Content rules supreme in the digital times we live in, but as to the best practice on what stellar content is, there are opinions and opinions. Everyone agrees about one thing, though: quality posts in themselves qualify for good Google rankings, but to actually reach the first page, they should be consistent in coming and satisfy a couple of additional criteria.
Let’s go step by step.
What Classifies as “Quality Content?”
The terms “quality” and “consistency” should be used with care, as they have been known to raise more questions than actually answer them, especially in the case of businesses that are just starting. Hence, let us explain these in a bit more detail.
“English is shorter than most languages; an average length English sentence may result in a very long sentence when translated, impairing understanding”, Google’s guide to writing quality content.
Quality content is crucial to a successful, long-standing SEO strategy and, as equally important, to instill a clear focus on brand management. Because Google is the first choice when it comes to search engines, it is only natural to adhere to the brand’s principles in this matter.
Fortunately, Google has recently published a helpful guide to writing quality content, detailing preferred styles, best grammar practices and much more. The two determiners to have remained ever as important over time are brevity and consistency.
The easiest way to determine whether the content you publish counts as “high quality” is to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the information credible?
- Is the author of the piece knowledgeable?
- Does the piece answer a reader’s questions?
- Is the piece grammatically correct?
- Are there spun pieces on your site?
- Is the piece original?
- Would you revisit, recommend or bookmark the piece?
Other questions might also come to mind. As a reference, you may use your own standards to determine whether visitors like your website. I.e.: are there too many ads on the page? Would you feel safe providing your credit card info on the page?
It has long been advised that content should be brief and as concise as possible. This, it has turned out, is a myth, opinionated on the fact that the average visitor’s attention span is short, due to numerous factors comprising today’s hectic lifestyle.
Note that this holds true for articles and blog posts, but not for newsletters and email marketing campaigns!
In which ways is long-form content more beneficial, SEO-wise?
First, longer content has higher search rankings. Various studies have concluded that content with under 1,000 doesn’t even make it to the list, with a preference toward content between 1,500 and 2,000 words. The main reason is that long-form quality content generates more backlinks simply because it provides all the information the reader is looking for rather than just snippets.
As a result, helpful quality articles get more shares (and we doubt it very much that anyone reading this needs to be told how important social media can be).
Finally, it does take a whole deal of knowledge to be able to actually write a long-form quality article.
With the prices of domains and hosting being affordable to anyone anywhere, the main challenge of our days has emerged to be finding quality, reliable content. Anyone can write (or, more often – rewrite) “how to” and “five best tips to” articles, but not everyone can provide expert answers to the questions readers are after.
Shortly put, it’s the value that counts, not the content length.
A BuzzSumo research that has analyzed social share counts of over 100 million articles in the course of eight months has prompted its creators to compile a list of questions that each quality content piece needs to answer, as follows:
- Does trust play a major role in whether someone will share an article?
- What’s the effect of having just one image in a post vs. no images?
- What’s the effect of having just one influencer sharing your article vs 0?
- What types of emotions did the most popular articles invoke?
- What formats of posts typically receive a lot of shares? (lists? infographics?)
User Satisfaction: A Crucial Factor in SEO Strategy
Not to dive too deeply into SEO planning, let us briefly explain the link between long-form content and user satisfaction. Why? Because user satisfaction results in more backlinks that, in turn, boost the ranking.
As a rule, people tend to dwell more on quality content and are more likely to share it and recommend it. Google uses metrics that measure the average dwell time of each visitor (among others) to determine whether the content drives value.
Finally, there is CTR to consider. Mere page impressions aren’t conclusive as to the quality of the content. For example, if 5,000 impressions result in 15 clicks, that shows that the piece is long but doesn’t necessarily drive value.
Note here that even the most insightful of pieces may be written in an unappealing way. Google’s content guidelines state, among other things, that tone and content should follow these rules:
- Be conversational and friendly without being frivolous.
- Don’t pre-announce anything in the documentation.
- Use descriptive link text.
- Write accessibly.
- Write to a global audience.
Another reason why quality content may result in low CTRs is that tags and descriptions have been poorly written. These two comprise the very first impression of the content. Hence, special attention should be paid to writing stellar tags and descriptions. After all, competition is fierce, so even the best of articles need some boost.
If all the above-mentioned factors have been taken into account, user satisfaction will skyrocket and a chain reaction of backlinks and shares will follow. These actions will tell Google that your content indeed does drive value and should rank better.
To stay on top in the long run, keep in mind that content needs to be good at all times. One good article isn’t sufficient to give your brand eternal credibility.
Optimal Publishing Frequency
There has been some debate as to how frequently new content should be published, with research mostly focusing on blogging. Various (and sometimes contradicting) insights have emerged, showing that there is no general rule in this matter.
However, there are some guidelines to keep in mind:
- First, track visitor activity at all times. Each brand has its own expertise and its audience, and highly professional science websites can hardly compare with entertainment click baits.
- Next, note that consistency is more important than frequency. For example, if you post new content on a specific day, never miss that day. Otherwise, readers will assume new content isn’t coming inconsistently and may turn elsewhere for information.
- Keep to the topic and make certain that all pieces are written for the target audience. The lifespan of a blog post is longer if the topic is evergreen, but not every business can afford such topics. I.e., if your blog deals with the latest discoveries, it is only natural that the term “latest” will go old over time.
Finally, if new content doesn’t appear for a long time, your website will lose visitors. We should here make a distinction between “regular frequency” and “often enough”. Certainly not posting anything new for months is not recommended, but that doesn’t mean that new posts should be popping out every five minutes.
Obviously, the balance is directly linked to the niche and the brand. Smaller websites can enjoy the privilege of containing quality content consistently, as they don’t need to be updated every day.
Larger websites with numerous users have to come up with more frequent updates. Take gambling sites as an example. People looking for daily bonuses won’t wish to miss out on any news. Such sites often have teams of content writers ready to update the offer around the clock.
On average, one post per day does the trick for most large content-specific websites, but that doesn’t mean at all costs. If there is insufficient information, rather skip on the daily post than compromise on the quality.
Also, keep in mind that it’s always a great idea to involve employees in your content strategy. Allow your team members to submit guest post pitches, with the possibility of publication. Or, even reach out for quotes. Everyone likes to see their name in print, and it can add a special type of authenticity to your posts that can’t be acquired using other methods.
Lastly, do add those sharing buttons. The more shares a piece gets, the more visitors your website will acquire. As with all things in life, the key is to build trust, provide quality content at all times and know your audience. Keeping to these three rules will do wonders for your ranking in the long run.
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