Writing people first content

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A guide to writing people-first content

Have you ever stumbled upon pages of web content that seem to say a lot – yet really say nothing at all? This repetitive, run-of-the-mill content has littered search engine result pages (SERPs) for years.

We’ve seen it all before. Many content writers, once literate storytellers, rely on black hat SEO tricks, like keyword stuffing, and AI-generated nonsense, to bump their search ranking.

But this has all changed.

Google’s helpful content update changed the focus from search engine-first content to people-first. The search engine is now weeding out the good from the regurgitated. Your web copy, blogs and any other content need to match user intent – not what Google wants.

In this blog, you’ll find out about:


What is Google’s helpful content update?

People-first content isn’t a new concept. In August 2022, Google launched the ‘helpful content update’ to minimise low-quality content that ranked well on search but didn’t benefit users.

This update aimed to rank helpful, relevant content ‘written by people, for people, in search results’. The search experience needed to be easier so people could get their answers straight away when they had a query. No more clickbait headlines or surface-level content that does nothing but leave you frustrated.

The helpful content update rewards websites where visitors get the answers they want. When you achieve this, you’re creating people-first content.

What is people-first content?

Google’s automated ranking systems position information that is helpful, relevant and high-quality, better than low-quality content. People-first content doesn’t mean SEO (search engine optimisation) goes out the window.

In fact, people-first content is a white hat SEO tactic that helps you improve your search ranking on SERPs. Black hat SEO, like search engine-first content, is harmful and deceitful. Relying on white hat SEO practices will always put you on the good side of Google.

Creators must write content that adds value and offers a POV while meeting SEO best practices.

Google will reward your content as people-first if you:

  • Write useful content for your existing or target audience
  • Demonstrate first-hand expertise and knowledge
  • Have a clear message or purpose on your website
  • Leave your visitors feeling like they’ve gained the correct information to achieve their goal(s)
  • Create satisfying experiences after visitors leave your website
  • Stay up to date with Google’s core updates

Google Core Update – March 2024

In March 2024, Google upped its game on punishing unhelpful content. The helpful content updates are now incorporated into core updates.

The March Core Update introduced key changes to improve search quality, including updates to Google’s spam policies and core ranking systems. 

This update extends the work Google has been doing to reduce unhelpful, unoriginal search content. As of April 19th, Google achieved a major 45% cut in low-quality, unoriginal content in search.

The search engine is also strengthening its spam policies on automated content (aka AI content) that’s done at scale to boost search rankings. Scaled content like this usually offers no value and is purely for search engines, not people. You can learn about other spam updates in Google’s core update.

Why should you write people-first content?

Writing people-first content doesn’t just leave your visitor happy; it’s great for business growth, too. Because what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

By creating a people-first SEO strategy, you’ll benefit from: 

  • Better leads – Your content is tailored to your customer’s needs, goals and pain points. It doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach, so it draws in higher-quality leads.
  • More authority – By establishing your expertise, experience and authority, your content will place you as a credible source for relevant, trustworthy information. 
  • Happier web visitors – Your web content answers all the questions your visitors have. The result? A better user experience and happier visitors. 
  • High-value content – Writing authentic content that stands out from the churn of AI-generated copy will offer more value to your visitors. Surface-level content is called that name for a reason. It only scratches the surface. People-first content offers a much more valuable and in-depth approach.
  • More sales – You’ve built trust, established authority, and created a seamless user experience. With all this in your arsenal, selling becomes much more accessible.

How to write people-first content

1. Learn about your audience

Like any good marketing strategy, you first need to understand your audience. 

Get a piece of paper and write down who your audience is, what interests them and how your content will solve their problems or educate them. 

At Trio, we’ve stuck to a tried-and-true marketing approach. We rely on tools like GWI, Semrush and Google Trends, as well as our Top 20 Reasons Why exercise, to get under the customers’ skin. 

2. Assess your existing content

A content audit will help gauge whether your content is helpful and reliable. Google provides 12 questions to consider when elevating content quality:

  1. Do first-hand data, research or analysis back your content?
  2. Do you offer a comprehensive view of your topic? Is there enough information, or is it too simple?
  3. Does your content stand out from what’s already out there? Are there any new perspectives worth reading?
  4. Do you use your expertise and experience to provide more value to a topic rather than just rewriting what’s been said?
  5. Is your heading or page title self-explanatory? Does it succinctly describe what the reader is going to learn?
  6. Have you stayed away from headings or page titles that may be clickbait?
  7. Are there glaring spelling or grammar mistakes? 
  8. Have you produced this content in a rush? Used AI without carefully reviewing it?
  9. Does all your content vary in tone of voice (ToV) and style? (A consistent ToV is key to strengthening your brand message.)
  10. Would you share this content with others? 
  11. Does the quality match that of something you’d find in printed media?
  12. Does it offer more value compared to other websites ranking alongside you?

3. Prioritise E-E-A-T 

Your content can’t just be good. It needs to E-E-A-T. 

E-E-A-T stands for Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness and Trust. These are part of Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines and are the foundation of helpful, reliable, people-first content. 

How can you write for E-E-A-T? You need to show:

  • Experience – Show first-hand knowledge of the topic you’re writing about. Personal accounts of your experience will show you are well-placed to discuss it. 
  • Expertise – Write like a subject matter expert. Your content needs to offer more expertise than other sources, so include data, facts and supported claims. 
  • Authoritativeness – Publish high-quality content backed by your reputation and industry knowledge. You also need to earn coverage and backlinks from other authoritative sites to grow your reputation.
  • Trust – Ensure your website is accurate, safe, transparent and reliable. You should also show customer testimonials, make it easy to contact you and keep your content updated. 

n part two of our E-E-A-T series, we’ll explore further ways you can demonstrate E-E-A-T. It’ll be released soon, so keep an eye out for more.

4. Avoid search engine first content tactics 

If you’re committed to these steps so far, writing people-first content becomes second nature. There are warning signs, however, if you need to evaluate whether your content is people first or search engine first. 

Search engine first content is:

  • Created solely to attract search engines
  • Produced hastily, covering different topics to increase your chances of ranking well on SERPs
  • Reliant on automated tools like AI, with no fact-checking done afterwards
  • Low-value and adds no new take to the topic in hand
  • Tied to a strict word count to improve its chances of ranking (Google likes short and long-form content!)
  • Sly, making falsely promising headlines to lure visitors and search engines in 
  • Surface level and offers no first-hand expertise on a niche topic 

This isn’t an exhaustive list, so don’t think you’re off the hook. Avoiding these red flags won’t impact your search ranking – it’ll leave room for better, people-first content. 

Need help with your SEO content? Let’s talk

At Trio, we take a people-first approach to all our SEO content. We know what it takes to rank well on search and resonate with your audience. 

Let’s talk SEO and find out how we can help you.