What exactly is high-quality content for Websites? 

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 What exactly is high-quality content for Websites? 

Time and time again we hear that high-quality content is a key to good rankings and high numbers of visitors.  But what actually is high-quality content? The opinions surrounding this vary considerably. In this article I wish to analyse what high-quality content is and how someone can best define it for use in their own website. 

“Content is King” 

The saying “Content is King” is older than Search Engine Optimisation itself. Bill Gates coined this term in an article in 1996. At the time, the Microsoft-founder was promoting his vision of earning money on the internet, which was mainly based on the publication of content. 

Nowadays, this phrase is used slightly differently. As a result, it is always stressed that above all else you need high-quality content in order to ultimately be placed highly in Google’s search results and to be successful on the internet. 

Although it was previously possible, in accordance with SEO-measures, to place highly in Google’s rankings with blatantly poor content, this is lately becoming more and more difficult. In recent updates to their search-engine algorithms, Google has notably cracked down on websites with substandard content. This will continue to be a vital element of Google’s development in the future. 

For this reason, there is a general widespread consensus about the importance of high-quality content, however, it is almost impossible to define exactly what high-quality content is. Almost every website operator has a different opinion or understanding of this term. 

If you visit big and successful websites such as Bild.de or other lowbrow information providers, it becomes clear rather quickly that in terms of high-quality content this doesn’t necessarily mean that the textual quality of the content is high. There are many websites which I wouldn’t particularly consider as high-quality, yet they are still very successful. 

What really are the features of high-quality content and what do website operators need to pay attention to when creating content (in particular textual content)? 

Should you only write for the reader? 

Before I get down to the details, I would like to discuss the question of whether “High-quality Content” means that you should tailor your writing exclusively to the reader. 

I believe this is not the case. By all means, you can reach quite a few readers directly through your website or blog. These people are directed straight to the article as feed-subscribers and you should predominantly appeal to these subscribers in the article. 

Having said this, the majority of readers access websites nowadays through the search-engine Google and therefore there is a “middleman” which can formulate its own opinion of the content then place it in accordance with its opinion either further up or further down in the search results. 

These middlemen are also in lots of other areas. Film critics, music editors, games testers etc represent at least part of the potential clientele among the producers and consumers. You must try to convince and satisfy both the middleman as well as the actual target audience. 

The big difference with Google is that those mentioned above are typically people that also belong to the target audience meaning they are very similar. Therefore, you can convince the critics, editors and testers as well as the actual customers with the same arguments. 

On the Web it’s a different story. 

Google is Stupid 

Google is a machine and is wired completely differently to a human. Google tries, of course, to make its algorithms more human-like. Therefore, the criteria used to asses website content should become increasingly human in character. But right now, this is a distant eventuality. 

In order to assess the quality of an article, a human doesn’t look at how many and which links an article has. But search engines are still very dependent on this. 

Despite many updates as well as Google recently publicising that it is aiming to improve the quality of its search results, search engines continue to function completely differently to humans. 

This means that specific content must appear to be high-quality for both the reader and for Google. This is sometimes a balancing act, because although Google insists that you need to create good content for the reader, the content must also appeal to Google itself. Nevertheless, this isn’t 100% truthful and those who actually want to be successful have to do justice to both Google and the readers. 

The features of high-quality content: 

Armed with the knowledge that one must produce content that appeals to both Google and the target audience, you can divide the aspects of high-quality content into two main factors. 

Hard Factors: 

Under hard factors I categorise aspects and measures which are controllable and easily measured. For this reason, hard factors also concern things that are mainly carried out and assessed by search engines. These factors are also valuable to readers like us, but they are ultimately more important to Google. 

Why? Because Google is stupid. It is a machine. It’s clever but merely a machine. Consequently, it can do much more with the following hard factors in comparison to the soft factors that will be listed later. 

Here are some of the most important hard factors: 

  • Uniqueness: 

One of the most important things is to make sure that content is unique and your own. The idea is not to reinvent the wheel in every article, that is simply not possible. But the text does need to be unique in its composition. Those who take and publish content practically word for word or rather the exact same as other websites are not going to get far. 

  • On page: 

In general, the sector of ‘on page optimisation’ plays an important role. Keyword density, anchor text, internal links etc should be neither neglected nor overdone. This has a distinctly positive impact on the perception of the text by Google. 

  • Linking: 

This off-page criterion is almost exclusively of interest to search engines. It is rare for a reader to say, “Oh, this article has links from Speigel.de, Focus.de and Wikipedia. It must be good.” Google by contrast, places a lot of importance on backlinks through which it deduces the quality of an article. 

  • Topicality: 

Naturally, not all content has to be up to date, however in many areas, relevance plays an important role which is acknowledged by both Google and readers. 

  • Text-quality: 

This does not refer to the quality of the text’s subject matter, instead other features such as spelling, grammar, and readability. The latter point can be detected by specific algorithms and therefore can be evaluated by search engines as well. The quality of a text, however, is also important to the reader. 

  • Structure: 

Similar to text-quality, the structure also plays an important role. Paragraphs, underlining, lists, subheadings etc not only ensure that search engines can analyse and evaluate content more easily, but they also provide an enjoyable reading experience for the user. 

  • Scope: 

The extent of content also plays a role. Too little content can be problematic for both search engines (too little to analyse) and readers (lack of information). Nevertheless, there are subject areas where only small amounts of information are wanted by the reader. Too much content can be either good or bad – it is dependent on the situation. You need know the individual target audience and adapt the extent of content accordingly to the preferences of the consumer. 

Soft Factors: 

The following soft factors are of more relevance to the reader. These consist of factors that contribute to the user perception of a text, which for Google is difficult or near impossible to measure. 

Important soft factors: 

  • The interests of the target audience: 

In regard to content, above all else you should appeal to the interests of the target audience. What does the audience want to read about? What particularly interests them? If the custom content piques the interest of the reader, you’re already half way there. 

  • Expectations: 

The high expectations of users must also be fulfilled. You don’t have to be a ridiculously talented writer but in terms of content, expectations need to be fulfilled. Poorly written and objectively superficial celeb-gossip can fulfil expectations just as much as an in depth and high-level technical article about a specialist subject. It depends completely on the target audience and their specific expectations. 

  • Benefit: 

At the end of an article, the reader should ideally feel some kind of benefit which they have derived from the article. This could be through learning information or even feeling entertained. 

  • Extras: 

Along the same lines as above is extra information. This is not completely necessary, but it can make an article appear more useful to the reader. If you provide the reader with more than they were expecting, that can only be a positive. 

  • Credibility: 

A basic level of credibility helps a lot. This allows content to be regarded in a more positive light from the outset and reduces uncertainty. Google uses things like backlinks in order to assess the credibility of a website. Readers themselves are naturally more indifferent to this and every reader perceives things differently. 

  • Style: 

This is also something that mainly attracts the reader, albeit rather unconsciously. A good style vs an excellent style is often the difference between two websites with exactly the same information. 

The above listed factors fundamentally lead to a perceived quality by the reader. The overall impression is very important to the reader and often is the deciding factor of whether a reader stays longer or rather returns to the site. 

For search engines, this ‘perceived quality’ is difficult to assess, at least not directly. 

What’s interesting is that Google explicitly lists and recommends similar soft factors to these, yet in my opinion can hardly assess them themselves. 

Doing the balancing act: 

High-quality content doesn’t have to be an academic text, nor must you have completed higher education or journalistic training. 

From my experience, high-quality content is determined by two “ingredients”. 

1. The obvious hard factors which are mainly relevant to Google and more or less superfluous to website operators. 

2. The soft factors that are mainly relevant to the reader and have considerably different characteristics depending on the target audience and subject. 

Whoever best combines these ingredients together in their own products, in my opinion will produce high-quality content. 

Tips for high-quality content: 

To conclude, here are a few further reading tips for high-quality content. 

I have summarised some of the more useful tips for creating high-quality content from the article ’10 tips for high-quality content – the success criteria after the Panda update’. 

I have also listed in a separate article some concrete tips for ‘high-quality content on Company websites.’ 

Conclusion: 

In conclusion we can deduce that there is no single definition for high-quality content, but rather one must adapt the content to suit the situation in the best way possible. 

Despite this, it is also important that the content alone does not determine the success of a website, even if it is very notable. There are also a number of other factors that contribute to the success of a website (e.g. loading time, usability, layout, marketing, community etc). 

Nevertheless, I hope that I have been able to shed some light on the topic of high-quality content in this article and that in the future you can determine more easily what good content actually is. 

Of course, I look forward to reading your comments. Feedback, opinions, experiences and other constructive criticism is highly appreciated. 

 

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