Google updates its search algorithm in small ways every day to produce better search results for users. The company doesn’t announce these small, daily updates—you should just assume they’re happening—but it does announce and provide detail about periodic ones, like the latest “helpful content update,” and larger, more impactful “core updates.”
Google updates like these roll out slowly, usually over the course of days or weeks, and websites may not feel the results of these changes for weeks, sometimes months. Just because you don’t see changes to your site’s search traffic right now, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to audit the content on your home care agency site.
What you should know about Google’s August 2022 content update
Beginning on August 25, Google started rolling out what it called the “helpful content update,” which is intended to reward people-focused content. That is, content that is written for people first, rather than for search engines first.
There are a few things you should know about how this might affect your agency website.
This is not a core update
Smaller updates like this one are different from core updates, which include significant changes to Google’s algorithm and can have a major effect on rankings. Google usually announces core updates months ahead of time.
Though the helpful content update was announced in advance, this package of changes isn’t nearly as large as a core update.
You won’t notice changes to your traffic immediately
Google indicates that sites may see changes over a period of months. So just because you haven’t seen dips or bumps in your traffic and rankings yet doesn’t mean you won’t see them in the future. Go ahead and do a content audit to evaluate how helpful your content is.
It’s worth it to remove “unhelpful” content
You should audit your website’s content to identify any potentially “unhelpful” articles or pages. You’ll want to remove duplicate pages, pages that address the same information or topics with little variation, and pages and articles written for search engines before people.
In its announcement of the content update, Google said:
Any content — not just unhelpful content — on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search, assuming there is other content elsewhere from the web that's better to display. For this reason, removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.
In other words, your whole site could be affected if Google thinks you have too much unhelpful content.
People-focused, or helpful, content:
- Is written for a specific audience of human beings
- Demonstrates expertise and authority on a topic or subject matter
- Helps a user reach their goals, like learning who needs in-home care, the types of services your agency offers, or what kinds of certifications your in-home caregivers have
- Follows core update best practices, like being free of typos, clunky wording, and factual errors, plus, it demonstrates expertise, authority, and trustworthiness
People-focused content is NOT:
- Written to attract search engines instead of humans
- Made with automated writing tools or by content mills
- Mass-produced, as in a site that is packed to the gills with multiple pages about the same thing
- Stuffed with keywords and phrases you think Google will like
- Written without expertise, authority, and trustworthiness
If you have a lot of pages that aren’t written for people before they’re optimized for search, then you may lose rankings and traffic as a result of the update.
The update will affect English-language sites first
Google is rolling out the update to English-language sites first, so if you have both English - and Spanish - language versions of your site, for example, the former will feel the changes first.
However, go ahead and audit versions of the site to make sure the content is people-focused.
If you already have good content, you may not see negative effects
Unhelpful content will take a hit as a result of the update, but high-quality content will continue to be rewarded with the changes. So if your site is particularly strong—you’re ahead of the game! If not, it’s time to revise your content.
How to improve your site under the helpful content update
SEOs are famous for writing content for search engines, and less famous for writing content for people. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself as you look through your site’s content:
- Do you have more than one page meant to satisfy the same goal? For example, two blog posts meant to answer the same question or more than one page that talks about your agency leadership.
- When you write a page about, for example, your home care agency’s services, is it written for any human who comes to that page, or only for those who come from search engines?
- Does your about page tell the reader about the origins of your agency, its leadership, its care philosophy, and its services, or is it just stuffed with keywords you hope the search engine will like?
- Are your pages full of headings designed to get Google’s attention rather than organized in a way that’s easy for a visitor to understand?
- Do you favor awkward wording to get a few keywords in, or are you writing clear prose that’s easy to read?
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