Ever since Google’s 2016 update, SEO has become largely about content, specifically high-quality content. But what does “quality” even mean? While we could write a book on all of the intricacies of SEO strategy, these basics will help you understand what quality content is and why it’s important.
How do search engines determine content quality?
As search engines grow more and more sophisticated, the criteria they use to determine quality actually becomes more and more intuitive. In other words, modern search engine algorithms try to judge content quality in the same way an actual human being would. To figure out what Google considers high-quality content, think of the things you value when you’re looking for an answer to a question on the web. You want content that is:
- Original. You don’t want to read a respin of cliché answers or worse, something that’s been copied and pasted from another site. The same holds true for search engines; if your content isn’t adding something new to the conversation, it won’t rank.
- Well-supported. The type and depth of support you want depends on the subject. You value citations of credible sources in articles about health or financial advice, but simpler explanations are fine for articles on makeup or refinishing furniture. Not every topic requires in-depth research to prove its point, but every topic does need clear, logical support for its points.
- Thorough. Ever encountered content that seemed promising but stopped short of fully answering your question? There’s no magic word count that will make Google rank your site, but content that is too short to deliver what it promises won’t make you or search engines happy.
- Well-written. Nothing has you clicking away from a site faster than blatant grammatical errors and typos. It ruins the credibility of the site and suggests that they don’t actually care about the content they produce. But being grammatically correct isn’t enough. We like writing that is engaging, well-organized, and easy-to-follow.
- Well-designed. Even if you enjoy the information on the site, you won’t stick around long if the web design isn’t user friendly. Sites that are overcrowded with ads, that take too long to load, or have a difficult-to-navigate layout will send readers running.
Negative user signals, such as high bounce rate, short time-on-site or pogo-sticking (the worst feedback that your content can receive), will get your content demoted from Google’s search results very fast. So, never stop on just creating a super informative article. Make sure it is well structured and fully CRO-optimized.
According to Daria Tokareva from SeoLogist, Toronto SEO company
- Credible and Transparent. You like to know who’s behind the information you read, right? Google does too. Sites that include About pages or other ways to determine the credibility of the author tend to rank better.
- Reputable. We tend to trust things that other people recommend, things that have an established reputation. One of the newer— and most important— criteria that affects SEO is reader engagement. This can include comments, backlinks, and shares— all of which tells search engines that actual human beings have found this content valuable. Over time, more engagement produces more credibility for your site, making it easier for future content to rank well.
Aren’t there shortcuts to creating content that ranks well?
In short, no. At least, not anymore. Whereas decades ago you could more easily trick a search engine into ranking your site using techniques like keyword stuffing or article spinning, today these tricks backfire big time. Article spinning involves stealing content from another site and changing it just enough so that the two pieces aren’t exactly the same. Unfortunately, it’s still a service that some less reputable writers and businesses offer. And while it may seem like a quick, cheap way to grow your content, you should avoid it like the plague. It’s a huge red flag to search engines, and it could kill the SEO for your entire website.
Just like it sounds, keyword stuffing means that you’ve filled your content to the brim with keywords (popular terms and phrases that people enter into search engines)— way more than you would use in normal speech. The result is an awkward, choppy piece of writing that’s a pain to read. And these days, search engine crawlers will ding your website’s rankings for doing it.
The last popular shortcut is to produce high volumes of mediocre content. This strategy is based on the theory that search engines reward websites that are updated frequently and that have a lot of content. And while there is some truth to that, the strategy only works if you’ve produced content that actually helps your readers. A slew of content that’s vague, too short, or poorly written won’t give you results.
Invest in your content and don’t resort to shortcuts. Take the time to figure out what topics and questions are important to your audience and produce well-researched, well-written content that thoroughly answers their questions and solves their problems.
If creating quality content sounds like a work-intensive process, it is. But it’s one that’s worth it in the end. Your rankings won’t jump up dramatically after you publish a couple of high-quality pieces, but overtime, well-researched, well-written content will produce traffic and grow the reputation of your website and your business.
If keyword research, writing, and web design are outside of your skillset— or if you simply don’t have the time— we can help with strategic content plans and well-written pieces tailored to your niche and audience. Get in touch to chat about how your business could benefit from a personalized content plan from our SEO experts.