I’ve talked a lot about the importance of high-quality content in previous posts. It’s essential for a solid content marketing strategy not only to attract and keep users and customers but also for ranking in search.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. There’s a lot involved in creating valuable content, and you just don’t know how you can do it at scale. It’s actually not as complicated as it seems. The important thing to remember is to have a solid plan in place and a clear directive for writers and editors to ensure content consistency.
What Makes Content High-Quality?
There are two kinds of high-quality content: the type that satisfies users and the kind that meets Google and other search engines’ requirements. Often, the two overlap.
That’s because Google takes queues from its search users to better understand what they’re looking for when searching.
They caught on quickly to companies who used keyword stuffing, bait-and-switch, and other SEO tricks to get their content ranked and garner impressions.
To stop content creators from bombarding the internet with low-quality, and sometimes dangerous, blog posts, they’ve created a set of standards that define high-quality content. In a nutshell, great content should
Present Relevant Information
In the early days of content marketing, a post may not have had much to do with the keyword it targeted. Or it may have briefly touched on a keyword topic before launching into a full-on product advertisement.
In recent years, Google has released several algorithms that use AI and natural language technology to confirm content matches primary and secondary keywords. They also use human evaluators to check content for relevance.
Present Information that Demonstrates EAT
EAT stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. Content, particularly medical or other health-related content, should demonstrate these three attributes through verifiable links to trusted sources, quotes from subject matter experts or simply be written by an expert in the field.
Match User Intent
Recently, I did a search for poison ivy. What I wanted were descriptions and pictures of the plant so I would know what to look for on a hike. What I didn’t want were articles about the DC Comics villain.
Google wants content writers to make that distinction, too, through keyword choice, heads and subheads and relevant content that fits their audience.
Cover a Topic Completely
Content should include more than one keyword. It should also include secondary keywords related to the topic. Every aspect of a topic should be addressed thoroughly and in-depth. Topic clusters are frequently created to offer a rich body of engaging content to potential customers.
Follow an Easy-to-Read Structure
Content structure helps search engines better understand what your content is about and how well it covers a topic. It also makes it very easy to read for your audience. And since most readers scan content for the information they need, the easier you make it for them to find that information, the more likely they are to return.
Include High-Quality Media
Don’t limit your content ideas to written text. By 2022, video will make up 82 percent of all consumer content, according to Cisco. And search engines have responded.
A recent Google algorithm update gave YouTube a considerable boost in traffic. Other content types include infographics, high-quality imagery, and slideshows.
All of these benchmarks are used by both search engines and users to judge thequality of content. Users want trustworthy, thorough content that’s easy to digest and meets their search intent. And search engines want to give them that content.
But there are other technical components to high-quality content that search engines look at, but users may not. Those include back-end tagging, strong backlinks, internal linking, and content clustering.
Content Density Versus Content Length
There is one trap many content creators fall into when trying to create high-quality content. It’s one I’ve seen both as an editor and writer for brands looking to boost their ranks in search: the length trap.
The length trap is the misperception that longer content automatically means a boost in rank. If you write 750 words instead of 300, you’re bound to address user intent and hit all the right content buttons, right?
Wrong. There’s more to creating content than setting a minimum word count. It takes planning, too.
I’ve seen plenty of briefs from brands that include a word count of 750 or 1,000 words, but no direction to take those words in. I’ve also been handed pieces from writers who wrote paragraph after paragraph of fluff simply to hit the word count and call it a day.
Longer blog posts are indeed looked upon more favorably. The assumption being if they’re longer, they must cover their chosen topic more thoroughly.
It stands to reason, then, that it’s not enough to create a long blog post. That post must have substance, and it must address user intent.
Let’s look back at my poison ivy example.
I googled poison ivy to see what it looks like so I could avoid a rash. The very first result I got was fromMayo Clinic (there’s your EAT). If I wanted to know more about how to treat the rash (which I might, if I happen to run into some on my hike), this would be the post I would read. It’s a 1,000-word post, so it’s got the length.
But it also has the right content, including images of the plant and what the rash looks like, symptoms, causes, complications, and prevention. It also has a related content tab on diagnosis and treatment.
With a MarketMuse Content Score of 42, the blog post is thorough. It also matches user intent (since most people are likely interested in the rash rather than the plant itself). Plus, it includes subtopics and related keywords (poison ivy rash, signs and symptoms of poison ivy rash, prevent poison ivy rash, etc.).
If I had clicked on this post only to find that the Mayo Clinic spent most of those 1,000 words talking about how great their doctors are at treating poison ivy rashes, I would have bounced from the page pretty quickly.
So no, it’s not enough to create long posts. Your content must have density to them — rich, valuable information that satisfies a user’s needs.
The Foolproof Content Creation Process
So how do you create more elaborate, high-quality content at scale? Content writing at this level needs a well-defined process. It requires high standards and best practices around content production that ensures consistency in content quality.
Professional content writing services turn content production into a repeatable process. You need to do the same with your internal team. Here are the steps to do it:
1. Research Your Audience’s Needs
I mention this in all my posts. You won’t have any idea what you should be writing if you don’t understand what yourtarget audience is looking for.
In Mayo Clinic’s case, they have a clear understanding of their buyer persona. Their users are looking for detailed information about the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and complications of ailments and injuries.
2. Create Topics and Subtopics to Address Those Needs
Once you understand what your users are looking for, you can come up with topics and subtopics for your content. Again, every issue must be addressed thoroughly and with useful information that will boost your ranks and keep your users coming back to you.
3. Template Your Content
Every piece of content should follow the same structure, whether that be an inverted pyramid, an essay, or a mix of different structures for different purposes. The idea is to spell out for your content team the elements that every piece should have.
For example, articles on common ailments should include an overview, symptoms, when to call your doctor, treatment options, and complications. All sections should begin with an h2 subhead. Titles should be tagged h1. Every article should include links to relevant sources and a section at the bottom with links to related articles. Including these will ensure every piece of content includes the information and tagging it needs to rank well.
4. Establish Research and Writing Standards
Put in place detailed research and writing standards. Include lists of sites writers can use for research and sites writers should stay away from. Break down each section of your content and provide guidelines for exactly how to write them. Include examples. Make sure writers know the level of quality you’re looking for in your posts. Pro Tip: Use a content brief that contains everything a writer needs to create the best content on that topic.
5. Assign in Detail
When you assign topics to writers, don’t include the topic and word count only. Explain what it is you’re looking for; which keywords and links to include and questions to address in the content. Giving your writers as much guidance as possible will keep them from going off track or writing fluff to fill the space. Use an editorial calendar to ensure projects are assigned and completed in a timely manner.
6. Edit Using a Checklist
Provide your editors with clear guidelines, too. Give them a checklist of things to look for — proper formatting (h1s, h2s, etc.), valid links from acceptable sources, the correct sections with trustworthy information, a section at the bottom for related links — whatever it is that you’ve templated out and assigned to your writers, your editors should have, too.
Creating high-quality content is a proven way to buffer your site against the unpredictability of Google updates. But achieving this at scale doesn’t have to exhaust your resources. Put clear guidelines that take the guesswork out of blog posts to make the writing process smooth and repeatable. Get it right on the first draft, not after you hit the publish button.