Google updates its algorithm all the time. But as long as you have the right approach to content, most updates won't negatively affect your business—including the recent "Helpful Content Update," which finished rolling out in early September.
Google is an information platform designed to connect people to the best information quickly. Its updates are aligned with keeping users happy so they continue to use the platform.
Google underscores the point in its introduction to that recent update, stating that its purpose is to better "connect people to helpful information."
Sadly, a lot of businesses overlook that point, and instead obsess over keyword data, doing everything they can to rank for certain "high-value, high-traffic keywords." As a consequence, they get caught up in huge traffic shifts after algorithm updates, wondering what went wrong.
If you want to drive more revenue from organic search while avoiding sudden traffic drops from Google updates, you need to focus on five critical areas. Specifically, you'll need to avoid the following:
- Obsessing over longer content
- Letting keyword volume dictate strategy
- Ignoring sales goals
- Skipping unique, expert insights
- Not taking calculated risks
Some may seem like common sense. However, many businesses and agencies still make those mistakes. That's because it's easy to fall into certain traps.
Here's what the traps are—and what to do instead.
1. Longer content isn't always better content
Since the "skyscraper technique" has become the norm, marketers have become increasingly focused on making posts longer.
That is a misguided approach.
Long content can still be thin content. That's because "thin" doesn't refer to length. It refers to depth.
Many businesses and SEOs simply review the content that's out there, maybe pull insights from a few related posts to make it longer, and call it a day.
It's longer. But it's not really adding anything to the conversation.
If you've read multiple blogs trying to find an answer only to realize that the top results are basically the same, you know the frustration your audience feels. Your content needs to address the inquiry thoroughly.
However, it's not about throwing everything at the reader.
If you do that, you'll annoy your readers by forcing them to scroll through your content to find the answer. Or, worse, they'll roll their eyes at the estimated read time and try to find a simpler answer.
Get to the answer right away. If the post is a "How to" guide, you need to start with the steps after the introduction. Don't add a bunch of irrelevant subtopics at the beginning.
You can always add additional, relevant information after you've addressed the initial search intent. That allows you to be thorough without being annoying.
2. Keyword volume should not drive your content strategy
Every niche has core keywords that drive high volumes of traffic. And it can be tempting to rush after those (especially if they have low difficulty). But they're not always the best choice, even if they're relevant to your business.
You can (and should) still go after high-value keywords. After all, there can be a lot of value in ranking for such terms. They can drive traffic to your site, increase brand awareness, and drive more organic backlinks.
But that's not always the case.
In fact, a lot of high-traffic keywords don't move the needle. And if it doesn't move the needle, it's just a vanity metric.
Eventually, you'll need to show results (typically in revenue generated). That means the keywords you target should depend on your sales goals, SEO goals, and the approachability of those keywords.
Fight the urge to ignore low-volume keywords. You can miss out on topics that convert much better or earn more links than more popular terms.
3. Focus on driving revenue with sales team insights
"The helpful content update aims to reward better 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 states.
That's why you should always speak with Sales before the start of any SEO campaign.
The sales team has unique insights into customers' real questions, objections, and frustrations. It's a gold mine for content that users will find helpful.
Plus, Sales can help you find the exact language your customers and prospects use to describe their pain points.
Most important: the sales team can use that content in the sales cycle to close more deals.
High-quality content establishes trust by providing useful insights that alleviate people's pain points. Whether users are simply curious or need help scaling their business, Google prioritizes content that meets their needs.
All that is in alignment with exactly how Google defines helpful content:
- It is useful to your audience.
- It shares your unique experience and insights on the topic.
- It relates to your industry.
- It truly is educational for your readers.
- It helps readers achieve their goals.
In short, the best content should be genuinely helpful.
Although keyword tools help identify opportunities and provide guardrails for content reaction, they're not your secret weapon for success. Your sales team is.
Working with your sales team is the best way to create truly helpful content.
4. Always include expert insights
Businesses are busy driving revenue, helping customers, and managing growth. As a result, content creation often gets deprioritized and outsourced to agencies.
There's nothing wrong with that (I own an agency ); however, the problem is most businesses don't take the time to provide expert insights along with their feedback. Instead, they tend to get caught up in grammar, tone, and voice.
That's a big problem.
Every piece of content should offer unique insights from experts in the organization. You can't outsource that. It must come from subject-matter experts.
That's the difference between a basic, generic post that wastes people's time and real thought leadership that improves their lives. (Google outlines this explicitly.)
Having an expert speak to the exact problems customers face, and the possible solutions, is key to making your content stand out.
5. Take calculated risks
It's tempting to play it safe with SEO.
The standard approach to keyword research and content marketing these days seems to be...
- Run your business URL through a keyword tool.
- Run competitor URLs through a keyword tool.
- Find high-traffic, low-difficulty keywords.
- Write content on those topics.
- Wait for the results.
Some people may sprinkle in guest posts, link exchanges, or paid links if they have the budget. But that's pretty much the SEO copy-and-paste strategy many organizations use.
Rather than building a brand and establishing their presence in the space, they stop at "quick wins." That's not good enough.
Instead, use SEO to get additional insights into your audience. Using business goals, sales team insights, and keyword research, take calculated risks and create unique assets.
Experiment with new content ideas and topics. See how your audience reacts. And use those insights to fuel new ideas that can help you better reach your audience.
That's how you create truly helpful content that ranks—regardless of any Google algorithm update.
More Resources on Google Algorithm Updates
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- Five Ways to Get Keyword Ideas for Your Website: A Beginner's Guide
- A Marketer's Guide to SEO in 2022: Franco Valentino on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]
- How Many Words Do People Use When Searching Online?