Inbound marketing is the preferred strategy of many companies out there and has proven over time to deliver stellar results. Customers nowadays prefer to discover information themselves and base their decisions on research, rather than to simply rely on the most compelling advertisement they’ve seen. And this puts forward creating quality content as a top priority for businesses and marketers.
However, “quality” is a relevant concept, and it is not that easy to describe it in a few words, let alone find the right formula for it.
What Does Quality Content Mean?
The definition of quality content depends on the point of view.
To Google, it’s content that complies with the E-A-T regulations, i.e. it shows expertise, authority, trustworthiness, and provides a positive user experience.
To the customer, it’s all about relevancy, i.e. whether it meets their current and overall needs, and provides a working solution.
To you, as a company, it’s an investment that should pay off in brand awareness, lead generation, conversions, and, ultimately, in actual sales.
While the goals of each party may seem different, what defines good quality content is that it is useful to all. That’s what makes it seem so complicated, but, at the same time, what makes it so simple.
In content marketing, you show your company’s expertise and reliability, by educating them on industry-related topics. The goal is not to advertise your brand, but to show that you know your stuff and are always ready to help.
Of course, there’s much more work to be done in terms of technical SEO and content optimization if you are to reach the top of the SERPs. But it all starts with content quality.
Also, if your end goal is not to trick search engines and users into clicking your links, but to make your content better, then this article is for you.
We’ll skip the part about low-quality content, and foul practices involving click-baiting, scams, spam, and so on.
That said, let’s focus on how to create high-quality content to rank better.
How to Create High-Quality Content
The first thing you should do when working to improve the quality of your content is to read Google’s search quality evaluation guidelines. These are the regulations the search engine company provides to their quality raters – the people who overview if search engine algorithms assess the quality of a page the same way (or close enough) that a human would.
Quality raters don’t actually rate your content, they judge how the algorithm understands and evaluates it. The results are used to improve the overall effectiveness of searches and don’t directly affect your position in the SERPs.
However, they do reflect what a good page is and that’s really important. The doc is a lengthy one (175 pages) and undergoes regular updates, but it’s worth reading and rereading.
The following advice is based on the regulations and best practices discussed in the document and our personal experience and expertise in the field.
1. Focus on What the User Needs
As mentioned, to you, the point of writing content is to bring in traffic and increase conversions. However, to visitors, it’s about how useful the information is. And that’s what you should focus on.
The idea of content marketing is about giving out something for free and hoping that you will get something in return. However, for this to work out what you give away should be valuable and of good quality. This suggests that you are a pro and what you are offering up is amazing, and your paid services will be even more lucrative.
The most prominent ways to identify and understand customer needs are:
- Keyword Research. It’s not enough to simply identify high-volume keywords with low difficulty and build content around them. What you should look for is to match your ideas to what people are interested in. Otherwise, you will be producing content that serves your needs, but not the customer’s.
- Customer Service. People on your team, who are in direct communication with the customer, can give you a lot of valuable insights into what the end-user needs, what issues they encounter, and what they are looking for. You can leverage this information to create educational content that provides answers and solutions.
- Feedback. Whether it is the results of surveys and market research, insights from products and services reviews, or user-generated content, customer feedback can go a long way to better understanding your clients. It allows you to address topics and find new ways to connect your products to your customer’s needs. However, your goal is not to trick them into believing that what you offer is what they need, but to show them how you can be of service and help them solve their actual problems.
2. Understand Search Intent
Simply put, the user wants to receive an adequate answer to their query. This defines quality content first and foremost as content that answers a user’s search intent in the best possible way and will leave the person satisfied and happy with the encounter.
Search intent is what people want to accomplish when implementing an online search. Generally, there are four types:
- Doing Informative Research.
- Looking to Make a Purchase.
- Trying to Find a Physical Location.
- Searching for a Specific Website.
If your content matches the keyword but not the intent, people are more likely to leave and this will signal to Google something is off with your page. And in that case, even if your article (or post, or video) is great and well optimized, its ranking will suffer, because it’s not what people need.
3. Balance Evergreen and Time-Sensitive Topics
People’s interests are affected by trends, and topics that used to be hot a few months ago may not be relevant anymore. That’s why marketers often advise focusing on evergreen content that provides long-term value to the customer. And while this is true, time-sensitive content that matches people’s current needs is equally important.
Both types serve separate purposes and deliver different results that are valuable to your strategy, the customer, and your ranking.
Even if you are not a news provider, there are everyday topics that excite your clients. Creating trendy articles and content will show your customer that you are up to the task of delivering up-to-date information that is useful and cutting-edge.
Customers who enjoy your content tell search engines that you are doing something right. Also, it may pay off in backlinks from other websites and this will improve the overall authority of your domain.
Furthermore, content that is trending may also get you featured on Google Discover and that will bring in additional traffic and increase your website’s visibility in organic searches.
Evergreen content may not deliver the immediate results that trending ones do, but as we all know, it has great SEO value and provides long-term benefits to your website.
Furthermore, if it provides a good user experience where people stay and interact with the content, instead of immediately leaving tells search engines that your page is of high quality.
Evergreen content accumulates more backlinks, mentions, and traffic over time, and can improve your overall online presence and authority, as well as boost your ranking.
However, to remain relevant it should be regularly updated. This will keep the information fresh and remain evergreen.
4. Provide Valuable Information
We have already covered that providing value involves answering search intent and being time-relevant or evergreen. But there’s more to it.
If you break it down, the value in quality content comes to the following traits:
The most important thing about quality content is that it should be reliable. Reliability creates trust and loyalty and this builds up your credibility and reputation. Both are important and affect your overall online presence.
Therefore, if your content is misleading or confusing, this will hurt your credibility, and will ultimately damage your ranking.
Research and Data-Backed Facts
Before you create any kind of content it’s important to do your research. This will give you an idea of what’s already been said on the topic, and how you can contribute with something new. It may also lead you to interesting data that either supports or disproves your initial idea.
You should feature information only from credible sources as this will make you appear trustworthy and that you value a scientific approach. If you have your own company research and data on the topic, you should, by all means, include them too.
Furthermore, linking to high-authority websites improves your domain’s authority.
Sharing your personal experience on the topic and providing relevant insight, adds more value to the article than anything else. An expert has more authority, because they have knowledge and experience.
Publishing case studies and white papers will boost your trustworthiness and credibility and will show you as a reliable source of information.
New or Interesting POV
Thought-leadership content is amongst the best kinds of marketing. It not only proves that you are an expert in the field, but boosts your reputation as a visionary who’s always on the look for innovative solutions.
Content that shows a new perspective that users may not find elsewhere, is more valuable and interesting.
Helpful or Entertaining
What people want is content that’s either helpful or entertaining. You should be able to identify what your audience is after by analyzing keyword semantic and search intent.
However, it’s good to know that one type of content is not better than the other. According to Google’s quality guidelines, value is judged by how well a page matches the user’s intent.
For example, a funny post is of no use to someone trying to install new software, and a how-to tutorial matters little to a user who is looking for entertainment.
5. Work on Readability
Readability does not directly relate to ranking, but it may affect user experience. It’s relevant mostly to written content (articles, social media posts, blogs, etc.) and refers to how easy your text is to read and understand.
Breaking up your text into topics and subtopics via H2 and H3 titles makes it more comprehensible to both people and robots.
For search engines, this provides a clear structure and makes the content easier to crawl and index.
Furthermore, it allows you to better distribute your keywords and clearly define the intent of your article. This can be done by using keywords and longtail keywords in the H2 and H3 titles.
For users, this makes the text easier to scan and understand what the content is about. Text structure also allows people to better follow your logic and understand the steps that should be taken in tutorials and how-to posts.
Long compound sentences can be great for expressing complex ideas, but they are tough to read and follow. Especially online and on mobile devices. So try sticking to shorter constructions when possible and avoid combining ideas. The simpler, the better.
For example, when browsing on their phone, if a person has to scroll down to finish the sentence they may become confused and have to scroll back up to reread it. This hurts their experience and can force them to give up on your text altogether.
The same goes for vocabulary. Complex terminology and lingo may make the content incomprehensible to some users and drive them away. Try to explain ideas in simple words and provide definitions where necessary.
This goes especially for tech companies and people providing educational content to the end-users of complex technologically advanced products. You shouldn’t assume that the customer knows what you mean. Your goal should be that even a beginner can understand the tutorial. If the topic is too complicated, consider providing a video that will help you explain things clearly.
However, if your content is targeting more advanced users who are, indeed, supposed to be familiar with the terminology, you should indicate this in the title to avoid confusion.
If you are an active online user, you’ve probably noticed that recently articles tend to be shorter with shorter paragraphs. Some include only a single sentence.
While this may be confusing to people who are used to reading books and such, the change is not only a decorative one.
The goal of shorter paragraphs is to improve readability on mobile screens and provide enough white space between text blocks to make them easier to read.
As with sentences, the longer you go, the harder it becomes to follow when reading on a small screen.
Search engines love bullets and numbers. They provide them with highlights in the text and also offer ready material for featured snippets and rich snippets.
Bullets also improve readability for humans, because they make it easier to scan and understand the information.
This improves UX and is a good signal to search engines.
Spelling and Grammar
While spelling and grammar, too, don’t directly affect ranking, they do affect user experience. If your text is full of mistakes, people may find it frustrating to read and leave, even if the information is valuable.
So don’t skip on proofreading and if you encounter issues yourself, hire a professional editor to help.
Quality content is not the only card at play when it comes to SEO and ranking, but it is nevertheless pertinent.
With Google E-A-T becoming a ranking factor and the increasing tendency of people basing their purchasing decisions on online research, top-quality content becomes vital for your business performance online.
The key is to remember that your goal here is not to advertise – it’s to help, educate, or entertain.
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