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Explaining ‘Quality Content’ Once and For All

Content Intent

The phrase "quality content" has become somewhat of a joke within the SEO and digital marketing community. It's used so often when giving SEO advice--typically without further detail or actionable instructions--that there's no way for a non-SEO to truly grasp the meaning behind it.

But that all changes today!

I want to give you my explanation of quality content to help shed light on any mistakes you might be making with your own content efforts.

Let's dig in!


You Have to Nail the Intent

Nailed the Intent

First and foremost, intent is easily the single most important factor to creating content today. If you don't nail the intent behind your content properly, you're not going to attract the right visitors, and your results will be suffer as a result.

But how do you understand intent?

In order to understand intent, you need an inside look at how people are phrasing searches related to your business/niche. For that, we'll use the Adwords Keyword Planner.

As an example, let's say you're trying to rank for the keyword "used cars for sale." The intent here is pretty simple: the user wants to find used cars for sale (likely within driving distance from their location). But the type of content you'd create for that target keyword would be a lot different from the content you'd create for "best used cars for sale."

A user searching for "used cars for sale" is probably after a list of used cars available at a dealership, or an aggregate display of used cars in their area. There's no phrase modifying this search, as is the case with "best used cars for sale." Modifiers help us identify searcher intent, allowing us to create content that will match that intent.

For instance, the "best used cars for sale" content should include a list of cars that are widely considered to be the most reliable. We've determined this based on the context of the word "best" combined with used cars. (If we were talking about "best movies ever," we'd be looking at movies that were universally well reviewed.)

I've come to put keywords into different categories based on intent. This helps me identify the right keywords to target on pages, and better craft content to meet the needs of search users.

The first is "transactional" keywords. These are keywords that show an intent to purchase. In our example, "used cars for sale" is a transactional keyword.

The second is "informational" keywords. Users searching these types of keywords are obviously out to be informed on a particular subject. People searching for "best used cars for sale" are out to be informed about the best used cars so they can make a better decision as a consumer. (They're also probably afraid of buying a lemon!)

Get into the habit of thinking about the intent behind keywords. It's really easy when you change your mindset. You've searched Google with the intent of buying, and with the intent of being informed, plenty of times. So take that experience and apply it to the keywords other people are searching for in your arena.


Creating Value for the User

Skyscraper Technique for Content and SEO

Stay in the mindset of a search user!

Now, instead of applying that information to identifying intent based on keywords, apply it to your satisfaction with the content of pages that rank well.

What was it that separated their content from others? It was probably the value they brought to the subject.

But what does that mean exactly?!

It means they nailed the intent of your query.

For our "best used cars for sale" example, to fully ensure you're going above and beyond for users, you'd be best off breaking your list down into categories, featuring cars, trucks, and SUVs. Some users may have only been searching for sedans, but it's very likely the large majority were just looking for used cars in general.

Now, if you want to target searchers of "best used SUVs to buy," though, you only have to worry about covering SUVs. The only downside is, once you start getting specific you're likely going to see major drops in search volume per keyword.

Whatever your individual situation, the goal is to think of ways you can add more and more valuable information to aid searchers based on that intent. To put this into practice, I employ the Skyscraper Technique.

The Skyscraper Technique is simply building off of the foundation other sources have built in order to create something that's even more valuable to users. For example, you could use used car data from multiple sources, such as U.S. News, Consumer Reports, as well as user-generated data from sites like Car Complaints and True Delta to create a list of best used SUVs that takes more data into account than any other page out there.

If you're going above and beyond your competition while staying on topic, you're creating a lot of great value for users.


Combine Great Writing and Page Layout

Finally we start discussing the actual writing of content! You'd think that wasn't the most important part.

Well, it is and isn't. To truly call your content "quality," you need to first nail the research and planning. As long as you do that and follow through, the only way things could go wrong is if your writing is absolutely horrible. You want to have a little fun, add personality, but still maintain flow for an uninterrupted reading experience for users.

After the writing is complete, it's formatting the page layout that may present you with trouble. You don't just want to leave paragraphs and paragraphs of text on a page. You need headings, images, maybe even contextually relevant video, depending on the type of page you're creating.


Leave the Over-Optimization at Home

Gordon Ramsay

On-page optimization is still extremely important for SEO success, but not in the way many of you might think. You do still need optimized headings, metadata, and images, so don't think optimization has been made irrelevant. The difference is you don't need to stuff keywords into every other sentence in order to have Google understand what your content is about and achieve rankings.

Instead, the optimization you do make should be subtle. Look for longtail keywords that can be naturally fit into your content without taking away from the flow or seeming out of place. It's not something you'll immediately master, but it does get easier over time.


Just Remember: Quality is Subjective

While I'd love to tell you that everyone will universally love your content if you follow these instructions, quality is subjective at the end of the day. Not everyone is going to approve, and it's nearly impossible to create "perfect" content.

As long as you're achieving results and utilizing the available data to improve with each new page, you're on the right track!


Originally Posted to on August 10, 2015.

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