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Google Search’s Helpful Content System Best Practices

November 20th, 2023

Google Search uses what is called the Helpful Content System in order to generate signals which are used by their automated ranking systems to ensure its users are shown original, helpful content. Let’s go over some best practices for your website content to ensure that it is displayed in the search results prominently and is useful to your visitors.

What is Google Search’s Helpful Content System?

Google has specified that the Helpful Content System’s main goal is to reward content which is beneficial to users, and prevent content that does not meet a visitor’s expectations from performing as well. The system generates a site-wide signal that is considered among other signals for use in Google Search when considering the rankings of a webpage. The identification of content that has little value or low-added value is automatic. This automated process looks at your overall website, not just individual pages, to determine whether or not your website can be identified as having a notable abundance of unhelpful content in general, particularly if better content on the same topic is available elsewhere on the web. Following content best practices and removing any unhelpful content from your website can also help to improve the rankings of your other content.

It is important to note that if you host third-party content on your website, it may be included in these site-wide signals and can contribute to your content being labeled as unhelpful. If third-party content on your website is not relevant to the main sites purpose, it should be monitored closely and blocked from being indexed by Google to prevent any negative impacts on your main content rankings.

Create Helpful Content

How to Ensure Your Website is Not Negatively Impacted by Google Search’s Helpful Content System

Google has stated that as long as you produce helpful content, this system will be good for your website due to it rewarding helpful content. One recommendation from Google is to assess your content and even have others you trust, but are not affiliated with your site, review your content and give you feedback on its helpfulness. Closely monitor all pages on your website, if you notice a drop in rankings this can help identify any trouble areas and you can troubleshoot issues with these questions provided by Google:

  1. Does the content offer original information, reporting, research, or analysis?
  2. Is the content a substantial, complete, or comprehensive depiction of the topic?
  3. Does the content provide insightful analysis or intriguing information beyond the obvious?
  4. If the content references other sources, does it refrain from merely copying or rephrasing and instead add substantial additional value and originality?
  5. Does the main heading or page title offer a descriptive, helpful summary of the content?
  6. Does the main heading or page title avoid sensationalism or exaggeration?
  7. Is this a page you’d consider bookmarking, sharing with a friend, or recommending?
  8. Would you anticipate finding this content in or cited by a printed magazine, encyclopedia, or book?
  9. Does the content deliver significant value when compared to other pages in search results?
  10. Does the content exhibit any spelling or stylistic issues?
  11. Is the content well-produced, or does it appear hastily assembled or sloppy?
  12. Is the content generated en masse by numerous creators or outsourced across a vast network of sites, resulting in less individual attention or care for each page or site?

Writing valuable content is all about delivering original, insightful information with comprehensive coverage, clear headings, and keeping a user-friendly approach in mind. The content should stand out for its quality, avoiding mass production and ensuring careful attention to detail. Working with an SEO Content Writing Company can help to ensure that your content follows these guidelines and is not negatively impacted for being unhelpful.

Beyond Content – Page Experience Matters

Google’s ranking systems aim to recognize and promote content offering a positive page experience. To succeed within the Google search results, site owners should avoid focusing on one or two aspects of page experience, ensure the delivery of an excellent overall page experience across multiple dimensions as outline by Google:

  1. Are Core Web Vitals good?
  2. Is the page securely served?
  3. Does content display well on mobile devices?
  4. Are there few distracting ads?
  5. Are intrusive interstitials absent?
  6. How easy is it to navigate to the main content?
  7. Is the main content clearly distinguishable in design?

Google’s core ranking systems assess content on a per-page basis, especially concerning page experience. While there’s a focus on page-specific evaluation, there are also site-wide assessments. This underscores the importance of both individual page quality and broader site performance in achieving favorable rankings.

The Importance of People-First Content in Search Rankings

People-first content is content crafted primarily for human audiences, not to manipulate search engine rankings. In order to ensure you are creating people-first content be sure your content caters to an identified audience, offering utility to those directly engaging with the business or site. Demonstrating first-hand expertise and a substantial depth of knowledge enhances the credibility of your content, and ensuring it meets the needs of the audience you intend to reach is important. A clear primary purpose or focus for your site is essential. Additionally, your content should not only inform but leave readers feeling satisfied, having gained enough knowledge to assist them in achieving their goals, this is considered helpful content.

People-first content prioritizes delivering value and relevance to the audience rather than focusing solely on search engine optimization. Here are some examples:

  1. In-depth Guides and Tutorials: Creating comprehensive guides or tutorials that genuinely help users understand a topic or learn a new skill.
  2. Customer Success Stories: Sharing real stories of customers who have benefited from a product or service, providing authentic experiences and insights.
  3. Interactive Content: Developing quizzes, polls, or interactive tools that engage and entertain users while offering valuable information.
  4. User-generated Content: Encouraging and showcasing content created by your audience, such as reviews, testimonials, or user-generated media.
  5. Educational Webinars or Workshops: Hosting online events to educate and share expertise on relevant topics, fostering a sense of community.
  6. Personal Stories or Insights: Sharing personal experiences, anecdotes, or insights that humanize the brand and connect with the audience on a more personal level.
  7. Responsive Customer Support Content: Providing clear and helpful content in FAQs, knowledge bases, or support forums to assist users in resolving issues or answering questions.
  8. Localized Content: Tailoring content to specific geographic regions or cultural nuances, demonstrating an understanding and consideration for diverse audiences.
  9. Social Media Engagement: Actively participating in conversations on social media platforms, responding to comments, and addressing user concerns to build a genuine online community.
  10. Accessible Content: Ensuring that content is easily accessible to people with disabilities, demonstrating a commitment to inclusivity and user-friendly experiences.

The Negative Impact of Search Engine-First Content

Prioritizing search engine-first content, which is a focus on attracting search engine visits rather than serving the genuine needs of your audience, can lead to negative outcomes for your overall rankings in the search engines. When content is generated primarily for search engine appeal, it may lack authenticity and fail to address the specific interests or concerns of your intended audience. This approach often involves creating a high volume of content across various topics which may not be related to the overall topic of your website, relying on automation in the content creation process, and summarizing existing information without adding relevant or original value. By following trends or attempting to meet arbitrary word counts instead of providing meaningful content, the result may leave readers feeling unsatisfied and compelled to seek more informative sources elsewhere, leading to your content being labeled unhelpful.

Engaging in practices such as entering niche topics without expertise, making unfounded promises, manipulating publication dates, or frequently altering content solely for the sake of appearing “fresh” can undermine the overall credibility of your site. Content that lacks sincerity and relevance to the audience’s needs not only risks disappointing your readers but also fails to establish the trustworthiness of your website and can hurt user engagement.

Search engine-first content is characterized by its primary focus on optimizing for search engine rankings rather than providing value to the audience. Here are some examples to help you avoid this type of content:

  1. Keyword-Stuffed Articles: Content that excessively uses keywords in an attempt to manipulate search engine algorithms, often resulting in unnatural and awkwardly written text.
  2. Low-Quality Guest Posts: Creating guest posts solely for the purpose of building backlinks, without a genuine contribution or relevance to the host site’s audience.
  3. Thin Content Pages: Generating pages with minimal content solely to target specific keywords, lacking substantive information or depth.
  4. Content Spinning: Using automated tools to rewrite existing articles with slight modifications, aiming to create the illusion of original content for search engines.
  5. Clickbait Titles and Meta Descriptions: Crafting misleading or sensational titles and meta descriptions to attract clicks without delivering substantive content.
  6. Doorway Pages: Creating multiple similar pages optimized for different keywords with the intention of funneling users to a central page, rather than providing unique and valuable content on each.
  7. Overemphasis on Quantity: Prioritizing the production of a high volume of content over quality, leading to superficial and unhelpful information.
  8. Exact Match Domains: Selecting domain names solely based on target keywords, without considering the brand or the relevance of the content.
  9. Content Cloaking: Showing different content to search engines than what is displayed to users, attempting to manipulate rankings.
  10. Auto-Generated Content: Using automated systems to produce content without human input, often resulting in nonsensical or low-quality material.

Focus on Helpful People-First Content to Ensure High Rankings and Engagement

To achieve high rankings and foster meaningful audience engagement, center your content strategy around creating helpful, people-first content. By prioritizing the genuine needs and interests of your audience over search engine algorithms, you establish a foundation of trust and credibility that ensures your website will not be negatively impacted by any future changes to Google’s automated ranking systems. Write content that is informative, addresses specific user queries, and provides real value. A focus on user experience, relevance, and authenticity not only enhances your site’s rankings but also ensures that visitors find meaningful solutions to their searches. As long as you are creating content to help people and it is useful to your visitors you are following Google’s E-E-A-T core ranking guidelines and will be rewarded.

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