If I had a penny for every time I came across the ‘content is king’ mantra, I would currently be supping mojitos on a private island retreat. While this sweeping statement may still ring true to some degree, nowadays it throws up more questions than it answers. For starters, what kind of content? Well, presumably it needs to be of a decent quality. And that being the case, what constitutes ‘quality’ content? Moreover, why is quality content important for SEO?
The Importance of High Quality Content
First of all, let’s take a step back in time to 1996 when Bill Gates wrote his much-cited Content is King article. Written at a time when the internet as we now know it was still in its infancy, the article was eerily poignant in its prediction that: “Content is where … much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”
Now, far be it for me to accuse Mr. Gates of being overly simplistic, but a lot has changed in the 18 years since he wrote this piece. Of course, content is still important – vital, in fact – if you want to grow your business via the internet. However, many individuals and businesses have misinterpreted his words to mean that they can secure high rankings simply by relentlessly churning out any old drivel, provided it uses the focus keyword x amount of times per 100 words.
Back in the day, this might well have worked. But then, the search engines started to become wise to such tactics. Over the years, the algorithms used to rank web pages have become increasingly sophisticated, all in an ongoing attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff as far as content is concerned.
In other words, search engines algorithms are becoming more and more human-like in their ability to understand what constitutes high quality content and what doesn’t – and web pages are being ranked accordingly.
What is Quality Content?
Allow me to dispel a common myth. Quality content does not have to pander (no pun intended) to the SEO guidelines set out by internet gurus. At least, this should not be your primary concern.
First and foremost, your content needs to appeal to your intended audience. Of course, it helps a great deal if it’s optimised for the search engines, but this should never come at the expense of the user experience. Very broadly speaking, if you write a few smashing pieces of content with links back to your website, the page rank will naturally come to reflect this in the end.
This may seem too good to be true, but bear with me. If you’re putting fresh, unique and relevant content out there – that is, high quality content – people are more likely to read it, engage with it and share it. And not only that, but the right kind of people too. This in turn will increase your brand’s exposure, build up consumers’ trust in your business, and ultimately improve your search engine rankings.
HIGH QUALITY CONTENT
well-researched, fresh, unique, relevant, actionable, sharable
GRABS ATTENTION & ENCOURAGES ENGAGEMENT
internet users take the time to read and comment on your content
INCREASED BRAND EXPOSURE
your content is exposed to a wider audience via web links, social media and word of mouth
IMPROVED BRAND IMAGE & BETTER RANKINGS
your brand is perceived as authoritative, helpful and reliable, both by potential customers and the search engines
INCREASED CUSTOMER RETENTION
because your content is useful, people will come back to you again with questions relating to your industry, and to benefit from related products / services.
So, by writing unique, relevant, high quality content that appeals to your target audience, you can improve your brand image and, indirectly, your position in the search engine results. But with the internet saturated as it is with information, writing quality content in itself is easier said than done.
Primarily, you need to get to know your customers. Ask them what they need to know. Make a list of FAQs and write a blog post in answer to each one. Sift through industry-related forums to find out what kinds of questions your potential customers might be asking. Comment on the latest news and trends in your sector, and don’t forget to have a sneaky peak at what your competitors are doing.
If you really want to fight off the competition and get your content found, you need to go one step further than simply telling readers what they want to know. It’s about grabbing their attention and then keeping it, all the way until your final call to action. Talk with them, not at them: write in the same tone that you would use to talk to your target customers or clients, and encourage them to leave comments below your post or via social media – then respond to those comments.
So… Does SEO Actually Matter Anymore?
While the quality of your content should be treated as the key concern, the degree of optimisation does still have a bearing of how easily it will be to find. Focus your content around a closely linked group of keywords that are relevant to the topic – the more specific, the better – and include these where relevant. But don’t go mad with it. If it looks like spam, it’ll be treated as spam.
Off-page content can also help you build up the link profile of your website – another vital element of SEO. Again, moderation is key, so if there are particular link placements that make you squirm when you read back through your content, it’s likely that Google won’t like it either.
By updating your blog on a regular and consistent basis, you will earn extra brownie points as far as ranking is concerned. Again, this is entirely reflective of a positive user experience. Have you ever returned to a blog that you had previously enjoyed or found useful, only to discover that they haven’t updated it since your last visit? I rest my case.
Unfortunately, nobody can predict what Google is going to do next. But we can take an educated guess. If their ongoing goal is to rank what we as humans consider to be high quality content over that which is written solely in order to fool them, then better to make sure yours falls into the former category.
There’s no fast-track solution. The search engines are getting increasingly wise to short-cutters and black-hatters. High quality content is more important than ever for SEO, whereas low quality content will do your site more harm than good.