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. Last year, 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. It was the number one mistake in my ten content strategy mistakes list to mistake non-content filler material for 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 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, outgoing links, not too many, just enough. 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 just opinion, it's based on facts. It means things other people can look up and agree with. When someone writes that SEO is bullshit and everybody claps this is still not quality content. It's just opinion. An article like SEO is a thriving but controversial industry would be probably of higher quality. So 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.
Quality content has an author, someone who has a name, not just "Admin" or "John". The author has to be a real person, a trustworthy one. 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 by an organization. Just listen to politicians. You know who they are, there is an author but they often manage to say 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.
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 the who. Who is the article for? The article is written with a specific audience or rather persona in mind. It doesn't have to be written. 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. 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. 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 on content quality:
- Official Google Blog: Finding more high-quality sites in search
- Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: More guidance on building high-quality sites
- Yahoo Search Help - Content quality guidelines
- Bing - How To Build Quality Content - Webmaster Center blog
- Toward Content Quality - UXmatters
* King Cardinal Creative Commons image by Jen Goellnitz