Quality content. Something we all know is important but try and find a clear and concise definition of what quality is and you might find yourself hitting brick wall after brick wall. But don’t fret. Here’s a full break down on what a certain leading ‘figure’ online thinks and deems is quality content.
What is Quality Content?
A lot of search engine optimization consultants and specialists like to pretend that quality content and the whole concept behind quality content is basically subjective. In other words, different people can come to different conclusions and have different definitions. According to this school of thought, trying to define quality content is like trying to define “love” or “fairness.” Different people from different backgrounds can come to different conclusions. Different people can come up with different definitions.
According to this subjective interpretation of quality content, your guess is as good as mine as to what is quality. As a result, people should have live and let live attitude regarding content. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it. This definition of quality online content is surprisingly popular. In fact, if you talk to link-builders and SEO professionals and SEO consultants, a lot of them subscribe to this definition of quality content. Unfortunately, they are living in a fairytale land. The reality is that, there is such a thing as objective definition of “quality.” Who decides what quality online content is? Very simple. Google does!
The Problem is that there is an Objective Authority: Google!
As much as we’d all like to pretend that subjectivity is how you would personally like to define it, the harsh reality of online publishing is that quality content is what Google says quality content is. The good news is that Google has released several guidelines regarding quality content. This is not a mystery. This is not very hard to find. You only need to go to Google’s official blog and take a look for yourself if how it defines quality content. To reduce it to its core elements, according to Google, quality content should have the following qualities.
It Must Be Useful
At some level or other, quality content must be useful to somebody. People looking for this content must immediately find it useful. Which leads us to the next criteria on.
It Solves Problems
Even if you are sharing entertainment pieces or dramatic pieces on the internet at some level or other, your content solves people’s problems. At the very least, you entertain people. At the very least, your content engages people. Google defines quality content at some level or other as solving some sort of problem or need that the viewer has.
Adds Value to the Lives of Readers
If you’re going to sum up the first two criteria above, quality content must add value to the lives of readers. It must bring something to the table that is very clear and very obvious. The added value must be very easy to understand. The added value must be predominant.
Doesn’t Deceive or Cause Harm
Finally, at the very least, quality content doesn’t engage in scams. It doesn’t deceive and it doesn’t cause some type of harm. While we all know that misinforming people causes harm. At the very least, the type of information contained in your content doesn’t lead readers to lose money, waste their time or otherwise suffer some sort of injury or loss. Clear enough?
Your Problem: These Terms are Still Unclear
As much as Google likes to bend over backwards to lay out what its quality guidelines are. At the end of the day, these terms are still unclear. You don’t really have to nitpick or dive too much into my newt details to really have a problem with Google’s guidelines. Why? They are open-ended. They are ambiguous. In fact, some of the terms can be quite slippery.
Value? What’s value? Whose lives? Which readers? There are many different kinds of readers. There are many types of people that go through your website. Even if Google says your target audience. Which part of your target audience? There’s so many fuzzy edges that even though Google tries to come up with a concrete set of definitions, you’re still left scratching your head. You’re still left guessing. The problem is you’re the person who will have to create quality content so you can get traffic from Google. You’re the person who’s responsible for following Google’s slippery quality guidelines.
Your Problem: Your Costs Increase Due to Lack of Clarity
The problem with Google’s quality content guidelines is that they are slippery. If you are chasing after something slippery, it can get quite costly. Why? You’re going to have to create different types of content. You have to pursue different content strategies. You have to take different sets of actions. All these initiatives cost time, effort and money. Your costs increase due to the lack of clarity. It actually would be quite nice if Google pretty much dictated the kind of specific and concrete content it would like.
Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. There are millions upon millions of niches. Google will run out of money trying to come up with concrete quality content examples for all these millions of niches. This is why they are happy to shift the cost and problem solving to you. They basically give you the problem and tell you to make it work. Otherwise, they’ll penalize you by not sending you traffic.
The Solution? Know Your Audience
The real solution to defining quality content is to truly know your audience. If you have a clear relationship with and clear idea of who your audience is, your job of figuring out the definition of quality content making it work becomes much easier. The good news is that you don’t have to approach this problem from a purely philosophical or speculative perspective. There are many concrete ways and clear questions you can ask to know who your audience is. Once you know who your audience is, you can then know what they like and what engages them. Here are some clear guidelines you should follow in regards to your target audience.
Know What Topics They Engage With
If you think you know your audience, you might be mistaken. Often times, people say one thing and do another. Often times, people respond one way to surveys, but their behavior is actually very different from their survey answers. That’s just the fact of life. Maybe people aren’t consciously lying, but that’s the net effect. If you want to truly know your audience, you have to pay attention to what they say and how they respond to certain content. Also, you have to pay attention to what they share. This is a key component in truly knowing who your audience is and what engages your audience.
Pay attention to their actions. Pay attention to the type of content they share.
Chances are, a clear pattern will emerge. This should be your biggest source of clues. Figure out what they share in social media. Finally, know your target audience’s habits and preferences. Again, social media can supply a lot of the answers. You would be surprised at the interesting habits your audience has. They may comment in a certain way. They may process information in a certain way. They might prefer consuming content that is formatted a certain way. Pay attention to all these small details.
One quick shortcut is to reverse engineer competitors that are already engaging your audience. Pay attention to the kind of content they share with your audience. Do these pieces of content work? Unfortunately, the clearest answer you will get is to do extensive experimentation. Experiments can cost quite a bit of money. At the very least, they can cost quite a bit of time. Regardless, if you are really serious about engaging your audience and truly producing quality content that will convert your audience, all this time, resource and effort are well worth it.
Experiment with Different Content Types that Address your Audience’s Needs
Assuming that you already know your audience and assuming that you’re getting traffic or know where to buy traffic that targets your specific audience, follow the step-by-step experiment below.
First, you need to create a model. You need to create model content types that are either based on your competition or based on your best theories as to what your audience will engage with. Test this model by either paying for traffic or publishing it on your website. Pay attention to your statistic software.
Are people bouncing out? Are people clicking internal links and digging deeper into your website? Are people sharing the content? Pay attention to these particular measurements of success. Give your test enough time so you can get a clear data. Maybe let the test play out for ten days and then start measuring the results. Once you figure out your results, come up with three versions that you think is better than your current model. Test all four versions. The original and the three variations. Once again, pay attention to your success metrics.
After giving the experiment enough time to play out, find the strongest performer. Which version is the strongest performer? This version attracts the most traffic into deeper parts of your website, has the longest on-page duration or reading time and finally, produces the most conversions or clicks to your ads. Once you have identified the strongest performer, make three different versions of the strongest performer. These different versions are really versions based on your best guesses as to what made that strong performer particularly effective:
May be it’s the layout. May be it’s the type of content. May be it’s the text. As you can probably already tell, there are so many different variables that you going to have to play with, but use your best guess as to which of these resulted in the desired user behavior. Make three versions based on these hunches. Once again, run a test on all four versions. The test version and then the three variations. Once the results come in, see if any of the variations produced better results. Keep repeating this process until you come up with a version that works regardless of the type of traffic you fitted. Keep experimenting until you come up with a content version that converts your traffic the best.
Remember the Key Success Metrics
I have already outlined this above, but let me remind you again. The key success metrics you should look for are low bounce rate, high on-page duration and high percentage of deeper internal clicks. A low bounce rate is when more people land on your page and stay on your page than people who click the back button immediately after landing on your page. A high on-page duration is simple. This is the amount of time they take reading your page.
Keep in mind that this can be misleading because for a variety of reasons, people may stay on a page. For example: If you have a video on your page or maybe they are viewing other websites on another tab of their browser. Still, this factor should be considered in terms of determining the success of a “quality content.” Finally, one of the most important success metrics is the percentage of users that click deeper into your site due to your content. This is a key measure of engagement. If your audience thinks your content is particularly useful, they are more likely to trust the rest of your content and click deeper into your site.
The good news about quality content is that you can identify it. You just have to be systematic and methodical. Most of all, you have to be patient. It takes quite a bit of time. It takes quite a bit of effort to figure out how your target audience defines “quality content.” Most importantly, crafting quality content is a two way street. You obviously start out with an initial draft, but you need to pay attention to your target audience’s feedback to evolve your content to a point where your target audience will predictably respond to it as quality content.