How Google defines ‘quality content’

By Patrick Stox, Third Door Media; March 13, 2017

We’ve all heard that content is king and that you need to write high-quality content, or now “10x content,” as coined by Rand Fishkin. Ask SEOs what “quality content” is and you’ll receive a lot of varied and opinionated answers. Quality is subjective, and each person views it differently.

Ask SEOs what Google considers to be quality content, and you will get a lot of blank stares. I know because I like to ask this a lot.

The number one answer I get, sadly, is that content should be x number of words, where x is usually 200, 300, 500, 700, 1,000, 1,500, or 2,000. More content does not mean better content. A simple query about the age of an actor can be fully answered in a sentence and doesn’t require their life story and filmography. Another answer I receive is that the content should be “relevant.” The problem with this is that low-quality pages can be relevant as well.

Other SEOs I’ve asked have given amazingly detailed answers from patents or ideas from machine learning about word2vec, RankBrain, deep learning, count-based methods and predictive methods.

Is there a right answer?

Google Webmaster Quality Guidelines

Google has quality guidelines here. However, you may notice that there are many guidelines around negative signals but few around positive signals. When reading these, think for a minute what happens when two, ten or a hundred websites aren’t doing anything bad. How do you determine the quality difference if no one does anything wrong?

Basic principles

Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.

Don’t deceive your users.

Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”

Think about what makes your website unique, valuable or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.

Specific guidelines

Avoid the following techniques:

  • Automatically generated content

  • Participating in link schemes

  • Creating pages with little or no original content

  • Sneaky redirects

  • Hidden text or links

  • Doorway pages

  • Scraped content

  • Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value

  • Loading pages with irrelevant keywords

  • Creating pages with malicious behavior, such as phishing or installing viruses, trojans or other badware

  • Abusing rich snippets markup

  • Sending automated queries to Google

Follow good practices like these:

  • Monitoring your site for hacking and removing hacked content as soon as it appears

  • Preventing and removing user-generated spam on your site

  • Google on how to create valuable content

Then there’s this section from Google’s Webmaster Academy course, which tells you how to “create valuable content.” There are a few good tips here on what to avoid: broken links, wrong information, grammar or spelling mistakes, excessive ads and so on. These are useful tips, but again, they focus on what not to do.

There are some tips on how to make your site useful, credible and engaging; however, when it comes to being more valuable or high-quality, Google basically says, “be more valuable or high-quality.”

As you begin creating content, make sure your website is:

  • Useful and informative: If you’re launching a site for a restaurant, you can include the location, hours of operation, contact information, menu and a blog to share upcoming events.

  • More valuable and useful than other sites: If you write about how to train a dog, make sure your article provides more value or a different perspective than the numerous articles on the web on dog training.

  • Credible: Show your site’s credibility by using original research, citations, links, reviews and testimonials. An author biography or testimonials from real customers can help boost your site’s trustworthiness and reputation.

  • High-quality: Your site’s content should be unique, specific and high-quality. It should not be mass-produced or outsourced on a large number of other sites. Keep in mind that your content should be created primarily to give visitors a good user experience, not to rank well in search engines.

  • Engaging: Bring color and life to your site by adding images of your products, your team or yourself. Make sure visitors are not distracted by spelling, stylistic and factual errors. An excessive number of ads can also be distracting for visitors. Engage visitors by interacting with them through regular updates, comment boxes or social media widgets.