As marketers find it increasingly difficult to stand out above the noise, and old school SEO hacks no longer work, content quality is coming to the forefront of the conversation. Creating quality content is part of a good content strategy.
In this post, we look at the importance of creating high-caliber content, how to define quality in a way that is scalable, and some practical ways to use content scoring.
Why High-Quality Content is Important
Is content quality important in an age where most readers quickly skim content? The short answer is yes. Read on for a more nuanced explanation.
Executed properly, high-quality content is a critical business asset that continues to pay dividends long after it is published. Content shapes the customer journey. It builds brand awareness, drives leads and powers sales. Obviously, then the quality of your content reflects upon your business.
In today’s crowded content environment, good content is not an option. It’s a necessity. In the limited time spent scanning your content, visitors need to have the ultimate experience.
Anything less jeopardizes their chance of successfully navigating the customer journey. A lost sale is the ultimate price you pay for bad content.
However, nobody that I’ve met ever set out to create bad content. Perhaps they’ve been inclined to cut corners, some more so than others. But poor quality was never their aim.
So what gives?
I think part of the problem lies in how content marketers define content quality.
High-Quality Content Meaning: Content Depth, Breadth, and Relevance
A common question that content marketing teams are faced with is what defines high-quality content? People in this position frequently struggle to write for search engines while simultaneously satisfying their readers. Ultimately, content creation should align with the desired user experience. Yet even the most seasoned SEO expert struggles with preemptively defining and predicting which content will resonate most with their target audience.
A good strategy requires breadth of knowledge, depth of expertise, and relevance. Creating content of the highest quality means that every blog post and article needs to demonstrate that depth of understanding.
In fact, content depth is taking on an important role in rankings effectiveness. To be clear when we talk about depth we don’t mean content length. In-depth content addresses a host of terms closely related to a specific focus topic, which has nothing to do with the length of a content item.
The fewer words you can use to convey that information, the better. There are SEO benefits to clear and concise writing. From what I’ve seen, and this is just anecdotal evidence, it’s information density and not content length that counts.
At this point, we’ve managed to crystallize the concept of high-quality content into something more specific and definite. Still, it remains a qualitative measure, and that is going to be hard to scale.
Content scoring is a way of taking a qualitative measure and turning into something quantitative. The most significant benefit of using a content scorecard is that we move away from a gut-driven approach to content. Instead, we’re using a process driven by data.
Good content scoring isn’t a vanity metric. Done right, it can be a good predictor of success in search engine rankings.
When you get right down it, search engines are in the business of providing the best quality and most relevant answers to every search query. It’s the job of content creators to ensure their content meets that objective.
Most ranking systems only tell you where you are. For those creating SEO content, there’s no shortage of tools do that.
But a good content scoring system can help you get to where you want to go. Think of it as a roadmap to creating better content.
Checking for Content Quality
You can always conduct a content audit to check for quality, but I prefer to bake it right into the content creation process. Grammarly is my preferred grammar and spelling checker. I also use MarketMuse Suite to provide me with a specific content score as my target and determine what related topics I need to cover to achieve that goal.
The Connect application provides me with external link suggestions from high quality sites that are non-competitive.
For example, in this document I link to a site discussing SEO for NLP because it’s a quality blog post and relevant to the topic of content quality. Yet it’s not competitive to the main topic of this blog post; content quality.
Read Content Quality Check: Step By Step for more details.
Often I just create my blog post within the Optimize application. But if I’m editing the work of someone else, I’ll paste their document into the app.
Practical Applications of Content Scoring
Content scoring is more than a theoretical exercise. There are numerous real-world situations where a good scoring method can pay great dividends.
The ways to apply content scoring dramatically expand when you combine it with other metrics such as word count, page count, and ranking. Here are just a few things you can accomplish:
- Isolating poor quality content (low content score)
- Detecting thin content (low content score and low page count)
- Uncovering fluff writing (low content score and high word count)
- Locating expert content (high content score and average word count)
- Identifying pages suffering from keyword stuffing (low content score and high usage of focus topic)
- Discovering opportunities for optimization (average to low content score and decent ranking)
- Evaluating expansion opportunities (low content score, low word count and low ranking)
- Determining which topics are ideal candidates for additional coverage (high content score and low page count)
I go into more detail about these specific formulas in 8 Things You Can Do With Content Scores.
Once you start gathering these insights, you may find yourself with far more opportunities than resources. In this case, it makes sense to prioritize your options.
Basically, you’re looking for a method of evaluating the urgency and overall likelihood of success in creating and optimizing content on a particular topic. Manual prioritization works with small volumes of material, but not so well when trying to scale. Those situations call for an automated process of prioritization, but that’s way beyond the scope of this article.
How to Find and Fix Thin Content
Personally, I’m not a big fan of the term “thin content.” It’s a vague term that can mean different things to different people. Content marketers and SEO practitioners frequently use the term to denote poor quality content. But their criteria for discovering potentially low-quality content is word count.
I think this stems from the popularity of free and low-cost SEO tools that can quickly locate pages with low word-count. But here’s the problem:
- Low word count doesn’t equal poor quality.
- A high word doesn’t ensure a blog post is of superior quality.
The assumption that low word count equates to poor quality may make you feel better, but it comes at a cost. Yes, it’s easier to conduct a content audit of 1,000 low-word-count pages instead of auditing the full site.
However, you won’t catch all the other inferior content residing on the rest of your site. Performing a spot check may catch some culprits, but you'll never know precisely how much deficient material you have.
Using content scores facilitates the identification of poor quality content and makes the process easily scalable. A blog post with a below-average content score is, well, below average. No arguments there. The only decision is how to fix it!
I’m assuming that your method of content scoring is based on a topic model because that’s how we do it here at MarketMuse. The beauty of this method is that you can use your scoring process to inform your optimization efforts.
How you’ve scored your content is how you will fix it! Here’s an example using this post you’re reading.
With a content score of 11, it falls far below the optimal score of 37. That’s not surprising given that was only about 250 words into a 1,000 word+ post when I took the screenshot. So what can we do to improve the score?
Well according to the model for this topic, upon which the score is based, I’m missing out on a lot of critical related issues like:
- Content quality
- Search engines
- Content marketing
- Content strategy
- User-generated content
- Content creation
- Long tail keywords
- And others
So to enhance this post and get a better score, I need to address those topics. In this instance that’s not a problem. But there are other cases.
A low word count coupled with a low content score usually means the content that’s there is good but needs expansion since there’s just not enough.
A high word count with a low content score is another beast altogether. Blog posts like that are written poorly and stuffed with filler words and phrases that add absolutely no value. I’ve found that most often you’re better off starting from scratch rather than trying to edit your way out of this mess.
Sometimes you’ll have a good content score for a particular topic but only one or two pages addressing the subject. This is an actual case of thin content where you don’t have enough pages to fully discuss all the topics at hand.
The solution is simple. Add more blog posts to round out your content.
The amount of content produced on the web every second is absolutely insane. To stand out from the crowd, it’s imperative you create the highest quality content possible.
The gut-driven approach to content creation doesn’t work. It’s slow, cumbersome and unreliable. Having an objective and scientific method to scoring content allows you to create quality content at scale.