We are inundated with content. All of our devices are vying for our precious attention, sending us an ever-growing stream of characters, images and videos. Content comes at us through our desktops, our inboxes, our social media feeds, our wearables and now through pop-ups and notifications. We have the answer to any conceivable question at our fingertips.
Now that we have an overwhelming amount of data at our disposal, the question becomes: how do I sort through this digital “noise” to find the sources of information that I can trust to help me make better decisions?
Why Quality Content Matters
As consumers, we want to find the best answers to our questions, as quickly as possible. We increasingly turn online to learn about products and services and to make purchasing decisions.
Every minute, 4 million search queries are conducted on Google alone.
As a small or medium sized business owner, you view this question through a different lens: how can I get my message to my target audience and help move them closer to becoming a loyal customer?
As a Director of Marketing, you might ask yourself: how do I know what content is resonating with my audience and how do I stay a step ahead of our competitors?
The simple answer to these questions is one that will probably come as no surprise: quality content is more important now than ever to help your business reach its goals.
Digital marketing allows you to reach exactly who you want, when you want, with a unique message. It doesn’t end there, though. You also have the ability to measure the impact of your content and continue to make adjustments to get the best return on your investment over time. Since content is no longer static, you’ll want to make sure your assets and your strategy evolve in a rapidly-changing environment.
In this post, we’ll talk about what quality content is in the first place and why it matters for SEO and your user experience. Then, we’ll discuss what changes have occurred in digital marketing and how to apply a growth mindset to your content so that you can keep accruing benefits from your efforts over time.
What is Quality Content?
Before we explore why quality content helps you grow your business, we need to talk about what good content is—and what is not.
Quality content usually shares some common characteristics, including that it:
- Answers a question
- Is written for humans, not for search engines
- Engages the user
- Is helpful and valuable
- Provides a unique perspective
In contrast, poor content:
- Attempts to trick or manipulate the user
- Is incomplete or irrelevant
- Contains spelling, grammatical or factual errors
- Is hard to understand or digest
- Lacks originality
We are all very familiar with poor content. Low-quality content is everywhere, and helps you appreciate messages that are well-crafted.
A recent study found that although a larger percentage of participants have grown to rely on web content than just a few years ago, 65% of them find web content is “hit or miss” or “unreliable”.
Keep in mind that content exists across your digital platforms and comes in many forms and formats. We usually think of website copy or blog posts, but content can also be informational videos, social media posts, email campaigns, text ads, landing pages or premium content such as e-books, podcasts or whitepapers.
Quality content is the product of a thoughtful digital marketing plan which is based on what the business wants to accomplish and how each piece of content fits into the larger strategy. Often, quality content boils down to whether your content matches the user’s intent. Does the piece of content show that you understand users’ real motivations, needs and questions? If not, there are plenty of other places to look.
Although we can try to define quality content, the real answer lies in how the content performs and whether it inspires the reader or viewer to take a desired action. If it’s a product page on your website, does the copy entice the visitor to purchase the item? If it’s a printable checklist, is the content compelling enough to download? Does your email campaign encourage new clients to click to schedule a service?
How Content Impacts SEO
Quality is one of the three top ranking factors in Google.
Having high-quality content helps your site rank better in search, which makes it easier for your potential customers to find your business. When compared to other marketing channels, organic search is better at delivering relevant traffic to your website. Compared to paid search, organic also has a higher return on investment when compared to paid search, especially since results can compound over time.
How much does your search engine ranking matter?
The top listing in a Google search gets about 33% of search traffic, while the second gets 18% and the third gets 11%. If your result is on the first page of Google search results, you will see about 92% of the traffic, while the second page only sees around 5% of search traffic. How many times have you gotten to the second page of search results when you are doing research online?
In an effort to better satisfy user intent, search engines, including Google, crawl your content to try to better understand it, organize it and prioritize it. These spiders look for signals that your content is high-quality to assign a spot for your content in search rankings. The higher the ranking, the more your hard work can result in ongoing revenue to your business.
Although ad campaigns end, good content increases in value over time. One in ten blog posts is compounding, which means that organic search traffic from the post increases over time. Although these posts only make up 10% of your total content on your blog, they can generate up to 38% of your overall site traffic.
On-Page Ranking Factors
On each page of your website, spiders look for title tags, H1 tags, meta descriptions, URLs, internal links and the alt text on your images to help categorize your content. In addition, the content should correspond to an actual term that users would type into a search bar, whether it’s “when to get new cleats” or “soccer shoes women”.
Keyword research can help you determine what type of content will best match what users are searching for in your industry. The keywords you select will vary based on where content will be located on your site (home page, product or service page or your blog, for example) and where your prospects are in their buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration or decision).
Another way that search engines reward good content is by looking at backlinks. When a trustworthy site links to your content, that sends a signal to search engines that your content is authoritative. Think of a backlink as digital word of mouth. The better your content, the more backlinks it will receive, and the higher that page will rank in search results.
Duplicate or Thin Content
Now that we have talked about some of the ways that search engines recognize and reward good content, let’s talk about what happens when your site has low-quality content. As we already mentioned, low-quality content is poorly written, does not provide relevant or useful information to the person who finds it and may be incomplete or unoriginal.
Since search algorithms favor original content, sites with duplicate content rank lower in search results. Initially, penalizing duplicate content was a way to ensure an unscrupulous person couldn’t copy your content and pass it off as his or her own.
More recently, penalizing duplicate content became a way to discourage sites from publishing the exact same content on multiple pages of one website. Why would you describe two different products or services on two separate pages in precisely the same way? Content loses its impact if it is not carefully crafted with a specific and unique goal and purpose in mind and that means creating unique copy for each piece of content.
Content That Enhances Your User Experience
If a user spends an average of 10-15 seconds on any given page of your website, you want to make it count. The chances that your website visitors will place a phone call, supply an email address or explore your site further will increase if you use content to enhance your user experience.
Think user experience only applies to design? Think again.
If someone lands on one of your pieces of content, you want to provide exactly what he or she is looking for and make the information easy to access. This means that you want to break up your text with sections and bullet points and use bold and italics for emphasis. You don’t want to include a bunch of keywords at the top or bottom of a page in an attempt to rank for SEO, and you don’t want to hide content so it’s too small to read or in a different or hard to read typeface.
Use images to help communicate your main messages and links out of your site when you need to back up the data you have provided. Intuitive architecture will make it easier for your user to take the next desired step. Making sure your content is mobile-friendly will address the rising percentage of searches that are now conducted on a phone or other type of mobile device.
How Changes in Digital Marketing Impact Your Content
Digital marketing is constantly changing. Search engines became much more sophisticated as the volume of data has exploded. Twenty years ago, keyword stuffing was an accepted practice to help your content rank higher, whereas now a page can be penalized that has sacrificed quality in a desire to rank for SEO. Changes in mobile usage are inspiring even more changes to search algorithms.
Content freshness also became a ranking factor as search engines attempted to distinguish which companies were more active by putting a premium on adding new information on a frequent basis. Not only did it become necessary to update your content to maintain your search engine ranking, but also most companies had to take steps just to maintain their ranking in the face of increased competition.
As the amount of written content exploded, publishers began to create more comprehensive long-form content. Instead of having 750 words in a blog post, companies started creating posts that were 1,200 words. Then 1,500. In 2015, Moz and BuzzSumo found that content with over 1,000 words is more likely to be shared and linked to than short-form content. Articles are getting more in-depth in an effort to stand out.
In addition, companies began to create more visual content. People who receive both written and illustrated instructions tend to do 323% better than people who are just supplied with written directions. Ninety percent of customers say that product videos assist them in deciding whether to purchase a product. Visuals can help consumers remember your brand and product, and can be shared across social networks. Facebook prioritizes video in your newsfeed, as it keeps users on the site for longer.
If your business isn’t regularly blogging, if you haven’t updated our website content since your redesign a few years ago, if you are just using one type of content or if your leads have steadily dropped over time, it’s time to revisit your content strategy.
How to Apply a Growth Mindset to Your Content
Carol Dweck is well-known in academic circles for describing a path to success known as the growth mindset. This idea is that achievement is based upon a philosophy that dedication and hard work are ongoing and not set. You can easily apply the same philosophy to digital marketing and your content. Just as your business evolves over time, so should your content. How can you keep up?
Evaluate Your Site
How do you know if search engines are penalizing your site for poor content, or that you might need a content refresh? There are many third party tools that you can use which can give you a quality score for your content. The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress sites, for example, considers how readable your copy is and make suggestions on how to improve your content for SEO.
A simple way to better understand how search engines have evaluated your content is to analyze your search traffic. Look at Google Analytics to see which of your website’s pages are performing well. Then, look to see which pages have a high bounce rate or low search traffic. Pay particular attention to your “money” pages: your home page and your product or service pages.
Update Your Content
Once you have a better idea of how your current content is performing, you can set a benchmark and make improvements. See what elements your top-performing pages have and see what you can do to improve the content your underperforming pages. Optimize your content for on-page SEO and take steps to improve your site’s authority.
Conduct a site audit yourself. Is the current content up-to-date? Can you make it more compelling? Do you know more about your audience that can help you tweak the copy for a better user experience? Adding new content and copy to blog posts can increase your organic traffic by as much as 111%.
Don’t let a desire for more content get in the way of prioritizing your best content. If you have pages that are getting little to no traffic and that aren’t critical to your business, consider removing them from your site if they are outdated or don’t effectively speak to your customers.
Add New Content
Look at Google Search Console to see how users are finding your site, and see if there is any new content you can add. Have you added new services or products? Does your current site architecture make sense? Can you create content around keywords that your competitors aren’t ranking for?
Revisit your Google Search Console data quarterly as you add new content to see the search terms that visitors are using to get to your site. Assign one person on your staff to either oversee adding this content, or create a plan to see whether any of your content creation can be outsourced. Institutionalize this ongoing process at your company so that you keep adding new content as needed and refreshing existing content every three years to reflect changing search trends.
Review metrics for each piece of content on an ongoing basis. Create automated reports to make it easier to review and analyze your data. Test different approaches to see what resonates best with your audience. Create a schedule to update your content over time. Over time, you will see what works and what doesn’t so that you can increase your search traffic and improve your conversion rate.
Good Content is the Path to Success
Creating quality content is an ongoing process that will help you meet your business goals. You can either create your content in-house or outsource your content creation to a digital marketing agency or freelancers. Either way, your investment in content will have real long-term benefits.
Need help developing a content strategy?