Google’s algorithm update of December 2022 prioritizes helpful content over content created solely to lift SEO. Google wants to deliver content made by humans for humans.
SEO still matters, but much less than useful content that serves real value to an audience that seeks informative, engaging, original content that’s easy to absorb. This makes it important for website owners to focus on unique, authentic information. Google doesn’t look kindly on websites loaded with marketing content cut-and-pasted from competing sites (a shockingly common practice).
December 2022 Helpful Content Update
So, how can you prepare your website for this helpful-to-the-audience content update?
- Prioritize and include only those keywords that naturally fit your content. Continue to conduct keyword research and prioritize relevant keywords, but always with an eye on natural and useful content. Avoid keywords that degrade the overall quality of the content and the reading experience. Have you made a practice of wedging in keywords for their own sake? If so, rethink that.
- Write for humans. Create content that you’d want to read yourself. In other words, prioritize high-quality content over perfect on-page optimization. Google has been moving in this direction for years, and it's likely to continue in that direction. As you create, think: If I were an end user, would this content – or this paragraph or this sentence or this word -- be useful to me?
- SEO isn’t dead. Remember: SEO changes slowly, and no update will turn it 180 degrees overnight. But prioritize quality content to future-proof your website for updates to come. Don’t panic if rankings fall off a bit, at first. Review the keywords that have lost ranking to make sure that they're relevant to your website.
- Refresh old content. Refreshing old content is an excellent way to raise your website's ranking. Content can get stale – a three-year-old blog post about top 10 SEO tactics is ancient history today. Google factors freshness as a ranking signal for good reason. Refreshment, in addition to updating information, includes removing outdated SEO techniques. (If this isn’t among your standard SEO tactics, you’ll want to make it part of your arsenal now.) All this keeps your content relevant, useful and discoverable to your audience.
- Lost rankings? Identify the keywords for which you lost rankings and adjust your content accordingly. (Google has made a list of questions to ask yourself about content that has lost ranking for certain keywords.) Sometimes, you may have lost rankings merely for non-relevant keywords. I’ve seen this more often lately. Recent keyword research for a client revealed that lost keyword rankings were actually for calculator equations irrelevant to the client’s site. Their SKU numbers were along the lines of "TXVFYC 500/40." This caused them to rank for the query "500/40," which was being searched on Google with the intent of 500 divided by 40. As these rankings were not relevant to the site, we didn’t attempt to regain them.
- Be proactive. According to Search Engine Land, Google is using machine learning to target unhelpful content. It will certainly get better at identifying content that isn’t helpful, so it’s critical to be proactive with your site’s content.
December 2022 Link Spam Update
Google also rolled out a Link Spam update in December 2022. It focused on devaluating link spam. This is an update to SpamBrain, an AI-based system that Google uses to target spam backlinks.
Google had this to say in a note about SpamBrain and the update: “SpamBrain is our AI-based spam-prevention system. Besides using it to detect spam directly, it can now detect both sites buying links, and sites used for the purpose of passing outgoing links.”
This is another step in the right direction for the Google search engine. Google wants to prioritize legitimate links because they’re more likely to take users to quality content. Google will devalue the backlinks rather than penalize sites that host them. This makes sense. Spammy links enter a site for various reasons beyond the site owner’s control. One reason is negative SEO, which occurs when a bad actor sends spam links in an attempt to cause Google to penalize the receiving site.
Google Aims to Reward Virtue
The Helpful Content and Link Spam updates reflect Google’s relentless effort to improve user experience on their search engine. Google drives site owners to post high-quality, unique, helpful content and rewards them with improved search rankings. User-focused content with a hint of SEO will prepare your site for success with future updates to Google's algorithm. And work to attract quality inbound links, which also lift your rankings.
The core of SEO remains the same, but the tactics that yield SEO results constantly evolve. We digital marketers must evolve with them.
If your rankings have taken a hit or you need assistance developing an overall SEO strategy, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our expert team is ready to help!