This week’s “Ask an SEO Question” question comes from Christopher, who asks:
“Is page speed performance also part of the Helpful Content update? Could it possibly impact performance if users don’t find it helpful?”
Great question Christopher – and one that gets asked in many meetings.
No, improving or reducing page speed won’t help you with Google’s helpful content update.
Page speed is a technical SEO task that affects the user experience both positively and negatively, but has nothing to do with the content of the page.
Although a fast website is “helpful” to a user and can deliver “content” to them faster, the speed of delivery does not reflect the quality of the information on the page itself.
Helpful content update is a modification of the algorithm that adds a classifier on whether the page contains helpful information about the search query.
If your site crashed during the helpful content update, it’s important to look at it from the content standpoint and not the technical SEO side.
Some of the most common errors I see for losing helpful content updates include:
- Hide the most important information at the bottom of the page instead of at the top.
- Add phrases, fun facts, and jokes to hit the minimum word count (which doesn’t matter in actual SEO).
- Proper formatting is not used to make the content easier to find and view (for users, not search engines).
- Answering the question with confusing wording or complicated answers.
- Use of other forms of media (although this is subjective).
Bury the answer
Consider replacing a thermostat or learning how to bake sourdough bread.
If you search Google for the answer, you just want to know how to do it.
When a website buries information under storytelling paragraphs about when the author first did it, why it’s important to them, and why they had to learn it, it can be frustrating for readers.
If another site has the same amount of EEAT, the technical aspects are about the same (scheme, speed, etc.), but their answer is easier to find at the top of the post, making for a better user experience and making the content more helpful?
The whole job of a search engine is to provide the most relevant answer as quickly as possible and in the simplest way possible. Because of this, it’s more helpful to place the answer at the top rather than below your personal story.
Word counts and fluff
Many content creators still believe that Google requires a minimum word count. The helpful content update should have put an end to that, but it didn’t.
If you add jokes and filler content because you have a minimum to meet, you take away the relevance of the request and the response. And that happens often.
Yes, jokes can be fun—as can movie references—but they’re not helpful. They distract.
It’s important to be careful if you have too many of these. The end user might like a few of these, but keep them to a minimum so they too can benefit from your contribution by finding the solution.
And you have many options for replacing the fluff with meat.
Try adding examples that may include equations and calculations.
You could integrate downloadable templates and create widgets to provide solutions (calculators, estimators, etc.) and infographics that can be used as a guide to show the person what to look out for during the process.
These are features that build on top of the theme and allow you to add more “helpful content” that provides a solution to the user’s problem.
Some questions require long answers, and those long answers have subtopics.
Because of this, formatting your content correctly plays a good role in both UX and SEO, especially with the helpful content update.
Formatting starts with figuring out the flow of the page.
Is everything OK and can the person complete the next step with the previous information?
If they need to keep reading to learn, that’s not as helpful and you may want to change the order of topics and subtopics.
Formatting also includes:
- Table of contents and jump links.
- bullet lists.
- bold type.
If you wrote a process in one paragraph, try to put it in an ordered list.
When you’re comparing two or more things, tables are easy to understand, and you can use the paragraphs above or below to explain each important point in more detail.
Confusing formulations and complicated answers
Yes, there are reading levels and there are differences in audiences.
When you’re helping someone learn English rather than sharing a medical study with licensed neurosurgeons, writing at multiple levels is vital.
But just because you have to write at a higher or lower level doesn’t mean your answers have to be confusing. You still have to give the answer in a way that the majority can understand. That’s what makes it “helpful”.
I use click, scroll, and stroke mapping tools to see where people get stuck and flag when I think something is too confusing.
They can get a good sense of when they go to find an answer to the paragraph or re-read it multiple times.
If you don’t have access to it, try a test group. Find 10 people who are in the target audience and have them read the paragraph or section aloud. If they have a hard time reading it and can’t answer questions after reading it to you again, it’s not clear.
Now ask each person who had trouble explaining what is confusing and which parts. If they highlight sentences or examples, all the better. This means that these must be changed first.
Take these insights and try to rewrite the copy to fit their needs. Then present it to them and see if they understand. If so, great.
You can take a final step and share the new release with a few more relevant demographics.
If everyone gets it and doesn’t pause or repeat the same parts, you’ve now created a helpful answer.
Use other media types
The final step is to use other media types.
Written text is still important – it feeds the search engines – but it’s not always a complete solution. Some things are better with pictures and sounds, and you have many ways to incorporate them.
- Embedded Videos.
- GIFs or images.
- sound clips.
Give people a chance to see the process, hear how you want things to sound, and provide them with a guide to use in the implementation without looking at a computer or having a device in front of them need to scroll on.
These are ways to make your content more helpful and, in some cases, attract natural backlinks.
Updating helpful content is all about creating helpful content so that Google can present useful information to searchers in an easy-to-understand format.
Although page speed provides the end-user response faster on your website, page speed does not change the wording and content that is presented.
Because of this, age speed is not part of the helpful content update.
I hope this helps and thanks for the question!
Featured image: BestForBest/Shutterstock