Recently (in August 2022), Google announced its intention to update its approach to ranking content on its search engine. With the “helpful content update,” Google wants to ensure that people see more original helpful content “written by people, for people” in their search results.
Many businesses will have questions as to how this will impact their SEO and marketing strategy moving forward. That is why we have created this guide to people-first content and understanding the Google update.
We’ll cover what the update affects, how you can consider it in your content in the future, and how to implement it for better success. We’ll also discuss the impact on SEO best practices and if businesses need to completely shift their thinking or if there is some wisdom that they can still rely on.
1. What is the Google helpful content update 2022?
Google’s helpful content update “aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience.” In their aim to reward this better content, Google notes that content that doesn’t meet visitors’ expectations will naturally perform worse.
The idea is to incentivize sites to focus more on creating satisfying content that is relevant to users, not just search engines. Businesses whose sole focus was amazing SEO performance without considering visitor experience will need to reassess the state of their content.
2. Self-Assess your content
For Google’s people-first approach, they recommend some general guidelines that you can follow in order to create successful content. Google suggests that you ask these questions when assessing your content:
- 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?
- 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?
- After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they've learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal?
- Will someone who reads your content leave feeling like they've had a satisfying experience?
- Are you keeping in mind our guidance for core updates and for product reviews?
3. Focus on people-first content
The term people-first sounds straightforward but can cause some trouble for businesses trying to decide on how to format their content.
There is a key point you should recognize about this update from Google: “People-first” content is not the same as “people-only” content. Many businesses make it a point to include a strong SEO strategy in their content marketing plan, and this people-first approach does not invalidate this approach entirely.
Google also offers some questions that teams should ask themselves when creating content to ensure that they are adopting a people-first approach. The questions are as follows:
- Is the content primarily to attract people from search engines rather than made for humans?
- Are you producing lots of content on different topics in hopes that some of it might perform well in search results?
- Are you using extensive automation to produce content on many topics?
- Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?
- 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?
- 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.)
- Did you decide to enter some niche topic area without any real expertise but instead mainly because you thought you'd get search traffic?
- 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?
4. What about SEO?
So, when thinking about how to improve your people-first approach to content, remember that you don’t have to abandon SEO. Best practices for SEO can still be accomplished without having to compromise your people-first content.
For instance, a lot of SEO best practices involve formatting content in a way that makes it easy for search engine crawlers to index your content. This practice would not necessarily interfere with a people-first approach. Effective formatting is a great way to improve readability for human readers, so this is one example of the persisting effectiveness of SEO.
Meta descriptions are also still important for readers and search engines. People will not be eager to click your link if the meta description is nonsensical or unsupportive of the actual content on your site. Making sure that meta descriptions are brief yet accurate is another example of good SEO practices that still promote a people-first philosophy.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, keywords. Keywords often dominate SEO discussion, and for good reason, as it is a convenient way for your content to be related to a user’s search. While keyword stuffing is a practice that is not suggested by Google in the first place, this practice could very negatively impact your people-first appeal due to readability.
You can still include helpful keywords relevant to your content and to your audience without stuffing them awkwardly into an article. So, for some businesses, this people-first approach might shift their concern with keywords, but for many teams, their content strategy will be just fine.
SEO has guided content strategies for successful businesses for years now. While Google’s update signals some changes to algorithms' approach to ranking content, it does not hamper the effectiveness of SEO.
Instead, marketing teams need to consider how they can improve the relevance and value to readers with their content while making use of their SEO knowledge. Together, businesses can even further improve their audience engagement.
For businesses looking to produce results with their content marketing and want to devise the best strategies for SEO and improving their rankings, consider SEO359 for empowering your growth hacking strategy.