People-First Content Explained

Do you write content that provides value to your audience and satisfies their needs? Or do you write content purely to make search engines happy (to rank for keywords)? With the roll-out of Google’s Helpful Content Update the concept of People-First Content now becomes even more critical. Increasingly, now more than ever content that does not provide value and meet the needs of your audience will ding you and can cause serious problems for your rankings.

This should not really come as much of a surprise, as Google’s updates have been trending towards this goal for quite some time. But where the previous ones have been nudges the Helpful Content Update is a major blow to the face of low quality content. It seems, finally, the search engine giant is rewarding those sites that actually try hard to provide value to their readers with good, high-quality, valuable content.

Your site may take a hit if your website pages and posts are predominantly low quality or thin content . Maybe it already did. Or maybe it will as the update rolls out.

On the flip side, if you have focused on producing high-quality, high value content (People-first content) then your site’s rankings may improve with the update. This is true even if you never heard of the concept of “people-first content” before in your life.

As Google states in their official blog post about the update: “The helpful content update aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well.”

So how do we, as content creators know what rewarding content that meet’s a visitor’s expectations is?

Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly what Google (or the algorithm) is looking for. But we can use the information in their blog post and the official guidelines to create a more educated strategy.

What is People-First Content and How Does It Relate to the HCU Update?


how people-first content makes readers feel vs content written purely for search engines

At the crux of it, the concept is relatively self-explanatory. People-first content is, well, content written for people. It’s content written for people vs content written for search engines.

When you start to think about what content written for people actually means it becomes a little clearer.

Content written for search engines by writers or machines

First, let’s think through writing strictly for search engines. Many times, this content isn’t even written by humans. It is written by AI software or similar. Other times, it is written by writers who are using certain practices to rank the content. Regardless, it is written to solely rank keywords in search more than anything else.

When you write for search engines you aren’t writing for people. You aren’t focused on providing value to your readers, or in other words you aren’t aimed at teaching anything or answering the readers’ questions. Oftentimes, you don’t even have the requisite expertise to speak to the topic at hand.

Content written for people (your readers)

Now, let’s focus on people-first content. We believe that this is content that is written with the overarching purpose to help answer the questions and provide value (help) to your readers. Although there doesn’t seem to be an official definition, this is what we understand people-first content to be.

You may also find helpful our article on What is Good Content? 4 Critical Factors For Creating Good Content

In order to provide valuable content to your readers and truly help them (and provide a positive experience) you should focus on:

  • Answering questions and providing lots of value: Write content that answers your readers’ questions and provides them with relevant, accurate and helpful information. Specifically you want each piece of content to answer the questions and provide information specific or clearly related to the topic that the page or post is intended for
  • Provide original, helpful insights vs regurgitating public information without providing any value to the reader
  • Have a genuine expertise in the topics you are writing about so that you can speak first-hand and add expert insights to the reader
  • As always, follow Google’s best practices and guidelines

When In Doubt Go to the Source

This article is intended to provide our thoughts on what people-first content is or should be.

With that being said, there is an absolute authority on the topic, which is Google. As such, we highly recommend reading the official announcement on the Helpful Content Update (link in the introduction) and their official guidelines.

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