What is the new update? 

The update devalues content that is written for the search engine algorithm, and will give the top search result spaces to customer focused pages.  

Here is how Google summarised its new 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 visitors expectations won’t perform as well’

(bold added by Altum) 

What does this mean for me? 

Google has said that they want content creators to think about how valuable their posts are for their customers, encouraging more time and energy being put towards the reader’s experience. 

The good news is that if you are already producing high-quality content and not just trying to get more clicks on Google, then not much will change for you. The bad news is that if you are currently chopping up the top 3 search results of a given topic for your own article, then your pages are going to start to drop down Google’s list of results.

From now on people-first pages are going to become the top search results for Google.  

What does ‘people-first’ content look like?

We keep using the phrase ‘people first’ but what does this look like in practice?  

If you have done your research and are truly passionate about the topic then you can probably rest assured that you have created an interesting, informative article. However, just to triple check your work (as we’re sure you always do), here are a few questions that you can ask yourself before uploading:

  1. Do your research. What questions are people wanting to know about your area of expertise? What can you add to the discussion?
  2. Is this article interesting for your business’ audience?
  3. Have you shown that you are an expert and are passionate about teaching it?
  4. Say something original and make sure you say it by the end of the article. This isn’t the time to leave your audience wanting more. 
  5. Have you taught what you set out to teach?

We keep coming back to Google’s own words: has your reader had a ‘satisfying experience’ whilst reading your article. If the answer is yes, you’re probably on the right track.

What does content written for search engines look like?

Sometimes the best way to see whether you have done something correctly is to see if it fits the criteria of what you are trying not to achieve. 

So, what does content written for Google’s algorithm rather than the customers look like?

  • Articles including buzzwords that span lots of topics without going into any depth. 
  • Claiming to have expert knowledge about something without the experience or research to back it up. 
  • Not answering the question, meaning customers have to return to search engine results to find the answer. 
  • Only writing articles because the topic is trending rather than because their customers will be interested in the topic. 
  • Summarising or rewording other people’s words
  • Making false claims. 

* all taken from Google’s new guidelines 

What things should I look for when creating new content? 

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Being ‘people-first’ will depend on your target audience, the type of article or webpage you are writing, and the business sector you are part of. 

However, there are a few steps you can take to see if you are heading in the right direction.

Here are our general guidelines for creating content that shows Google that you know your stuff, and your customers. 

  1. Answer the question. 

No one wants to read an article to find the answer to a question, only to be left with no answer, or even worse– more questions. Make sure your articles are well-structured, easy to follow, and ANSWER THE QUESTION.

  1. Don’t play the algorithm. 

This isn’t original content and your readers might as well read the other three articles that you’ve chopped up to get a better understanding. Have faith in your originality and trust that your readers want to hear what you have to say, using your own voice. 

  1. Use your experience.

If you have had an experience that sets you apart, and shows that you are an expert in this field, make sure you talk about it to give your words more weight. 

  1. Separate out your topics if you need to.

Whilst it might seem to get you more hits on Google if your article touches on a multitude of topics, the new update will prioritise high-quality content. This means that if your article is pulling in too many different threads without tying them off nice and neatly then your work is going to get deprioritised. 

  1. Write like a reader. 

When writing high quality articles, what you say is important, but how the words look on the page is just as important. No one wants to read large chunks of text even if they are original and interesting. Break up your articles logically; use bullet points, images, and subheadings to guide your reader through from start to finish.  

Other things to know about the update

Google reminds content creators that the new update applies to all content. Therefore if you have articles written for search engines that are currently live, then they could drag down the search results for any articles that you write- even if the new ones are people-first. 

The signal that is created for surrounding your brand is also weighted. Therefore the more unhelpful content that you have created, the more you will be deprioritised by the new Google update. 

Our advice? Get rid of those search-engine-favouring articles as quickly as possible, regardless of how well they are doing at the minute.


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Nathan Hoare

Digital expert with extensive global marketing experience