As a marketer, you’ve probably heard the term “quality content” more than your own name. But have you ever asked yourself what it really means?
As the content marketing landscape increases in competitiveness, the importance of knowing what is great content – and obviously, how to produce it – has significantly risen.
Let’s take a deep look at what it REALLY is, and what you need to know as a marketer when it comes to producing outstanding content.
What is high-quality content
High-quality content is content that gets outstanding results. It achieves goals and marketing objectives and is best assessed by taking a look at its performance.
The clearest way to determine the quality of content
Most people, when trying to determine the quality of a piece of content, use an approach that consists of looking at a list of attributes and characteristics, and checking if the piece has them.
While characteristics have a very important play at how well a piece performs, they are not direct indicators of quality content. A piece can have all of those attributes, yet may not have good results – which is exactly what high quality pieces achieve.
What your measurement of quality should be based on is on data. Results are the best way to determine the level of quality of a piece. They are the only way to objectively measure it.
It doesn’t matter how much time and money you spent on a piece of content, or if it looks very visually appealing. The way to evaluate quality is by the results it gets.
With data and results, I’m mainly talking about things like how well it ranks in the SERPs, it’s daily visitors, it’s conversion rate, it’s click-through rate, etc. I’m going to talk more about which of these points you should look for soon.
What are the characteristics of high-quality content?
We now know that to precisely evaluate quality, we need to use objective data. But what data should we look for?
It’s now time to pin down the characteristics of content that screams quality!
Characteristics of quality content
Meets a goal
You work hard on a piece. You get it published. It looks good, has relevant information and a lot of great images, but doesn’t perform well.
Is it considered quality content?
You can’t evaluate a basketball player based on its height, speed, and shot accuracy. Those may be signs that correlate with being a good basketball player, but the real performance of the player isn’t revealed until you ask him to play and help to win the match.
If he can help you reach your goal of winning the match, even despite lacking extreme levels of speed and accuracy, he’s a good player. Makes sense?
*That doesn’t mean being fast or having other qualities doesn’t help. The best players are almost always fast. But they are not objective indicators of quality.
It ranks well on Google
Google is constantly working on improving its complex language processing algorithms, like BERT or Rankbrain, that use machine learning to show the best results for each query and the highest quality content.
These algorithms are sometimes evaluated by over 10,000 raters hired by Google. These ‘quality raters’ are given actual searches, and they evaluate the quality of the pages that appear in the top results.
The data generated by the raters is fed to google’s algorithms to improve its accuracy at showing quality content.
The outcome: an algorithm that is extremely accurate at measuring the quality of websites and their content, and delivers the most relevant results to search engine users.
Clearly, there’s a HUGE focus on quality. If your content is ranked high, Google itself gave you the thumbs up, and you’ve got a marvelous piece.
It drives backlinks and shares naturally
A good indicator of high-quality content is backlinks and shares, especially when they happen naturally.
Every backlink and share is a point that your player (your content) is scoring. Bad players generally have a bad time scoring. Good ones, the ones that craft the art of producing great content, score again and again.
It has a high CTR
Is your content good at making people click when they see it?
If you take a look at your best-performing pieces, you’ll notice higher click through rates across the board.
Google rewards this type of content by ranking it higher. And if you’re using paid ads, the price that you have to pay to advertise this type of content is lower. Low CTR, more often than not, means low quality and lacks engagement.
Dwell times are low
Another important factor that Google is suspected to be considering along with CTR is dwell time.
Dwell time is the time a user spends looking at your content after clicking it. In some cases, your content may have a high CTR, but it can still be considered low quality if its average dwell time is low.
You want to make content that people consume. If they’re clicking and leaving, it’s not high quality, and Google is quick to notice somehow.
Whether directly or indirectly, time spent on content is something that Google is likely using to measure engagement and to score pages.
Subjective characteristics of quality content
These characteristics don’t define quality content because they aren’t hard data, but they are common across quality pieces. Make sure that each piece of content that you make has the following characteristics:
Meets the search intent
Something that’s clear is that good content provides information that is relevant and helpful to the searcher. When a piece of content fails to meet the search intent, it fails to do its purpose and is lost deep in the SERPs.
It’s almost impossible for a piece of content to get excellent results and fail to meet the search intent at the same time.
It provides value
You’re probably very aware of this but I’m including this tip anyways because of its importance.
Your audience doesn’t want content. They want valuable content. Some businesses forget about this fact. They make it a goal to churn X amount of content every month, but don’t prioritize value.
Content that doesn’t provide value is a waste of time, both for you and your audience.
Always prioritize value. If that means you can only release half the amount of content, so be it.
Nowadays, just being informative is almost never enough. People expect your content to also be interesting or entertaining.
Think about it. The information that you’re displaying is probably already out there. But if you can display it in an engaging way, you can differentiate your content and people will prefer it over other sources of information.
Keep an eye on engagement KPIs such as dwell time, CTR, bounce rate, likes and shares, and pages per session. Make it a priority to consistently create the type of content that your audience finds engaging.
How to create high-quality content
The biggest dilemma today is: How do we go about creating high quality content? What should we aim for to inform, engage, and captivate readers?
Defining what quality content is is extremely useful, but doesn’t necessarily help us at the time of producing it.
That’s why I also brought you some proven, practical tips and examples to help you create the type of content that nails it today:
Engage with visual content
Our brains are wired to quickly analyze and understand visual content.
In fact, the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual.
No wonder that images and videos are so engaging.
You need to leverage their power as much as possible and fill your content with images and other forms of visual content, such as :
- Animates Gifs
Text content can be repurposed into an infographic, giving it a visual touch – and in turn, making it more engaging and shareable.
Back up your claims citing statistical research and mentioning the source
Making a bold statement? Or presenting a new idea to your audience?
Backing up your claims not only helps to convince the reader that what you’re saying is true but also makes you and your brand look more professional.
When you show statistics, mention studies, or link to authority websites, you also provide valuable information that gives additional insight to readers
This is an example of two statements with the same message. The difference is that one is stats-based, and the other isn’t:
“Many visitors will quickly leave your site if it doesn’t load right away”
“53% of visitors leave your site if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds or less” (Google)
Let’s say you were to include the first statement in your content. You could get the same message through by using the second one, but with more credibility and precision.
Readers are also more likely to see the importance in the statement because they can see, numerically, how much loading speed can affect their business.
Display Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. (E-A-T)
In August 2018, a Google algorithm update called “the medic update” drastically changed the factors that Google considered when ranking YMYL (Your money or your life) websites.
Since then, showing Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (known as E-A-T) in your content has become of paramount importance.
High quality content that displays E-A-T signals is loved by Google. I wrote an in-depth article to help you understand how to make this kind of content:
- Recommended reading : Google E-A-T for SEO – breaking the Enigma
Follow Google’s guidelines
In one of Google’s many guidelines, there’s a section called “What counts as a high quality site” that’s worth pure gold.
It contains a list of questions that you should ask yourself to assess the quality of a page or article:
From Google’s Webmaster Central blog:
- “Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
- Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
- Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
- Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?”
For the full list of questions, read Google’s advice to Webmasters last August 2019 responding to questions about Core Updates and what they mean.
Use engaging content formats
Videos are engaging and effortless to consume. They are and will never stop being one of the most popular and engaging content formats.
One of the issues with video and one of the reasons why many content creators don’t do them is that they are usually a bit more difficult to create due to the requirement of certain skills like speaking in front of a camera and editing.
But if you can get your hands around doing them, they are proven to win big:
59% of executives say they prefer to watch a video than reading text. (Wordstream)
If video and photographs had a child, that would be the cinemagraph.
Cinemagraphs are pictures with minor movements that form a short video clip.
Top brands are implementing the cinemagraphs with outstanding results:
Image from Flixel
If you have the resources, it’s time to get on-board. People love the cinemagraph, and they work very well in certain sectors like travel, sports, lifestyle.
Use stats-based content
A really good example of this is the series of informational posts that Rand Fishkin, from Spartoro, regularly publishes in his pursuit to raise awareness of Google’s monopolistic practices.
His articles shine with interesting data sets about search engine market share, SERPs clickthrough and the like.
How to avoid site issues that spoil high-quality content
In recent updates, Google has made it harder and harder for low-quality content to rank well. To filter out this type of content, Google takes a look at a series of factors and signals like grammar mistakes and excessive ads.
You need to do your best to remove these signals from your content. Otherwise, Google will think your content quality is poor.
In particular try to avoid:
Over-monetization: Content with excessive monetization through affiliate links or other means.
Excessive ads: Avoid having too many ads as they worsen user experience.
Keyword stuffing: Loading your content with keywords in an attempt to get better rankings will get you penalized.
Unnatural linking: Never do artificial linking to manipulate rankings.
Misleading titles or content: Clickbaity titles that trick readers instead of accurately describing content.
Low E-A-T: Having a low E-A-T score will tank your rankings (especially in the YMYL sector.)
Malicious behavior: Such as viruses, phishing, theft.
For a more extensive list of malpractices, check out this article by Search Facts.
Creating high quality content isn’t easy. It takes trial and error, looking at your results to see what kind of content works, and optimizing your content creation process accordingly.
After reading this article, you might have noticed that some of what you thought was your best content is actually mediocre. What defines quality is not what we thought, and we can only see its real value until we take a look at its results.
It is worth taking into account that success is not solely dependant on producing good content. Having the right systems and resources in place to promote that content is equally important.
…but that’s a different story altogether beyond the scope of this article.
Do you have anything add in terms of what entails ‘great content’?