People-First Content – Understanding The Google Helpful Content Update

In the constantly evolving world of Google updates, a recent update emphasizes the search engine’s commitment to making useful content easier to find. Back in September 2022, Google finished rolling out its Helpful Content Update.* This is a search ranking algorithm update created to help searchers find high-quality content much easier. In short, Google wants high-quality, “People-First Content” to be easily accessible via searches. Similarly to how Google Panda filters and penalises thin, poor-quality content, the Helpful Content Algorithm aims to reward high-quality content that satisfies the user’s experience by ranking it higher whilst devaluing content that doesn’t meet the expectations of the searcher. With the Helpful Content Update in full swing, what do you need to know about the update and how can it affect your website? 


What is People-First Content?

Written content created specifically for a human audience and not search engines is called people-first content. This content should engage the visitor by providing information that meets their needs and provides value. It may be tempting to create content for search engine ranking purposes, but changes like the Helpful Content Algorithm makes it harder for content that doesn’t satisfy real people to rank highly. 


What is Google’s Helpful Content Update?

The Helpful Content Update is one of the newest changes to affect the way Google ranks content. Google always aims to improve the experience of the user and this latest update identifies and promotes original, useful and informative content that is written for people rather than for search engines. The Helpful Content Update will target and downgrade content that is not useful or offers little value to the reader while promoting content that provides relevant information and leaves the reader satisfied. Combining SEO best practices while focusing on creating good content provides the best experience for searchers and will help your website to have the people-first focus that Google recommends. 


How will the Helpful Content Update Impact My Website?

This Google algorithm update is a sitewide signal, which means if Google thinks your website has a high volume of ineffective content, this will impact your entire site, not just a single page. Websites with content that is not deemed good quality by Google are less likely to perform well even if they contain other useful content. Removing the low-quality content could help to improve the ranking of the other content on your website. However, the impact of having low value content could last for months. You may start to notice a drop in organic traffic as a result of your website being detected by the algorithm. This automated process checks new and existing sites continuously so once Google’s classifier determines that the unproductive content has been removed permanently, your website will no longer be classified as unhelpful. 


What is Helpful Content According to Google?

This update to the Google algorithm shines a light on the importance of giving internet users informative, interesting and useful content. You may have an idea of what beneficial content is, but it’s worth knowing exactly what Google considers to be helpful. Two of the ways Google classifies content relate to whether the content was created with a human reader in mind, known as people-first content or whether it was created to appeal to search engines, called search engine-first content. People-first content that is trustworthy, demonstrates expertise and meets the searcher’s intent is considered practical in the eyes of Google and will be rewarded with better ranking status. Maintaining SEO best practices helps to enhance people-first content by making it easier to find in searches. Search engine-first content is now identified automatically by Google’s systems, thanks to the Helpful Content Update. 

How Do You Write Helpful Content?

Google produced a help page regarding their Helpful Content Update that will support you when creating useful, high-quality content with more authority. Google listed some questions you can use to perform a self-assessment and we’ve demystified a few key points to help your website benefit from Google’s Helpful Content Update. If you want to self-assess your content, here are a few things to remember to ensure your SEO content is written for people first and not search engines.

google helpful content update


Does Your Site Do This?

With it being 3 months since the Google Helpful Content Update’s debut, if you aren’t creating practical, beneficial content, you may have felt the negative impact by now. Here are some of the questions Google wants you to think about to help you to improve your content and bounce back.

“Does your site have a primary purpose or focus?”

Websites that stick to a particular niche can potentially provide more constructive content than websites that tackle multiple subjects and don’t appear to have a focus. If your content is too varied, users will have a hard time finding valuable content on your website and Google will also struggle to know what your site is about. Stick to one topic on your website and write content that leans on your expertise. According to Google’s guidelines, if you can answer the related question “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?” with “yes”, then the content of your website may already be productive. 


“After reading your content, will someone leave feeling they’ve learned enough about a topic to help achieve their goal? “

We’ve all searched for answers online and there’s nothing quite as frustrating as reading to the end of a page and still not getting the answer you were looking for. With this self-assessing question, Google is asking you to think about how much value your content provides. It’s always useful to think about the reader’s intent and what problem they are trying to solve. Does your content address their pain points? Will your reader need to search elsewhere for further information after reading your content? Keep your buyer persona in mind when creating content so that you can put yourself in their shoes and give them all of the solutions they are searching for. Make sure you give complete answers that give the reader all of the information they’ll need. Google’s guidelines suggest that if you can answer the following question with “no”: “Does your content leave readers feeling like they need to search again to get better information from other sources?” then you are on track to providing invaluable content. Be sure to employ SEO best practices so that your intended audience can easily find your useful content. 


“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)?”

In a time where almost anyone online can be labelled “an expert”, the internet is full of articles filled with misinformation from non-experts. From bad medical advice to dishonest product reviews bursting with affiliate links, it can be tricky to spot harmful misformation in a sea of advice-filled content. The Google Helpful Content Update makes it more important than ever to produce high-value, quality content demonstrating your knowledge and expertise in a particular area. Google suggests sticking to topics you know about rather than writing about topics you lack experience in. Stay focused on the subjects you have expertise in that relate to your business and avoid writing about unfamiliar subjects.

For example, use photos and comments about your experiences to support product reviews Google values content that demonstrates in-depth knowledge and offers useful solutions. Consider the following question to make sure your content remains conducive: “Are you mainly summarizing what others have to say without adding much value?”


“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?”

Clickbait-style articles that promise exclusive news or information without official confirmation should be avoided if you want to create useful content. This type of information does nothing to build trust with your audience. Google wants you to consider whether your site is honest and reliable and whether the content reflects that. Avoid answering questions that have no definitive answer. If you have unconfirmed information that is relevant to your niche, be sure to make it clear that the information you’re sharing is rumoured, unconfirmed or inconclusive.


Life After The Google Helpful Content Update


It’s not too late to make sure you’re creating useful content. Chances are if you stay updated with Google’s frequent changes and you’re already following Google’s core update advice, the Helpful Content Update will have a positive impact on your site.


If you’re struggling with content writing for SEO or keeping up with the demand for good-quality SEO content that best reflects your business, our team of content writers can help you. At SEM Consultants, we offer services for web content creation that align with Google’s guidelines and can help you benefit from the Helpful Content Update. Whether you’d like to know more about our SEO content writing services, our search engine-optimised blog writing services or perhaps you’re interested in effective product descriptions and landing pages, when it comes to creating people-first website content, we are here to help.


Leave it to the experts at SEM COnsultants and contact our SEO content writers today. Let us help your website continue to produce value for your consumers.


*Google finished rolling out the latest Helpful Content Update on January 12th 2023. The new update is now global, meaning it impacts websites in all languages, not just English. Google has also refined how its classifiers detect unhelpful content.