How Does Google Judge Content Quality?
Since the initial implementation of Google Panda in February of 2011, it has become clear that Google puts a heavy focus on quality, penalizing those sites that have spammy, duplicate, or all around poor content. But with over two million blog posts published every day, it can be hard to stand out at all, let alone as high quality.
This has led content marketers to, instead of focusing on producing as much content as possible, assess each piece of content, ensuring its value before posting online. But what actually counts as “quality” content? What signals are search engines looking for that will boost your content as better than other pieces targeting the same audience?
Good grammar and sentence structure are both essential in content marketing. Search engines are getting better at understanding content, and more importantly, how users are interacting with your content. Misspellings, bad grammar, poor punctuation, and other simple mistakes will discount your credibility, leading users to question if what you’re saying is actually true.
Take the time before publishing any content to double, triple, or even quadruple check for these easy mistakes. If you can, have someone proofread your work as well. It never hurts to have a second set of eyes look over your content to ensure it’s ready.
Write for Your Human Audience
Google has always made it clear that content should be written for the human audience, not for the search engines. While in the past it may have been easier to write for search engines, updates to the algorithm have made it increasingly difficult to do this.
In most situations, writing for your audience will naturally benefit you in the search engines as well. Don’t forget SEO optimization, but don’t make it the focus of your content. Finding the balance here will be a big part of what makes your content great. A good content user experience is about more than the words on the page. It’s about the images, the structure of the page, and how relevant it is to those who read it.
Don’t Just Optimize for Specific Keywords
Keywords are still a big part of SEO and should not be ignored, but they should no longer be the primary focus of each piece of content as they once were. With Google’s Hummingbird update, the importance of a set keyword, long tail or short tail, is not as strong.
Rather than focusing on a keyword such as “collision repair” make sure the blog or webpage you are writing thoroughly covers the topic, answering questions people searching for this keyword will have. Naturally the keyword will be used, but it shouldn’t be stuffed in at every possibility. Google is now capable of a more semantic search, better understanding searcher intent based on the search terms used.
Going back to our “collision repair” example, what other terms would people be searching for relating to this? Instead of trying to include all these on the page, Google recognizes that “auto collision” “collision repair” and “automotive collision repair” all have similar searcher intent. Now targeting one of these keywords may help you rank better for the others without needing to stuff all these in one page. Make sure that above all else, you’re writing for user experience, ranking for keywords will often follow naturally.
Search engines are constantly looking for cues from users, looking to make things easier and better. Some of the things they look for when ranking content are the interactions a piece receives, including:
- Links – links are still a very important part of SEO. If people are linking to your content, it shows search engines that your page is seen as an authority. The more links, the more relevant it will seem. Beware though, Google has stated that “guest blogging is dead”. Make sure these links come by honest means, not through buying or trading links.
- Sharing – content isn’t made to sit, being irrelevant to users. Make sure your content reaches as many people as possible. Successful content marketing isn’t one step then you’re done, it’s a process. Social media will be one of your greatest tools for promoting and sharing your content.
- Bounce rate – are people going to your page and immediately leaving without looking around? This is a red flag for search engines that your content doesn’t hold what the user is looking for. Make sure you are targeting the right audience, and that your content is not only relevant, but useful to searchers.
- Mobile experience – on April 21st, 2014 Google updated the algorithm making it not only important, but almost essential to have a mobile site. Because mobile users will surpass desktop users this year, it is important to give them a clean experience when viewing your content. Format your pages to appeal to these readers as well as those still searching on a computer.
If your content doesn’t seem to have any interactions, Google will look over it for other pages. Quality content is shown in the pages users read, gain what they’re looking for, then share or link to on their own pages.
Quality content is about more than the spelling and grammar of your text. It’s about making the best user experience. Instead of trying to write for the search engines, write instead for the users. This naturally will lead to what Google sees as good quality content, improving your rankings over time.