How to Determine Content Quality and Write Accordingly
There seems to exist a broad consensus that “content is king”, but only great content or rather quality content.
With the so called Panda or high quality update Google made quality content the ultimate goal. How to determine content quality though?
This is the second part of my series dealing with content strategy. Last time I defined what content actually is.
Content is NOT What You Think it Is
It was the number one mistake in my ten content strategy mistakes list to mix up non-content filler material with actual content.
In a way this just reflects Google’s definition of content, where shallow content, not fulfilling the user intent is doomed after Panda.
Until then content has been mass produced on so called content farms by underpaid writers who often did not have a clue about what they write about.
Google of course does not tell us what quality content is, they just suggest a few questions we have to ask ourselves.
I have asked myself similar questions long before the high quality update and the new content marketing craze. This is what I’ve found out:
Quality Content Has Sources
Quality content has sources that is outgoing links. There are not too many, just enough to prove your point without merely creating a link list.
A link list containing just of links isn’t really quality content. An article has to cite sources, a few of them, maybe several.
It has to offer links to more similar content for further reading. Sources are ideally less opinionated and more scientific or
Quality Content is More than Opinion
Quality content means things other people can look up and see for themselves. When someone writes that “SEO is bullshit” and everybody claps – it’s still not quality content.
It’s just opinion. An article like “SEO is a thriving but controversial industry” would be probably of higher quality.
Here again you either have to state what everybody agrees on first or cite sources where the common sense approach to a topic is explained.
Also some numbers might be useful, statistics for example to back it up. Just make sure the content is balanced not just a rant.
Quality Content Has an Author
The author has to be a real person, a trustworthy one – someone who has a name, not just “Admin” or “John”. Otherwise you can never be sure what the motives were to write it, what bias led to the opinions expressed in it.
Even the most matter of fact or “objective” article reflects personal bias. You take a lot of things for granted when you write while someone else might think they are weird.
In this case the reader can look up the author and from the name, sex, age or wok s/he does deduce why s/he writes in that particular manner.
Quality Content is Not Just Official Babble
Just listen to politicians. You know who they are, there is an author but they often manage to speak a lot without saying anything really.
They don’t risk ostracizing voters and thus try always to say what the mainstream electorate wants to hear.
Quality content on the contrary does not hide your opinion as something natural. It doesn’t try to cover it.
Opinion is not presented as self-evident, something we have to believe in without questioning. Quality content thus incites debate.
Many corporation use impersonal and bland sounding language full of corporate newspeak that is merely mean to hide the truth in many cases. Such babble is not quality content. That’s why most press releases do not show up on Google.
Quality Content is Focused
It doesn’t meander from one topic to another. It’s not like small talk barely scratching the surface. The quality is in the depth. The great writer uncovers hidden gems.
It’s not just stating the obvious either. It’s questioning stereotypes and rethinking old ideas. Sometimes it’s even contesting them.
Another article stating that content is king or rather, in today’s words, that content marketing is the new must have or do is not enough. Quality content deals with the why, the how.
Quality Content also Deals with Recipients
Quality content also deals with “the who”. Who is the content for? The article is written with a specific audience or rather persona in mind. It doesn’t have to be written though.
There is a persona for image content like the one geared towards Pinterest as well. You just have to know who you are writing for.
I write mostly for an American audience, or you might call it English-speaking audience. I write mostly for men who are a bit geeky, maybe in their twenties to forties.
They have their own websites, they may even sell SEO services. This is still a bit fuzzy though. In the best case you have an exact reader persona or a few of them you write for.
How do you determine content quality? Do you agree with my quality guidelines? Or do you prefer to answer Google’s questions?
SEO 2.0 is not only about Google. The contrary has been always the case.
In SEO 2.0 you do the right thing for the reader and Google – ideally – rewards you.
I can’t always wait for Google to appreciate my writing and its quality.
Thus I write foremost for my readers and perform better on social media in the short term than on Google in the long term in some cases.
Google Needs Your Content – They Put Ads Around it
In case you want to rank high as in classic SEO content quality is not always the most important factor.
In other words Google needs your quality content but you don’t always need it. Google makes money off your content. By now a lot of third party content ends up being displayed on Google.com itself without proper credit in many cases. Search users do not even click through anymore.
Make sure you have the right content quality for your regular readers though or you lose them.
The quality aspects I mentioned above will help you determine content quality and write accordingly or craft any other type of quality content.
More resources from around the Web on content quality plus its impact on search and rankings:
- What is Quality Content?
- What Does Quality Content Mean?
- Finding more high-quality sites in search
- More guidance on building high-quality sites
- Content quality guidelines
- Toward Content Quality
- How to Create High-Quality Content
Really nice piece. I made the mistake of hiring a ‘content writer’ a few years back, only to get the same kind of non-content that you discuss. I have found it best to act in a purely consultancy role to my clients when it comes to content creation, letting them write about their industry, which they are the experts on, and then helping them with optimizing and “viralizing” that content.
I agree with all you say about what quality content is, but I would say it may even be simpler than that. Quality content either answers my question (correctly of course), educates me, informs me, or entertains me. Unfortunately, I’m not sure a machine like google can figure out whether content does the above or not. However, humans can, and over time they will naturally link to quality, and it will rise to the top… or so I keep telling myself. :) charlie
Matt G: While this approach is easier for you I’m afraid most clients are able to write for the Web yet. Thus I extent my services to more hands on assistance.
charlie: Have you seen my last post on content?
There I defined content almost exactly as you do in your comment.
Quality content is a bit more than just this IMHO.
That’s a lot to take in. I have been writing original content for my blog over the last four years purely for my own entertainment. When I realized that it ranked number one for it’s title on Google I figured it wouldn’t hurt to monetize with adsense. So far it hasn’t really paid off probably because my keyword doesn’t get many searches monthly. Still number one though, lol. I always wondered if it was just the title that got me ranked, the quality of my content or both. I have some other site that I want to SEO and the biggest challenge seems to be getting high PR backlinks. Most forums are now no-dofollow so how in the world do you get quality backlinks?