Writing people-first content for the user and SEO

In the age of AI writers, it’s encouraging to see Google prioritising people-first content. When writing anything to be published online, we all know that SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) should be a key consideration, but people-first content should lead the way. Find out why in this article by Cameron Hubbard.

Sure, writing SEO-friendly content will increase the chances of your blog ranking higher in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), but these days, in an age of misinformation on the internet, it’s not as simple as littering keywords throughout a piece of writing to get it to rank highly. As we touched on in our previous blog, Google’s core update for March 2024 has been designed to protect against negative practices like keyword stuffing. This is when articles just repeat the same keyword over and over in an unnatural way.

Also in the same blog, we touched briefly on the guidelines Google has identified as the best practices to follow to rank high in search results without your articles being deemed as spammy or low-quality content. This will be valuable information to anyone looking to publish content online in light of the direction Google is taking, which purposefully prioritises people-first content.

Table of Contents

Helpful and reliable, what is people-first content?


People-first content is any form of online content, such as a blog article, which has been written using someone’s first-hand expertise solely with the user’s search query, situation and intent in mind.

Google refers to people-first content as content created “primarily for people and not to manipulate search engine rankings”. It’s all about considering the target audience, and the user journey and writing content that will reach that user at each part of that journey, offering educational, genuinely helpful information.

Does SEO still matter in a world of people-first content?


The short answer is ‘naturally’. If you are writing about a topic, then you will probably start by writing and researching a list of all the questions your target audience commonly asks about that topic. These are often referred to as ‘long tail keywords’, basically a phrase consisting of multiple words. If you are taking this approach, then your article will naturally incorporate SEO keywords because you just can’t help it. You need to include them to answer that question or set of questions. If you’ve been taking this approach, then you’re already producing people-first content.

There’s a difference between SEO-friendly content and search engine-first content, because the latter is created to try and ‘beat the algorithm’ and these days tends to just regurgitate what’s already out there using AI-writers, without adding any insight or lived experience, while incorporating the keyword as many times as possible. It’s boring.

So, when it comes to SEO, it’s about how it is applied to people-first content. You can do this by answering the user’s query and providing assistance while presenting the information in an easy to understand and visually pleasing manner. Presentation is important, so be sure to include a contents list, or relevant images if applicable.

‘Page experience’ is another aspect which Google’s algorithms will consider. This refers to the overall experience of a webpage. Those which are purely created to rank high on search results are going to have a lot less effort put into them and can be hard to navigate and difficult to read. Google has a document about page experience too so you can follow their guidelines to ensure your website provides a positive experience to users.

How do you know if your content would be classed as people-first content?


One of the best ways to ensure the content you’re publishing is helpful to the user and good quality is to self-assess it. As Google has listed in its guidelines, there are questions we can ask ourselves when writing content. Questions like: “am I writing about things simply because they are trending?” or “does my content promise to answer a question that actually has no answer?” etc. We see this a lot with search queries related to when a film or TV show is set for release, click-baiting the user into thinking a release date has been issued, when in fact it hasn’t.

Ask yourself, “does the article thoroughly answer the searcher’s question? Will they leave feeling confused? Is there any part that could perhaps be explained a little more clearly? Are there any credible sources I could reference? Does my article provide original information, interviews, research or fresh insight?”

Google has also suggested considering the ‘who, how’ and ‘why’ of the content a creator is producing. The ‘who’ refers to who created the content, ‘how’ refers to how it was created, and ‘why’ refers to why it was created. 

How do Google’s automated ranking systems work?


Google claims its automated ranking systems are designed to present users with helpful and reliable information pertaining to their search query. This information must be crafted with the intent of helping someone, as opposed to content which is more focused on reaching the top of Google’s search results and generating site traffic.

This is most important in YMYL websites (Your Money or Your Life), websites which provide information, advice or help with anything to do with an individual’s health or finances. It could be a website providing advice on treating a particular illness, or one that is dedicated to giving advice on investments for example. If the information is unhelpful or clearly structured for clicks and views, Google’s algorithm will attempt to bury it under information that is actually helpful.

Why writing for people matters


Think about why you want blog articles written in the first place. We have so many clients tell us they want to rank high for certain keywords, so their website can get more traffic, but in marketing, we need to look at the bigger picture. Ultimately, you want to attract leads and convert those leads into customers. To do that, you need to establish credibility and trust. That should be why you are writing the article in the first place. You want to help that person at a time when they are stuck: they have a problem you know you can solve, you have the experience and the solution.

People-first content created with purpose


We know it can be hard to understand all aspects of marketing and SEO is a whole area in itself. If you’re struggling to create good quality content, if you feel like your company hasn’t found its ‘voice’, or you haven’t conducted any customer research to identify what content they need, Peacock Digital Marketing can help.

Call 01782 228068 to book a Strategy Starter Session for just £175 + VAT and discover immediate changes you can make to boost your marketing.

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Kirsty Nelms

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