5 Steps for Creating Valuable ‘People-First’ Content
Our last blog on Google’s ‘Helpful Content Update‘ unpacked everything we learned from the newest algorithm change. In a larger quest to fish out spammy content, Google has said it wants to see more “original, helpful content written by people, for people”. In doing so, sites that simply make content to satisfy SEO will now face penalisation.
The move towards valuable ‘people-first’ content may have left some Webmasters concerned. Particularly when many websites saw their rankings decline. As with any update, it’s important to adapt to these new conditions and review what may not be working on your site.
‘People-first’ marketing strategies are nothing new. In 2019, Forbes uncovered how ‘customer-centric businesses are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers’. It’s the same when writing good content; you should always keep your audience in mind. Ask yourself: Would anyone actually want to read this? Or am I posting irrelevant content to appease the search results?
Your audience should always be at the heart of the content you create. If you’d like to learn how to do this, we will walk you through 5 steps for creating valuable ‘people-first’ content that is helpful to your readers.
Creating Valuable ‘People-First’ Content:
Say a final farewell to the days when websites were overflowing with keywords, links and nonsensical sentences. I mean… it was about time. Don’t you agree? For the most part, these pages were unreadable and of little value to the readers who clicked on them. Webmasters created these unhelpful pages mainly to meet SEO requirements and gain more traction. For this reason, Google is now hunting content that’s of “little value, low added value or is otherwise not particularly helpful to those doing searches.”
How To Know Whether Your Content Will Be Deemed Valuable?
Google determines whether the content is valuable (or not) using automated machine-learning methods. So, we can’t really be sure. But we do know that Google wants to “better connect people to helpful information.” The best way to do this is to ensure users feel like they’ve had a satisfying experience when they reach your site. As regular search users, we know there’s nothing more irritating than clicking on a webpage that seems to hold all the answers to have only been misled. That’s not what Google is looking for.
Regarding organic search results, Google wants its users to only find relevant content for their search query. For this to happen, it must ensure that top-ranking content is helpful and valuable. If your website has already seen a decrease in rankings since the update, it’s best to do a full content audit to see what is and isn’t working. If you are looking to make a few edits or produce new content, here’s what you should do:
1) Discover Your Niche
‘People-first’ content should always be knowledgeable and authentic. To do this, you will need to find your niche in a topic you can provide first-hand expertise on. It’s also important to have a clear idea of the primary purpose of your site and its intended audience.
You shouldn’t write on topics just because everyone else is or because you believe it will gain traction. Especially if it isn’t consistent with the rest of the content on your site. Instead, stick to what you know. This way, you will always be providing relevant content for your audience.
It’s always a good idea to produce content that goes beyond what’s already out there. For example, if you’re a mobile dog groomer, you can write guides on caring for different coat types or upload helpful videos on tips for getting your dog accustomed to grooming.
Once you’ve discovered your niche, it will be easier to understand the types of content to create. It will also help to scope your top competitors to see what content works well for them.
2) Empathise With Your Audience
‘People-first’ content means targeting your audience’s needs, interests and problems. As such, if you take time to acknowledge your audience before writing, your content will naturally be directed at them.
Before you can direct your content to your audience, you need to be able to identify who they are. This means fully stepping into their shoes and empathising with the reader. How? Well, there are a few ways you can do this.
First, if you don’t have a clear idea of who your audience is, you will need to collate data to narrow down a specific demographic. You could do this by scrolling through your social media followers, or you can use more advanced tools, such as Google Ads insights.
Once you know your target audience, develop a fictional customer persona based on your findings. Imagine their age, sex, employment status and what their day-to-day life may be like. Imagine how your brand, services or knowledge could make their day easier or their worries disappear. This way, you will always have someone in mind when writing your content, which should help you to genuinely empathise with your readers.
On a piece of paper, you can also list potential problems or questions a reader may have and how you can solve them. Never stop at the first few problems that pop into your head. These are the obvious ones and have probably already been written about. Dig deeper and create a full list. This will give you lots of authentic content to write about.
3) Plan, Plan, Plan
You probably recall your teachers at school always telling you to plan before you write anything. Well, it’s the same when writing content. Thorough planning is good practice to ensure you’ve actually answered your reader’s questions.
The average user spends less than 15 seconds on a website. And with the rise of short-form video content, attention spans are lowering even more.
Planning can help massively when it comes to readability to ensure readers find the information they need fast. You should also aim to write at least 500 words. Though, 1,000 words is best to ensure you’ve fully explored the topic.
Lastly, you should write your content as you would an academic essay with a line of argument and a clear conclusion. Breaking down your points into smaller subheadings with your main points in bold also helps.
4) Improve Your Readability Score
When writing ‘people-first’ content, you must remember you’re writing for actual people. As David Ogilvy said, “you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.”
You may believe using jargon will make your content sound more official or trustworthy. But, most of the time, it only alienates the reader. If you need to add specific jargon, use an asterisk (*) to include a definition at the bottom of the page.
You want your content to be written in vernacular language, so it reaches a larger audience. It’s best to imagine you’re helping a friend solve a problem. Make the reader believe there’s another person at the other end who truly wants to help them, not just a bot.
Likewise, free online software can help with readability, such as the Hemingway Editor. The Hemingway Editor is a free editing tool that improves the clarity of your writing, so it is optimised for online readers.
5) Make Changes Now
It’s never too late to make changes to your website. Now the update is here, it’s a great time to conduct a content audit to see where you can make alterations. If you’re stuck on where to start, it’s a wise idea to research competitor sites to see how they’ve structured their content to meet their reader’s needs.
Since the latest update, Google has revealed that they want to see more Webmasters creating valuable ‘people-first’ content. By implementing these tips when writing your content, you should hook your audience and their needs, helping to make the search results a better experience for its users.