Google’s Helpful Content Update: How Frase Will Evolve To Focus On Originality
Many Google algorithm updates feel insignificant.
But this time around, the Frase Team believes that Google’s Helpful Content update represents a paradigm shift that will change how many of our customers manage their content workflows.
And we think that’s a good thing.
We view this Google update as an opportunity for us to reinvent ourselves and shift our roadmap in a direction that will help our customers craft quality, original content that Google will love.
In this post, we’ll touch on the major elements of this Google update and the features we’re planning in response to it.
How does this Google Update impact your content workflow?
Google’s Helpful Content update is a site-wide signal Google will use to determine whether a website is largely producing “unhelpful” content optimized for search engines.
If your website is impacted by this update, Google states that it may take months for it to recover. In a way, this is similar to how Panda affected “thin content” sites in 2011.
The main message Google has for content creators is that they must stop writing content for search engines and instead focus on creating human-first content:
People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value.
Most interestingly, Google’s release goes on to list specific questions you should ask yourself in relation to your content creation workflows.
And here’s where we believe Google indirectly points fingers at some common workflows that may now be red flagged:
- Skyscraper technique: Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
- Correlation SEO: Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count?
- Article Spinning: Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
- Overly Expansive Content Plans: Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
Of course, this does not mean you should over-react and completely redesign your workflows from scratch. Rather, you should make adjustments to make sure your content is uniquely helpful to your reader and not just a copycat of your competitors.
Is Google targeting AI-generated content?
Ever since Google announced the update, there has been a lot of debate about whether AI-generated content will be penalized.
Truth be told, it’s virtually impossible for a human to know whether a sentence was written by AI or by a human. So how could Google proactively penalize AI content?
A lot of content written by humans can be worse than average AI content. As described by Kevin Indig, “we shouldn’t measure the quality of content by WHO creates it but by HOW valuable it is.”
And that is what Google’s Helpful Content update is all about – are you providing value to your reader? Or are you simply creating copycat content “that ranks”?
The key takeaway is this:
- If your AI-written content is low quality and doesn’t help readers, it’ll get penalized.
- If your human-written content is low quality and doesn’t help readers, it’ll also get penalized.
Are you using extensive automation to produce content?
When AI writers initially came out, we all wondered whether websites could eventually publish content on their own with little human supervision.
At Frase, we can confirm there is demand for this behavior as we frequently get requests for things like “1-click article generators” or “programmatic generation of publish-ready articles.” So this technology exists and has likely delivered results for some website owners.
However, it is clear that Google will take aim at sites that are publishing massive amounts of new content or updating their existing content too frequently.
Specifically, Google dislikes websites that branch away from their core topic simply to rank for as many search queries as possible. This appears to be a common practice for affiliate marketers looking to quickly monetize sites by publishing content about every topic and product under the sun.
So Google may not directly penalize AI content, but it could penalize situations where websites leverage AI to generate a lot of content in bulk.
This also poses challenges to SEO professionals: what if you are publishing a lot of content without using AI? Could the rate at which you publish new content actually work against you?
With this update Google seems to be more interested in having you publish less content. This means content strategists will need to be more selective about what content they want to create, and how it ties to their core topic.
The fall of correlation SEO and copycat content
For the past 5 years, we’ve seen a proliferation of SEO tools that analyze the SERP and provide recommendations to help you “optimize content that ranks”.
In essence, these tools, including Frase, are based on the idea that your chances of ranking for a search query increase if your content resembles what already ranks on Google.
Some tools go as far as telling you how many paragraphs your article should contain! As a result, writers frequently over-optimize content following these suggestions.
At scale, this behavior has resulted in a scenario where each SERP is largely composed of pages that mirror each other. And redundancy doesn’t help the searcher.
What is Frase doing about all this?
Google’s Update touches on several key components of the Frase platform, particularly when it comes to SERP-based content optimization and AI writing.
In a nutshell, this is how we plan to help our customers make strategic adjustments:
Focus on research vs over-optimization
As discussed, there is too much redundant content on the internet. Over-optimizing your content in a way that reiterates what is already ranking will start to become less effective.
This is why Frase will focus on building research-oriented features that make you smarter instead of content graders that make your content similar to everything else. For example, optimizing for word count, or other structural metrics is not something we plan on doing.
Frase will continue to provide a “Topic Score” and topic suggestions, because those are also informative from a research perspective.
But we’ll also build features that encourage the writer to cover topics that aren’t necessarily mentioned in the SERP.
And this is where originality and information gain come in.
Prevent copycat content with Frase’s Originality Score
Frase’s Originality Score allows you to understand how similar your content is to competitors on the SERP.
It is different from a traditional plagiarism checker because:
- It has a more granular understanding of the SERP (versus the entire Internet)
- It works by comparing “meaning” in a flexible way instead of exact keyword matches
Create more unique value with Frase’s Information Gain
How much additional relevant information does your article contain compared to competitors?
Frase’s Information Gain aims to help you come up with ideas and angles to create a unique perspective your SERP competitors aren’t covering yet.
Information Gain is effectively a research tool that allows you to research the core topics outside the SERP boundaries.
Frase’s Information Gain feature will be released in September 2022.
Focus on the right use cases for AI
Just because AI can technically output full articles doesn’t mean that is a valid use case.
Instead, we should focus on use cases where AI can truly outperform humans in quality, including:
- Rewriting your content in a more creative or engaging way
- Summarizing information for faster research
- Creating your own custom AI tools to solve your specific copywriting challenges
- Beating writer’s block with ideation and expansion of your content
- And a growing number of valid use cases!