September 27, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
An SEO strategy is the planning and implementation process you use to optimize your content to rank better for search engines. You may already have an SEO strategy in place for your content marketing, but that was from the days before Google’s Helpful Content update. While it hasn’t made as many waves as SEOs across industries expected, that doesn’t mean Helpful Content is over. Today, we’re looking at ways to create an SEO strategy for Helpful Content and any additional updates and rollouts that may come with it:
The Helpful Content update is a Google algorithm update working to provide more targeted and valuable search results for users. It plans to do that by eliminating low-quality content from high-ranking positions in search results in favor of more original pieces.
The update comes with a new ranking signal, an addition to the ones Google already uses to determine which content is the best of the best. It’s meant to flag these low-quality sites and sources and give a domain-wide demotion to any content associated with them. There’s weight within the ranking signals, meaning that sites with higher volumes of unhelpful content across a domain take a bigger hit than those with a little unhelpful content.
If you have a solid SEO strategy in place already, likely, you won’t need a brand new one to help prepare your new and existing content to stay high-ranking in the Helpful Content era. Instead, it’s more likely your current strategy needs a reframe or refocus to make sure you’re spending time and energy in the areas that matter most for your rankings.
Creating a helpful Content SEO strategy doesn’t mean ditching technical SEO or replacing methods and practices that we know help your content rank better in search. It simply means reorganizing and reordering your priorities when it comes to the most important elements of your strategy.
Related: How To Humanize SEO for Your Brand
Every brand’s SEO strategy is slightly different thanks to its industry and target audience. It’s important to create a custom strategy that works for your company. Doing so allows you to reach the right leads and see more traffic and conversions than you would with a non-customized method. Despite the personalization, there are a few key areas to focus on in your strategy. Use these steps to help make sure you’re paying attention to the right elements to target the Helpful Content update:
Before you do any work in SEO or your other marketing strategies, you have to know what you want the outcome of every campaign to be. Set your SEO goals about what you want to improve and achieve with your updated strategy. In the Helpful Content era, that could be something as simple as maintaining high search engines results page (SERP) rankings or recovering lost positioning due to unhelpful content. No matter your SEO goals, it’s important to make them SMART, which stands for:
Setting goals in the SMART framework helps you stay precise about what you want to achieve with your SEO strategy and makes it easier to work toward them and track your progress.
Before you change things left and right within your strategy, you need to know what’s working and what isn’t. The helpful content update did change Google’s ranking signals and how it decides which content is best to show at the top of SERPs. But the update didn’t overhaul every Google best practice you’ve ever followed.
Ahead of a strategy revamp, review your data and metrics from past content during and after the time of the Helpful Content rollout. Find areas of both positive and negative change. Then, look at the individual content. What about these pieces may have affected a change in your rankings? Did a specific page use too much aggregated data and not enough original content? Is another piece well-crafted and informative or valuable to the audience?
Once you can identify which content took hits or got boosts, you can apply tactics used on those pieces to other content to help your site recover from any lost positioning.
We say this often, but it’s a good reminder to mention it again: your brand doesn’t exist in a vacuum. All while you’re making changes and dealing with the impact of the Helpful Content update, SEOs across the world are doing the same. That includes your competition.
No marketing strategy is complete without doing a competitor analysis. For SEO in the helpful content era, no website or brand can escape these changes. Not even your competitors. Just as you plan to audit your own current content and look for changes, you can do the same for your rivals. You likely have previous competitor analysis reports to show how their content stacks up against your own. You can use these old reports as control samples to see how much a competitor’s ranking or positioning changed during the Helpful Content rollout.
For your new report, get one created and personalized just for your brand with CopyPress’s content analysis tool. This report allows you to compare keyword usage, SERP positioning, and organic traffic for your brand with three of your biggest industry competitors. To sign up and receive this report through email, share your information with us below.
“CopyPress gives us the ability to work with more dealership groups. We are able to provide unique and fresh content for an ever growing customer base. We know that when we need an influx of content to keep our clients ahead of the game in the automotive landscape, CopyPress can handle these requests with ease.”
Director of SEO at Auto Revo
Whether you’re revamping an old content piece or creating a brand new one, it’s important to stick to one topic per piece. That topic should also relate back to your main brand offerings or your unique selling proposition (USP). The Helpful Content update looks to cut down on the number of articles, videos, and other pieces created just for the sake of pulling rank and beating out the competition.
You’ve seen this kind of content before, typically on affiliate sites and blogs. These content creators write about anything and everything from the best laptops to the top restaurants in the country. Their goal isn’t to provide valuable information or insight to searchers. Instead, the goal is to make money on sponsored or commissioned posts. Your brand might not go to those content extremes, but if you’re staying from basic industry topics or information that relates to your product and service offerings, you could feel the sting of a Helpful Content penalty.
For example, CopyPress won’t start publishing recipes on our blog just because the holidays are coming up. We’re a content marketing agency, so we’re not going to teach you the secrets to making the best apple pie, even if we have the inside scoop on the topic. We may teach our audience how to do SEO for recipe posts, or how to set up a recipe template for their blogs. But we’re never going to be the brand trading cooking tips because that’s outside of our niche.
In short, don’t pick topics just because they’re trending. Instead, stick with what you know, and real, helpful organic traffic will follow.
Search intent is the reason why someone looks anything up on the internet. There are four primary types of search intent, which are:
Another area of intent includes local search, in which the audience may have any of the four intents above but want to find results in their immediate vicinity.
Knowing the search intent of your audience and how it relates to each piece you create helps make it easier for content to rank in the Helpful Content era. When you understand the search intent and angle of every piece, it’s easier to pick the right keywords and topics as the basis for all your content. When your content has a clearer focus, it’s easier to make it for the audience rather than for search engines. And increases in your SERP rankings and organic traffic will reflect your efforts.
Another thing the Helpful Content update cracks down on is sites sharing content on topics where they have no authority or experience. We already mentioned affiliate sites that write about, rank, or rate every product or service imaginable. With such varied topics and high quantities of content, it’s a safe bet that those affiliate writers don’t have any firsthand experience using the products or services they talk about.
Don’t let your brand fall into the same trap. Your company has many knowledgeable and talented people, not just in its marketing department, but across the entire organization. Find those that best understand your content topic and interview them about their personal experiences. Firsthand tips and tricks are something your audience gets only from your team members. The more of this original content you can weave into your pieces, the more valuable they become.
No matter your audience’s search intent, there’s likely always a question behind why your audience does a search. Consider potential questions for each intent, like:
With every piece of content you create and optimize in the Helpful Content era, you should provide significant answers to things like these and any other potential questions your audience may think up. On its Search Central blog, Google specifically asks content creators:
“After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?”
When creating and optimizing content, brainstorm a list of questions your audience could have about the topic. Use these questions to guide your research and the creative process to make sure you’re covering all potential information they want or need. You can also use these questions as a checklist when reviewing old content to see if pieces benefit from additional information or an expansion on what you’ve already covered.
This sounds like a bit of a “duh” point, but part of your SEO strategy should always be to create high-quality content. Thanks to Helpful Content, high-quality is now a synonym for people-first content. Your biggest creation goal shouldn’t be to hit the top of a SERP for any keyword. Instead, your primary goal should be providing value to your audience. Without valuable content, being in the top spot on a SERP isn’t anything more than a participation trophy. You can say you have the top spot, but you didn’t do anything of value to get there.
Google makes it known through this update that SEO isn’t just a game to play to get the best ranking or metrics. It’s about giving people what they want in a way that helps them reach their own goals. When you’re already doing that with your content, you’ll start to see the rewards of better SERP placement, reaching position zero for featured snippets, and an increase in organic traffic.
Keeping your content titles, meta descriptions, and URLs consistent with your piece topics is just another way to prove your brand’s legitimacy and authority to both search engines and your audience. Spammy, clickbait, or affiliate sites don’t really care about the audience or the user. They care about ad clicks and commissions.
Many of these sites don’t take the time to do proper SEO and get down to the nitty-gritty details. They do enough to “beat” the algorithm, but it has nothing to do with what makes the search better or easier for the audience. You can make sure to set your brand sites apart from affiliates by coordinating your titles, meta descriptions, and URLs with your content topics.
Make sure you include your focus keyword or phrase near the beginning of your title and once in the meta description. Adjust your content URLs to be short and simple, but explain what the user finds on the other end of the link when they click.
SEO isn’t just for written content and landing pages. Any content you create needs optimized for search engines and user experience. That includes visuals like images, videos, infographics, and even audio content like podcasts.
To optimize your images and infographics, make sure to include alt text that accurately reflects what appears in each image and how it relates to your content. It’s usually best to include your primary keyword somewhere in the alt text and image file title to help this process. With audio and video content, include transcripts or closed captions of what’s said and seen in the content wherever you upload.
Not only do these modifications help with accessibility for all members of your audience, but they also make it easier for Google to understand non-written content. The context you provide makes it easier for the algorithms to understand that the content you’re sharing is helpful and original even without being able to “see” or “hear” it as a human would.
We’ve mentioned multiple times throughout this guide that an SEO strategy is for both new content and updating old pieces. If your site saw hits from the Helpful Content update, it’s likely most important to take some time to revamp and optimize your old content before diving right in with new pieces.
Remember, the Helpful Content update creates domain-wide penalties. That means you won’t just see a decrease in ranking or traffic for an individual page with low-quality content. Your entire domain, and every page or piece of content associated with it, takes a hit. While Google does have a weight system that punishes domains with lots of unhelpful content more harshly than sites with minimal low-quality content, there’s still an effect domain-wide.
Even if your new content follows all the people-first guidelines we discuss here, your low-quality past content could drag it down and stop it from reaching its highest ranking potential. Dedicate a certain number of team members or hours in your week to addressing old content hit by the helpful content update to bring your domain back into good standing with Google.
When creating and optimizing people-first content, the user experience (UX) of your site should be top of mind. A site’s UX goes beyond creating valuable content that helps your audience solve problems. It also matters how they find and interact with that content when they land on your site.
Remember to include technical SEO updates in your strategic plan. Check things like your site’s mobile-friendliness, page load times, and navigational hierarchy. A site with a better UX is always more valuable to your audience than one that disregards the browsing experience in favor of playing games with the search engine to get higher rankings.
Just because the Helpful Content update rolled out doesn’t mean it’s time for you to ditch everything you use to know about SEO best practices. It’s still important to follow all the basic and advanced content optimization strategies you’ve used in the past to help your pieces get good rankings.
What we mean is to continue doing things like following a carefully planned internal and external linking structure. Remember to incorporate your topic keywords naturally through every piece. Helpful Content isn’t a brand-new game. It’s just an update to the rule book. Add to your already successful strategy instead of changing it completely.
Supposedly the Helpful Content update is fully functional and rolled out. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be additional updates and tweaks in the future that could change how you develop your SEO strategy. To stay informed, sign up for the CopyPress weekly newsletter. Each week, we cover hot topics around the content marketing and SEO industries and what they mean for your business. To get on the list, share your information with us below.
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