Quality content for SEO is fast replacing all those old, slightly dubious, techniques. Some still cling to these tricks but Google is finding ways of rooting them out and downgrading the websites that use them. While there are still plenty of technical challenges and work to be done on the latest SEO techniques, quality content for SEO must play a major part in your strategy.
Defining quality content is a little harder to do in practice. Some SEOs say there are a minimum number of words per page with 300 often mentioned as a benchmark. Some will encourage website owners to write even more and target 1000 words and above. The problem with this approach is that it’s scatter gun and takes no account of the user and what they want to know from a web page: a simple query about a product feature or Actor’s name can often be answered in a single sentence. Padding out the content with extra words does not necessarily equate to a better user experience.
The other term we all use is ‘Relevance’ but again this is hard to define and a poor quality page can appear to be relevant.
So how do you write quality content and what guidance is available?
Google Panda – earlier steps in quality content
In 2011 Google announced the Google Panda algorithm (named after Google software engineer, Navneet Panda) which directly affects the ranking of websites. Since then it has been through numerous improvements but the principle is still as follows:
“Panda is an algorithm that’s applied to sites overall and has become one of our core ranking signals. It measures the quality of a site, which you can read more about in our guidelines. Panda allows Google to take quality into account and adjust ranking accordingly.”
Google’s guidelines provide the following questions that help you get into how the algorithm ranks website pages:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
- Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- How much quality control is done on content?
- Does the article describe both sides of a story?
- Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
- Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
- Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopaedia or book?
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
- Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
- Would users complain when they see pages from this site?
It is in Google’s commercial interest to encourage a better Internet that keeps people using the search engine by finding relevant websites that help them. By detecting quality content on website pages and boosting them in search results, Google is keeping people using it and coming back for more.
Google quality guidelines
As you might expect Google issues a lot of guidance related quality websites. The most recent was released in March 2016 Search Quality Rating Program document which is guidance issued to their human testers.
Because Google is acutely aware of the problem of spam websites a lot of this guidance discusses the negative; what doesn’t constitute quality content:
- Harmful or malicious pages or websites
- True lack of purpose pages or websites
- Deceptive pages or websites
- Pages or websites which are created to make money with little to no attempt to help users
- Pages with extremely low or lowest-quality MC (main content)
- Pages on YMYL (your money or your life) websites that are so lacking in website information that it feels untrustworthy
- Hacked, defaced or spammed pages
- Pages or websites created with no expertise or pages which are highly untrustworthy, unreliable, unauthoritative, inaccurate or misleading
- Websites which have extremely negative or malicious reputations
- Violations of the Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines
It’s hard to write quality content or content strategy if you are only thinking about avoiding the negative. Here is what Google says about High quality pages:
What makes high quality pages
High quality pages are satisfying and achieve their purpose well. High quality pages exist for almost any purpose, from giving information to making you laugh.
What makes a High quality page? A High quality page may have the following characteristics:
- High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
- A satisfying amount of high quality MC (main content).
- Satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website or satisfying customer service information, if the page is primarily for shopping or includes financial transactions.
- Positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page.
Think about the user intent
A more constructive approach is to think about your typical users and, if necessary, split them up into different groups and design content to meet their needs.
If you offer goods or services then how are your pages going to solve a problem of help a search engine user.
Here are some examples query types:
- Know query, some of which are Know Simple queries – “how tall is XYZ” or “what is the XYZ company’s stock price”.
- Do query, some of which are Device Action queries – purchasing but also downloading, obtaining or interacting using a web page – I want to buy XYZ etc.
- Website query, when the user is looking for a specific website or webpage.
- Visit-in-person query, some of which are looking for a specific business or organization, some of which are looking for a category of businesses – e.g. locksmith in XYZ, locksmith near me etc.
Some small business owners may find it hard to translate this guidance into web content and it will help to use an SEO expert to help you shape your content to follow Webmaster Guidelines and identify and match user intents. There are many important factors that are within your control including the following:
- Broken links – crawl your site using tools like Xenu or Screaming Frog to find and remove broken or outdated links.
- Wrong information – Check your facts and make sure they’re accurate and well referenced.
- Grammatical mistakes – Write your blog articles in Word or other good Word processor first.
- Spelling mistakes – Use spell-check or an editor.
- Reading level – You should be adjusting your reading level based on your target audience and the intent of the query.
- Page load speed – optimise images, code and web hosting for fast loading.
- Matching the user intent with the purpose of a page and type of content expected.
- Authority and comprehensiveness – Keep reading and updating when needed.
Focus on these points and you will produce high quality content that will beat your competition.