Writing people-first content means creating content designed for people, not algorithms.
That was the inspiration behind my company, People First Content, when I named it over five years ago. It remains the basic principle behind people-first content, as recently outlined by Google’s developers.
I know that’s a bit broad. So, this article will explain what Google developers mean by the phrase “people-first content” and how our business adheres to that definition (and has been since our founding).
Understanding People-First Content
Google has always prioritized content written to be helpful for end users, i.e., people. While the algorithm has its mysterious (and not-so-mysterious) ways of determining what that is, there are some basic principles that any good content writer should understand.
Readers should walk away from it, feeling as if they learned something. They should believe that reading your content was worth their time. In essence, people-first content should be helpful, reliable, and comprehensive.
Let’s break those three essential elements down a bit further.
Helpful People-First Content
We’ve all landed on web pages and blog articles that seemed promising initially but lost their appeal as soon as you got past the first sentence or two. These pages are unhelpful, and they are what Google is trying to keep from ranking at the top of search results with their helpful content update.
The term “helpful” might seem subjective at first. And, in some cases, it is. For example, if you are a cybersecurity expert, then you might not find an article that is an introduction to cybersecurity to be very helpful. However, if you are new to the field or have a vague idea, an introductory article could be just what you need.
Here, we get to the first part of determining what is and isn’t helpful — understanding the person reading your content, otherwise known as defining your audience.
Now, you can’t keep a cybersecurity expert from deciding to click on your introductory article. But you can make it evident that your article is for non-experts through your title and introduction. “An Introduction to Cybersecurity” is pretty straightforward.
The next step, then, is delivering on what you promise readers through your headline. Google doesn’t care how cute or catchy your headline is if it doesn’t provide value to your end user, i.e., the person reading your blog post. Using guideposts, such as header tags, keeps your article organized. This benefits readers, especially those who want to skim your article until they find the specific information they need.
Finally, you need to add some of your insights and analysis instead of just regurgitating what everyone else is saying. Search engine optimization (SEO) is backward-looking. Putting all your focus on creating content based on what you know people have already searched for puts you at a considerable disadvantage in helping people move forward as things progress and change.
In short, add value to your audience by answering questions they didn’t even know they had. Let your personality shine through, and don’t be afraid to be a little bold (as long as what you are saying is true).
Reliable People-First Content
One critical differentiator separates high-quality content from everything else — reliability.
This is part of Google’s E-E-A-T guidelines, which stand for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
These guidelines are crucial for anything under the Your Money Your Life (YMYL) umbrella. YMYL topics include anything that could impact someone’s life or finances if they took your advice. So, anything related to finance, insurance, health and wellness, medical advice, security, etc.
When you’re creating content, consider the worst-case scenario of someone taking your advice and it ending badly — could it potentially ruin their finances, security, safety, health, or future happiness?
If the answer is “maybe” or “yes,” proceed with the YMYL mentality.
That means backing up any claims with an authoritative source, such as a peer-reviewed journal, authoritative website, or expert.
You usually want to trace links back to their original source. For example, if you are writing an article on a health-related topic and you find a source discussed in a company blog post, link to the original source, not to the blog post. Doing this practice can be an eye-opener, as some websites are less judicious than others in determining what is and is not credible.
Nothing can replace the authoritativeness of having a bona fide expert on your site. It’s a great idea to have experts author your articles, even if they get help writing them from your fractional content team or ghostwriter.
Make sure your author is prominently listed, and include a link to their online bio or LinkedIn profile. It should be easy for readers to learn more about the expert author and verify their credibility.
Comprehensive People-First Content
There’s a lot of debate over how long your blog posts should be based on factors such as your industry, the number of blogs you already have published, and your purpose for writing blogs.
Even so, there aren’t any hard and fast rules for how long your content should be. Google steadfastly refuses to give an ideal word count length. They have made a lot of changes to their algorithm over the years, but this is one area that will likely remain constant.
So, instead of trying to write enough that search engines will love your content, you need to focus on answering the primary question your readers posed when they did a Google search. If readers need to hit the “back” button to do another search to find the answer they were looking for after they finish your article, you haven’t written enough.
Of course, there are a lot of topics that are just too big to fit into one blog post. For example, our entire business here at People First Content is content creation. There’s so much to discuss; we’ve even written a book on it and still have more to share!
So, instead of telling you everything we know about content creation, we break our blog articles into smaller topics that relate to our overarching topic of content creation for businesses.
Then, we link to other articles that provide relevant information to subtopics.
For example, within this article, I have linked to articles written by us and others about Google’s guidelines, ghostwriting, business writing, link building, and SEO.
In addition to benefiting your readers, link building can help build your credibility across the web, especially when other reputable websites link to your blog posts.
Your People-First Content Checklist
Whether you have decided to write content yourself or are outsourcing it, you should be able to review a piece of content and determine whether it passes the people-first content test.
Here’s a quick checklist you can use.
- Title accurately reflects the content
- Title answers users’ primary question
- Article relates to the title from beginning to end
- Article adds some insight and analysis instead of repeating what others have said
- Author has some expertise in the field
- Author’s name is clearly listed
- Author’s expertise is explained
- Author’s bio is linked in their byline
- Sources are reputable
- Article thoroughly answers the user’s initial question
- Article links to relevant articles on your site and others
- Article is long enough to answer the question without becoming overwhelming
Need Help Creating People-First Content? Let’s Talk!
I came up with the name People First Content for my business because I believe in creating content written for humans, not machines. It wasn’t always a popular way of thinking, especially when I worked for someone else, but time (and Google) have proven that it’s the right way to do things.
If you need help creating people-first content, I’d love to help you! Schedule a call with me to learn more about what People First Content does and see how we can help you create content your users will find helpful.