Did you know content is the message and medium you use to communicate with prospects, customers, and patients? Content marketing, therefore, is using content to market to your audience. It’s the practice of creating and distributing or publishing content to attract, engage, and convert your target audience.
Did you know Google reads everything you write? Okay, they don’t literally read, but its algorithms are currently sophisticated enough to pick up on unnatural language and poor formatting—both of which send strong negative signals that hurt your ability to rank.
As a matter of fact, Google’s approach to ranking has gotten so sophisticated that they’ve learned that content quality matters more to search users than the presence of any particular keyword phrase. As a result, you may find a No. 1 search result that doesn’t contain an exact match keyword anywhere in the body.
Seriously? Yes! In an extensive study of 600,000 keyword phrases, 18 percent of the domains that ranked position 20 or higher didn’t have the keyword in the text at all. Instead, these sites had a few things in common:
- website visits
- user behavior signals and
- the number of links to the content
These factors all influenced Google to rank them near the top. All of these signals tell Google one thing: people seem to like this content.
In addition to these behavior-based markers of content quality, Google and other search engines actively sift through content to see signals of quality within the text itself.
You must understand that Google’s main objective isn’t getting your website traffic; it’s giving people good search results.
Think of your own search experience. When you are looking for something, let’s say a recipe for gluten-free cookies what do you want the search results to be? Gluten-free cookie recipes. You don’t want search results that are irrelevant to what you are looking for. Google serves up the proper responses.
The good news is Google’s guidelines are fairly specific and helpful. Let’s talk about the specific markers of “high quality” Google is looking for.
What Are the Red Flags for Poor Content Quality?
Google’s guidelines for content quality they are very thorough. This is likely because it’s hard to put into words exactly what makes something “good” or “high quality.” You really have to know what you are doing.
On the other hand, you can quickly point out factors that immediately signal poor quality.
It’s like baking cookies. There are a million different types of cookies out there and as many ways to prepare them. Flour, sugar, eggs, and milk may be your raw ingredients, but you can make thousands of different types of delicious cookies. Also, “the right cookie to bake” differs according to the context and circumstances. You can have a moist cookie that’s scrumptious, or you could have a more substantial cookie that still does the trick.
But you can’t put dirt in your cookie. That would be icky, to say the least. And it’s an automatic recipe for an inedible cookie.
Similarly, Google highlights some markers of poor quality that instantly flag a page as having content not worth ranking:
- Spamming keywords, especially if they’re irrelevant
- Creating content that’s mostly copies of existing content
- Typos, bad spelling, grammar errors
- Sentences or paragraphs that never seem to end
- Content that has little to no formatting, leaving just a dense chunk of text
- Going crazy with links that aren’t relevant to the content at hand
- Dropping lists of keywords somewhere in your page, especially if you’re hiding them with text color choices
- Content that is excessively thin, especially for pages like blogs that promise substance
That’s why when we write content for your site we make sure that content has substance. When readers look at your post and the length they are impressed and realize that you are going to deliver what they need.
I’ve viewed too many websites to count where their posts are about 300-400 words. There’s no substance to them and worse yet they really don’t answer the question the reader might have. To put it plainly, your content has to be high quality.
There are also some ways to get instantly deindexed by Google that goes beyond content quality. Since that’s something you likely want to avoid, they’re well worth reviewing!
Google’s SEO Guide Considers Content Quality, Navigation Ease More Important Than Keyword Use
If you look at Google’s SEO starter guide, you’ll find that suggestions for how to use keywords properly does not come up until around halfway through. Before that point, they take a moment to repeat four times that you shouldn’t overuse keywords or stuff them into your technical SEO elements.
Many years ago when I first started with SEO, I saw keyword stuffing being done all the time. It made the article readable for search engines but not for the everyday reader. Those tactics won’t work today.
Once the guide does mention keywords, they merely advise that you tailor your keyword strategy to your audience. For instance, people who watch soccer regularly might expect “FIFA” or “football” to be in the content they read, while casual users may expect more generic terms like “soccer playoffs.”
Immediately after that, they go back into quality. “Avoid writing sloppy text with many spelling and grammatical mistakes,” they suggest, as well as “awkward or poorly written content.”
To truly get the point home, Google spends far more time writing about ease of navigation and quality of life improvements for website visitors. Based on how the information is organized, Google cares more about your sitemap than your keyword usage when deciding rank.
“The navigation of a website is important in helping visitors quickly find the content they want,” explains the search giant. “It can also help search engines understand what content the webmaster thinks is important.”
When I visit a website and find it hard to navigate I leave. What do I look for? A better user experience. Make sure your website’s navigation is easy to use otherwise you will have people leaving your site and going to your competitors.
What this information boils down to is that search engines aren’t stupid. They know the things that make life easier for their users, and that includes the content they will read. They pay far more attention to these elements than how you use keywords.
In fact, with voice search on the rise, search engines have had to get smarter than ever about interpreting keyword intent and finding semantically related terms. That way, someone searching for “best places to eat near me” can pull up a list of “top-rated restaurants” without having to first sift through unhelpful results that contain exact keyword matches.
5 Tips for Writing High-Quality Content
Hopefully, by now you know what definitely not to do when creating content. But let’s see what so-called “high-quality content” looks like.
To help you I’m going to share a few general tips that can help you boost the quality of the content you write.
1 – Make Pages Primarily For Users, Not For Search Engines
This rule comes directly from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. It’s the very first thing they say under “Basic Principles.”
The search giant even suggests you ask yourself “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?” when deciding on how your website operates. Those questions most assuredly apply when writing new content.
So foremost, determine an audience need based on a keyword search, and write to answer that need. The better able you are to satisfy someone’s search intent, the better behavior signals your site receives and the more likely you are to rank.
If you’re at a loss for how to connect a keyword to user needs, do a little research. Plug in the keywords and try to find questions related to it.
When we write for our clients, this is a procedure we follow. We look to find out what your customer or patient might be looking for and then create a post based on that topic.
Also look to see if the keyword is directly related to an “I want to purchase something or research a purchase” intent, take notes on the content that ranks highest. The chances are good that the page offers excellent examples of site organization, layout clarity and overall usability in addition to some solid text content.
2 – Edit Your Writing, and Push Yourself To Write High-Quality Content
Like a great tasting cookie, good writing is definitely in the eye of the beholder. But at the same time, you wouldn’t bank on your cookie getting top votes if all you did was use a boxed cookie mix.
In other words, if you want to write better, you’re going to have to learn from others. We suggest reading publisher sites related to your industry that gets high traffic and covers topics similar to what you want on your blog.
Some general guidelines for improving your writing include:
- Useless “being” and “linking” verbs in favor of strong action verbs. If you find yourself writing words like “is, was, are and be,” go back and see if you can identify the true subject of the sentence and what it’s doing.
- Structure your writing like you would an outline. Tell people what they’re going to learn from your post as soon as possible, and then delve into each smaller point one at a time until you’re finished.
- Write casually but not unprofessionally. Aim for a “friendly, conversational tone with a clear purpose—somewhere between the voice you use when talking to your buds and that you’d use if you were a robot,” suggests Search Engine Land’s paraphrasing of Google’s own Developer Documentation Style Guide.
- Edit your writing! Far too many people don’t go back and reread. When I write a blog post or when I’m writing a book I know I have to go back and reread what I wrote. My editor has said to me on several occasions that she knew what I meant to say, but I didn’t write it that way. For me, I tend to think faster than I write. Check what you’ve written. Watch out for sentence and paragraph transitions that could make people have trouble following your logic. Ask people for their opinion on how readable everything is. If they have a complaint, see if you can break the excerpt down into its most simple parts and reconstruct it.
3 – Read, Read, Read and Read Some More
Reading teaches you how words and sentences form ideas. We take a lot of this information for granted, but it’s quite complex. Fortunately, others have mastered it and can teach you techniques to add to your repertoire.
4 – Pay Attention To Your Audience’s Behavior Signals
What content pages get the most views? Which ones get the best responses or the most engagement in comments or on social media? Where do people tend to spend the most time?
Look to your own Google Analytics data, and try to identify patterns. People tell you what they like without ever saying a word. You just need to know what to look for.
5 – If You’re Struggling To Write Good Content, Go Back To The Basics
You might shy away from writing about simple topics, such as “The Beginner’s Guide to SEO” or something like “Why People Buy Things,” but these are great topics. Yes, they’ve been done to death, but they help people learn.
There have been times when I was researching a topic. Then I find someone who explains it differently and it, clicks!. That’s what you want to happen with the subject you are writing about. Try and take an extremely deep or complex subject and make it click for your audience.
Above all else, articles like these teach you the fundamentals of writing for your audience. You learn how to break big concepts down to their bare components and communicate complex ideas with clarity.
Next to reading, writing down the basics is the best way to teach yourself how to craft high-quality content.
Stop Obsessing Over Keywords and Start Writing High-Quality Content
The writings on the wall: Google and online audiences are sick of bad content, keyword stuffing and deceptive practices aimed to help websites rank, but that make readers miserable.
Put content quality factors like readability, grammar and topic organization as a higher priority than keyword use. People will know what you’re talking about, even if you don’t use an exact keyword match—and now search engines will too.
As you can see I’m not talking about not doing SEO. What I am saying is high-quality content has to be your top priority.
Delivering high-quality content will have people coming back to your website time and again.
High-quality content makes you stand out above all the others in your industry making you the trusted source.
When you can accomplish this, you’ve struck gold so to speak.
If you are having a hard time writing content for your website contact me. We’ll come up with a content strategy that works for you.
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