SEO Experts On Helpful Content: It’s Bigger Than You Think
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In SEJ’s SEO Trends 2024 ebook, which provides an annual roundup of expert insights on the upcoming year, one of the most significant developments observed last year pertained to the evolving definition of “helpful” from Google’s perspective.
Previously, Google employees were somewhat guarded regarding whether and how site-wide signals factored into the algorithms. However, this year’s updates on helpful content were explicit: Google’s algorithms do indeed consider site-wide signals when determining rankings, with a focus on the overall helpfulness of a site.
According to Google’s documentation:
“The presence of any content—rather than just unhelpful content—on sites identified as having a relatively high proportion of unhelpful content overall is less likely to lead to favorable performance in Search, especially if there are superior alternatives available elsewhere on the web.
Consequently, eliminating unhelpful content could positively impact the rankings of other content on your site.”
Google has faced challenges in defining the precise meaning of helpful content, yet it has provided some answers regarding the helpful content system, with further guidance possibly on the horizon.
It’s crucial to acknowledge that the concept of “helpful” is subjective and influenced by various factors, highlighting the growing importance of understanding user intent in keyword research.
Moreover, the notion of what constitutes “helpful” content extends beyond the immediate impact of the words on a page, emphasizing the significance of assessing the overall value of a website and its authoritative approach to broader topics.
In summary, Google assesses the holistic value and helpfulness of a website, emphasizing the importance of delivering clear and unique value. Additionally, it’s advisable to familiarize oneself with generative AI and its workings to effectively navigate its impact. Lastly, establishing expertise through insights and original data attributed to named authors will be pivotal in distinguishing content moving forward.
Your Whole Site Must Be Helpful
Adam Riemer, President of Adam Riemer Marketing, LLC, sheds light on the broader scope of the helpful content update in his article “SEO Experts On Helpful Content: It’s Bigger Than You Think.” Riemer emphasizes that it’s not just individual pieces of content that need to be helpful; rather, the entire website should prioritize user assistance.
This nuanced approach is frequently overlooked by marketers transitioning into 2024. Unlike previous systems, the current algorithms assess the entirety of a website. While a single exceptional piece of content is valuable, it’s insufficient on its own. Marketers must ensure that all pages offer helpful and user-friendly experiences.
Are there outdated pages with subpar content and user experiences, characterized by oversized hero images, irrelevant lists, or broken links? Rather than interpreting “content” narrowly, Riemer advocates for a holistic approach to website optimization, focusing on making every aspect of the site beneficial to users. This strategy isn’t solely for SEO purposes but benefits all channels.
Prove Your Alternate Site Versions Have Unique Value
Dan Taylor, Partner & Head of Technical SEO at SALT.agency, delves into Google’s emphasis on “helpful quality content” in his article “SEO Experts On Helpful Content: It’s Bigger Than You Think.” Taylor predicts that Google’s focus will expand to affect websites with multiple alternate versions.
He highlights that international websites presenting the same value proposition across various alternate versions, such as those catering to English-speaking regions like the U.S., Canada, and the UK but differing only in currency and regional spelling, may find their hreflang and canonical tags disregarded.
Many international website structures are modeled after offline business hierarchies or aimed at directing leads to the appropriate sales development representative (SDR) teams. However, aligning online and offline business practices doesn’t always seamlessly translate, leading to cumbersome management challenges.
Taylor suggests providing distinct value propositions to incentivize Google to allocate resources to alternate site versions. Enhancing the unique value offered by each version is crucial. Additionally, discussing the structure of international alternates and lead handling procedures ensures that the appropriate teams receive relevant leads.
Effective Content Comes From Actual People Demonstrating Real Insight
Mordy Oberstein, the Head of SEO at Wix, discussed the significance of helpful content in a recent article titled “SEO Experts On Helpful Content: It’s Bigger Than You Think.”
He emphasized the importance of considering broader content trends when optimizing for search engines. While algorithms play a crucial role in SEO, it’s essential not to overlook factors beyond them.
Google’s emphasis on expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) reflects a broader shift towards valuing content from real people over static brands. Google’s machine learning capabilities, like RankBrain, enable it to analyze vast amounts of data and adapt to evolving content consumption trends.
One emerging trend, according to Oberstein, is “situational content.” This type of content anticipates various outcomes of advice provided and suggests the next logical steps. For instance, if an article offers advice on getting a baby to sleep through the night, it would also provide guidance on what to try if the initial advice doesn’t work – thus offering a “situational” approach to problem-solving.
Situational content is becoming increasingly prevalent, offering several benefits to readers:
Directly addressing readers and their specific needs.
Adopting a more conversational tone compared to standard content, aligning with the emerging trend of conversational content.
Requires genuine expertise and experience to predict various outcomes and address different situations effectively, which directly ties into the principles of E-A-T.
Furthermore, situational content signals to users that it’s authored by a real person rather than being generated by a large language model (LLM). Its nature makes it inherently difficult for AI to replicate for several reasons, including the ability to provide detailed advice while maintaining a conversational, authoritative, and expert tone.
Given these advantages, it’s likely that Google will increasingly reward situational content in the future, recognizing its value and authenticity.
Generative AI Sets The Bar Your Content Must Beat
Patrick Stox, a Product Advisor and Technical SEO at Ahrefs, shared insights on the significance of helpful content in an article titled “SEO Experts On Helpful Content: It’s Bigger Than You Think.”
He emphasized the importance of authenticity and genuine value in content creation. Simply rewriting existing content may have been sufficient for ranking in the past, but the landscape is evolving. With the rise of generative AI, it’s easier than ever to create content, making it essential to raise the bar for content quality.
Stox advised against faking experience and instead encouraged adding genuine value to content or seeking input from others. Moving forward, SEO professionals and writers will need to go beyond mere rewriting and find ways to offer additional value to their audience.
I approach content creation in a manner akin to developing a product, employing an iterative process for improvement.
This involves various strategies such as adding specific sections, providing more detailed explanations, introducing key points, enhancing summaries, incorporating personal anecdotes, or supplementing with additional insights from my expertise.
For instance, when crafting a product comparison page, I might include pricing details, user reviews, lists of pros and cons, personal anecdotes about each product, original photographs, or breakdowns based on different categories.
Moreover, injecting personal experience and expertise is crucial. As generic content becomes more prevalent, the ability to contribute fresh insights to a topic becomes increasingly valuable.
If lacking in-depth knowledge on a subject, I advocate for seeking out and interviewing experts. By involving them in the content creation process, whether through reviewing for accuracy or contributing their own perspectives and stories, the overall quality and authenticity of the content can be greatly enhanced.
Generative AI Will Be An Essential SEO Skill, But Not A Replacement For Expertise
Shelley Walsh, an SEO Content Strategist at Search Engine Journal, highlighted two key areas to watch in early 2024: generative AI and Search Generative Experience (SGE).
Rather than fixating on what SGE might take away, such as clicks, Walsh emphasized the importance of understanding Google’s objectives. It’s crucial to recognize that Google relies on both content and clicks, just like content creators and SEO professionals do.
Currently, Google is experimenting with SGE panels in the search engine results page (SERP), which can be likened to an enhanced version of featured snippets. SEO professionals should adapt and collaborate with the way information is presented in the SERP, just as they have with featured snippets in the past.
It’s essential to grasp that SGE panels aren’t entirely AI-generated. Instead, SGE aggregates the most relevant results from the SERP and utilizes AI to generate a comprehensive summary based on those results. This nuanced understanding can guide SEO strategies in navigating and leveraging SGE effectively.
In the realm of SEO, securing top positions in search results has never been more critical, particularly to be featured in Search Generative Experience (SGE) panels. Achieving this entails becoming a primary source of data and information, delivering distinctive and valuable concepts, and crafting compelling content.
This poses a significant challenge in a post-generative AI landscape. While Google continues to refine how SGE integrates into the SERP, the function and appearance of SGE are subject to ongoing changes as Google seeks to strike the right balance between user intent and clicks. It’s crucial to recognize that Google aims to maintain its business model rather than undermine it.
There are already indicators guiding us in this evolving landscape. Consider Google’s emphasis on helpful content, which underscores the importance of content showcasing firsthand experience. Authors are expected to demonstrate exceptional knowledge, expertise, and authority – a principle closely aligned with E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness).
As the demand for thought leaders and skilled experts grows, the ability to conduct thorough research and provide unique data becomes increasingly essential for creating high-quality content. This underscores the evolving expectations in SEO, where demonstrating expertise and delivering value are paramount.
How Generative AI Tools Will Impact Content Production
Maximizing the utility of tools like ChatGPT and Gemini (formerly Bard) necessitates employing nuanced prompts. By default, generative AI can prove daunting for newcomers.
It’s akin to attempting to brew tea with a firehose. Its current level of intelligence surpasses our ability to effectively wield and comprehend it.
To optimize outcomes with an AI tool, instill it with self-awareness regarding its errors and gaps in knowledge. Implement a feedback loop with two-way dialogue—layer and concatenate prompts by using the AI’s outputs to iteratively refine its responses.
AI serves as an exceptional aide. Leverage it to bolster your day-to-day efficiency.
The creative potential of ChatGPT is boundless, with our exploitation of its capabilities still in its infancy.
For instance, generating infographics, organizing data into tables, condensing ideas into summaries, transcribing conversations, identifying discrepancies in reports, scouring extensive datasets, and so forth.
AI seamlessly complements your knowledge and creativity, so treat it as a valuable ally. Avoid the misconception that AI can single-handedly fulfill the role of SEO for you.
Expertise and hands-on experience remain crucial for effectively harnessing the capabilities of AI to achieve optimal results.
The key skill to cultivate in SEO is integrating generative AI throughout your workflow’s various stages to enhance efficiency to the fullest extent. The evolution of AI mirrors the early days of computers in industry.
Initially, individuals attempted to use it as a mere typewriter until they explored its potential, such as with spreadsheets and graphical representations.
Similarly, AI undergoes a developmental process, so continuously push the boundaries of its applications.
Remember, AI cannot replace human ingenuity and creativity. Our role as humans, guiding the machine, remains where we can truly contribute value.