The High Quality Content Line: How to Write for SEO
One of the most brilliant things about Google’s algorithm is its ability to “read” content on a website. Google’s robots can determine the originality of an article you’ve written and even how interesting it is. They then use that information, in part, to determine the article’s ranking in the search results. When I tell people this, they often ask “How is that even possible?”
Well, first of all, it shouldn’t be that surprising that one of the biggest technology companies in the world, which uses powerful algorithms to predict the content people are most interested in seeing, can analyze an article. But the real answer is, Google’s formula for evaluating a web page’s content comes from several data sets:
- Its crawlers’ assessment of the content’s originality based on a comparison to all the other similar content on the web
- A scan of the page to determine whether the topic, paragraph structure, sentence structure, and word choice correlate with human interest patterns learned through its AI
- Industry engagement averages derived from the Google Analytics tracking code found on millions of websites across every industry
- The “structured data” on the page, i.e. information from tables and charts that Google views as authoritative
- A contextual analysis of the content based on: a) other topics covered on your website, indicating whether your site is an authority on a particular subject; b) the body of work on the topic, indicating whether your page is filling a topical niche that isn’t yet saturated; c) how timely your content is in relation to current news items
- “Engagement from Search Engine Results Page” (eSERP) data for the web page in question, wherein Google measures the length of time between a searcher finding the page via the search results and returning to the search results
In other words, their robots scan the text on any new page you publish and, within milliseconds, know whether it’s unique, engaging, data-rich, contributory, timely, and useful to visitors. Based on the robots’ findings, your content will either rank well or not. And because we all want our pages to rank well, impressing Google’s robots has become an important task.
Which brings me to the High Quality Content Line. This is the line that determines whether the robots are impressed, or not and hence, whether your blogging is effective for SEO. While a few companies have developed scripts to guess at whether their content is crossing this line, it’s fairly easy to spot. It comes down to whether the content is thought leadership as opposed to the far more common standard content marketing. (Note that I’m not even referring to content that is so unoriginal or poorly written that it could subject your site to the Panda penalty.)
Crossing the High Quality Content Line usually comes down to 3 main factors:
- Writing with a personal voice
- Including original insights
- Featuring custom graphs, charts, tables, or drawings
Although I acknowledge that producing content at this level is difficult, I’ve still been surprised to see that most businesses aren’t producing thought leadership. Of the 700+ business websites I’ve reviewed in the past 3 years, only 18 were producing true thought leadership, thus crossing the High Quality Content Line. The rest were engaging in varying degrees of standard content marketing that likely had little to no effect on their SEO or lead generation.
To illustrate what it means to cross the High Quality Content Line, let’s look at the organic traffic of two B2B businesses. The first is a company we recently started working with, who maintained a blog for the last year written by an internal team member, who published articles 2-4 times per month. Here is what the effort achieved for them, traffic-wise:
While there is some traffic growth, it is modest. And the more important metric — new, qualified leads — hadn’t grown in any significant way.
Now let’s look at the traffic of a client that has been publishing 2 thought leadership pieces per week for the last year and a half.
While our client’s traffic trajectory is obviously much higher — organic traffic has more than doubled — the most significant difference is that the number of SEO-generated leads coming to the company is up 119%, yielding $2.3M in new revenue.
Clearly, creating excellent content is crucial to any SEO strategy. It is the largest of the 3 main components of Google’s SEO algorithm, with the other two being custom-written meta title tags and links. It is also the only one that could drive SEO success completely by itself, since it achieves links organically due to the quality of the content; and involves custom-writing titles that include keywords, making for great title tags.
If your company understands the value of high quality content but is producing content that is only good enough, I hope this article has shed some light on what you’re missing out on.
Evan Bailyn is the CEO of First Page Sage, an SEO firm that ghostwrites thought leadership content.