How many times have you heard the term “content quality” and resisted the urge to roll your eyes? It happens to me at least a few times a week—particularly because the definition of content quality changes based on the audience, context, purpose, and a million other factors. In content creation, subjectivity is the name of the game.

That said, when it comes to SEO, the definition of quality content is much more precise. First, quality content provides concise answers to searchers’ questions. Second, quality content tells search engines it provides those answers.

So where do you start? How do you write in a way that tells both readers and search engines that your content belongs on the top of the pile?

How Google Defines Content Quality

Google defines quality content as information that a search engine predicts will be satisfying for the searchers of a given keyword.

Google’s goal is to keep searchers coming back for answers. That means they want to offer relevant and timely results to as many queries as possible to make sure people are satisfied with their searches.

Over the years, Google’s algorithm has been updated to better determine what searchers actually want and which content will satisfy their needs.

That means that a content creator’s job is both to write content that people want and to make sure search engines can “read” that content and determine its usefulness to those people. Whoa. Tall order.

Let’s start with the signals search engines use to deliver results that affect content creators the most.

Signals Search Engines Love

Signal 1: External links

An external link is a link that points to a domain other than the domain on which the link exists. For example, a link on your site to a third-party blog you reference is considered an external link; as is a link on someone else’s site that directs to your domain.

Search engines view external links as “votes”, and some votes count more than others. Basically, people (and search engines) trust what others say about you more than what you say about yourself.

As for how this affects content creation, you can grab a little extra SEO power by linking to trustworthy resources that might relate to or inform your own content.

And don’t forget to make friends with other sites that might link back to you. It’s perfectly legitimate to ask other sites if they’re willing to link to relevant content or pages on your site. Guest blogging, earned media, and partnerships are all great ways to do this.

Signal 2: Valuable information

Google considers the most valuable information to be the most powerful information. Content that is trustworthy, authoritative, and valuable usually holds more weight in search. Makes sense, right? But how do you check all those boxes? There are several factors to consider.

  • Trustworthiness - Ask yourself, “Do I trust the information presented in this article?” If the answer is no, there might be a problem.
  • Authority - Determine if the article is written by a subject matter expert or even someone who clearly knows the topic very well. Even better, is the site a recognized authority on the topic?
  • Overall Quality - Watch for spelling, stylistic, or factual errors; they’re a pretty solid indicator of low-quality content.
  • Quality Information - Does the article include original information, reporting, research, or analysis? If the information is unsubstantial or unspecific, it might not be a very valuable site.
  • Real Value - Does the site have duplicate or redundant articles with only slightly different keywords? That might mean it was created just for search engines, rather than to provide real value to searchers.

Signal 3: Answering search intent

While search may once have been all about the keywords, it now incorporates the intent behind those keywords. People searching specific keywords might be looking to gather information, navigate to a certain website, or even purchase something. Google has the lofty goal of offering information that satisfies both the search term and search intent.

So, what does that mean for a content contributor? If you remember nothing else about search intent, you should walk away with one word in mind: purpose.

Every piece of content you write should serve a purpose, whether it’s a product page intended to inform those looking to purchase, or a blog intended to educate.

In the SEO world, those different purposes show up in the search intent of queries. Different search terms lead to content with different purposes. The best results come when you optimize for the intent behind your chosen keywords, rather than just for the keywords themselves.

Take this blog post for example. It doesn’t make sense for me to optimize this blog for keywords like “Siteimprove SEO”. While it is certainly a related topic, our readers are likely not looking for product information in this piece of content.

Instead, I might optimize for terms like “how to write content for SEO” because some of the questions related to that search term are (hopefully) answered in this post.

When it comes down to it, quality content is written for people first and search engines second. If your content is packed full of relevant keywords, but doesn’t provide what searchers need, you won’t get very far. Keep search engines’ favorite signals in mind, but make sure your purpose is clear and your content is human. Good luck!

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