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Why the latest Google helpful content update is a big deal

We use search engines to find the answer to any question in the blink of an eye. We gravitate toward those first couple of results. After all, Google lists them at the top because they’re the most relevant and informative, right? That’s Google’s intention, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes searchers click on top results only to find them ranking so high because they were designed to do so, rather than written to be truly informative or enjoyable. To address these concerns and connect searchers with the content they’re really looking for, Google launched its helpful content update.

What is the Google Helpful Content Update?

Basically, Google’s helpful content update rewards content that is written for readers rather than search engines. Conversely, that means that any content Google deems to have a search engine-first approach rather than a people-first approach will be penalized in rankings. That begs the question: what makes content people-first versus search engine-first?

People-first content follows best SEO practices and Google standards that, most importantly, seek to satisfy readers. Search engine-first content is written for search engines in an attempt to rank well without focusing on what the reader is looking to gain from the content.

How Does the Update Impact My Website?

Google’s update will now view search engine-first content as lower quality and will downgrade it, instead giving more favorable rankings to high-quality, people-first content. Unlike past Google SEO updates that focused on page-by-page improvements, this update is applied site-wide. If Google considers your website to house lower-quality, unhelpful content, your entire site will be affected, even if you have some content that is considered to be helpful. (Google did not specify how much unhelpful content on a site can lead to negative impacts).

Trying to recover your ranking won’t necessarily be an overnight fix either. Even after you make the necessary changes, it can still take several months to get your site and content back to previous rankings. So, it’s more essential than ever before to ensure that every piece of written content on your site adheres to Google’s standards and emphasizes a person-first approach.

How to Write Person-First Content

Writing for this Google update doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, Google even has some tips to help content creators adhere to these new guidelines.

  • Write content that is of interest or use to your existing or intended audience
  • Exhibit either first-hand expertise on a subject or demonstrate a depth of knowledge backed by trusted sources
  • Have an easily identifiable primary focus
  • Check your content before posting to ensure that it helps readers learn about a topic
  • Follow Google’s guidance on core updates and product reviews

How to Avoid Writing Search Engine-First Content

Conversely, it’s just as crucial to know what to avoid in your content.

  • Write content that is made for humans rather than just to rank well in search results
  • Stick to a primary purpose or target focus rather than writing content on a wide range of topics, especially if they aren’t related to your business
  • Don’t rely on AI generators to write all of your content for you. Make sure that it has a human touch
  • Add new value to other discussions. Don’t summarize other pieces of content without adding your own take on the subject
  • Resist the urge to put out content about “trending” subjects that you wouldn’t otherwise write about in the hopes it will attract more attention
  • Be a source of information to your audience that answers all of their questions. Make sure they won’t feel the need to visit another subject authority
  • Write as much content as you feel it takes to explain a topic adequately. According to Google, there is no a preferred word count
  • Don’t write content that promises an answer to a question that doesn’t actually have an answer yet (ie. guessing release dates for products, movies or TV shows without a confirmed release date)