What is the Formula for Quality Content?

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Most everyone trying to market their business online has heard this plenty of times, or has even posed the question themselves: What is considered “quality content” by Google and other search engines?

Nearly every question we can pose about how Google’s decision process works boils down to one simple goal: provide the best possible answer to their users’ queries. It’s called a “search” engine for a reason… people are looking for something, and Google wants to give them exactly what they want.

While that’s the most basic explanation, there are obviously more layers to this story.As someone who has spent his entire professional life working in the editorial field, it was cringe-worthy transferring over to the world of SEO content in the early days. For years, keyword optimization seemed to take priority over common sense quality writing. People and companies were writing almost exclusively for search engines, and not the end user.

Thankfully, Google is way more sophisticated these days. Now, when writers ask me about what keywords they should concentrate on in a project, I can simply tell them to write the way you should have always been writing… for the human audience you are targeting!

Google states this clearly in their quality guidelines, when they tell webmasters to ask themselves:

“Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”

That doesn’t mean keywords don’t matter. It’s just that if you are clearly writing about your topic of choice, those keywords should naturally find their way into the right spots on the page.

The constant chirping about “the end of SEO” completely misses the point of doing SEO and Internet marketing in the first place. SEO should have never been considered synonymous with “gaming the system.”

You can still raise your business’s profile and drive traffic to your website, you just have to evolve to stay up with Google’s algorithm changes. It just so happens that those changes support many good old-fashioned marketing tactics, but also the more modern inbound marketing approach.

While what defines quality content varies based on what kind of content you’re talking about, there are common themes every marketer should consider. Before you approach a content project, ask yourself the following questions:

Are You Answering User Questions?

Every time someone types a search query into Google, or any other search engine for that matter, they are looking for something. Whether it’s asking a direct question or looking for specific products or services, think like your audience and create content that will satisfy the searcher’s intent.

Whatever your topic is, address it thoroughly. Of course, you can’t cover every subject completely in every piece of content. If you aren’t covering every angle, link to related content on your website that will further your user’s understanding of the subject matter.

Is it Written for Your Audience?

Content needs to be approached with the target audience in mind. You don’t write the same way for an engineering firm as you would for a pop culture website. Always keep the audience in mind when deciding on tone, length and type of content you’re creating.

Is it Written with Authority?

One of the biggest challenges marketers face is creating content for a wide variety of industries they likely have little or no direct expertise in. The skill comes in being able to ascertain what drives the target audience by consulting with the client and performing industry research.

Have the client give ample guidance on how to create the best content possible. There will be some instances when it’s best for them to create content. Whichever direction you go, their final review of your work should make sure that the content will convey ample authority.

Will Readers Stay On Your Website?

Remember, you are writing for people first, search engines second. As such, the user’s behavior when interacting with your content will also have an impact on your search rankings.

Some content can be considered high value, even when users view it and then directly leave your website (referred to as a “bounce”). For instance, maybe you create a blog post that directly addresses a need. If a call to action is on that page, particularly a phone number, you may get the best outcome while they only view one page.

The time spent on that page can also indicate how engaging your content is. If you’re keeping people engaged with your content for ample amounts of time, this indicates to Google that you are likely meeting users’ needs.

The bounce rate isn’t the be all, end all, but it’s always a good idea to think about how you can keep people on your website. This is a great indicator to Google that you are creating engaging, interesting, and useful content. If you sell products or services, it’s also going to increase your chances that they become a paying customer.

Is it Share-Worthy?

Inbound links have long been referred to as votes for your webpage. The same holds true for every share your content gets through social media. Not every piece of content you produce will be approached with viral intent, but as long as you’re creating quality content, it has the potential to become share-worthy.

When you are going for maximum shareability, it all starts with a compelling headline. Don’t get too cute, but also don’t be boring. Your content needs to touch people on an emotional level. People share content for various reasons, but generally if it’s inspiring, funny, reaffirming, thought provoking, outrageous, or any combination of these, you’re off to a good start.

Now for some of the “honorable mentions,” which sort of intertwine with what’s already been discussed…

Content Structure

Try to keep sentences and paragraphs short (within reason). Consider appropriate usage of subheadings and bolded or italicized words. This help break up large blocks of content and keeps your readers engaged (assuming the content itself is compelling).

Keep Errors to a Minimum

One of your biggest goals for improving your search rankings is giving various indicators to Google that you are trustworthy, and that you are an authority in your industry. If your spelling is atrocious, it’s not a good indicator to your audience or Google that you are either of these. Do your best to eliminate spelling and grammatical issues.

When you reflect on these suggestions, and this is certainly not an exhaustive look at the topic, you can see that quality content is pretty much what it’s always been. It’s just that Google’s technology is getting to the point where it is much better at identifying it.

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