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Google’s latest “helpful content” update - what CMOs need to know

For years, CMOs and marketing teams have been focused on SEO, tweaking and shaping their content so that it arrives on the internet chockablock with useful search terms. The goal was visibility at the top of search results, often at the expense of creativity and value in the content itself.


Those days may now be coming to an end.


Google just rolled out a Helpful Content update, which is an algorithm designed to disrupt the SEO-churn content machine and instead give priority to articles that are genuine, useful and people-first.


It’s now no longer just editors at top-notch publications who are being picky about which content to choose. The search engines are also getting in the game. But if this news makes you anxious, there’s no need to panic. As the bar has been lifted on the quality litmus test for Google, the result will be that those genuinely useful articles — filled with helpful insights, creative angles and carefully crafted prose — will now have an advantage in search results. For content marketers and thought leaders who are willing to put in the time and effort, Google’s new update is a blessing that will allow their insights to shine.


To ensure that your carefully crafted content doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, here’s what you need to do.


First of all, ask yourself the following questions when you’re writing or creating a piece.


  • Is this content written for real people, and not just to attract people from a search result?

  • Are you writing about things that matter to your target audience, or are you simply commenting on trends because you think it’s important that your voice be part of the conversation?

  • Do you have real expertise on this topic, or are you wading in to a niche idea simply because you thought you might get some traffic?


To really make your articles shine, these are the top 4 tips for compelling, people-first thought leadership:


  1. Focus on what you know. Lean into your own skills and expertise rather than attempting to force your way into a conversation where you’re not actually an expert.

  2. Use data to prove your point. Great storytelling is essential, but it falls flat if you can’t back it up with facts. Hook your reader with strong writing, and then deliver your promise with irrefutable evidence that proves your point.

  3. Research your industry and remain aware of what other noise exists in your space. See what is leading social media chatter and educate yourself about other thought leaders in the field. Then when you weigh in, you’ll know what’s already been said — and what points still need to be made.

  4. Share anecdotes and personal stories. Be a real person, with real ideas and experience. Not only will you be more relatable if you write as a human, your ideas will resonate more strongly as well.

The secret weapon of content marketers moving forward will be a rock-solid relationship with their public relations team. Content from public relations is always based on thought leadership, because public relations professionals are skilled at sussing out angles, understanding the unique perspectives and talents of their clients, and weighing in on trends, ideas and news from a fresh and unique angle that ensures you stand out from the crowd. Thought leadership content differs from marketing content in that it does not revolve around the product and its features. It is about providing original insights that your target audience can apply to their professional lives. The goal of public relations is to deliver valuable insights, and now that content marketers are being forced to focus on people-first ideas rather than throwing out key search teams in the hopes of getting noticed, the result, for those willing to put in the effort, will be content that’s more helpful than ever.


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