The Google algorithm is always changing.
Small, iterative improvements are continuously being made so it can do a better job of matching the user to what they’re looking for.
These updates happen so often in fact, they’re frequently rolled out without any public announcement.
So, when Google does publicly declare an upcoming algorithm change, you know it’s a big one.
This was very recently the case when Google announced its “helpful content” update in August.
Read on to find out what this update entails, whether it will impact your SEO efforts, and what it means specifically for businesses in the financial markets.
Google’s “helpful content” update: the story so far
If you’ve read any of our previous articles on SEO content (like this one), you might already have an idea of what Google has been trying to achieve in recent years.
To recap briefly, Google has been on a mission to improve the quality of content found at the top of its rankings.
Content that has been written to genuinely help people—providing authentic and valuable insight into a particular topic or subject matter.
The latest algorithm update is simply another stride in this direction. Namely, by doing more to crack down on “unsatisfying content”.
“Unsatisfying content” defined
In this context, “unsatisfying content”, refers to content that hasn’t been written with the purpose of providing value to other people.
Because here’s the thing—SEO is all about the exchange of value.
You provide valuable information on a particular topic or search term, and in exchange, you get all the value that comes with being on Page 1 of Google.
(And of course, the searcher gets the value of the information they’re looking for.)
Problems arise when marketers expect to climb these rankings without having something of value to offer in exchange.
If you want to get to Page 1 of the SERPs, you need to create content that makes you worthy of that top spot.
So this begs the next question, how will Google now assess which content is worthy?
And how can financial markets businesses ensure their content is sufficiently “helpful” by Google’s standards?
Helpful content 101: what’s the criteria?
This Google Developers blog entry provides two main prompts to create helpful content:
1.Focus on people-first content
This means content that satisfies the needs of the searcher, and is written by a genuine authority on the subject, rather than someone solely looking to gain more organic search traffic.
2.Avoid creating content for search engines first
SEO practices—when applied to helpful, high-quality content—support the best possible search experience for Google users. Content that has been created purely for traffic is often of little real help to the average user.
If you’d like to know more, we suggest you look at the blog itself in more detail, but for the sake of ease, we’ve distilled its key points into some DOs and DON’Ts.
Helpful Content: what to do…
DO: Demonstrate genuine authority
Good content provides valuable insights. The kind that come from first-hand experience.
The content on your site should be an accurate reflection of what your existing audience would come to you for advice on.
If it isn’t, Google might just suss you out.
Let’s say your business delivers software to the financial markets, and you have a backlog of content on your site about data-driven practices for traders.
If a particular digital currency starts trending, and you suddenly start creating reams of content about this instead, Google will see that you’re stepping out of your usual area of expertise.
And as a result, you might find yourself moved down the rankings..
DO: leave users satisfied
If a user lands on your page via Google, they should come away from that page feeling that they’ve achieved their goal.
Meaning they’ve either found the information they were after, have got to the place they needed to be, or completed the action they needed to do.
Bear this in mind when creating and refining your content.
You have to think of it as a multimedia asset to your reader—a man-made footpath, designed to effectively guide their fact-finding journey.
Does it get them to their destination? Does it cover all the essential stops?
Ask yourself these questions. And if you find yourself saying no to either of these questions, you might have some work to do.
And remember, things like video, graphics, user-generated content, and other features can significantly improve your search ranking—as they can help aid the understanding of a particular topic or idea.
Helpful Content: what NOT to do…
DON’T: create content for content’s sake
Producing lots of content covering a wide range of topics is likely to harm your site ranking.
Google sees this as a sign that you’re more focused on getting site traffic than offering value to your audience.
Existing sites can be affected when the amount of content created purely for SEO purposes exceeds a certain threshold.
So when you’re planning SEO content, it’s always worth asking yourself:-
If I wasn’t looking to rank on Google, would it still make sense for me to put this out there?
It’s also important to create content that brings something new to the table.
You’re bound to have some overlap with other content that’s out there—that’s unavoidable.
But how can you expand on it? How can you take it further? Can you explain it better, or more clearly? Or, can you disprove mainstream perceptions altogether?
This is how you create content that is authentic, original, and high-quality.
DON’T: try to answer the unanswerable
Some questions don’t have a clear answer. But that doesn’t stop people searching for it online.
Historically, brands have aimed to manipulate this to steer traffic towards their own website, by creating SEO content around questions that can’t feasibly be answered.
This is an old hat clickbait technique that has been widely used in the past. But now, it faces harsher consequences than ever.
Our advice? Don’t do it.
DON’T: be reckless with AI
It didn’t take long for rumours to start circulating about the helpful content update.
Is Google trying to take down AI content generation?
Well, that depends.
If you’re using AI tools to create reams of content for content’s sake, that’s repetitive, lacking in substance, unhelpful, and unoriginal—then yes, your AI content is going to suffer.
AI or no AI, what matters here is your ability to create content that is of value.
Our advice? Use AI tools to support your content creation, not lead it.
Do your own research, develop your own ideas, and make sure it’s been edited and proofread by a reliable pair of human eyes.
What this means for the financial markets
So, now you know this, what does this mean for your SEO efforts?
Here are some logical next steps you can take.
Audit, consolidate and add value to existing content
If you’ve been creating standalone pages to target different keyword variations, look to collate and condense these pages.
The end result should be more comprehensive site content that covers entire topics and subject areas in depth.
Assess what’s on your website with this in mind, and be thorough. Audit, consolidate, add value, repeat.
Focus on writing content that is original, and that genuinely reflects your areas of expertise.
Stick to these principles, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
The days of simply parroting everything else that’s out there are numbered. So if you’re looking for a content strategy that will serve you well for the long term, concentrate your energy on delivering genuine thought leadership to your space.
Write for people first, Google second
This might be a change, but it’s by no means a time to “forget everything you know about SEO”.
Plan and devise content that is of value to people first and foremost, then aim to make it a good experience for the searcher, by building on it with strategic SEO.
Make it easy for search engines to navigate, and easy for people to understand.
And make sure the format of your content aligns with the intentions of the searcher.
You can learn more about the different kinds of search intent in our guide to keyword research.