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5 minute read

Google has announced a new (big) search ranking algorithm update named the helpful content update – yes, Google named it that. This update started to roll out this week and will target content that is, um, not helpful to humans and people.

The helpful content update looks to weed out content written for the purpose of ranking in search engines that does not help or inform people. Google said this update will “tackle content that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines.” The update will “help make sure that unoriginal, low-quality content doesn’t rank highly in Search,” Google added. So if you or your marketing team are writing content (i.e. blog articles, market updates etc) with the purpose of driving search engine visibility and traffic, you might be hit by this.

Furthermore, if you have copied/pasted content from someone else’s website or you have obtained content from a ‘content library’, where articles are shared across multiple websites, your Google rankings may be impacted significantly.

Publishing high-quality content to your website, consistently, is at the top of the list of things you can do to get your business on page 1 of a Google search. Most agents and their marketing teams already know this but many, perhaps with help from an external marketing company, have produced content over the years that is written too much for search engines – articles that sound almost ‘robotic’ with lots of keywords stuffed into the body of the article. This latest Google update will punish those websites.

It is my opinion that this latest update will change how many real estate marketing teams go about their website content.

What does Google’s new helpful content update do?

This update introduces a new ranking signal that will negatively impact websites that publish high amounts of content with little value, are low-added value, or are unhelpful to searchers.

“Any content — not just unhelpful content — on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search, assuming there is other content elsewhere from the web that’s better to display. For this reason, removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.”

What should I do if the helpful content update impacts me?

If the helpful content update hits you, meaning your Google rankings decline, Google advises removing unhelpful content from your website. It would also pay to consider reviewing your content strategy altogether if your rankings are impacted significantly enough.

Sites impacted by the update may find the effects to last several months, Google says. Google’s blog post continues:

“Our classifier for this update runs continuously, allowing it to monitor newly-launched sites and existing ones. As it determines that the unhelpful content has not returned in the long-term, the classification will no longer apply.”

What does this mean for you?

That depends! You might be in trouble if you’ve been pumping out low-quality content. Our advice has always been to write high-quality, hyper-local content that people in your community will engage with. We’re talking about original content here – articles that you’ve had written exclusively for your website. Not content that you’ve ripped off someone else’s website or you’ve copied/pasted from a content library somewhere – this will put you in Google’s bad books and will impact your rankings so don’t do it.

It’s going to be more important than ever to be unique and to write high-quality content for your website if you want to retain (and improve) your current Google rankings.

Related article: Meet A Real Estate Agent Winning Attention With Content Marketing

How can you check and improve your content for this update?

Google shared a helpful list of questions to ask yourself when looking at your website content. Answering yes to any of these questions should be a red flag.

  • Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines rather than made for humans?
  • Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
  • Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
  • Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
  • Are you writing about things simply because they seem to trend and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
  • Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
  • Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t).
  • Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
  • Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?

In closing…

Google, for most homeowners, is the first place they go when they’re looking for an agent or property manager. They visit the websites at the top of a Google search second. So it quite literally pays to get your website pages to the top of Google search results.

Many real estate businesses have invested heavily in SEO companies or via their own internal marketing teams over the years to produce content for their website to get them to the top of search rankings. But many articles that exist on real estate websites around the country have been either written primarily for search engines or copied/pasted from someone else’s website or a ‘content library’ somewhere. These websites will be punished by Google’s helpful content update and much work will be required to remove unhelpful content from those sites, replacing it with new content and quickly.

On the other hand, agents and teams (like in this example) who are already creating hyper-local, informative, educational and people-focused content are going to benefit greatly from this new Google update and only see their rankings improve.

If you’ve been procrastinating about your blog on your website or you feel your content is letting you down, now is the time to start taking it more seriously if you don’t want to see your Google rankings decline. While there are many technical elements to SEO (search engine optimisation) that you need to consider and discuss with your website provider, a consistent blogging schedule is like pouring fuel on an SEO fire. The more you do it (with high-quality content), the more your Google rankings will improve. Period.

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