Quality content. The two words appear hand-in-hand in nearly every piece of advice given to marketers and writers who attempt to create content that consistently delivers. But what does the word quality actually mean, and why does quality content matter? The answer to the second part is simple: because Google says it does. The first part is a little more difficult, but the answer may be found in the ranking factors Google (and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo) uses.
Search Engines & Content Quality
All search engines have ranking criteria they use, with quality content at the top of their lists. Google, the world’s primary search engine, determines quality by analyzing your site’s positive signals. For example, it measures the amount of time spent on a site’s landing or home page and gives “points” for longer visits, with the reasoning being that you are delivering content that keeps your audience engaged.
You won’t find many specific, useful pointers if you go looking to Google for help in creating quality content, as their basically unhelpful list of tips reads more like a checklist of what not to do. While the definition of quality is fluid depending on type, niche, industry or target audience, there are a certain number of common elements that are reliable indicators of quality. Take a look at this list of proven characteristics which will help you consistently hit the quality content mark.
- Help your Audience Complete a Specific Task. Design content that leads a reader quickly and efficiently to the next step. Do this by creating content that is geared toward a clearly defined keyword and user intent combo; in other words, avoid using arbitrary keywords.
- Pay Attention to Word Count. While nothing is set in concrete, longer content generally seems to be favored, but that flies in the face of mobile users wanting “quick reads.” Searchmetrics found in their 2014 ranking factors study that an ideal word court was about 1,000 words, but user experience must always be priority #1. Longer content will help you rank highly and attract links, but the proper use of headings, bullet points, lists and long-tail keywords can help you format your content for easy mobile access.
- Stop Keyword Stuffing. Lackadaisical content writing often leads to unintentional keyword stuff, especially in headers. When finished writing, do a search for your primary keyword to make sure you haven’t overused it, and if you have, rewrite or use synonyms as needed.
- Start Linking. Search engines judge a site’s credibility in large part by its internal and external links. Google tends to frown on too many internal links, so the most important indicator of a page’s quality is the number and quality of inbound links to the page. The more well-known and reputable sites you have linking to your site, the higher Google ranks your site’s trustworthiness and credibility.
- Grammar, Spelling and Layout do Matter. Proofreading and checking your facts does, too. Your site won’t gain trust and credibility from readers or Google if it’s filled with misspelled words, grammatical errors, and/or mistruths. High quality content should be pleasing to look at and easy to read, as the majority of visitors to your site will skim and scan the content. Make proper use of bolds and italics, bullet points and numbered lists, concise sentences and paragraphs, and leave plenty of white space. If possible, have your content proofread by someone else, and if you’re stating something as fact, be sure you have the current data to back it up.
- Inspire, Educate and Entertain. Search engines want to reward and highly rank content that provides real value for readers, so they look for things like whether the content solves a problem or answers a question. They also look for intangibles like whether it entertains people or makes them laugh. Identify and define the primary purpose of your content and be faithful to it across your site. Content should always be relevant to your brand’s niche or your website’s topic, so keep that in mind and don’t sacrifice relevancy to entertainment.
Much of the content out there has quality, but if it’s misguided or poorly aligned with today’s changing content marketing environment, you run the risk of losing ground to those who have made the adjustment. “Quality content” is not a buzzword—it’s what Google and your audience are looking for. Savvy marketers will do their utmost to deliver.