02/09/2022 - SEO
On 25th August 2022, Google began rolling out its latest algorithm update. Named the “Helpful Content Update” Google has tweaked its ranking mechanism to favour "People First” Content, examples would be blogs, pages, product descriptions and other website content that is written for people rather than for search engines.
What Is ‘People First” Content?
For as long as I can remember, every website owner and manager has been encouraged to include key words and phrases in their content so that search engines can better understand what the site is all about. It’s tempting therefore to pepper the text with those terms in the hope that it will appear higher in the SERP’s.
However, just because an article uses the phrase ‘dog training’, ’Hair styling’ or ‘tennis courts’ repeatedly, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be helpful to the reader wanting to learn about a specific aspect of dog training, hair styling or tennis courts. (Adjust the keywords to suit your business here)
It seems to us, that with the Helpful Content Update, Google aims to figure out whether website content is actually informative, useful, original and yes, helpful. That way it can populate the search results with articles that really will answer the searcher’s questions. This is an extension of Google’s 2019 EAT update (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) and it could potentially affect your website ranking IF your content is not deemed to be people-centric.
People-first content is written to help people solve their immediate problems, rather than to help search engines index a website. In short, it is providing content that helps people make informed decisions.
If you are unsure whether or not your website content is helpful - ask people for an opinion. Ideally, approach someone who is not familiar with your industry, and who you can trust to be brutally honest. Perhaps you could use answerthepublic.com to compile a list of questions about your products and services, and then see if your tester can find the answers on your website?
How To Align SEO With People First Writing?
So you’ve been working hard to write seach engine friendly content for your website. Researching keywords and creating blogs, landing pages, product descriptions that focus on a particular search phrase, trying to avoid duplicating content and spending hours editing and re-editing your words until you are happy with them. The Helpful Content Update doesn’t necessarily negate all of your hard work. Key words are still important - it’s just that Google wants to see content that helps people before it helps search engines.
From now on, creating people-friendly, helpful content should be part of your SEO strategy too.
Here’s a simple test to see if your content is people-friendly. Set your mobile phone to record, and then read a piece of content out loud. Now play it back to yourself (I know, I hate the sound of my own voice too). Does the recording make sense? Does it sound natural? Would you say those things to a potential customer if he or she were standing in front of you? Would you publish that text in a brochure?
Of course writing for the web is different to speaking face to face (to start with, you don’t have the advantage of body language, tone of voice or facial expressions). But your website content should convey a useful message to anyone using a screen reader. If not, it probably doesn’t meet Google’s criteria.
What If I Think My Website Writing Could Be More Helpful To Visitors?
First up, don’t panic. If you have a decent content management system on your website, it’s easy to change text. If you are not confident in your writing ability, it’s well worth investing in the services of a copywriter. Try to find someone who is experienced in writing for the web (as opposed to writing adverts, books or text for packaging).
Give your copywriter as much information about your business as you possibly can. Let him or her experience your products or services for themselves, tell them what you want to achieve with your website (more phone calls, online sales, footfall etc) and then ask them to work through your website rewriting the main pages first.
As you upload the text from your copywriter, pay close attention to the words, the way paragraphs are structured, the tone of voice and the way that keywords are distributed within the text. Learn from it - and when you feel confident, try writing a blog or a landing page of your own - trust me, you are more talented than you think you are.
Help To Optimise Your Website For Search Engines
If the whole Helpful Content and SEO thing seems a bit overwhelming to you, Upshot Media can come to your aid with a range of services designed to improve user experience and search engine ranking. Talk to us, tell us what concerns you about your website’s performance and we’ll tailor a solution just for you.
Click here to get in touch with Upshot Media
Read more about Google’s Helpful Content Update: https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2022/08/helpful-content-update