Content is king. You need to create high-quality content.
You’ve heard these phrases before. And most likely you’re tired of hearing them.
As I’m writing this, there have already been 6.5 million blog posts published today alone. Let that sink in for a moment. Then if you consider an Ahrefs study, 90.63% of pages get no organic traffic from Google.
So, why do you keep hearing marketers and SEO experts tell you to keep creating quality content? You’ll find out the reasons why in this massive guide.
For now, remember this: it’s important to create great content. Don’t settle for substandard, poorly written articles to fill your content calendar.
Here’s What You’ll Learn in This Guide
- What exactly does high-quality content mean
- How can you determine if your content is high-quality
- How to consistently create high-quality blog posts
- Tools to help you write amazing content every single time
What Does High-Quality Content Look Like?
According to Google, high-quality content means giving visitors the information they’re looking for. Sounds simple, right?
If you focus on providing your users with the best experience possible, you have a better chance of ranking and attracting traffic to your site. Here’s what Moz has to say on the matter:
It appears that Google’s goal with all of these algorithm changes (Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird) is to encourage webmasters to publish content that is the best of its kind. Google’s goal is to deliver answers to people who are searching. If you can produce content that answers people’s questions, then you’re on the right track.Marie Haynes, Moz
Just like with fast website speed, it goes back to the user experience.
Here’s what Google has to say about quality content
Google expanded on how they assess the quality of the page here. Here’s a snippet of that post:
Below are some questions that one could use to assess the “quality” of a page or an article. These are the kinds of questions we ask ourselves as we write algorithms that attempt to assess site quality. Think of it as our take at encoding what we think our users want.
Of course, we aren’t disclosing the actual ranking signals used in our algorithms because we don’t want folks to game our search results; but if you want to step into Google’s mindset, the questions below provide some guidance on how we’ve been looking at the issue…
Here are some of the most important questions that apply to the majority of website content:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
- Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
- Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
- Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
By answering these questions, you’ll get a sense whether the article you’re writing is of high-quality. Of course, I ticked off all those for this guide (and others) — if not, please do let me know where I can improve.
What does high-quality content look like according to Google?
According to Google, high-quality content means giving visitors the information they’re looking for. The more you focus on your user, the higher the chances Google will rank your site. That’s why content hubs like this page rank high on Google.
How to Put This Into Practice: Determining Whether Your Content Is of High Quality?
So, how do you translate all those questions and guidelines into something actionable? What do you actually do to make sure your marketing efforts don’t go to waste?
You start by understanding the three key stages involved in content marketing. Only then will you be able to really determine if your content is of high quality. Allow me to explain further.
Here are the three stages. Take note of them and I’ll circle back to this again in a bit.
- Create the content
- Distribute it
Most resources on creating high-quality content talk about word count, backlinks, formatting, and a lot of other factors. I’m not saying they are wrong. But using them without a solid content foundation creates more problems.
For starters it confuses marketers like you and me.
- How many words should you write? 500 words or 2000 words?
- How often should you blog? Daily? Weekly? Monthly?
- What does “write consistently” mean? Do I use a template? A copywriting formula?
Who should you trust? Every SEO has their own take on how to grow your traffic.
It just makes everything complicated.
If you look at how Google assesses the quality of a page, you won’t find any quantitative answers. What you’ll notice, though, is the focus on the user.
Ultimately though, the focus is on creating the best site possible for your users.Moz
That said, let me offer a simple definition of high-quality content: if your audience reads your blog posts, that’s high-quality content. If not, then it’s a sign that its low-quality. Your audience determines the quality of your content.
And that’s where the 3 stages I mentioned above comes in.
In order for you to really know if your content is high-quality, you have to create it first. Then, you have to distribute it to the best of your ability. The last step is analyzing your content.
If you don’t go through those stages, you can’t determine the quality of your content.
At the end of the day, your users and customers will assess the quality of your content, not Google. Google is just a search engine. Actual people type in search queries. Google organizes the content on web pages and delivers it to the user.
If they keep reading it and coming back to read more, this will tell Google that users love your content. Google will, then, improve your rankings so that more users see your website. That, in a nutshell, is how search engine rankings work.
Let’s go over the three stages below. These three stages should be covered in your content strategy.
1. Create content
I’ll discuss this more below. But for now, remember that content is not limited to articles and blog posts, but it is the most important type (at least for now).
What are the different types of content?
Content is not limited to articles. If you look at digital marketing more broadly, content is any information that is “consumed” by an end-user. This can be written, aural, or visual. An article is an example of written content. A podcast and music are types of aural content. Images and infographics fall under visual. Videos are a hybrid of aural and visual content.
You’ll also find that creating content doesn’t mean you start writing a blog post immediately. You can break this down into two parts:
- New content
- Existing content
The word “create” is a misnomer in content marketing. You don’t technically have to create something new every single time. There’s a strategy called content repurposing that you can utilize. But that’s for another time.
How to create new content
The important takeaway is that you have to start with identifying your audience or potential customer first. You’ll find various names for this: personas, ideal customer profile, customer avatar. Regardless of which one you use, it’s important to have an idea of who your target audience is that way you can communicate more effectively.
The next part is often the boring part—keyword research. This is the stage of your content marketing strategy where you determine which ones to write about and what to use in your blog posts.
Once you identified the relevant keywords or topics, that’s the time you actually start writing.
How to audit existing content
The process above is for when you’re creating new content. Oftentimes, you have existing ones on your website or blog.
When you have existing content, you don’t “create,” rather you perform a content audit. The steps are similar though.
You start with making sure you have a good understanding of your audience and what topics or information matters most to them (keywords research).
Then, you look at your existing content and determine whether you’re providing your user with the information they need.
This part is called the content gap analysis.
2. Distribute your content
Remember our definition of content quality? It’s content that your audience loves to read and keeps on coming back for more.
If they don’t find your content, does it mean your content is low-quality?
Maybe. Maybe not. We don’t know.
That’s why content distribution is very important. Your audience has to know you have content. You can do this in many ways. Here’s a list of some of the most popular ways you can distribute your content:
- Email—you email a list of people about your content. You can do this with your own email or through guest emailing.
- Social media—posting your content on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to reach a wider audience
- Chatbots/SMS/Messaging platforms—communicate directly to your leads and prospects and customers through a particular messaging service like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and Telegram.
- Browser notifications—A relatively new tactic but allows you to send messages to people without having to give their information.
- Cross-platform—this involves using other platforms/channels to distribute your content. Medium and LinkedIn articles fall under this tactic
- Ads—perhaps the most well-known distribution tactic: you pay to get your content in front of people
- Co-marketing—similar to guest emailing, but on a broader scale. The “partner” post about you and your content on their channels and other platforms.
It’s important that you distribute your content.
But don’t forget that there are post publish tactics you can do that doesn’t involve other channels and websites. In fact, you can do these 3 tactics in under 15 minutes.
Make sure you have a call-to-action in your messaging to drive more actions—in this case, to read your content. Don’t make them guess what they should do next.
3. Analyze your content
The final stage in your content strategy is to determine whether a piece of content is high-quality.
If you see that your articles, videos, and other types of content aren’t getting read, then means it’s not good. If they are, then that’s a strong signal of high-quality content. Oftentimes, this will be a mixture of high-quality and low-quality posts. In other words, high traffic and low traffic pages.
This is the main reason why I advise marketers and business owners not to rely on writing sessions alone. You have to look at it from a holistic point of view—create, distribute, analyze.
It’s also why I don’t distinguish between search engine optimization (SEO) from content marketing. Yes, they are different, but the main objective is to get more organic traffic. They are both is an iterative process. You don’t do it one time.
For example, by improving your original content using data, you can increase your organic traffic by 76% in a span of 3 months.
A note on regularly updating your content to make it better: Google says you do it. That’s because stale, old content isn’t useful to users. Depending on the industry you’re in, it might make sense to only update your content once a year. But for some, you might need to do so every 3-6 months.
For example, Google AdWords became Google Ads in 2018. If I’m trying to learn PPC and I saw an “Ultimate Guide to Google Adwords”— I’ll probably skip over that content. Even if it’s at the top of Google’s search engine results page.
Why? Because that guide might probably be outdated. It’s been two years since the switch, so there’s a good chance the contents of that page is irrelevant now.
How to Consistently Create High-Quality Content
Creating content that ranks on Google starts with your audience. In the recent years, there has been a shift in how we, as consumers, use search engines to learn new topics. That’s why the traditional approach to keyword density no longer works.
Enter: content hubs.
What is a content hub?
A content hub (also known as a topic cluster) is composed of three parts: pillar content, cluster content, and hyperlinks among them. A pillar content (or cornerstone content) is a significant piece of content that covers a particular topic comprehensively; while cluster content is smaller pieces of content that detail the pillar piece or cover a long-tail variation of the pillar content. The link that ties them together are hyperlinks to one another.
Let’s say you wanted to learn about creating high-quality content. This page shows up on Google. That’s why you’re here. (Thanks, you’re awesome, by the way)
You probably want something actionable, something specific that you can do today or this week to help you write content for your blog. You’re probably tired of reading how-to’s without really getting into the details, rather just listed steps but didn’t add any value.
You want something in-depth, well-researched, and put together properly. You want the right amount of content on the page, and if you wanted to learn more, you can head on to other links provided.
Just like this one.
Google also realized this that’s why it gives preference to those sites that make it easier for its users. That’s how the concept of content hubs are born. Other names for this are content pillars/pillar content and topic clusters. Again, regardless of the terminology used, what matters is the concept behind it.
Focus on creating content hubs that cover a particular topic instead of focusing on single keywords. Remember: the key to gaining more organic traffic and ranking on Google is to focus on your users.
I’ll create more guides in other posts, but to give you an example, this page is a pillar page. All pages on my menu are pillar pages. I cover a topic comprehensively, but not too in-depth. If I write a blog post about content, I’ll be linking it to this pillar page. If I write about how you can optimize and make your website faster, I’ll link it to this page. And so on. This creates a “hub” in the eyes of Google.
Bonus tip from Google to quickly improve search rankings
Search engine rankings is affected by a lot of factors. The main one discussed in this guide is the negative effect of low-quality content. One quick hack you can do is remove or combine them in other posts, especially if you can’t improve on them or simply become irrelevant.
One other specific piece of guidance we’ve offered is that low-quality content on some parts of a website can impact the whole site’s rankings, and thus removing low-quality pages, merging or improving the content of individual shallow pages into more useful pages, or moving low-quality pages to a different domain could eventually help the rankings of your higher-quality content.Google
This tip was actually applied by one of the website owners I interviewed and they saw an improvement in their traffic and rankings.
Tools to Help Create Content That Ranks on Google
There are a lot of tools that help you with content creation. You can split this into two categories: traditional and modern.
Here are the most often cited (traditional) tools by SEO experts and marketers:
Except for keyword planner, the other tools have free and paid options, with the exception of Ahrefs which only offer a paid option.
These tools have a lot of other features so they are not entirely just for research purposes. I’ll create separate guides for these in future posts. For now, remember this: there are benefits to using these tools because it helps you make sure you don’t waste your time and money writing content that no one will ever read.
But, there are tools that are coming out in the market that introduces artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze your chosen topic or keyword and your competition. It then gives you the best way to beat them in search engines.
If you want to succeed in content marketing, you have to use these tools. Currently, I only know of and used two AI-assisted content marketing tools: MarketMuse and SEMRush Content Marketing Toolkit.
If you know anymore, please let me know so I can try them out and add them to this list!
The hardest part of creating high-quality content is to actually put in the time and effort to writing it. It’s easy to get lost in the definitions, tools, and analysis.
If you don’t want your SEO and content marketing efforts to go to waste, focus on your user, and provide them with the best experience as possible.
How to determine if your content is high-quality?
Always put your users first. Whether or not your content is high-quality or not is ultimately determined by them, not Google. Follow these 3 steps to determine the quality of your content, then improve on it:
1. Create content first. Focus on user intent and address them in your content.
2. Distribute your content. Make sure you tell others about it
3. Analyze your content. Most-visited pages are high-quality; while pages with little to no traffic are low-quality. Improve on these to make improve their quality.
Remember that content isn’t limited to written articles. Expand on other content formats. There’s a reason why videos are on the rise today. As consumers, it’s easier to watch a 5-minute video and understand what you’re talking about than reading a 2,500-word article.
Keep users in mind. Provide them with the information they are looking for. Follow all these tips and you’ll soon see your website rank higher on Google.