For years, better SEOs and Google have been advising website owners to produce useful, quality content for users (not just for search engines). Google’s recent escalation in the war on webspam has made this much more important than ever. Webmasters and even professional SEO consultants sometimes get so caught up in the optimization process – following the rules to the letter or finding ways to get out of various penalties when rules have been broken – that they seem to lose sight of what good content means.
Quality content has little to do with the number of keywords you have worked into the text, what is in the H1 heading or meta description. But it does have everything to do with how well a website will rank in the search results.
Here are a few things to check the next time you are putting together a new blog post or web page:
Does it make sense?
Making sure you are publishing quality content is one of those things that is easier said than done. Objectively looking at your own work can be very difficult. You are so involved with your business that you may sometimes forget that your audience may not always be able to follow what you are talking about (take a look around this site and I am sure you will find some examples of where the content will make little sense to an internet marketing newcomer – but we try to keep it understandable).
Grammar and spelling count, and so does readability. If you wouldn’t hand it in as a high school English (or whatever language) assignment, don’t put it on your site. Try not to worry so much about whether or not you are using your favorite keywords enough and focus on the message or “theme”. What do those keywords actually mean? Is your content well-written enough convey that meaning? If so, your keywords – and more than a few other words people may search for about that topic – are very likely to be there without much additional thought.
Is it original?
Does it serve a purpose for people other than yourself?
People looking for shortcuts often tend to only hear the beginning of things like instructions and guidelines. Many webmasters read about “what Google wants” and get as far as “frequently updated” and get the idea that they need thousands of blog posts. So they publish “thin” articles, recycle old posts, or copy from other sites. None of these things serve a useful purpose to your audience, therefore recycled content is bad for SEO. If you already said it before and have nothing to add, it is just filler. On a strictly technical level (ignoring users and thinking only of search engines), your new content will actually be competing for rank with the old content if it is still in place and the new does not sufficiently expand on the subject.
Remember and Tweet this SEO mantra: “Bad for users equals bad for Google”
Is it “Good”?
This is where determining quality gets a little more subjective. You and your competitors all have a similar message. What makes yours stand out from the crowd? What value do you add? Take an honest look at your content and ask yourself if you would hit the Like or +1 button or post a link to this content if it was not your own. No? Well, why would anyone else? The “would I Like this” test is a good way to tell if your content has the potential to gain links to your website naturally. Links and social signals have sort of become a form of currency, but remember that they are like votes, referrals or endorsements and not just something to be exchanged just for your benefit. Give users something good – useful, entertaining, or even controversial – and they will tell people about it by Liking, Tweeting, linking or whatever way they prefer to share. They will also be more likely to stay around a little longer on your site or return later. Those things are important to your search engine rankings, too, since they indicate that people are finding your website useful. For more about what makes a site stand out, check out Eric Enge from Stone Temple’s discussion with Google’s Matt Cutts about what makes a quality site.
It is worth noting that these things apply to non-written content, too. Videos can be a very good way to get your message across, but it seems that many people forget users and think only of search engines – that simply having any old video will magically boost your search engine position. Sometimes this is true, but don’t count on that lasting very long. Like written posts or pages, someone else is going to have a good video about the same topic and will become more popular than your filler clip.
How important is quality content?
Will having perfectly written, audience-targeted, original content guarantee you the top spot in Google? No – you also need to have all the technical optimization taken care of and do some marketing to get the word out (and get some incoming links). Will you be able to rank at the top of the search results pages without good quality content? Maybe in the short term… but not for very long.