| Google SEO: Helpful Content Update
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Google Helpful Content Update

Google SEO: Helpful Content Update

Google SEO Helpful Content Update

It was happening so often – you search for a product on Google using relevant keywords, Google’s SERP shows a listing near the top with the keywords you searched for in the headline, and it looks like you’re going to get the information you want! But alas, the page pretty much as nothing you were actually looking for… This is because the page was created to attract search engines – and not to provide any value to an actual human.

The above scenario forms the basis of Google’s latest update, the Helpful Content Update. Completed in September 2022, the update is said to be one of the biggest to the Google algorithm since Penguin and Panda, a ‘core update’ meant to remove content that was created solely for the purpose of attracting search engines and not for actual human consumption.

How Will the Google Helpful Content Update Know What’s Helpful?

Google has large volumes of data on browser behaviours and has placed more importance on Engagement metrics, as can be seen quite clearly in their Google Analytics 4 product. So now assessing SEO based on Engagement is of the utmost importance. Factors such as time-on-page, scrollability, interactions on the page – all these will be factors in determining whether a page is ‘Helpful’ and thus ranked higher.

There will be other, off-page factors as well that can signal whether content is Helpful. Google now looks more at overall journeys as opposed to single-keyword search metrics. This is important in determining how websites were able to serve Google’s customers with a better user experience.

Because Google has data on overall browsing behaviour, they will be able to quickly figure out bad ‘human’ experiences. For instance, they are obviously able to know when someone performed a search, clicked on a website, and the user had little to no engagement on the clicked page. This means that the page, which Google’s algorithm had deemed to be a high-ranking page due to its technical superiority on the keyword, is in fact, not the best show for users.

Continuing the user journey, Google will also know that that specific user left the above page, returned to the Google search engine, and re-typed the same or a similar search query. This signifies clearly that the page that ranked so well is in fact, not ‘Helpful’. It is these types of pages that will now be penalized in Google’s latest Helpful Content Update.

Looking at the Entirety of the Searchers Journey

Consequently, pages that get a lot of Engagement can now be ranked solely on its own merit, as opposed to a portion within the entirety of a website’s ranking. High engagement on a page is shown by the number of actions, events, conversion values as well as time-on-page – as opposed to time-on-site.

Even when a user leaves your website, there can be SEO merit within the new Helpful Content Update. Continuing the journey above, a user can click an external link on your website where you’ve provided additional information, to your OEM website for instance – “For More Information, Visit”, etc. If that user continues to engage on the external website, and thereby increase their time-on-browse, your website gets credit for providing a thorough, overall research journey, i.e. you’re being ‘Helpful’.

How Will You Know Your Content is Helpful?

Google has laid out a set of questions for you to determine whether your content is helpful:

  • Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business?
  • Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge?
  • After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic?
  • Are you following the best practices for Product Reviews?
  • Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans? 
  • Are you producing lots of content on different topics?
  • Are you summarizing what others have to say without adding value?
  • Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and/or covering a wide array of topics that are not all related?
  • Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
  • Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count?
  • Are you providing a thorough journey for a researcher even after they leave your website?

Conversely, Google has also laid out the questions that need to be asked to determine what content is not helpful. Essentially, it’s content that is created for Search Engines. Here is a list of questions as well from Google that can help you determine if you have un-helpful content:

  • Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
  • Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  • Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
  • Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
  • Are you writing about things simply because they seem trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
  • Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
  • Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t).
  • Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
  • Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?

TRFFK has been providing SEO Services to dealerships for years and has always stuck by the Content Marketing aspect of SEO, that is, producing helpful content for dealerships such as model reviews, FAQ & Blogs with a focus on making sure our writers are going beyond just reposting the same information across all the similar makes and models we write for.

Shehper Hasan is the National SEO Manager for AutoSync’s TRFFK & TAdvantage divisions and explains:

“We realized that Google has an automated system that tries to determine if an automotive vehicle review goes beyond just sharing basic information about a product and instead demonstrates in-depth research or expertise.

This is why we moved from a keyword-focused approach to an intent-focused approach. Why we began to ensure that when a search engine deemed our content to be a 5-minute read, that our users stayed 5 minutes. These are all indications to Google that we are producing well-intended pieces of content meant to contribute to a user buying journey”

Website Content Layout

Even additional factors such as how well mobile-optimized your websites are, as well as how content is laid out on a page can be factors ultimately that rank you ahead of another.

Google has made it well-known that if all things are equal in terms of SEO, then how well your content shows on mobile, both in terms of layout and speed will be the dominant factor in ranking.

And of course, you are running a business, so including links to available inventory, Build & Price or technology features you may describe more in detail on another page or on your OEM website will also contribute to a superior experience – and push a user down the buyer journey.

Best practice if you’re just starting in the SEO journey is to create content marketing calendars with set dates as when specific models are coming out. Create pages months before release dates so that by the time vehicles land off the truck and into your showrooms, users online will find your content high in the search engines and above your competition – to the satisfaction of a potential buyer who can now consume local , rather than national content, and with a higher propensity to visit your dealership.

At the end of the day, SEO has become more of SXO – Search Experience Optimization. Either way, as long as you follow the principles of creating content for your potential buyers, your users on your website, regardless of where they came from, will have a great experience and contribute to the lead and eventual sale.

Ivan Sandoval, BA (Hons)

Senior Marketing Manager, TRFFK by AutoTrader