In the context of digital marketing and search engine rankings, few things matter more than the quality of content you produce as a marketer.
Traditional marketing as we know has relied for decades on traditional advertising: print, TV, and radio ads. Now that consumers have shifted online and can consume information across a wider set of channels, they’ve become smarter and more aware that they’re being marketed to.
The “interruptive”/disruptive nature of traditional advertising no longer works the way it used to. People want to exert control over what advertising they listen to; they can no longer be sold to like before and won’t interact with a brand mostly on their own terms.
This is where Content Marketing comes in.
Content Marketing: Marketing With The Consumer’s Permission
Content Marketing is the discipline of creating content the reader wants to consume because it is useful and entertaining. It takes many forms: articles, blogs, social media content, podcasts, and videos.
Unlike traditional marketing, content marketing aims for the readers’ permission to speak to them by providing information or an experience that is valuable to them. Earning this consent and providing value for their time in the form of useful content is a way of gaining their trust and attention.
Creating valuable content that digital consumers want to read, however, is only part of the equation. If you want your content to be read, it has to be found.
Good Content Must Be Found
To be found on the Internet, content must be searchable – scanned, recognized, and listed by Google as a credible source of information that responds to a user’s search query, including the reason behind this search (which we call search intent).
To get good rankings, content marketers need to care about search quality ratings, as discussed on this page. For content marketers, this means creating web content that captures and reflects Google’s specific criteria for Page Quality (PQ), which we discuss in the next section, and Needs Met (NM), which determines whether the page answers the intent of the search query with the right content.
Quality content that’s created based on these criteria improves search rankings, which in turn increases traffic. Let’s discuss these criteria.
Good Quality Content is E-A-T
When it comes to content criteria, Google’s current gold standard for good search quality content is outlined in a 2019 document, Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, which is well known for first introducing the concept of E-A-T.
E-A-T stands for the following:
- Expertise: Be an expert
- Authority: Produce authoritative material that is cited by others
- Trustworthiness: Your content is trustworthy
Expertise calls for the production of detailed, well-written content on a subject that is written by a subject matter expert, who can demonstrate his expertise with the provision of his credentials.
Authority is assigned to a piece of content if Google detects the equivalent of bibliographic citations for the Internet or other forms of recognition. These include backlinks, awards, or other reviews that discuss that content.
Trustworthiness is measured by the presence of reviews on other websites, as well as technical indicators such as the presence of security certifications.
In sum, content that meets E-A-T standards should be written expertly, be of a certain length, created by an author who enjoys a good reputation and published on a reputable website.
In simplest terms, low-quality content is the reverse of what we described above. Google may determine that a page provides low-quality content if the content is short, poorly written (with bad grammar and punctuation), and written by someone with a mixed or negative reputation, published on a website with a mixed or negative reputation.
Google also tends to assign low-quality ratings to pages that present any of the following:
- copied (lifted or plagiarized) content,
- distracting ads (such as frequent, annoying pop-ups)
- supplementary content that does not conform or add value to the page
- page content elements, such as titles and headers, that contain the text of dubious, sensational, or misleading nature.
Pages that will tend to get the lowest quality ratings are those with the apparent intention to do harm. These pages may do any of the following:
- Publish hate speech, or content that encourages hate
- Spread misinformation, such as debunked conspiracy theories, or attempt to impersonate a person or an organization
- Contain phishing or malware scams
- Or pages that have been deceptively written and designed, such as ads that are made to look like main page content.
Low page quality criteria also apply to hacked, abandoned, or unmaintained websites.
Content and Industries Held to a Higher Standard
Google’s complex rating standards don’t end there.
Google doesn’t only rank pages on the basis of usefulness and how well they meet the purpose of search. It has much higher rating standards for pages and topics that deal with happiness, health, finances, and safety, which it calls Your Money Or Your Life (YMYL) pages.
The YMYL standard is applied to content related to these industries:
- Finance – Money, banking and investments, insurance, loans, retirement, and special topics such as online banking transactions;
- Law and government – Info related to social services, legal issues, government agencies, and basic civil rights like voting
- Shopping – Information and pages that discuss and sell products and services (e-commerce pages)
- Health, safety, and medicine – Online literature about the hospital, drugs, medical emergencies, and disasters
- News and current events – News about international events, business, politics, science, health, technology
- Groups or protected classes – Information or stories about groups that are considered minorities or are open to potential harassment and discrimination
- Other topics that can impact individual safety and well-being such as job seeking, diet and nutrition, and housing and real estate information
Certain types of topics related to entertainment, lifestyle, and sports are not considered YMYL. Not all content is the same in Google’s eyes. Information, however, that’s been written and published related to the topics or industries above must be above moral and ethical reproach to meet the YMYL standard.