How to Prepare Your Website for Google’s Helpful Content Update

Today, August 22, 2022, Google is supposed to start rolling out their new “Helpful Content Update“. It’s expected to be a two week release, so you won’t see the changes from this algorithm change all at once.

Social media has been blowing up about this update recently. A lot of people are freaking out, trying to figure out how they can prepare their websites for this impending change.

Personally, I’m not worried at all. In fact, I’m excited.

Google made big changes to their algorithm back in 2010 – 2013. The infamous Panda and Penguin updates were part of those changes. Professional marketers lost rankings overnight in massive numbers. My income easily doubled when Panda and again when Penguin came out.

I was prepared for Panda in 2011. I saw it coming a mile away because of the low quality results showing up on Google.

Keep reading to learn how I knew Panda was coming, how I avoided that massacre, and how this all relates to the Helpful Content Update happening now.

Google Pre-Panda

A lot of internet marketers these days were not in this business before 2010, so they don’t know what it was like back then. I was there, and I remember.

I’ve been building websites since Yahoo was the king of search and Google didn’t even exist, so I’ve personally witnessed everything that Google has done over their entire history.

2010 is the year my online business really kicked into high gear. It became so profitable that I was able to quit the last “real job” I ever had and solely work for myself.

That year isn’t a coincidence. It’s when the perform storm of events that I had been predicting actually began to play out in reality.

Before 2010, there was a serious problem with online content and Google’s search results.

Those were there the days when Black Hat SEO reigned as king.

I could clearly see the problem when I used Google to try to find information on a particular topic.

The results were 99% garbage. Spam, keyword stuffing, fake pages with redirects, automatically generated content and many other types of content that simply weren’t useful was about all you could find without a lot of effort.

I knew it wasn’t good for Google’s core business to have those results.

Surely they would take steps to do something about it.

Instead of doing what worked at the moment and joining the black-hat crowd, I stood up against them and got vocal about it.

That is actually what caused me to gain initial popularity as a marketer and become known to others.

Many people were able to see the same thing that I saw and focused on the future instead off the current moment.

Gaming the System vs Long-Term Growth

Until Google got a decent hold on the problems with their search results, roughly by 2014, it was more profitable to try to cheat the system.

Most marketers focus on what is working today, but they tend to overlook whether it should work at all.

I knew that the strategies of the day were garbage, so I refused to use them or teach them to others.

This actually held back my business for years while automated content reigned king.

It was tough to compete.

I made software and could’ve made my own automated content plugin for WordPress, which was one of the best selling digital products in those days.

Instead, I fought for sales teaching people a strategy that took much more time to implement.

Over time, my strategy won.

Automated content is never going to be able to produce the same level of content as someone with years of personal experience.

This is a long-term lesson for anyone starting an online business side hustle today.

At some point you will likely be faced with a choice:

  • Take the easy route that you know isn’t the best route
  • Take the hard route that you know as a long-term future

The easy route might offer a way to make a quick buck, but it won’t last.

You shouldn’t focus on how much money you can make this year.

Instead, focus on whether your business will still be successful in 5 or even 10 years.

The Google Algorithm Zoo - Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird & Pigeon

Algorithm Changes 2010 – 2013

In May 2010, Google’s May Day Update was the beginning of the end for bad SEO tactics.

This pattern of weeding out a wide variety of black hat techniques aggressively continued for a few years.

Here’s what they targeted with search ranking penalties over the following years:

  • 2010 May Day – Excessive thin content (automated content)
  • 2011 Panda – More thin & low quality content including affiliate sites
  • 2012 Penguin – Purchased backlinks & link exchanges
  • 2013 Hummingbird – Revamped algorithm for better search results
  • 2014 Pigeon – Improved local search results
  • 2015 Mobilegeddon – Sites not optimized for small screens
  • 2018 Speed Update – Slow loading sites penalized
  • 2022 Helpful Content Update – Sites without experienced-based, useful content will get penalized

In hindsight, it’s kind of funny because I knew all of this was coming years ahead of time.

I made marketing software and training courses teaching strategies that would prepare marketers for the future, and my predictions were shockingly accurate.

Here’s my own timeline for the information I was giving others:

  • 2009 – No automated content. write high-quality, helpful content
  • 2012 – Local search rankings
  • 2013 – Mobile optimized sites
  • 2014 – Speed optimized sites

Looks like I’ve been one or even multiple steps ahead of Google the entire time, right?

I didn’t have any kind of insider information that let me stay ahead.

My secret was to simply pay attention.

I could see what other marketers were focused on doing and what strategies they taught to others.

Looking on Google, I could see the results of these strategies and determine whether they actually help searchers find the information they want to find.

Ultimately, marketers can keep playing this game with Google, and Google will keep fighting back to keep their results relevant.

Instead of trying to figure out the next way to cheat the system, figure out how to provide helpful content that doesn’t need to cheat the system. That is the real key to success with an online business.

Helpful Content Update

As of today, nobody really knows what’s going to happen with the upcoming Helpful Content Update.

Anyone that tells you otherwise is just guessing.

It’s easy to guess what this update is about simply because of the name, but I’m sure there will still be some surprises that get revealed over the next two weeks.

Unless you know you aren’t providing helpful content, you shouldn’t take any drastic steps with your websites yet.

Wait to see what will happen first, and then react as necessary to avoid wasted work.

After Google’s Helpful Content Update is complete and we all have a more realistic idea of what will happen, I highly recommend taking a close look at your websites, content and search rankings.

Ask yourself whether the niche topics you cover are the right topics for you to write about.

I’ll call myself out here. I can admit when I’m wrong.

Even after building websites for 27+ years, I still make mistakes.

Mistakes are natural. When you can learn from them and adjust, they’re even helpful.

I’ve made two mistakes building Side Bacon that I’ve already taken steps to correct:

  1. I made my niche too broad – Some of my topics like personal finance and investing, I know a lot about them, but there are lots of people out there that know way more than me. I’ll have a hard time competing with useful content in those niches, so I’ve been focusing on side hustles and marketing more recently.
  2. I’ve targeted topics just for keywords – I can write about anything. If I don’t have personal experience and tips to share based on that experience, I probably can’t write as good of an article about that topic as other people. I’ve also made a switch recently and will only write about topics that I have personal experience with from now on because this is where I can provide the most value to my readers.

I really think the best way to demonstrate what I’m talking about is with some real-life examples.

Here are a couple of articles I’m not very proud of writing. They’re really just to target keywords. I have no personal experience with these topics, so I had to research 100% of the information in the articles. If you’re writing articles like these, avoid doing so in the future.

Here are some of my recent articles (all SEO related) that I’d consider to contain extremely helpful and useful content – this level of quality and experience in your content is what I recommend and think Google wants to see:

Hopefully you can see the difference with these two types of articles.

It should be very obvious which ones Google would prefer and favor in the upcoming Helpful Content Update.

Give your own writing a critical examination and ask yourself if your content really provides the most useful information possible to your readers.

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