This is what the latest Google updates seem to point to, and it’s pretty much fact now. Link building campaigns need a strong backbone of high quality content to survive the winds of change (search engine algorithm updates). It’s the framework of trustworthy original content that determines whether a web presence survives in the post-Panda, post-Penguin Googlescape…so it always helps to have insight into just what the search engines believe quality content to be.
When researching what constitutes quality content, I always start with the guides provided by the search engines themselves. Google (and Bing) have published posts on the matter, and over time I have been able to segregate the information into categories of recommendations:
The first is obvious – Don’t be a Spammer!
- Would users complain when they see pages from your site? Make sure your site doesn’t immediate create the reaction of “lets get away from this!” Various things to watch out for is badly formatted clipart, not much content on the home page (or just generated lists), forwarding to other websites, hugely prominent unsubscribe buttons, lots of popups, prominent displays of assurances of security, and sites with 100s or 1000s of links per page.
- Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations? Look at your site not as the owner or author, but as a user. Will you see lots of the same information on many of the pages? Do you create variations on your content but only change keyword phrases? Do you produce multiple pages for different locations or practices, but just change the content with the location name or practice name? If so, you are probably create a duplicate content problem for your site.
- Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care? These are typical called “content farms” and have been greatly penalized by Google since the summer of 2010.
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content? A good rule of thumb is if over 50% of the content “above the fold” in your browser for a page is advertising – that is excessive. If users have a hard time finding content then that is excessive. Read more from Google Webmasters on this.
You have to build Trust with your visitors
- Look at your content and ask yourself the question: Would you trust the information presented in this article? What factors will engender such trust? Do you practice what you preach? Do you tell the truth? Are you open and honest? Do you reveal your allegiances or sponsors? Avoid too much promotional content? Reveal your real identity in a way that is verifiable? Its a relationship with the reader – you have to pay attention to their needs
- For a health related site – be sure to be trustworthy in the information you provide. Have it backed by quality sites, published scientific evidence, or proven experts. If you are the expert, then just don’t assume your resume is enough – explain how you know.
- If a site is trustworthy, it is something to share in your community. Is your article the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does the article describe both sides of a story? Even if you are presenting a polemical argument – try to give a fairly presented summary of the opposition. People will be more likely to trust a site that is open about the opposing viewpoint.
Be Professional in the Format and Appearance of your Content.
- Verify all words are spelled correctly (easily done with ‘spell-check’) and always be certain that content does not contain formatting, stylistic and/or factual based errors.
- How much quality control is done on content? Try to have an independent reviewer check your content, someone who can evaluate it thoroughly, for the purpose of quality control. Better yet have a formal process with several people.
- Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced? During your content review process and before publishing it to your website, be aware that the article needs to be well composed, without leaving the impression of having been hastily produced, or written without much thought..
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics? Articles should be well thought out and sufficient in their delivery of information, as opposed to being very brief with just a few short sentences that lacks details or wisdom that is helpful to the reader.
- Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail? Do links and other content around the article support the article’s purpose. Does everything line up properly? Do images and tables look well formatted and spaced?
Original Writers have Always been the Winners…
- Try to gauge the type of specific information that visitors will be looking for when they are in the process of deciding to visit your website, and present content that will be of genuine interest to them. Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
- Content should be original, of quality and provide a value to the readers, as opposed to something that is obviously copied and easily re-traceable to its source. Compare (and exceed) the quality and appearance of your content by reviewing competitors sites that also show up in the search engine results for your business.
- Knowledge being shared in your content should include a complete understanding of the topic in its delivery of the article to the reader. The article also needs to give the reader some keen, insightful analysis, and demonstrate some depth or expertise in the topic, instead of just briefly skimming over general information that is likely obviously known to the reader.
- Original content or information that is supported with original research, original reporting or original analysis, that can be revealed by a link to the source or a quote by the source, is one of the better ways to gain the trust with the readers or the visitors of to your website.
Expertise Must Shine Through
- Website articles should be written in an enthusiastic, passionate, or confident tone and by someone who is well informed about the topic, or possibly written by a subject matter expert who is both authoritative about the information and knowledgeable regarding any facts that are being presented.
- If the goal for your website is to be recognized as an industry authority in your particular space, take the time to carefully review it and be certain that the content reflects some of the ideas of, or concepts expressed by, the prevailing thought leaders in your industry with links to various articles from chosen sources for verification purposes.
- Keep in mind that your article, once published on your website, is likely something you would like to see printed in a magazine, published to another website that wants to provide additional expertise to its community or, your article could also become a recognized source of valuable, pertinent information. Taking the time and committing the resources to produce quality, professional content has its advantages for your business and search engine positioning, as well as your standing in the internet community.
- After Panda & Penguin, is Google Living Up to Its Great Expectations? (searchenginewatch.com)
- How to Keep Content Thieves from Stealing Your Work (kissmetrics.com)
- Expanding My OutBrain (corporatepa.com)