This year officially marks my 21st year blogging! I’ve been at this a long time. I owe many of my career successes to blogging and sharing my expertise. It’s gotten me jobs that skipped the technical interviews, and has impressed many consulting clients over the years. It’s also gotten me awarded Microsoft MVP 12 times so far, and HashiCorp Ambassador 3 times now! I don’t ever plan to stop blogging, and have actually increased the amount of content I’m writing recently.

With all my experience blogging and promoting my blog content over the years, I’ve been required to learn a lot about SEO (Search Engine Optimization). In the early years of blogging it was fairly easy to rank #1 on Google search. In recent years that’s become increasingly difficult.

SEO is Dead!

With the more recent “Helpful Content Updates” to Google search, and the search ranking emphasis on user generated content communities like Reddit and Stack Overflow, it’s become MUCH more difficult to rank in search. Also, with so many sites popping up with thousands or millions of AI generated pages of poor content, it’s definitely become a time where Google needs to figure out new ways to keep search relevant with helpful / valuable content for people.

Google knows search peoples patterns, and what constitutes “helpful” content on the web. They are being more aggressive with these new search updates to eliminate low quality content from search. One of the biggest victims to this has been small websites; especially blogs.

The result of this is that SEO is now dead. Gone are the times where a few well placed keywords can bring in thousands of page views.

With the “helpful” updates to search, Google has a newer emphasis on content that’s helpful to people, rather than what’s relevant based on keywords. Now this is a change that’s been slowly evolving over time, but the Google updates within the last year has really devastated blog traffic across the web.

Helpful Optimization is Next

It’s right there in the name “Helpful Content Update”. Google cares about content that is helpful for people. They know if an article answers a question, or if the user bounces back to keep searching.

What’s next? Going forward you will need to optimize your content to be helpful to people, if you want your blogs and other sites to survive.

I know I’m not going to stop writing blog articles and spreading my expertise to help people. And, I don’t think you should quit either. However, it’s important to take the time now to really elevate the quality of your content and really raise the bar.

Tips to Increase Helpfulness

Also, in my experimentation to solve the traffic problem, I’ve also found that it helps to improve the helpfulness of your entire website as well.

Here’s a few tips of things I’m finding that works:

  • Write longer, more helpful content that really answers the visitors questions. And write it for a person to read, not a keyword parser to analyze.
  • Improve the quality of your website navigation to make it easier for users to navigate your site to find more helpful content. If the header links suck, the user will bounce and go somewhere else.
  • Remove annoying ads. Don’t let Google Adsense automatically place ads on the site, as it’s auto optimization of ads will really annoy users and they’ll bounce somewhere else.
  • Keep posting regularly, so Google and your visitors don’t think the site is dead with old content.
  • Update the visual styles of you site to be clean, easy to read, and high contrast between colors. If it’s hard to read, it’s not helpful.

I’m hoping some of these tips help you. I’m still on my own journey of changing with the times, just like everyone else. I just thought I’d share some of my own experiences.

Shifting Your Blog Focus from SEO to Helpful

What makes “helpful” content has changed over the years. It used to be short, concise content that answered a single question that was quick to consume. People have gotten used to skimming longer content posts to find the quick answer, but still having more explanation to explore too. This is a big shift over time of what makes content “helpful”.

Instead of optimizing keywords for search to get traffic, it’s better to write helpful content that provides great value for the reader. Then, Google and other search engines have gotten better at parsing content and figuring out how to surface that content in search. This means that SEO keyword optimized content is not really performing as well in search to get traffic and visitors.

The more modern method of getting traffic and visitors on the web today is to write content that is helpful to people; not helpful to SEO keyword engines. From my experience over the last couple years, it seems Google is even penalizing websites that have too much low quality, unhelpful content.

Here are some tips I’ve implemented and found that seem to work to help with search rankings on my own websites:

  • Write helpful content; basically write the best quality content you can. Don’t publish purely AI generated content.
  • Remove / delete unhelpful content from your website. Yes, it’s ok to delete stuff! Getting traffic is no longer a measure of more pages equals more views. You should work to increase the overall and average helpfulness of the content on your site.
  • Make your site navigation, menus, and related content suggestions more helpful to visitors. Basically, if the site is more designed for people to use to get value, they’ll read more of your content and refer it to others more. It appears that Google knows this behavior and may factor it in.

Helpful for people is the key! The more your site and content is helpful for people, the better off you’ll be at getting traffic, subscribers, and regular visitors. After all, what’s the point in publishing content if literally nobody reads it because they don’t get any value from it?

We are in a transitionary time where AI, like ChatGPT and others, are seeming to take over. It’s going to take you raising the bar to provide much more value to stay relevant in this new era of AI.

Happy blogging!