Tim Grice, CEO of Branded3 discusses how a solid content strategy can have a positive impact on a website’s organic rankings.
Tim says the reason for this topic is the number of meetings he’s had over the last 2 or 3 years where he’s found there’s a disconnect between producing good quality content and achieving good organic performance. He’ll look to ensure that we can deliver strong results through a comprehensive content strategy.
So, where to start when thinking about a content strategy? Fortunately, Google released it’s quality guidelines document towards the end of last year (2015). This is a 146-page document that goes into detail about what is considered as good quality content.
Tim advises that anyone serious about SEO and improving rankings should read this document (which the SEO team at Impression has). However, there are a number of summaries online, and Tim’s talk will highlight some key points.
Tim’s main summary takeaway is E.A.T – expert, authority, trust. These are the key principles that Google is looking for when reviewing content.
What makes good content?
Quality, Qualifications (qualified to produce) and Reputation (positive and good).
Tim describes that content can fit into one of three categories:
- Main Content (this content has a core purpose and is considered primary)
- Secondary / Supplementary Content – this adds value and enhances the user experience
- Advertisements – Google thinks that Ads can go some way to creating a good user experience (surprisingly)
At this point, Tim states that within the guidelines, there is a strong focus on content that’s there purely to make money, and content that’s there to help users. If your page is purely there to make money, you will struggle to rank well. If your page is there to help and inform users, you’ll stand a much better chance at ranking highly (this is mentioned 6 or 7 times within the guidelines – so a key focus).
In 2012 Google announced it was using 4,500 ‘Quality Raters’ – individuals that manually review the quality of website, it’s likely this has quadrupled by now. Tim discusses that we know these reviews have an impact, as he’s seen significant changes in a website’s rankings during a time of no recorded Google updates.
Google has a scale that it uses to rate the quality of content:
These Quality Raters look at the wider website, not just an individual page. If your website is considered to be in the Lowest or Low categories, you’ll lose organic visibility in Google.
Good quality content
So, what’s good quality look like? What does Google look for? The guidelines imply that Google is looking for the following in your content:
If you’re not fulfilling the above criteria, it’s likely you’ll struggle to rank well. A good example is Money Saving Expert’s 50 House Buying Tips guide – this clearly fulfills these criteria.
Positive and negative signals
So, what does Google consider to be helpful to a user (positive signals)?
- Topical information
- Social media and forums
- Experience and opinion
- Selling products
The final point makes it clear that selling products is considered helpful to a user, so this can be applied to eCommerce stores, as much as lead generation sites.
Just as Google looks for positive signals, it also looks for negative signals, these include:
- Lack of editorial control
- Purpose of page not clear
- Poor grammar / spelling
- Technically poor
- Duplication (even if you site or link back to the original) – you’ll still get the lowest score
- Distracting ads
- Basic information or content overkill
Tim shares a key quote from the document: “A poor quality rating in itself is enough to warrant the ‘lowest’ score.” This means even if you have a great reputation and a known brand, you will still struggle to rank well if you’re not delivering good quality content.
So, what makes you qualified to produce this content?
Quality Raters (or website detectives – as they’ve been referred to by Google) are asked to look at your about pages, look for awards and certifications. They will check out the profiles on your website and consider the people behind the pages. Make sure you make this content as easily accessible as possible.
This stuff really matters:
- About page
- Positive reviews
- Press mentions
- Social profiles
If you’re selling stuff (an eCommerce store), they’re looking for even more information:
- Detailed contact information that marries up offsite as well as onsite
- Your payment policy
- Exchange and return details
- Reviews and customer feedback
Again, the above must be accessible – make it easy for them to find!
Your reputation matters. It’s not just your website they’ll be reviewing – its your business. They’ll review Wikipedia, looking at your personal or business profile (if you have one). They’ll be looking for proof that you’re trusted in your industry, they’ll review your social profiles; Twitter, LinkedIn. They don’t want anonymity. This needs to be a part of your content strategy.
Have you delivered for users? Do you have follows on twitter, do you have engagement. Another key quote from the document is: “A poor reputation in itself is enough to warrant the ‘lowest’ score.”
They’ll be reviewing mentions on The Guardian, New York Times, Better Business Bureau, Trust Pilot and other review platforms. So ensure your brand is promoted on these types of websites, and in a positive light!
“What others say about you matters more than what you say about yourself.” They will fundamentally trust these external reviews – effort needs to go into this area.
From time to time, you may get a bad review – so, what becomes a cause for concern?
Negative feedback needs to be prolonged and consistent. Unfortunately, SEOs can’t cover up a business providing a poor service – this needs to be communicated to the client.
A final thought
Supplementary Content is key. This is the content that adds value and enhances the user experience. Without this Supplementary Content, the best you can hope for is a ‘Medium’ rating: “Even if you’re getting everything okay, the best you can hope for without supplementary content or adding value, the maximum you’ll get is Medium.”
A takeaway from Tim: “Your job is to make the good stuff accessible and bad stuff disappear.”
This strongly aligns with digital PR, positive mentions in trusted online publications, can impact these quality reviews (not just links).
Remember, it’s not just your web page, but your entire online presence.
Full slides from Tim’s talk can be found here.