Google announced their new 'Helpful content update' just under a month ago, stating that it would be available the week of August 22nd. This update was brought in in a broader effort to ensure ‘people see more original, helpful content written by people, for people, in search results’.
Although convenience and relevance have long been at the top of Google’s priorities when it comes to what content it ranks highest on the site, this update takes it a step further by rewarding content that makes visitors feel like they've had a ‘satisfying experience’.
So how will this really affect content marketing for your small business? As a small business owner, how can you ensure you're creating content that will be successful with the new update? And does SEO even matter anymore?
In this article, we’ve analysed the new update and found what it really means for content marketers for small businesses.
What are the changes?
In Google terms, the ‘helpful update’ entails a focus on ‘people-first content’. In essence, a piece of content that satisfies a user will be ‘rewarded’, whereas content that doesn’t meet user expectations won’t perform as well. We can assume that by the term ‘rewarded’, it means the piece of content in question will receive a big boost in Google’s organic search rankings.
This ranking upgrade will also help ensure that unoriginal, low-quality content does not rank highly in Search. As their testing has shown, Google will boost results relating to online education, arts and entertainment, retail, and technology-related content in particular.
How do I tailor my content for this new update?
Focus on people-first content
Google has provided us with a list of criteria to ensure that you’re meeting the ‘people-first’ approach:
- Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
- Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visited a place)?
- Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
- Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they've had a satisfying experience? Or learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
In terms of the first point, it might be a little hard for a small business to have an ‘existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful’ - especially if this audience is particularly niche. The advice for content marketers here would be to work with other marketing channels to help reach this ‘intended audience.’. For example, this could be through Google Ads or Email marketing to promote your content.
On the second and third point, Google is really pushing the idea of valuable content that is produced by experts in the field. This shouldn’t be a problem for small businesses, for example, hair salon owners and their content producers will be experts when it comes to topics related to hairdressing. But the quality of the content that you put out should be the first priority. Google also stresses that your content’s topic should be somewhat similar to your website’s primary focus.
Point four stipulates that the ultimate goal is to have the user feel like they’ve had a satisfying experience. Whenever setting out on creating a piece of content, the best thing to do before getting started is research. Research your customer’s problems and think of ways to solve them. This can be done through keyword research to help you find trending topics for your target audience. After each piece of content you create, you should feel like you are giving something valuable to your target audience, and that you have answered their questions.
- Avoid creating content for search engines first
According to Google, the update was not implemented to invalidate the use of SEO principles when developing content. But it is important to mention that to Google, content developed exclusively for search engine traffic is correlated with information that searchers find unsatisfying.
In the past, creating content was usually a 50/50 split between user and SEO principles. We knew that SEO wasn’t everything and that Google’s recent algorithm updates made it easier for content to rank that was relevant for a particular demographic. But now we see a shift to what looks like a more 70/30 approach - where the user comes first and optimising for search engines second.
This doesn’t mean stopping your keyword research or adding schema to your blog posts. Google just wants to make life easier for the user, and we should accommodate that with the quality of content we put out there.
Make sure your content marketing efforts pay off
Content marketing is a great way for small businesses to grow, but it also requires a lot of time, effort and skill.
If you need a little helping hand - either with content creation or content promotion (or both!) - don’t be afraid to reach out. We specialise in assisting small businesses like yours in increasing brand awareness, leads, and sales through content and digital marketing.
Have a look at our inbound marketing services to find out more.