July 19, 2024

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How to Optimize for Google’s Helpful Content Update

Google Search is always updating its algorithm, especially when it comes to content.

As an agency, we keep track of these updates and make sure our clients’ websites comply with the latest search engine standards.

On August 25 of this year, the search giant rolled out yet another update, this time dubbed the “helpful content update.” The goal of this signal is to reward high-quality content while also penalizing websites with content created just for SEO. Think: AI-generated content, pages for the sake of search engines, and general content without any real expertise.

Along with the update, Google revealed what creators should know about this new signal.

The latest advice is a goldmine for businesses that want to create high-quality website content that provides a satisfying experience and thrives online.

So, how do you ensure that your website delivers compelling, helpful content to users?

Luckily, we’ve gleaned the most important tips and share them with you here. 

In this article, I explain the helpful content update and provide actionable tips for optimizing your website to improve your rankings on Google. 

Finally, if the update has impacted your website, I’ll share some steps you can take to remedy your lost rankings. 

Read on to learn:

  • What is the Google “helpful content update” is, 
  • How to optimize your website for the update,
  • And what to do if the update impacted you.

Note to our Clients:

While the Google helpful content update is new, Google’s guidelines for content quality are not. If you are an existing client, please know our content creation process has always adhered to Google’s quality guidelines, and we only implement white-hat, ethical SEO practices.

What is the Google Helpful Content Update?

The Google helpful content update is part of a more extensive people-first algorithm update to ensure online users see more original, helpful content that provides a rewarding user experience and less low-value or unhelpful content.

This update is sitewide, meaning it has the potential to affect every page of your website. .

Google explained that this update joins the Product Reviews Update in a broader effort to reduce low-quality content from search results. Google says this update de-prioritizes content primarily created for ranking on search engines, known as SEO-first content, rather than human-first content.

What is SEO-first content? The SEO industry has a dark history of black hat techniques, or tactics designed to deliberately manipulate search engine rankings. 

What does the helpful content update mean for websites?

If Google determines your website has a high volume of unhelpful content, it will be “less likely to perform well in search.” 

It’s important to note this update is automated, which means it’s not a manual action or a spam action. As a result, Google says some helpful content on websites deemed unhelpful can still rank well, as long as there are other signals that point to the quality of the page.

Websites impacted by this update may find the signal automatically applied to them several more times over the next several months as Google continues to refine how unhelpful content is detected. 

On the other hand, if you’ve been creating high-quality, helpful content, you should see rewards with higher rankings in search results. 

Now that we understand this update and how it works, let’s look at ways to optimize your content, get it ranking high again, and attract more high-quality leads to your healthcare website.

13 Ways to Optimize Your Website for Google’s Content Update

For this list of tips, we organized Google’s advice and guidelines into helpful categories.

We also provided some examples of how our agency creates better, more authoritative content that complies with Google’s guidelines. 

Here are 13 ways to create useful, high-quality content for your healthcare consumers:

1. Create authoritative, people-first content

Write about topics that are driven by the genuine interests of your health or wellness consumers rather than focusing on generating content that might rank well in search engines. This means understanding your target audience and creating the useful content they’re looking for. For example, if your healthcare organization specializes in restorative and cosmetic dentistry, focus on creating unique content for your services and include trust signals like testimonials, patient reviews, before and after images, or membership badges to build confidence in your practice.

2. Craft original, first-hand content

Provide original value-add content, information, reporting, or research to set yourself apart from your competitors. At Healthcare Success, for example, our content marketing team conducts comprehensive interviews with our doctors and clients to better understand procedures, treatments, and services. We also interview our doctors and clients to identify content goals, vision, brand values, unique selling propositions, and desired outcomes. This allows us to be more authentic when writing valuable, helpful content that meets their needs, the needs of their patients, and Google’s content requirements.

3. Offer deep knowledge and expertise

The content on your site should be written and approved by an expert on the topic. Make sure your content is authored by an expert and links to appropriate bios or about us pages. Build a robust database of high-quality, link-worthy, and shareable content to build domain authority, establish thought leadership, and increase the likelihood of backlinks from other high-authority websites (e.g., education institutes or health plans).

4. Provide comprehensive content

Dive deeper into topics than your competitors. Provide an insightful analysis or interesting information that elevates your content, satisfies search intent, and encourages searchers to click through to other pages on your website.

5. Share trust signals

Add security badges and certificates, testimonials, reviews and ratings, user-generated content (UGC), and relevant news coverage about your business, products, or services.

6. Maintain a healthy ad-to-content ratio

If you post ads directly on your website, be sure your ad content never exceeds your written content. Serving too many ads distracts the user from your content. Google suggests a 30/70 ad-to-content ratio to support consumer trust and maintain a good user experience (UX).

7. Create shareable content

Write with your target audience in mind, answer common questions, keep up with current industry trends, and make it easy to share on social media (e.g., include meta descriptions, tags, and images). It’s also important to keep UX in mind while creating content and ask yourself if this is a page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend.

8. Tell the whole story

Engage searchers with a retelling of a patient’s experience of care, being careful to include lessons learned and outcomes. Storytelling is a great way to engage patients who distrust the medical system or have difficulty understanding or acting on health information.

9. Don’t be afraid to write long-form content

Don’t just tell health and wellness consumers you’re the experts in your medical field, show them with longer, more substantial articles or blog posts that include helpful specifics about diagnoses, treatments, products, or other services.

10. Stop relying on artificial intelligence (AI) tools for content

I recommend avoiding AI altogether because it lacks heart and crucial first-hand experience. With AI, you get curated (summarized) content from existing websites (often competitors) rather than anything unique or different. That being said, if you’re an expert in your medical field determined to use AI, you run the risk of being dinged by Google.

11. Create timely content that educates

In addition to creating content that speaks to your skill and expertise, it’s equally important to create timely content that educates. For example, if your healthcare organization specializes in children’s health, you can create educational content that explains the importance of annual wellness check-ups and immunizations.

12. Remove duplicate, overlapping, or redundant content

Google’s helpful content update is looking for—and penalizing sites with—duplicate, overlapping, or redundant content. This includes content on the same or similar topics or content with slightly altered keywords. That’s why content optimization is a big part of our process when we begin any new SEO project for our clients. Before our content or design teams begin, our SEO team conducts a comprehensive content audit to identify these issues and creates a project plan to correct them. 

13. Correct spelling, stylistic, or factual errors

Prevent spelling, stylistic, or factual errors by employing experienced, senior-level writers with healthcare writing experience. 

Here at our agency, we employ senior-level in-house content writers experienced in writing website content in the healthcare industry. Along with our writers, we have editors, proofreaders, and senior-level account managers who Q/A content prior to it going out to our clients. This helps ensure each piece of content we deliver is high-quality, timely, relevant, and free of common spelling and grammatical errors.

For additional information about optimizing your site content to satisfy Google’s helpful content update and improve your search rankings check out their 23-question checklist.

Were you hit by this latest update? 

What to Do If You Are Hit by the Helpful Content Update

Knowing that Google’s helpful content update heavily focuses on user experience (UX), focus your recovery efforts on ways to improve your site’s UX. 

Our SEO team provided this handy checklist:

  • Create expert, authoritative, and trustworthy content that serves a particular group of people.
  • Focus on creating content that satisfies search intent.
  • Ensure your entire site has a clear site structure.
  • Consider adding videos and FAQs to the pages.
  • Identify and correct areas of over-optimization (when 2 or more pages are targeting the same keyword).
  • Identify and correct areas of duplicate or partially duplicate content issues.
  • Minimize obstructive ads and maintain a healthy ad-to-content ratio (30/70).
  • Remove outdated content that receives no traffic.
  • Remove recycled or curated content that does not add value to your website.
  • Remove auto-generated content that’s been created based on the keyword swap method (find and replace). While Google hasn’t come right out and said it, many people in the industry believe this update targets AI content.
  • Don’t hide pages with low-quality content—delete them. You can always rewrite and publish new, higher-quality versions later.

Want to create a winning content marketing strategy that elevates your website search rankings? Contact the content marketing specialists at Healthcare Success. Our seasoned marketing professionals follow Google’s quality guidelines and only implement white-hat, ethical SEO practices.