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Episode 18: How to Easily Win with Google’s Helpful Content Update

In this episode, the Kadence team takes a look at a recent algorithm change that Google released that they are calling the Helpful Content Update. This new change is targeted towards elevating “people-first content” in Google’s search engine result pages. Once you’ve got the fundamentals of the technology in place with WordPress and Kadence, how do you give Google, and your customers, what they’re really after? What exactly is helpful content and how can this new algorithm change actually help guide you towards creating more effective websites?

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Timestamps & Links

  • 0:00 Introduction
  • 0:36 Google’s Helpful Content Update (what creators should know)
  • 1:09 Why is Google doing this?
  • 2:07 Sites we’ve seen that might be at risk with the helpful content update
  • 5:42 Questions to ask yourself when publishing content
  • 7:21 An example of helpful content: gardening content authenticity
  • 8:47 The importance of knowing your audience
  • 9:39 Making content no one else can make: add your personality to your content
  • 12:48 What makes a website trustworthy?
  • 13:58 Using original photography, or at least make the images original somehow
  • 16:25 Leverage YouTube and other social media platforms to show authentic authority
  • 17:36 Interlinking content within your site
  • 18:48 The Kadence Table of Contents Block
  • 19:24 Link building: build relationships first
  • 22:02 Our organic link building experience led to a collaboration with The Good
  • 22:59 The KadenceWP + The Good Teardown Livestream event, submit your site

Transcript for episode 18

Kathy: Welcome to another episode of the Kadence Beat. I think we’re gonna laugh through this one too. Last week was pretty funny. We had a good time. We’ll see what’s funny this time. How are you guys doing on this fine day?

Hannah: Doing good.

Ben: Yep, doing good. The weather in the northwest is still very nice for this time of year, so yeah, it’s really cool.

Kathy: Excellent. Yeah, Texas finally decided to simmer down, so I’ve had windows open and all kinds of like normal things happening, so I’m pretty excited about that. It’s awesome.

All right. I wanna get helpful. I started really diving deep on Google’s new update. They have recently launched something that they are calling the helpful content update, which rolled out apparently between August 25th and September 9th. This helpful content update sounds interesting, and as I dove deeper in this, I was like, I have to talk to Ben and Hannah about this. We talk about this kind of stuff all the time. So do you guys know about this, interesting, helpful content update?

Ben: Yeah, for sure. Like I’ve seen it come up, I think I would summarize it in terms of like Google continually trying to make their search engine better to show what people actually want and not what like people are gaming or whatever. I think there are thousands and thousands of piece of content written every day that are trying to game Google into getting views.

And so this is their continual pushback against ways that you could try to game the results and to focus on like what people actually want to see. Which goes back to SEO is all about how do I get content that people actually want to see, they actually want to find in their search results.

Kathy: Right. Yes. This whole world of SEO or search engine optimization of making sure your site is friendly to Google has kind of become, like people think that they have to try harder than they really do in order to connect with audiences. And so I wanted to unpack this a little bit.

Maybe we can talk a little bit about some of the things that we’ve seen sites do inappropriately where they’re trying to game the system, but then also what is Google trying to do to fix this. And if you’re using a Kadence site, how you can actually leverage some of the tools that Kadence offers in order to create a site that really connects with audiences.

Let’s talk a little bit about some of the ways that are really obvious where people are trying to game that system, that the things that Google is trying to fix. Things like keyword stuffing. I’m pretty new to the Dallas area, so I’ll have to search for something I need. Let’s say I need to find the best full service car wash, vacuum out my car, make everything perfect. So I start searching around for it and I end up on these sites that sometimes have like best car wash in Denton, best car wash in Lewisville. And it’s just like all of these like extraneous pages that you could just tell what they’re doing. They’re trying to game the search engines so that it will pop up for someone in those locations. If you have a car wash in Maryland or Illinois, you shouldn’t be putting Best Car Wash in Lewisville, that type of thing.

Have you guys end up searching for something and you end up on a site that you can totally tell is trying to game the system?

Ben: Yeah, I think I see it a lot where people are summarizing what’s already out there without adding any value to a particular topic. When you’re going to search about something and you just get a summary of stuff rewritten into 10 paragraphs when only one was needed and not adding any in actual insight or expertise behind it. I definitely periodically run into that and it’s like, well this is frustrating cause that’s not actually what I want. Or just even ones where that are like, so clearly AI generated content where it’s like, these are all the right words, but these sentences don’t, they just don’t really flow like a human would write. Or you just get the like what you actually wanna read is the last paragraph, and they give you, 10 paragraphs in front of it on like setup for the thing that you wanna read. That’s the kind of thing anytime you run into a frustration on a website where you’re like this isn’t for me.

I think that’s what Google’s trying to target. And if you go, I’m sure we’ll post a link on the blog where they talk about this. They actually provide a lot of good questions to ask yourself about the content that you’ve created, After rereading it, does it do this? Or, you know, are you doing this instead?

And some things to ask yourself, which I think is really a great way to look at how you’re building content.

Kathy: Yeah, definitely. Hannah. Do you have any sample sites that you’ve ended up on where you could totally tell, this isn’t solving my problem and it’s just gamed for the search engines? What did you notice?

Hannah: Yeah. I definitely think it’s frustrating when you’re searching for something and looking for someone who has expertise on a certain topic and you stumble upon their blog or whatever and reading through it. You realize, this is just paraphrased from like Wikipedia or just it’s obvious that whoever wrote this doesn’t actually have deep knowledge on what this topic is.

They’re just writing it because they want me to come to their site. And that’s super frustrating. And I have friends who, would write blog posts for companies and they would write a post in 30 minutes on something they had never heard of. And then they’re just quickly researching and then writing what that they know and that they were getting paid to do it.

And they were SEO writers. And that stuff like drives me insane cause I’m like, that company is actually not benefiting in a way that’s authentic and real. I mean sure, maybe it’s driving in traffic. at least it was. And that’s why I love this update because hopefully that won’t happen as much. Because Google will start to recognize what’s authentic and what’s not. And we love that.

As we’ve made clear on this podcast, we hate unauthenticity.

Kathy: Right. Definitely. Yeah. The questions that Google has on, it’s basically on their developer site. They’re very open ended questions, but these questions are intended to kind of put you in the shoes of the site visitor. And obviously if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re not only interested in creating effective sites, but you’re also visiting sites, and oftentimes when you’re creating a site, you can get into the mindset of thinking about what outcome you would like to have happen, and so to have some of these open ended questions in your mind as you’re developing a site, as you’re developing content, it kind of takes you out of those like rubber stampy or check all of the boxes, types of thinking where you’re just trying to get an outcome from your site and you then put yourself in the customer’s shoes. What are they looking for? So they are not very specific. Google’s not saying, Okay, you need to put this type of information in an H2 tag.

There’s more information on their blog about how you can structure your content, but the purpose of your content, the purpose of your site, and they’re saying that the helpful content update is definitely something that is a sitewide type of metric that they’re using.

So this is something like if you have a consistent pattern of posting content that’s just ticking the boxes or a pattern, they can tell these are just like images you pulled off of Unsplash and images you’ve pulled off of other, free picture types of places, or Hey, I recognize that Canva layout type of thing and all of your content is rather flat and just ticking the boxes.

They can tell and that they’re going to sort of down vote to you, so to speak in the Google algorithm, you’re not going to have as much priority. An example that came to mind as I was thinking through all of this.

Gardening. I’m in a new climate. I have to figure out how to garden. Tomatoes gonna grow here in Texas. I bet they’re going to because they like hot places, but you know, what kind of sun? These types of things. So I’m here I am, all these parameters, I’m in Texas, I wanna grow tomatoes. What time of year should I be planting them? how much sun do they need in this North Texas environment?

Those are all very specific needs. If somebody’s writing a blog post that hits all of those specific needs, great. That might be good content, but if somebody’s like in Texas, maybe they’re right in my neighborhood and they’re writing a blog post, talking about things that worked for them, things that didn’t work for them, little tips and tricks, pictures of the actual tomatoes that they grew in this environment that are like maybe even tagged that they were taken close to me.

These are the types of signals that I think Google is looking for. Not just for experience, but to show actual authenticity of a blog post. These are all the types of things that, that we talk about in terms of hitting your customers with information that’s helpful to them.

And being very specific about your target market that you’re trying to talk to. I know you guys worked, on tons of different sites. When you are thinking about content, how do you think about your audience as it compares to the outcome that you’re trying to get from that content?

Hannah: I write a lot of content for Kadence and so our audiences is people who are trying to build effective websites, so I try really hard to t alk specifically to those people. And I think as I’m writing, I think about people that I’ve talked with on a Facebook page or in support forms or whereever. And like how are they gonna perceive this?

Like what’s gonna make the most sense to them? Having a relationship with your audience is huge cuz then you better know how to talk to them. You don’t wanna say like, we’re not giving a one on one on what WordPress is. Our audience is beyond that, so I’m not just speaking directly to people who are trying to create websites, whether they’re developers, designers, or they’re just building a website for their church.

We kind of have a broad spectrum, but even still within that you can hone in on who those people are so I really tried to do that in writing content.

Kathy: It’s definitely helpful if you have that audience in mind. One of the craziest things on my own personal blog, the one article that constantly every single month when I get a report from Google Search Console, What the one piece of content that ranks the highest is what it’s like to really live in Mount Shasta.

And I find it’s like so weird cause I haven’t lived there for four years, but it was like a very “this is where you’re gonna get your groceries” and if you try to live in this neighborhood, you’re gonna have to drive a lot. And it was all just like very, after living there for almost 10 years, it was very personal information.

And it’s like I could write all I want about Kadence and obviously other people are gonna rank higher than that, but this one piece, cuz nobody else is writing about it. Right. But it’s also very personal. It’s a very personal one, and I don’t think anybody up in Mount Shasta has, they’re all up on the mountain, you know, swinging crystals and meditating and things.

They’re not writing about what it’s really like to live there. So there’s like no competition, but it’s like that personal authority experience, it gives us such a level of trust. And that’s one of the things Google talks about is they want what they call eat or E-A-T: expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Yes. I’m looking at you guys not reading it.

Ben: Yeah, I think that’s like a super good tip and I think you could go into that a little bit, Okay, so, what are some tips that people should take away from this update as far as like how they should approach their website and just, creating content for their website. And I think making sure that your experience and your personal touch and even your personal edginess and personality is in your content.

And it’s not just the best content you find on the web or the content that only one person could write.

And some of the worst content is the content that, like anyone could have written that. Figure out a way to get your personality into the content. And I feel like that’s gonna just be a great win for you and for your website as far as like, how do I approach making content and making it effective?

Hannah: Yeah, that’s huge.

Kathy: That’s the quote.

Hannah: That’s true.

Cause not many people have lived in Mount Shasta and written about it, you know, so there’s probably not a ton of information out there on that. But like when I was, training for a triathlon, there were like 8 million different articles on people who I’d also trained for triathlons and how to do it well.

So you have to figure out how to stand out in something like that cuz it’s easy to stand out when there’s something that lots of people haven’t done. But when million people have done it, it’s a little bit different. And I think that that’s key is like letting your personality like flow through it, letting it be something that’s truly authentic, not just like, this is step 1, 2, 3, how they wanna triathlon or how to race triathlon.

Kathy: So as you were researching that, were there particular writers or particular websites that resonated more with you than others?

Hannah: Yeah. I think, well for me it was my first time, so I was looking for people who had like, done it for the first time, and then different environments. I was doing it like up in Coeur d’Alene, so like we’re swimming in the lake. So just kind of like things like that that were more specific to me.

But then also I, I didn’t want somebody who was goofy and quirky. I wanted somebody who looked normal, but some people liked the goofy and quirky. So, I don’t know. It just depends on what you’re looking for, I guess.

Kathy: Definitely really good points. so what about a website makes you feel that something is trustworthy?

Ben: I think part of it is like when you. Not only your content, but the media around your content. So the images, the statistics you’re showing or the quotes or whatever. Something about all of that feels like it wasn’t just grabbed quickly or not thought through or like pulled from different sources that aren’t your sources.

There’s a lot of authenticity that comes. You brought. Images as being like, you know, you had talked to someone to say, go take your own images, which I think is cool, but like, even further like I feel like it’s really authentic when it’s like, I went and talked to this person and got that quote, or like I spent the time to pull in some data and create this graph that shows how this plays out, or things like that.

I think a lot of. What makes it feel really authentic? just from like that, you know, quick when you first land on the page and you do that initial scan, it’s like this good or is this bad? I think having that, cuz I know we live in the world, of Unsplash and we see those images cuz of all the starter templates we do and all the, pre-built content.

Like I know so many of them. And so when I land on a site that has those same images, I immediately like, oh, it’s this kind of site. and there’s a place for that. And I think obviously like stock images are really, really helpful. it’s not a downplay on that, but you do want to get to a place where you start getting some of your stuff or even if you like, take a stock image and just edit it, make it duotone or something. Do something to make it stand out like, you spent some time with it.

Kathy: I mean, if I use a stock image and there’s sometimes I cannot… if we’re writing an article about how to do something better with Shop Kit, yeah, I’m not gonna go into town to try to find the perfect picture for that because, you know, I’m working here. But, um, if you do have that kind of capability and it’s an important piece to find some original photography or maybe something on your camera roll that just totally tells, that story or just being able to like resize that image, rename it because you know the names of images are important.

So like if you download something from Unsplash and it’ll say who the photographer’s name is and some other information, rename it so that it contributes to what your outcome is. Right. With that, with that piece. What are you trying to communicate? So like the, Black Friday sale, that article that Hannah just wrote, like our, I think our feature image says something like, how do something with Kadence and Shop Kit for Black Friday. So it’s very specific to what we’re talking about, what that article is meant to help our audience with, so that adds to the story that Google is picking up what we’re laying down, right? So those types of things that where if you do have to use something that’s stock, that you can customize it in a way.

All of our featured images for this podcast are from Unsplash, but we have specific ways of formatting them so that you know that that’s a supportive image. But the, this is really about. Well, this particular one is about the helpful content update and SEO. So we will name the title of the episode that way we will name our images that way.

We will use the Advanced Heading Block in Kadence and put information into each heading so that it supports what is underneath that heading as it relates to that larger goal. So all of these things of making something. Specific to our message, but ticking all of the boxes of where Google is going to look for.

What’s this about? Another thing I wanted to mention is that I don’t think Google just looks at that page or your site. I think they look at other things too. They obviously own YouTube, and if you have a YouTube channel and you’re posting content on YouTube that relates to your website. I think they know that. Obviously you’re probably gonna have a link in your footer that says, Here’s our YouTube channel, or something like that.

Or maybe you’re embedding your videos on your site. But to be cognizant of the fact that there are other places that Google looks to find information about who are you, what are you good at? What do people look to you for your expertise? What is your Twitter feed all about? And what does all of those, all of those social signals what does that say about your site as well?

So being consistent in the face you put forward as your expertise also gives Google something. To rank your site on. I don’t know how well they do this or if maybe this is something that they’re starting to build, but I think this helpful content update is telling us that they’re looking for signs of expertise and authority and authenticity, not just in the words on your site, but your online presence.

Ben: Yeah. I think that would go into another tip too of interlinking on your content. Like it’s one of the like things they always recommend and it’s such an easy thing to skip or forget to do, but , Putting five links in your post to other posts creates a web of connection and that can be just a really easy way to improve your. SEO metrics where you’re still focusing the content, the content’s king, but you’re making those connections so that, Google can see this actually reaches into this topic over here and this over here, and that gives it a better ranking right away. So it’s an easy win.

it’s not a hack, It’s not like trying to trick Google. It’s actually trying to be helpful and it’s one that’s so easy gets like, Oh, we forgot to interlink in that post. creating those different webs of connection and then out to YouTube and here’s the video and all of that can be really, really helpful.

The best thing you can do is create good content. Overall you want to work with Google, not game Google. So if Google’s trying to get people to to good content, you want to create that good content, but you can create good content and still not be seen just because you’re not doing some of the simple things.

the interlinking is one of the like very simple ways to improve your ranking.

Kathy: Right. And another thing that I’ve seen as being very helpful is using the Table of Contents Block, which I know Kadence has and people rave about it. To be able to very quickly link within an article just it’s helpful to people, Right. To get a very high overview of what’s in this. Where can I dive into, like answering this one specific question about something. And I’ve heard many stories of how Table of Contents actually does help in terms of search rank because you’re providing more helpful ways of using your content and the Kadence, Table of contents block has been really helpful for people in that regard.

And speaking of links, what do you guys think about? This SEO tactic, called Link building. I’d like your hot take on it. I have a hot take too, but I’ll wait.

Ben: I think getting links, real links to your site is something you really want to do., And so I would start with the basic things like Google Business and your social media platforms, make sure you’ve got those links linked to your site just so that there is like that connection. Where I would end is buying links or doing any of the sketchy link for link stuff that you can do real sketchy people out there.

There’s other ways to build some relationships and it is like part of it, you do need to try to create, Partners out there and in whatever space you’re in to link to. And so there’s different ways to do that. some of it is just introducing yourself to the brands that you think their audience would like, what you are offering.

Sometimes it’s offering to guest posts or if you’re selling a product, sending your product to a lot of. People just, Hey, thought you might be interested in this. Check it out without any of the strings attached, like we want a link if you’re gonna touch this product or whatever, but just you create some of those real, authentic relationships and that’s gonna create real authentic links and that’s what you want to try to build.

There’s definitely shortcuts in that field and I would avoid them. Maybe Kathy, do you have a different opinion?

Kathy: I don’t, You said everything I was gonna say. Dang it. I will say that my biggest hot take would be don’t even focus on links, focus on relationships and focus on creating authentic content because that is automatically going to get linked to. I have a past life in the security space.

Do the initial security research do the actual work of creating content that’s unique and people will take notice. Create news, think of your blog as something where you are creating news. You have news about products, you have news about your services. Maybe you doing a customer testimonial, but also do some research.

Find some data that’s helpful to your end users, to your customers. Find something that can help them do more with your product and find the research, like for example, with Kadence. Find ways to write articles that help people get better conversions using Kadence Shop Kit, whatever product that we have.

Those are the types of things that we want to be able to show to you when we have, oh my gosh, when do we have more time? Things are busy,

Ben: Yeah.

Kathy: Things are busy, but that type of stuff then that gets linked to, you get quoted and then organic partnerships happen. And then with that, I’m gonna segue into something we did that actually did create that kind of organic situation, very serendipitously.

And then Hannah, you can tell us more about our little fun event we have coming up. We wrote about Shop Kit and we talked about how important it is for you to have fast loading pages in order to have good conversions on your eCommerce storefronts. I wanted data for this, so I just Googled. I looked for who had data, who’s done the research on this that shows that fast sites have better conversions, and I came across a site called The Good, so I linked to their research on it because that was helpful content.

They reached out to us and said, We love your theme and we would like to do some cool things with you. And so I’m like, Hannah, here, let’s run with this. You, you make fun things happen. So, Hannah, can you tell us a little bit about what we’re going to be doing in November with the good?

Hannah: Yes, I am so excited for this. So on November 10th at 10:00 AM Pacific time, mark your calendars. We’re gonna do a live tear down session. I think Ben knows about this, but maybe this is good information to him too. So the founder and CEO of the Good Jon MacDonald has done this for so, so, so many websites.

But basically we’re gonna have you guys send in website or send in your landing page for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and then John and Ben are going to like basically break it down, and say what could be better? We basically wanna up your conversions. That’s what The Good does. They work with companies and upping their conversions and they’ve worked with so many brands, like big brands like New Balance and Nike and Adobe, and they have a nine to one conversion rate.

So we are excited. We’re so excited. I think it’ll be a really fun session.

Kathy: Yes, definitely. I hope this is, uh, not too news to you, Ben, that you’ll be participating in this.

Hannah: we’ve been like kinda talking about it, but mostly Kathy and I we’re like, Oh my gosh, yeah, Ben’s gonna love this. But I’m like, have we actually asked him about it? We have.

Ben: I have heard of this, but I’m now just now getting more nervous about it. So yeah.

Kathy: I think it’s gonna be a ton of fun. Um, obviously we’re gonna be doing, we’re gonna be looking at Black Friday because this is like coming up on Black Friday. Everybody’s getting their Black Friday landing pages and sites ready for Black Friday. So we are going to be looking at those types of things specifically.

And we’re not gonna like take down like an entire site, but we’re gonna look at sites that are, are ready to roll and how can we just make this better, you know? And they’re gonna be Kadence sites. And so Ben obviously is going to be bringing all of his Kadence and conversion rate optimization knowledge.

And Jon’s going to be bringing all of his that he has with so many very large brands. And so we know. That this is going to be an incredible session. I can’t wait for it because I can’t wait to hear, all of the fun ideas and tweaks and tips and experiences that the good has had with some of these larger brands and bringing that to the Kadence community.

So that’s gonna be really exciting. If you are on our mailing list, you will get an invite to this. It will be live streamed on YouTube and Facebook, and it will be fun. I will be the, uh, the Vanna White of the experience. I’ll like turn letters and crack jokes. That’s all I got.

We’re, we’re very excited about this event. as people are getting ready for Black Friday, we also have a blog post up on the site that Hannah wrote all about ways that you can use Kadence to get ready for Black Friday. So we’ll have that link in the show notes as well.

Any notes about anything upcoming with the Kadence product that we might wanna drop into this, Ben?

Ben: Probably early next week there’ll be an update for Kadence Blocks Pro, which is gonna include a lot of ease of use enhancements to dynamic content. So, we’re just updating some of the ways that sources are determined on the backend side, so that way when you’re looking for like custom metadata, it’s gonna show you a little bit more specifically what this post might have versus kind of giving you all of what that entire post group might have.

Some cool stuff there just to make it a little bit easier as you’re selecting dynamic content. And there’s a few other things like we’re adding Active Campaign to the form block and things like that. So definitely be looking out for that.

Kathy: Excellent. Yeah. We’re also going to be, moving our mailing list over to Active Campaign. So if anything looks funky, don’t worry about it. This is all things are normal. We’re just going to add new ways to add better communication. So that is in process probably by the time you hear this, we will already be migrated over there.

So if you are on our list and you see anything like a little bit funky, just blame it all on me. You can write me personally and yell at me. I am open to that. And if anything just looks funky, you know, just it’ll simmer down after a while. But yeah, we just need our list is growing.

Obviously Kadence is just growing like crazy, so we are making some changes in orders that we can be of better service to you. That’s it for another episode of the Kadence Beat. We’re up to number 18. We are so grateful for everybody who listens. Everybody who like cracks jokes with us on social media about the silly things we talk about, and we hope this above all helpful to you as you start looking at how your content can be a better service to your audience and you know, let Google know that it is of good service to your audience.

So thanks for listening.

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