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What Is Quality Content?
May 25, 2021
The phrase “content is king” is untrue. It implies that all content, even content for the sake of content, is quality content, and that’s a lie.
“Quality content is king” is how the phrase should go because content must be original, engaging, actionable, and thoroughly optimized for search engines if it’s to have any impact on your bottom line. Low-quality content will get you in more trouble with Google than not having any content at all.
What is it that makes content good? Why does some content perform better? If these are the questions that have brought you here, then you’re in the right place.
Here’s my in-depth take on the nature of quality content, both from the audience’s perspective and from that of the search engine algorithms that rank websites based on their content.
What Is Quality Content?
You’d be forgiven for not knowing what quality means in the context of web content. After all, quality is subjective, and everyone is bound to have their standards of content quality.
Be that as it may, it’s not hard to differentiate good and bad content. While the former lures in the reader almost unwittingly, the latter breaks their attention with mistakes, poor presentation, and a lack of value.
From that distinction alone, we can already point out a few attributes of quality content:
- Quality content is well presented.
- Quality content provides value.
- Quality content is engaging.
However, these aren’t the only criteria used to evaluate the quality of web content. Sure, they matter a lot when it comes to your readers, but what about the entity that ranks web pages according to their quality?
I’m talking about the Google Search algorithm, of course. Quality content must meet the minimum requirements of the algorithm to appear in favorable spots.
First-page placement means a lot more views for any piece of content, and that’s why marketers invest in strategies that improve their position on SERPs.
Therefore, quality content must primarily meet the demands of two parties: your audience and the algorithm. To better understand what is required in each instance, let’s first talk about what good content means to your audience, then look into the requirements it must meet to rank highly on results pages.
What Does Quality Content Look Like To Readers?
Quality Content Is Original.
Quality content shouldn’t be plagiarized or cheaply copied from existing sources. Web users prefer their content to be original, especially if they consider you a trusted source.
What about the millions of pages online that basically talk about the same stuff?
Well, being original doesn’t mean that you can’t write about old ideas. The key is to give your content a touch of your personality, to make it unique by presenting new ways to accomplish things, or by exploring an angle that hasn’t been looked into before.
Originality is mostly about finding new ways to say things that have been reiterated time and again. That may sound difficult owing to the large volume of information that’s already on the internet, but if you pay attention to what your audience wants, then you’ll understand precisely what they want to hear.
Quality Content Has Value.
Like quality, value can be subjective. However, in the case of content, there is a simple way to gauge the value of any piece of content.
That’s because valuable content has very distinct markers:
- It is informative,
- It is educative, and;
- It is entertaining.
These attributes are what make content valuable, and even though some may lack one or the other, quality content must possess at least one of them to be deemed essential to the audience.
Content that’s informative keeps readers up to date with current events and emerging trends. The goal of such types of content is to bring the reader up to speed on the latest developments in a specific niche.
Press releases, news articles, and even celebrity columns all count as informative types of content.
Therefore, it’s not uncommon to see similar articles on different websites that are covering the same emerging news. These sites coexist by giving their pieces unique spins that appeal to their readers.
Most of the content online is educative. The majority of web users, not counting online shoppers, are in search of new skills and knowledge.
Websites that teach people practical skills or educate them about a variety of topics are quite popular in this day and age. More and more people are drawn to the allure of learning anything and everything through the internet—a venture that rewards some with skills that they use to generate income.
So, content that’s educative, as long as it teaches new concepts in a way that the audience understands, is very valuable and can attract a steady stream of visitors for decades.
If not shopping or learning new things, most web users visit their favorite websites to be entertained.
It is possible for informative content to be entertaining or for content to educate and entertain simultaneously. Most content these days, even in traditionally technical niches like health and science, is entertaining.
Making your content as entertaining to your audience as possible keeps them engaged, so much so that they can absorb its value more thoroughly.
Quality Content Is Evergreen.
Evergreen content, like evergreen vegetation, is useful all year round. It’s not seasonal or cyclical and can remain relevant for years.
How Do You Write Evergreen Content?
- Mega posts – These posts focus on one topic and cover it exhaustively. They serve as a one-stop guide that answers all the questions a visitor might have about a specific topic.
- How-to’s – A how-to post is one of the staples of blogging. These instructions guide users to accomplish things they want and can therefore be useful to them for a long time.
- Product Reviews – Product reviews can remain relevant for as long as there is demand for a specific product. If you provide the best information on the product, it will attract interested customers for a very long time.
- Research publications – Publications from studies will always have their relevance online. By keeping your information accurate, you can attract a large amount of backlinks from websites that use your publications as references.
Quality Content Is Easy To Understand
No matter how well-researched, entertaining, or informative your content is, it’s not going to have an impact if your audience doesn’t understand it.
You have to speak your audience’s language, and that doesn’t necessarily mean English or French or Spanish.
It means using a tone and writing style that they can relate to. If you’re writing about the latest developments in medicine, you wouldn’t use the writing style you use when prattling on about your favorite dish.
The tone and style of your writing are the delivery vehicles of your content. Visitors seeking professional reports won’t be impressed with joke-filled content, and casual readers won’t be inspired to read through paragraphs full of technical jargon.
For content to be understandable, at least to its target audience, you must match the writing style and tone to the level of formality they’re used to. It’s not about sounding smart or making your audience laugh, it’s about doing all that you can to avoid alienating them.
4 Tips For Writing Content That Readers Will Love
Research Your Buyer Persona
Before you type a single word, you must research your audience. Figure out their buyer persona in depth.
What are they looking for? Do they need guidance, information, or education? How do they speak to each other? Which social media sites do they frequent? What are their spending habits?
Remember, all that hard work you put into your content won’t count for naught if you don’t know everything about your target audience.
Therefore, to create effective content, you need to thoroughly understand your customers first.
Make Your Content Actionable.
What happens when a user gets through one of your articles? Are they coaxed into reading another? Are they presented with an offer that matches the information they’ve consumed? Do they just leave the site?
If they do one of the first two things, then congratulations, your content converts! But if after reading through an article, they leave your site, then your content is not serving its intended purpose.
That’s why quality content MUST be actionable. In other words, it must be tailored to push readers into taking action. Whether that action is making a purchase or signing up to a newsletter is irrelevant—what matters is that the content has led them a step further down the sales funnel.
Publish Content Regularly
Keeping a blog active requires you to publish content as regularly as you can manage. Most active blogs post four to seven times a week, but you can get by with two or three posts a week.
The key is to remain within your readers' sights and to catch the attention of the search engine algorithm, which favors sites that post frequently.
Instead of pushing yourself to produce seven blogs a week, even though you’re not able to keep up that output, prioritize consistency. Find your sweet spot—whether that’s two or seven posts a week—and stick with it.
Focus On Readability
Readability has nothing to do with how well you write but has everything to do with how well you communicate.
A piece of content can be well-researched, informative, entertaining, and actionable, but if it lacks readability, it’s going to underperform.
How Exactly Do You Improve Readability?
- Use the right size of the font. The standard is size 16, which is easy to read across different devices.
- Keep paragraphs short. Engaging content can be skimmed through quickly. It helps readers to locate exactly what information they need, plus it makes reading long pieces less of a chore.
- Break up the content. Formatting with style elements like bullet points, headings, and subheadings makes content easy to navigate and understand.
- Use lists when necessary. Lists don’t just improve the navigation of your content, but they’re also eye-catching.
- Use visual content whenever possible. Written content is good for relaying information, but it does require the help of videos and images to attract and keep the readers’ attention.
No matter how much information your content has, clever formatting can dramatically improve readability. It’s useful to make your content easy to navigate and chop it into smaller, digestible pieces.
What Does Quality Content Look Like To The Search Algorithm?
We’ve seen what qualifies content as good enough for readers. Now you have the tools to write highly engaging articles that will keep your audience coming back for more.
However, there’s more work to be done to make content good enough for the search algorithm. In this case, we’ll refer to it as optimizing content for search engines, which is just as important as refining it for your readers.
First, let’s address a burning question:
How Does Google Evaluate Content Quality?
Google uses a combination of site crawlers and human personnel to assess the quality of websites when assigning positions in the SERPs.
Using AI and semantic technology, the bots crawl through sites to match the page topic to a relevant search term’s intent.
Previously, these bots would directly associate keywords on a page to the search terms used. That changed years ago when Google started using topic modeling instead, which is far more sophisticated.
Aside from the page topic, crawlers also take note of the links in your content. This includes backlinks from other sites as well as links to related content within your site. The better-quality links available, the better.
Google admits to the subjective nature of quality content, saying that the definition of quality content largely depends on the purpose of the page. Informative content should be factual, accurate, and comprehensive, for instance, whereas a humorous or satirical site can get away with factual inaccuracies provided their users note and understand the satire.
Accurate as Google’s website crawlers are, they are not perfect, which is why human evaluators are necessary.
The role of human intervention is to rectify the algorithm’s oversights, train and refine its functions to make it less prone to mistakes. These evaluators are guided by Google’s 164-page Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, a set of rules that helps them decide the sites that contain good content and those with poor quality content.
Page quality is rated through a five-point system that’s straightforward. Quality can be rated as Highest, High, Medium, Low, and Lowest.
Now, it’s worth noting that your site’s quality rating will depend on technical standards as well as content standards. However, even though site reputation and owner information matter, content standards are just as instrumental in assigning a rating.
Based on Google’s webmaster blog and support pages, the content benchmarks used to evaluate the quality of content are as follows.
The first thing that human evaluators look at is the true purpose of the page. A page must have a purpose; otherwise, it is of no benefit to web users.
It also mustn’t spread misinformation, hate, or aspire to cause harm. Content that is guilty of such actions gets the Lowest quality rating.
Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness, abbreviated as EAT, are the three characteristics that every content creator must display to earn a decent quality rating.
Even if you’re not an expert on the subject, your content must display reliability, whether it is by quoting industry experts or referencing content that is written by experts.
And just so we’re clear, you don’t need academic credentials to be an expert. Many content creators are experts through their life experiences.
For instance, web users will readily trust a travel blogger who has experienced the various trips and destinations they write about. Reliable information doesn’t have to come from academic knowledge; it is more often gained through experience.
Therefore, make sure you are capable of establishing EAT in your content as it will allow you to get better ratings from Google.
Grammar And Syntax
Content must be grammatically sound and free of syntax and spelling errors. It’s all about appearances.
If a reader spots spelling mistakes in your content, they assume that the author is careless. Google avoids associating with such content as it reflects poorly on their ability to rate content, so reckless mistakes will cost you precious ranking points.
Well-written content tells the reader that the author cares a great deal about their work, which inspires confidence in their content.
Google doesn’t think that all duplicate content is inherently poor quality, but it does prefer content that doesn’t replicate anything else on other websites.
Content syndication is one of the problems the search engine tries to avoid by enforcing strict standards on originality. After all, the search engine’s reputation is at stake because users typically don’t want to see duplicate content in search results.
Therefore, you can’t have a content marketing strategy that relies on other people’s content. It is wise to invest in ways to produce original content, especially if you want to improve your organic traffic.
How Well It Matches User Intent
When they say that content must be relevant to the audience, it doesn’t just mean that it should broadly answer their questions.
Quality content must thoroughly address consumer needs and pain points. It should be a comprehensive resource that offers the exact kind of value they’re looking for.
Inbound And Outbound Links
Google is especially keen on the quality of links in your content, especially if they take your readers to other sites.
If you’ve got several links from trusted sites, Google takes that as a good sign. However, that doesn’t mean that you should only rely on outbound links.
Internal linking is just as vital. Not only does it help Google’s crawlers to assess the quality and quantity of your website content, but it also directs users to related pages that may satisfy their user intent.
These Things Don’t Matter Much To Google’s Algorithm:
At the risk of starting a controversy, I have to mention that SEO, although important as ever, doesn’t affect content quality ratings very much these days.
Google’s topical modeling format of content analysis doesn’t match keywords to search terms, as was previously the case. Instead, it checks out the whole piece of content against user intent, therefore determining whether it should be displayed in specific search results.
That doesn’t mean that SEO isn’t important anymore. It’s quite the contrary, actually.
Keywords used in search terms allow you to see what your audience is searching for, and when you place them in your content, the algorithm uses them as a baseline to match content relevance to search intent.
Therefore, you shouldn’t neglect SEO just because it won’t get you better rankings. It is still a crucial component of content marketing, without which your content may never be found by its intended audience.
You might have heard that only 2,000+ word articles are the gold standard and that writing shorter blogs may negatively impact your rankings.
In truth, quality content has nothing to do with the word count. As long as it is meaningful and valuable to the target audience, Google considers it good content.
This Is What Google’s Algorithm Prioritizes
According to its webmaster blog posts, Google doesn’t care much about anything outside of user experience. They advise marketers to focus on the one thing that matters—providing the absolute best experience for their users—and not speculating the algorithm's workings or requirements.
Content Troubleshooting: 8 Reasons Why Content Underperforms
The Title Is Bland
The title is the first thing you saw on this page. It tells you what the article is talking about, but notice how it is phrased.
A web user who is looking for definitions of quality content will be attracted by the title of this piece simply because it is phrased to catch their attention.
What Does That Tell You About Titles?
That they’re the entryways to your articles. If the entryway of a business looks drab, the chances are good that people will skip on to the next door that catches their attention.
And that’s the secret behind great titles: they must grab the reader’s attention and make them want to read more.
How Do You Create Eye-Catching Titles?
- Get straight to the point. Tell the reader exactly what the article is about without any unnecessary fluff.
- Match their intent. It’s good to phrase the title in a way that matches their search intent. For instance, the title on this article looks exactly like what a user would type into a search engine.
- Highlight a benefit whenever possible. Readers like to know what they’re getting at the end of the day. It’s a good reason to note at least one benefit within the title whenever possible. For instance: Weight Loss Product X Review – Lose Weight Without Exercise or Diets.
It Lacks Relevance
Creating content for the sake of content is detrimental to your marketing practices. Relevance cannot be overstated when it comes to content quality.
At the minimum, your content must contain the appropriate subject matter, at least based on what your target audience expects.
Good content is reliable content, and users won’t find much reliability in content that’s full of inaccuracies. Accurate information is a compulsory feature of quality writing; anything misleading will automatically push your readers to more accurate sources.
Perform thorough diligence when creating your content to ensure that it contains accurate information only. It is wise to regularly update your content too to stay ahead of changes and developments.
Maintaining unquestionable accuracy is one way to gain topical authority.
No Internal Links
It’s impossible to keep people on your website for longer than a few minutes if you don’t link to other relevant pages. Linking is a great way to promote your content and satisfy user intent at the same time.
If people aren’t spending as much time on your website as you’d wish, consider adding some links to relevant pages within your content. It may have a significant impact on the duration of time spent by users on your website.
CTAs provide the perfect opportunity to interact one-on-one with your visitors. Contrary to popular belief, they’re not always about converting or gathering leads.
A CTA can be as simple as requesting comments on the topic. It’s effective because the user’s contribution helps other users and encourages them to join the conversation.
It can also be a “Buy” button, in which case the content is used to convince readers to click on that final CTA.
Nevertheless, don’t be fooled into thinking CTAs must be conversion-related. Some CTAs can tell the reader the actionable steps to take; others can be used to gather information like email addresses for your mailing list.
What’s important is that every piece of content has a CTA at the end. It doesn’t matter how big of an impact it has on your bottom line.
The only bad CTA is no CTA.
A little earlier, I mentioned that SEO is not the holy grail of ranking requirements anymore. However, it is still as important as ever to the performance of any piece of content.
Optimizing content to perform well on search engines requires more than just relevant keywords. Other things that enhance SEO include:
- Visual aids (images, GIFs, videos)
- Readability (content structuring to enhance navigation)
- Backlinks (links to external websites with good reputations)
SEO allows you to expand your reach and target a larger audience organically. If your content lacks proper optimization, it’s unlikely to rank high on SERPs.
Poor On-Page Quality
On-page quality is determined by a number of factors ranging from grammatical errors to technical issues. Here, we won’t talk about page speed or navigation, although they do affect the quality of user experience drastically.
Instead, our focus is on the quality of the content. We’ve already spoken extensively about the importance of well-written content.
It is crucial that you edit your work to remove any and all cheap grammatical errors. Spelling issues tell the reader that you’re not very thorough or couldn’t care less about the article—both are to your detriment.
Fact-checking is another vital prerequisite of quality content. Content quality goes down when there are blatant inaccuracies in your work.
Lastly, the readability of your content plays a significant role in how engaging or relevant it is to your readers. Ensure that the voice, tone, and writing style match your audience; otherwise, you risk alienating them.
Posting new content regularly is the key to steady and continuous growth. No amount of marketing tools can help you if you don’t have sufficient content in the first place.
Web-users appreciate content creators with regular publishing schedules. They’re more reliable as a resource and can be trusted to stay abreast with new developments.
However, if you don’t consistently update your blog, you’re bound to lose visitors. You can only attract so many customers with a handful of blog posts. The best strategy is to keep churning out articles regularly.
How Can You Gauge The Performance Of Your Content?
Ask for feedback
Sometimes the best way to do something is to do it directly. If you want to know whether your content suits your audience, ask them.
Surveys and reviews help a great deal with this. You can send a survey in your email blast or have a live onsite survey for visitors.
Ensure you use a specific set of questions to find out what leads to better (and worse) user engagement.
You need in-depth data, more in-depth than page views, to understand how your content is doing. One of the best tools for this is Google Analytics.
The free analytics tool gives you some useful metrics to analyze the performance of your content. These include bounce rates, pages per visit, scroll depth, and time on page.
Google Analytics offers many more refined data points, so small and large businesses alike can benefit from it. It’s a great way to check how your audience is responding to your content.
Email click-through rates tell you exactly what type of content your audience likes. By checking the topics with the highest CTRs, you can gauge which content your audience is likely to read more of and what they won’t read as much.
Social Media Shares
If your audience likes what you publish, one surefire way to tell is by monitoring social media shares. The more times a piece of content is shared via social media, the more impactful it is.
About THE AUTHOR
After working for multiple digital advertising agencies and managing hundreds of client accounts, spending millions of dollars via Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Native Ads and Direct Media Buying, I took things out on my own and started SparrowBoost. Now, my tight-knit team and I continue to get smarter and more efficient for our strong client base.Learn more about SparrowBoost