If you listen to Matt Cutts, leader of Google’s Webspam Team, you’ll know that high quality content sits right at the top of Google’s list of ranking factors. The reason for this is quite simple: it offers Google users a better user experience. In this article, we’ll explain what is meant by high quality content and how to produce it for your website.
What is high quality content?
Essentially, high-quality content is something that does its job well. Every web page has a purpose, such as to inform, entertain, compare or persuade. How well your website does that in relation to other sites writing about the same topic is a critical factor in how well it ranks.
Besides purpose, you will also need to ensure your content is right for your audience. If you run a blog about knitting and you want to show your readers how to make a specific item, then a post for beginners would need different content to a post for more advanced knitters; for example, you would need to define some of the terms and explain some of the techniques.
To create high quality content takes hard work. What you publish needs to be well researched, current and go into more detail than content on other sites. This means it has to be longer, too. According to Backlinko, the average word count needed to get on the first page of Google is now 1890 words – and rising. Thin content no longer cuts the mustard.
Why topic coverage is important to website quality
Google assesses the quality of your website by looking at the breadth and depth of your content. Its language-based algorithm can understand the topic that you are writing about: it finds your keywords and then looks at the number and frequency of associated topic words in the rest of the text.
For example, if you ran a building company and had a page about your loft conversion service, Google’s algorithm would search for all the associated topic terms it would expect to see on such a page: planning permission, building control, electrical installation, insulation, etc. The length of the page, the additional media (images, videos, etc.) included in the content and the number of associated topic words would all be used to see how relevant your content is.
A couple of hundred words giving a brief description and a list of your services wouldn’t rank very highly. A longer page, giving a detailed account of your services and how they benefit the customer would rank higher because Google considers this to offer a better user experience.
The importance of organic linking
The second way Google judges quality is through organic linking. The word organic is important here because Google believes that other sites will naturally link to high quality content. To rank highly, therefore, your content has to earn links from other websites and if those websites are high quality themselves, the better is it for you.
What Google won’t tolerate, and is a breach of their guidelines, is taking part in unethical link schemes. These include paying for links, link exchanging, links in footers or sidebars, large-scale guest posting, optimised anchor text and various other practices. Taking part in these can lead to Google downranking you or even giving you a penalty.
Instead, you are looking to get links from reputable websites, shares and links on social media and good reviews – all of which tell Google that people think you have a great website.
The implications for SEO
Whilst it is still important to optimise your pages for the keywords you want to rank for, you can no longer rely just on this for on-page optimisation. When it comes to creating great content, you now need to ensure that you also optimise with the correct topic words and phrases.
In addition, those who have used an SEO company to get them backlinks need to think about their strategy very carefully. A good SEO company’s role, today, is to help you create the great content and then put it in front of the people who count. In this sense, SEO is all about PR: getting your content liked and shared by social media influencers and linked to from leading blogs and authority websites in your niche.
In the future, according to Matt Cutts, even this won’t be needed. He claims Google is only a few years away from perfecting an algorithm whereby it will no longer need to rely so heavily on backlinks as a way to judge quality.
So, what do you need to do to create quality content?
Here’s a checklist for each piece of content you create:
1. Know the audience for that piece of content
Who are they? What are they searching for? What information or help do they need? What’s the best way to present that information to them?
2. Know your purpose
Why are you creating this content? What do you want to achieve? What’s the best way to achieve it?
3. Add value to your content
Make sure your content adds to what is out there on the internet and doesn’t just rephrase what is already there. To achieve this, you need to expand or update on things already published or offer something entirely new.
4. Make sure you use topic words
Where relevant, make sure your content includes the topic words and phrases that both readers and search engines would expect to see. For SEO purposes, make sure the important ones are included in subheadings too.
5. Make your content accessible to readers
If people are going to link to you and share your content it needs to be accessible. Make sure the language is at a level that the intended audience can understand; use subheadings, bullets, numbered lists and bold to make it easier to access information; include relevant images and graphics to illustrate your points and link to other, high-quality websites that will be of benefit to your readers.
6. Cut the fluff
Whilst Google is ranking longer content, padding out existing web pages with waffle just to increase your word count isn’t going to work. Google’s algorithm is more sophisticated than that and your readers would find the content boring. Instead, add more interesting sections to keep them engaged.
7. Make sure your content is well written
High quality content should be technically accurate, coherent and interesting to read.
From reading this article, you should now have a better understanding of how developments in Google’s algorithm are having an impact on SEO. Google is concentrating much more on quality and organic links and in order to rank highly, these are the areas in which you need to focus with your SEO.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should neglect important technical SEO factors such as site security, speed and reliability.
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