Google’s ‘Helpful Content Update’

What is Google's Helpful Content Update?

Google released a major update in the summer of 2022 – and it’s likely to impact law firms up and down the country.

  • Have you been happily blogging away on your website, putting up all sorts of articles about all manner of things?  (We already told you not to do that years ago!)
  • Have you (or has your SEO agency) been using the old classic ‘skyscraper’ technique to create pages to rank high in Google – such as your service pages?
  • Have you been going ‘off-piste’ in terms of the content on your site and straying into non-legal and non-relevant subject areas?

Well, times are changing. These are all things we’ve been advising against for many years but Google has just laid the hammer down and finally released an update to tackle pointless and irrelevant content.

Not only that, but it’s tackling point(ful?) and relevant content if said content is not offering something unique to the website visitor.

In summary: writing content to rank in Google just got harder.

Actually – scratch that, writing content to rank in Google just got more aligned with Google’s own search quality guidelines (let us know if you want a copy of their 90-page guidelines doc).

It’s everything we’ve been saying for a long time and lots of things we’re regularly rescuing websites for.

  • Don’t ‘buy in’ blog posts that have probably been syndicated anyway. 
  • Don’t stray from your subject areas (I don’t care how great the office bake sale was, save it for the socials, not your website!)
  • Do make sure you’ve set time and budget aside to get top-quality content on your site.

What you should know about Google’s ‘Helpful Content Update’

Google wants users to have a positive experience when using its results, it’s always been about providing people with the information they want and this update is no different. So those web pages that offer the actual value for the searcher will go higher up the rankings than those that don’t. 

So your content needs to be created with this in mind:

  • Write for people, not search engines
  • Stay on topic – only create content that relates to your specialist areas
  • Make sure your content answers a search query
  • Demonstrate first-hand knowledge and experience of the subject
  • Add value with unique information – don’t just summarise what’s already out there

This isn’t all that different to Google’s approach over the last few years as they focused on EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trust) content, but it just cements the approach further. We’ve always promoted this approach to content with firms.

What does it mean for my law firm?

The essence of the message for law firms is to make sure you have a plan for your content and that you are posting relevant, targeted content on a regular basis. Think about the questions individuals ask that lead them to your pages and make sure there’s content there to answer.

At its most basic this means any content should be related to the work you do, and should be helpful for the user. If it’s not meeting both of those requirements, consider dropping it – or redrafting so that it does. Service pages tend to do this by themselves (although too many focus on themselves and not the user…) Blog posts and news articles are where real inroads can be made.

A lot of noise has been made about ‘fresh content’ (see, we’ve talked about it too), posting content regularly, or redating and repurposing older content to make it relevant again. That’s still important but what’s also important now is the nature of the content and its usefulness. 

As an example, a personal injury firm might have an article titled ‘Can I claim for injuries if I wasn’t insured?’ It’s a perfect SEO friendly title and you’d hope the content will provide a suitable answer for the searcher in terms of what the law says, and what they can do about it.

If that article was less specific, perhaps talking more generally about uninsured drivers, it will likely not provide the answer the searcher is looking for and thus Google will rank it lower.

Your aim is to make Google trust you as an authority on your area of business, we’re sure you’ve already been putting work in with link building, technical SEO and more. Well, continuously posting detailed, relevant information for Google to find is key to building on this trust.

How do I do a content audit?

  • Identify your goals
  • Take an inventory of your content
  • Collect and analyse data
  • Create an action plan
  • Adapt your content marketing strategy

A quick way to take an inventory of the content on your site is to use Screaming Frog – which will crawl your website and identify common SEO problems and fixes. The free version allows you to crawl up to 500 URLs and a paid version provides extra features and integrations (such as Google Search Console and Analytics) that will boost the data available to you.

Once you’re armed with the inventory you can take a real look into well performing, and under-performing pages and set about identifying the priority areas and any content that may need culling or refocusing.

Help! This all seems too much for my law firm to consider...

It’s a lot to take in and if it’s not something that’s ever been done it can mean quite a bit of work to get it right.

We’re helping clients with content audits all the time – just get in touch if you’d like to discuss it with a member of the team. We can run your content audit for you and provide guidance and advice to get you on the right track – we can even help with producing content.