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How Google Tells if Your Content is "High-Quality"
What the most common SEO cliche really means
If you’ve spent any amount of time in the SEO community then you’ve already heard the tired old cliche: “Write high-quality content”.
This is a catch-all phrase that people use in a variety of different situations. Want to build links? I promise you, a guru will jump out of the bushes just to tell you that “Linkbuilding doesn’t work. Write high-quality content and naturally acquire links”.
If you ask a guru why your rankings are dropping it’s “Because your content isn’t high enough quality.” The list goes on and on. The one thing that no one ever does is explain exactly what they mean by the phrase “high-quality content”.
This guide will teach you what high-quality content actually looks like.
Factors that make your content “high-quality”
The length of your article plays a big role in how Google perceives its quality. In the old days, people used to preach that longer is better. But since you’re doing SEO in 2022, things are a tad bit more complicated.
The best way to determine the word count for your article is by basing it off the average of the top ten search results that Google is displaying for that keyword. There are a couple ways to get this information.
Use Surfer SEO (easy/expensive way) - Surfer SEO is a tool that I use literally every single day. When you create a content editor for your keyword or cluster of keywords, it will automatically spit out the ideal word count. No thinking required.
Calculate manually (free/time-consuming way) - Average out the word count in the top ten results using the formula we all learned in elementary school. This is the word count you should shoot for.
For more information on word count, view my content length article.
Matching searcher intent
As affiliates, the bottom of the funnel is what we’re most motivated by. Best-of lists, comparisons, and product reviews are all the types of content that people search for when they’re close to making a purchase.
Don’t be tempted.
You have to create content for the other parts of the funnel, as well as content that isn’t part of the funnel at all. That means lots of informational content.
The four main types of searcher intent are:
You need content that covers all of those different types of intent.
The easiest way to tell is by entering a query into Google and seeing which type of content it’s displaying on page one. If there are lots of best-of lists, then that’s what Google wants for that query. If the top ten results are all how-to guides, then there’s no way you’ll rank with your product review.
Give the people what they are actually looking for and Google will reward you. Read my search intent article for more info.
How quickly you solve your users’ problem
You need to solve the problem that caused the user to search the keyword in Google as close to the top of the article as possible. Ideally you should answer it right underneath the first subheading (after the intro).
It’s important to be clear and decisive. Let’s use the example of an article titled “How many different shoe sizes are there?”. After the first subheading, you should state something like “There are 27 different standard shoe sizes. The smallest is x and the largest is x.”
This is a clear and decisive answer that makes your visitor feel like they clicked on a valuable website.
Why don’t people do this?
The most common reason is because they suck at writing. Another reason is because people think that they are increasing the time on site by putting the answer near the bottom.
This might have been true 15 years ago, but it’s not going to work now. People have short attention spans and if you don’t answer the question clearly and quickly, they will bounce out of your site and click on one of your competitors.
You can think of your articles as an inverted pyramid, where the most important information is at the top and the less-important fluff is at the bottom.
H1, Title, and URL slug
Previous SEO best practices were to make the SEO title and URL slug the exact keyword, while making the H1 (post title) a variation.
The problem with that is that Google has been rewriting SEO titles and meta descriptions in the SERPs. Sometimes they’ll use the SEO title, sometimes the H1, and sometimes whatever random text they feel like using.
The new SEO best practice is to use the exact keyword for all three. Does this mean that the H1 and SEO title are exactly the same?
Start each one with the exact keyword, but change up the rest of the text. For example, if your keyword is Best Couches, then you still have a lot of space to fill in the SEO title. You can do something like this:
SEO title: Best Couches: Most Comfortable Options | Sitename
H1: Best Couches (Top Picks)
URL slug: best-couches
This way there is slight variation but it forces Google to use your actual keyword. Note that this could randomly change at any moment, but at the time of writing this is exactly what I’m doing.
If you didn’t know, Google has a bot that continuously craws the entire internet. Since it crawls, the Googlebot is also known as a spider.
The spider is looking for all of the things that I just mentioned above, but there are a few things you can add to your page that will enhance it and make it more attractive to the algorithm.
As I mentioned in the above tweet, Google’s spider loves the following:
Tables of contents
All of these seem like “extras” but they aren’t really extra. They’re the things that separate a half-assed webpage from a serious one.
We’ve all ended up on articles that are huge chunks of unformatted text. I hate them. You hate them. Everyone hates them. That includes YOUR visitors.
Spend the extra time adding these things to your articles. It’ll pay off in the long run.
Remember that Google is an algorithm, not a person. It can’t directly tell if your content is high-quality the way a human can.
When the bot is scanning your content, it’s not reading it like a person. It’s looking for the presence of keywords that are related to your main keyword. It’s checking the positioning of different elements on your page (subheadings, etc.) It’s not “reading” anything.
Creating high-quality content is about appeasing the algorithm more than it’s about making users happy. Does that mean that your users don’t matter? Of course not. They’re the ones who are actually clicking your affiliate links, and if you don’t make them happy they’ll bounce and hurt your rankings.
Even though people are important, the algorithm is more important. Because if you don’t make the algorithm happy, then you won’t have any visitors to your site.
I hope this helps clear up the concept of “high-quality content”. As always, let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
Free articles on Second Income SEO are supported by:
►Surfer SEO - Generate an entire content strategy with a few clicks. This tool features a content editor that is equipped with Natural Language Processing technology that gives you the exact phrases you should use to help your article climb to page one in the SERPs and outrank your competition. If you’re not using this tool, you’re falling behind.
►Jasper - Use an AI assistant to write your content faster and easier. Jasper creates original content for meta descriptions, emails, subheadings, post headlines, website copy, and more. Automate your content creation and free up hours of your valuable time.
►Kinsta - Set up your first website with a few clicks. Follow an easy and intuitive process to set up a domain name and hosting. This is step one to earning WiFi money.