Helpful Content Update - Are You White Hat or Black Hat SEO with green overlay with a wizard behind a curtain

Google’s Helpful Content Update for September 2023 is complete, and the SEO community is left saying, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.” Several significant changes aimed at promoting user-centric content and demoting content solely written for search engines have created SEO upheaval, which left some in the SEO community scratching their heads. But why? Have you not been paying attention?

Cyclone of Change

Google tells us what their updates are and the purpose behind them. The Helpful Content Update that finished rolling out was no different.

“Google Search’s helpful content system generates a signal used by our automated ranking systems to better ensure people see original, helpful content created for people in search results.” – Google

You don’t need to see over the rainbow to know that Google’s initiative is about elevating platforms that are genuinely user-oriented. Not rank-centric. It’s a step toward cleansing the search result pages of low-quality content and enhancing the user’s journey to find authentic and helpful content. If you were paying attention, you’d recognize this as the path Google has been on since at least 2011.

Google – The Wizard Behind the Curtain

Google’s vision has consistently been to prioritize the user, assuring that search results are relevant and valuable. Each update has peeled back the curtain a little more, revealing the wizardry behind Google’s ranking systems and the emphasis on original, helpful content created for people.

If you are one of the many on social media and SEO social groups still whirling from the update, you missed the glimpse of the man behind the curtain.

Since Panda in 2011, Google has been building up to this update with other core updates like Hummingbird in 2013, RankBrain in 2015, and BERT in 2019. All of these core updates directly impacted content and looked to improve the user’s search experience.

Are You a White Hat or Black Hat SEO?Black Hat and White Hat buckles on witches hats, with a yellow brick road and Wizard of Oz background

With all of the upheaval around content ‘created to rank,’ the question is, “Are you a white hat SEO or a black hat SEO?” If you’ve been building content only around high-volume terms, you were keyword stuffing—one of the oldest black hat SEO practices.

There is little to no difference between ‘optimizing content’ by sticking various terms haphazardly throughout content for ranking purposes and the old-school approach to keyword stuffing. The intent is still the same: keyword stuffing for ranking.

The white hat approach still uses keywords. We’re still all about that data, but the intent is user-focused, not rank-focused. Creating organic content flows naturally, integrating the terms as a secondary target, with helpful, purposeful content as the priority.

With AI generated content produced by the bulk, it’s easy to generate content built for the Google algorithm because its cousin ChatGPT is creating it. Give it a list of keywords, a topic, and we’re off to see the Wizard. But that’s not what white hat SEO is.

SEO is a long game. We’re going all in—all the way to the Emerald City. Proving our work will continue producing ranking results and keeping our clients at the top of the SERP.

There’s No Place Like User-Centric Content

The journey through the land of SEO has challenges, opportunities, and is full of continuous learning. Adapting to Google’s updates and prioritizing user-centered content are the keys to unlocking content that drives traffic and keeps readers coming back for more.

Plan Left knows the importance of staying informed and proactive, regularly reviewing search engine guidelines, participating in SEO communities, and keeping abreast of the latest updates and best practices. We pay attention.

We don’t offer magical services where we click our heels together three times and you rank top of the SERP. We strategize and create with purposeful intent.

What we do is:

  • Prioritize User Experiences: We create content and strategies that resonate with users, maintaining a seamless and valuable online journey. The power is connecting with your audience, finding the emotional, intellectual, and/or informational need, and meeting it head-on.
  • Safeguard Client Rankings: We protect our client’s online presence and search engine rankings through ethical SEO practices and adherence to guidelines. Long-term success is the goal. Shortcuts may offer quick results, but at what risk? Search engines like Google blacklist websites that don’t follow the rules, and it’s nearly impossible to come off that list. Just. Don’t. Do. It.
  • Build a Foundation for Lasting Success and Credibility: By consistently delivering quality and user-centric content, we establish a solid foundation for our clients’ long-term success and credibility in the digital realm. Connecting with your audience keeps traffic flowing to your website, building a trustworthy brand—one that users recommend, as well as search engines.

Together, let’s create content that resonates with search engines and, more importantly, with the hearts and wallets of your audience. Reach out to our team at Plan Left today.

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