Google’s Helpful Content Update Hits Tree Service Websites
Have you heard about Google’s latest algorithm update? The “helpful content update” is a HUGE change in how Google ranks websites and will completely shake up the search results.
Many tree care business owners will find that their website has dropped way down the rankings or even out of the search results altogether. Others will see their results improve enormously.
It all has to do with the content on your tree service website – what you write about and how it’s written.
Throw out what you’ve been told about “writing for SEO” or how to “SEO a website.” Instead, focus on filling your website with “helpful content.”
Keep reading to learn:
- what that means,
- how the “helpful content” update will affect your website,
- what to do if your rankings tank, and
- how to rise to the top of the search results by following Google’s newest guidance.
What does Google’s Helpful Content Update do?
According to Google, it specifically targets “content that seems to have been primarily created for ranking well in search engines rather than to help or inform people.”
I’m sure you’ve had the frustrating experience of landing on web pages that aren’t at all helpful, but they rank well in search because they were “SEO’d” to rank well. This algorithm update aims to downgrade those types of websites. Instead, it promotes more helpful websites with useful, informative content that was written for humans, not search engines.
Websites that have a relatively high amount of unsatisfying or unhelpful content will be ranked lower in the search results. That includes duplicate content and content that’s written for search engines first.
Why should you care?
This update is expected to have a huge impact on how (and even if) websites rank in the organic search results.
If you’ve hired a company to “SEO your website” or write “SEO content,” take a close look at it. I’ve seen many tree service websites where the content was clearly written just to rank well in search. The articles don’t sound at all natural (how many times can you repeat “tree service near me” in one article?!) and the content is superficial at best (obviously written by someone who has no clue about our industry).
Google also stated that we’ll “see more results with unique information, so you’re more likely to read something you haven’t seen before.”
In other words, duplicate content is not helpful! For example, if you have a bunch of “city pages” that are nearly identical, other than the city name, you’ve got a lot of unhelpful content on your site.
This will not just impact individual pages or sections of your website. It will impact the whole site – even if you have many pages that are helpful.
Yes, you read that right. If you have helpful pages but a relatively high amount of your content is unhelpful, even the helpful content or sections of your site will be hit by this update.
What to do if your tree care website rankings drop
If you notice any large changes in your website’s ranking in Google search over the next week or two, it’s likely due to this update.
If your ranking has tanked, Google recommends removing unhelpful content. They say that this “could help the rankings of your other content.” However, it will likely take several months for the site to recover.
Because a site needs to prove over time that it no longer publishes content that was created with the sole purpose of ranking in search engines, and that takes time.
Write for people first!
Not sure how to do that? Check out the recommendations and questions below. I’ve organized the questions (shared by Google) into themes with recommendations for writing human-first content for tree service websites.
In a nutshell, what it comes down to is this …
Did you write that piece of content purely to rank on Google or did you write it to help users?
Don’t stray too far from your area of expertise
- Do you have an existing or intended audience for your business or site that would find the content useful if they came directly to you?
- Are you writing about things simply because they seem to be trending and not because you’d write about them otherwise for your existing audience?
- Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise, but instead mainly because you thought you’d get search traffic?
Write about things you have first-hand experience with
Add your perspective, give recommendations, show photos or videos of you/your employees (not stock images), and share your experience and expertise. You know a lot about tree care so share your knowledge!
- 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)?
- Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
Keep your website focused on one topic or subject area
Stick to your primary services. If you’re a tree service business, talk about pruning, removal, PHC, etc. Avoid getting into descriptions of “what to do in XYZ” (you’re not a tour guide), local politics, or your spouse’s tax prep services (yes, I’ve seen all of those!).
- Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?
- Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
Fully answer searchers’ questions
Produce complete, accurate, helpful content that directly addresses the question or concern that lead people to your website. Avoid creating articles that are just clickbait.
- After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
- Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?
- Are you writing to a particular word count because you’ve heard or read that Google has a preferred word count? (No, we don’t).
Give readers a good experience
Make sure your website is fast, well laid out, easy to navigate, accessible, and easy to read.
- Will someone reading your content leave feeling like they’ve had a satisfying experience?
Make it clear if there is or isn’t a confirmed answer
- Does your content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer, such as suggesting there’s a release date for a product, movie, or TV show when one isn’t confirmed?
If you wouldn’t say something that way when talking to a customer, don’t say it that way on your website. AI and “SEO content” can only take you so far…
- Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines, rather than made for humans?
- Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
Follow Google’s advice for core updates and SEO guidelines
Google’s advice about having a people-first approach doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow SEO best practices.
- Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?
There’s nothing wrong with using SEO best practices (you should be doing that for all content). The problem arises when SEO is your only focus or is waaaaay overdone.
Instead, follow Google’s SEO guide. Apply those SEO best practices to people-first content and you’ll reap the benefits of the helpful content update.
And if you’re concerned about your website, or want help in upgrading it to rank better, get in touch!