Is Google’s Helpful Content Update Hurting Your Affiliate Marketing SEO?
Google recently announced that they are updating their page ranking algorithm for their search engine results pages (SERPs).
They’ve labelled this change the Google Helpful Content Update.
According to Google, the goal of this update is to ensure searchers are more likely to find helpful content written by real people in search results.
Seeing this news could understandably cause some internal panic among affiliate marketers who rely heavily on SEO for promoting offers. Not because they’re necessarily creating unhelpful content, but because SEO is so nuanced that any type of algorithm change could potentially affect their page rankings.
Before we can determine the updates’ potential impact, we need to better understand what it is exactly.
What is Google’s Helpful Content Update?
Google emphasizes the importance of putting more focus on “people-first content”.
What is people-first content?
The helpful content update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.
People-first content creators focus first on creating satisfying content, while also utilizing SEO best practices to bring searchers additional value.– Google, August 18th, 2002
Google also states that if you’re already creating this valuable, people-first content, that this update should not have a major impact on your page rankings. They claim this update aims to only hinder those who are creating content specifically for the purpose of search engines and not for those using them.
What is the Purpose of this Update?
It’s become a common opinion that Google search results have waned in quality.
This article from The Atlantic highlights how users are finding it increasingly difficult to find what it is they’re searching for.
The culprit? SERPs that often feature:
- An onslaught of ads
- Pages that lack authenticity and a ‘human tone’.
- Long-winded content as answers to simple questions
This is forcing many users to find their answers elsewhere.
Have you ever included “reddit” after your search query in hopes of finding genuine information on a topic? You’re not the only one.
It’s likely that Google has noticed this trend and that this update is part of a wide-spread operation to improve search quality and user sentiment.
It seems one of the primary reasons Google has implemented this update is to penalize the ongoing rise of AI-generated content.
It fits within the above criteria of being low-quality content made primarily for search engines.
This point is even included in ‘search-engine first’ checklist they included on their update page that suggests avoiding doing the following:
- Only summarizing what others are saying
- Producing an unrealistic amount of content
- Creating content only tied to trends
- Creating content that doesn’t answer the search query it’s targeting
- Promising to unanswerable questions
It’s also important to note that Google states that this type of content can affect your entire site’s reputation.
In other words, low quality pages on your web page could have a negative impact on the ranking of pages that in fact do meet Google’s criteria for being “people-first” content.
Will this impact the SEO I use for Affiliate Marketing?
The short answer to this question is probably not.
If you’re someone who relies on tried, tested, and true SEO tactics like helpful content, on-page SEO, quality backlinks, and technical efficiency (which you already should be) it’s doubtful your pages will take a negative hit from this update.
However, if you’ve been prioritizing quantity over quality or even worse, creating AI-generated content, then you may run into some new SEO hurdles.
It’s important to note that it’s still quite early in the roll-out of the Helpful Content Update.
Google’s own Search Liason Danny Sullivan reiterated such on his Twitter account just last week:
Update isn’t done. It’s also part of a continuing effort, as we’ve explained. We’ll keep refining how it works. Directionally, the guidance we’ve given is what SEOs and creators should be considering.— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) August 31, 2022
Comments like this suggest that it may still be too early to understand the ultimate impact of this update and who and what will be affected the most.
How to Check and Improve Your Content
In the immediate future, there are some things you can do that should ensure you avoid Google’s wrath from this update.
For starters, refresh your memory on Google’s SEO Starter Guide.
They maintain that everything in this guide is still viable and effective even after this recent update.
You should also make sure you can answer yes to the following questions provided by Google on their update page:
- After viewing your content, will people feel that they’ve learned enough about the topic they were searching for?
- Do you have an existing or intended audience for your site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
- Does your content clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?
- Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
- Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
Algorithm updates aside, following the above checklist can improve your site’s content in general. That can lead to an improved reputation, repeat visits, and more backlinks, which will always be in style.