”
If you fill your head with knowledge, take action, rinse and repeat, you’ll earn more from writing than if you throw a bunch of generic content online and hope for the best.
Good News For Saturated Niches
This is excellent news for saturated niches because it’s common knowledge that it’s difficult to rank with general topics like “weight loss” or “make money online.” However, if you identify a specific problem within these categories and niche right down. You can beat the competition by doubling down on first-hand experience, and in-depth content.
For example, if you’ve lost 100 pounds in weight over the past two years, you have first-hand experience. You might not be a health expert but, you can write about the specific diet you followed to lose weight. Then, create lots of recipe content in addition to creating a detailed recipe book of low-carb or clean vegan meals for example.
Your blog could focus on low-carb recipes for junk food lovers. You could also do vegan sweet treats for kids but, you need to make sure that you have first-hand experience with these recipes.
Here’s what I would do if I was to set up a brand new blog documenting my weight loss journey.
✅I would create a page on Medium or Hubpages
✅ Create a YouTube channel
✅Build a blog and an email list through my YouTube and Medium page
✅I would create a YouTube video for every article I create and embed the video in my article. Then, add the article link in the description of the video.
✅Create an eBook or eGuide and sell it through Gumroad (you can also sell it directly through your site or through another platform such as Payhip.
Note: Create detailed, long-form articles or blog posts. I would still conduct keyword research and search Google to see what people are asking in the “People also ask section.” Build content around these search queries but avoid quick, generic posts with no substance or in-depth knowledge.
Use Medium for Affiliate Marketing
If you use Medium for affiliate marketing, you might gain some traction from the in-built audience but in my experience, most of the traffic comes from Google.
If you want to use Medium for affiliate marketing, you will need to create high-level, value-packed content. The truth is, Medium is an excellent platform for bloggers and affiliate marketers because of its high domain authority.
Here's an example of detailed content:
What is Domain Authority Anyway?
Domain authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.
Sites with a very high DA such as Forbes, Huffington Post, and Entrepreneur are more likely to rank on the first page of Google than sites with a low DA. If you want to rank on the first page of Google, you will need to create high-level content and build backlinks from high DA sites.
Medium’s domain authority is 95 which means it’s one of the most authoritative sites on the internet.
According to the Semrush domain analysis, 70 percent of search inquiries are informational meaning that 70 percent of searchers are looking for specific information.
15 percent are searching for a specific product or service therefore, affiliate marketers can profit by building high-level content to rank on Google and other search engines.
Therefore, if you want to win as an affiliate marketer on Medium, focus on building long-form, first-hand experience, in-depth content.
Google doesn’t recommend a specific word count for articles but your content should be long enough to provide relevant, detailed, and engaging information.
You can read more about Google’s helpful content update here.
Google’s new helpful content update is not for the weak. If you’re lazy and you don’t want to build valuable content for your audience, this will be the most devastating news. However, if you’re already creating in-depth content for your target audience, dig deeper, and you might land on the first page of Google when the new update weeds out the generic content and shines a spotlight on the detailed, helpful content.
The truth is, major media houses will probably continue to dominate however, it leaves room for new expert creators to build authoritative sites. It will certainly require more work however, you can probably get away with writing one detailed piece per week as opposed to several published pieces every week.
In the beginning, I still recommend challenging yourself to publish at least three times a week to build momentum, and with this new update, writing three long-form posts per week is manageable and sustainable.
Finally, remember that Google is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to traffic generation. You can utilize the power of building an email list on Medium, YouTube, TikTok or any other social media platform to build an army of readers who will read everything you post.
You should still provide as much value as you can to your loyal readers because they’ll always come back for more.