What Exactly is Quality Content?

magnifying glass on computerAs a web copywriter, I craft content for clients in diverse businesses … everything from Chicago hospitals to specialists in car lift repair! And across industries and subject matters, companies are always looking for the same thing: quality content … that ever-elusive characteristic of writing that makes it rank high in search engines.

But what is it?

When Google and other search engines speak of quality content, what exactly is it that they are referring to? Word choice? Keywords? Tone? The answer is all of these things and none of them—because when it comes to content quality, it’s less about the writing and more about the source.

The Legitimacy of the Site Matters

The main thing search engines try to determine about webpages is usefulness: they want to figure out what pages will most satisfy what users are searching for when they type in a given query. And one of the best ways they determine a page’s usefulness is by looking at the entire site it comes from. If a site appears trustworthy and reliable to Google, it’s considered more likely to produce useful pages.

Questions Google Asks

For Google, evaluating websites is about more than traffic or keywords—it’s about a series of factors that all combine to create rankings. To assess the quality of a webpage, the Google Webmaster Central Blog says these are some of the questions that come into play about the source:

  • Does this site have duplicate articles on the same or similar topics with just slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Is this site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Content Affects Content

No webpage is evaluated in isolation. In determining the value of a site, search engines consider the website source as a whole, meaning very short and/or unhelpful pages can bring down the rankings of longer, more in-depth ones.  Likewise, more useful content is better than less—sites with more content often have higher rank for their individual pages.

How to Improve Content Quality

Even before you hire a copywriter, there are things you can do to improve your content quality, simply by improving the quality of your site. Consider these practical steps:

  • Remove weak pages or merge them with others: Since lower-quality pages will affect the overall valuations of all content on your site, you need to do something about them. Go through your content and locate pages with obsolete content, generic information or outdated writing—then, either delete them or combine them with other pages to increase their usefulness.
  • Redirect links: When your delete or combine pages, make sure you appropriately edit old URLs to go to the new links. If the page has been moved, edit links to direct there; if it’s been deleted, edit them to point to related pages or content.
  • Write useful content: Simply put, according to Google, quality content is useful content. End of story. What this means is that all the content on your website should serve a purpose—for real people—and meet some kind of need. If you want to rank high for the keywords “tee times for golf,“ for example, then your webpage has to provide what users who type in those terms are looking for: tee times for golf courses. If you don’t, Google will find better pages that do.
  • Write longer (but not fluffy) content: Igor Ovsyannykov at Inspiration Feed recommends writing long content rather than short—which means “800 to 1,200 words per blog post.” In the name of writing long posts, however, don’t fill them with empty content; that would only work against the goal of making it useful.

What do you think? Have you considered how your website affects the value of your content? Could you implement changes to your website that would improve its overall quality and thus improve future content?

Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North, a Chicago marketing company that specializes in social media, website design and other online marketing services. Check out the Straight North Blog or follow @StraightNorth on Twitter!

 

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