We all know quality content is essential to a winning SEO strategy but how do you measure something like ‘quality’?
In this article, we’re going to start by defining what quality content means in modern SEO – something many brands still struggle to clarify. Then we’re going to look at how you can check the quality of content before you publish it and look back at the content you’ve already published on your site.
What does ‘quality content’ actually mean?
This term gets banded around so much that it’s lost all meaning over the years. Of course, it doesn’t help that ‘quality’ is a highly subjective thing, but your content is going to fall short if it doesn’t meet the following criteria:
- Valuable: Offers something of value that your audience can’t get elsewhere.
- Accessible: Content that’s there when users need it and provides a positive user experience every step of the way.
- Compelling: Titles that compel users to click through and content that compels them to take action.
Before you create any kind of content, ask yourself – what problem is this going to solve for our audience? Also, bear in mind there’s little value in repetition. Instead, create content that tells search engines and users that you have something unique to offer. You’re not like the other brands in your industry; you’re better.
Accessible content needs to be two things. First, it needs to be in the right place when users are looking for it – ranking for a search term in Google, visible to the right audience in Facebook, part of a targeted remarketing campaign, etc.
If your content isn’t within reach when your audience needs it, it’s worthless to them.
Once users click through, your content also needs to be accessible on your site. This is where untimely popups, poor layouts and other UX issues can prevent people from engaging with your content.
Finally, quality content also needs to be compelling enough to inspire action – otherwise, where’s the value in it for you? This starts with headlines, images, thumbnails (or a previous page in your sales funnel) that compels users to click through. As for the destination page, every piece of content you publish should have a defined marketing objective, whether it’s likes, shares, conversions, email signups or simply directing users to the next page in your sales funnel.
The point is, every piece of content should have a clear goal and convince users to take the desired action.
How can I check the quality of our content?
It’s much easier to check and manage the quality of your content as you create and publish it, rather than retrospectively grade content you’ve already published. So we’ll start with the checks you can run with every piece of content you create before we move on to the more challenging task of checking your existing content.
Check #1: Content value and originality
From your audience’s perspective, this is by far the most important characteristic of quality content. In terms of value, it should be absolutely obvious what any piece of content has to offer users. If it’s not obvious to you, it certainly won’t be to them.
As for originality, the first thing you want to check is that your content isn’t plagiarised. There are plenty of tools like Copyscape for this but only helps you stay away from duplicate content. It doesn’t tell you whether your content is original in terms of topic or approach.
Google is actually the best tool for testing this. First, search for the keyword you’re targeting and then type in your title ideas to see what comes up for both searches.
If you get a page full of the exact same kind of content you’re planning to publish, you need to question whether it’s worth targeting this keyword at all and (if it is) how you can create something unique that offers value.
Check #2: Spelling, punctuation and grammar
Machine learning has drastically improved the capability of spelling and grammar checking software. With tools like Grammarly you can create content with added confidence that the majority of your typos and grammar slips will be flagged up for correction.
The majority isn’t good enough, though.
The best way to check for spelling, punctuation and grammar mistakes is to have human editors check everything before you publish. This counts for graphics, videos and any other content that includes text as well.
Don’t expect your writers or designers to proofread their own work because they won’t be able to see their own mistakes clearly.
Check #3: Fact check
Since 2015, Google has been actively looking at ways to rank content based on the accuracy of information included. We also know the search giant has enough machine learning smarts to answer a wide range of queries with featured snippets, based on information it deems to be accurate.
You may have also noticed people on the internet are very quick to point out misinformation, spelling mistakes or any other faults they can pick up on – none of which is good for brand reputation.
So check your facts.
Related reading: Fact checking guide for content marketers
Check #4: Formatting
Ideally, you should have a style guide in place that means everything you publish follows a fairly strict format. Above all, you want to make sure your content is formatted to make it easier to read and more engaging – plus tick the following boxes for search engines:
- Conversational language
- Short paragraphs
- Headings to break up different points
- Bullet point lists
- Images and other visuals breaking up chunks of text
Above all, your content should be easy to scan so users can quickly get an idea of the main points and then delve in for more detail where they need it. Make sure any images or visuals you use are relevant, optimised for search and correctly attributed where necessary.
Check #5: Keywords
While you should never force keywords into your content, it’s always a good idea to include them in the following places where possible:
- Your page title
- Your introduction
- Headings (h1, h2, h3 etc)
In most cases, it should be relatively easy to work keywords into your title and introduction. With headings, it’s great if you can work your keywords into them but focus on creating descriptive headings that help users understand what your content includes. Don’t force keywords in there.
Elsewhere on the page, use keyword variations and related terms to avoid repeating the same phrases over and again. Repetition can sound awkward, spammy and, in extreme cases, could get you flagged up for keywords stuffing.
Check #6: Outgoing links
Every page you publish is going to link externally to other pages in some way. At the very least, you’ll be linking to other pages on your site and you want to make sure all of these links are working and pointing to the right place.
In many cases, you’ll also link to other websites in your content and this is best practice for every blog post you publish. However, you want to make sure you’re linking to trusted sources and information that’s relevant to your own content.
How can I check the existing content on our website?
The checks we covered in the previous section can all be applied to your existing content as well. The problem is, doing this manually for every piece of content you’ve ever published will be time-consuming. As we say, it’s easier to run these checks as you publish content.
However, there are a number of automated checks you can run to flag up potentially ‘low quality’ content that could hurt your search ranking.
- Outgoing links: Check for any broken outgoing links, especially to other pages on your site that might need updating (after switching to HTTPS, for example).
- Incoming links: Regularly check your link profile to assess the quality of links pointing to your content and disavow anything that could hurt your ranking.
- Bounce rates: High bounce rates (for sessions without a conversion) suggest users couldn’t find what they were looking for on your page.
- Time on page: Low time spent on your page (for sessions with no conversion, only one page visited) suggests users quickly decided they didn’t like what they found on your page.
- High traffic vs no conversions: Your content is getting a lot of views but people aren’t taking action.
- High impressions vs low CTR: For ads and social content, this suggests your headlines and snippets aren’t compelling users to click through.
- Drop-off: When a user leaves your sales funnel, your content hasn’t convinced them to take the desired action.
The above signals don’t tell you that low-quality content is the problem specifically but they are good warning signals. More importantly, these are all reports that can be automated so you don’t have to manually assess every page on your site.
Update your existing content
The final and best way to check your existing content for quality is to update everything you’ve published every few years – perhaps even more regularly. Industries evolve over time, the resources you link to become less relevant and your target audience’s needs will also change as the years roll by. To keep your content fresh and relevant, and to maintain the level of quality you worked so hard to achieve, update your old content to make sure it keeps getting results.
Related reading: Content: How to reduce, reuse and recycle
For everything new you create, make sure it’s valuable, accessible and compelling to your target audience and go back to your content over time to ensure these three things still apply – and this includes your blog posts.
Web pages earn search credibility over time and it’s amazing how far a bit of content maintenance can go. So think of quality content as an ongoing process rather than something that ends once you push the publish button.
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