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Signals of Signals of Quality Content

1. Engagement Metrics

When a search engine delivers a page of results to you, it can measure the success of the rankings by observing how you engage with those results. If you click the first link, then immediately hit the back button to try the second link, this indicates that you were not satisfied with the first result. Search engines seek the “long click” – where users click a result without immediately returning to the search page to try again. Taken in aggregate over millions and millions of queries each day, the engines build up a good pool of data to judge the quality of their results.

2. Machine Learning

In 2011 Google introduced the Panda update to its ranking algorithm, significantly changing the way it judged websites for quality. Google started by using human evaluators to manually rate thousands of sites, searching for low quality content. Google then incorporated machine learning to mimic the human evaluators. Once its computers could accurately predict what the humans would judge a low quality site, the algorithm was introduced across millions of sites spanning the Internet. The end result was a seismic shift that rearranged over 20% of all of Google’s search results.

3. Linking Patterns

The engines discovered early on that the link structure of the web could serve as a proxy for votes and popularity; higher quality sites and information earned more links than their less useful, lower quality peers. Today, link analysis algorithms have advanced considerably, but these principles hold true.

Trustworthiness

Websites that have earned trusted status are often treated differently from those that have not.

SEO’s have commented on the double standards that exist for judging big brand, high-importance sites compared to newer, independent sites. For the search engines, trust most likely has to do with the links your domain has earned. If you publish low-quality, duplicate content on your personal blog, then buy several links from spammy directories, you’re likely to encounter considerable ranking problems. However, if you post that same content on Wikipedia, even with the same spammy links pointing to the URL, it would likely still rank tremendously well. Such is the power of domain trust and authority.

Trust can also be established through inbound links. A little duplicate content and a few suspicious links are far more likely to be overlooked if your site has earned hundreds of links from high-quality, editorial sources like CNN.com or Cornell.edu.

Metrics for Measuring

Google Site Query

Restrict your search to a specific site (e.g., site:webcraft.ws). Useful to see the number and list of pages indexed on a particular domain. You can expand the value by adding additional query parameters. For example, site:moz.com/blog inurl:tools, will show only those pages in Google’s index that are in the blog and contain the word “tools” in the URL. This number will fluctuate, but it’s a decent rough measurement (learn more from this blog post).

Google Trends

At google.com/trends, you can research keyword search volume and popularity over time. Log in to your Google account to get richer data, including specific numbers instead of simple trend lines.

Blog Search Link Query

Search links in a blog (e.g., link:webcraft.ws/blog). Google’s regular link query operator is not always useful, but their blog search generally yields high-quality results, sortable by date range and relevance. Learn more about the link operator in this blog post.

Crafting Website Content

For search engine success

“Develop great content” may be the most oft-repeated suggestion in the SEO world. Despite its clichéd status, though, this is sound advice. Appealing, useful content is crucial to search engine optimization. Every search performed at the engines comes with an intent—to find, learn, solve, buy, fix, treat, or understand. Search engines place web pages in their results in order to satisfy that intent in the best possible way. Crafting fulfilling, thorough content that addresses searchers’ needs improved your chance to earn top rankings.

As mentioned, original content goes a long way with Google and your visitors. Copying other people’s content will result in a punishment from Google, which can crush your bottom line.

Want proof?

Remember when you used to find ezine articles in top Google rankings? You don’t see them anymore, and it’s no accident. They were one of the hardest hit by Google’s algorithm update, which aimed to prevent bad content from ranking highly.

Mahalo was a content farm that updated every day with new content, but it wasn’t original content. Google punished them for it, and that resulted in Mahalo needing to pivot their business.

But let’s take this a little further. Original also means originality. Your ideas should be original! Rehashing the same concepts or other posts over and over again is not original. If your content is played out, no one will link to it – and that defeats the purpose of writing content in the first place.

Here’s the train of thought that most website owners have (thinking that gets them in trouble):

“So it says here that we need to create a lot of content…OK…well how can we do this as easily and cheaply as possible?”

“Can we make a bot to scrape content and re-combine it into some form of gibberish that at least the search engines will read?”

“Can we outsource cheap, near slave labor priced, content writers to write filler content?”

“Can we collect articles from around the web and just get permission to re-post them?”

STOP THINKING THIS WAY!

Remember these two rules in life:

You get what you pay for.

If you don’t have anything useful to say, then don’t say it at all.

These two simple points will keep you on the path of making quality content that will yield returns for years to come. They can also help in other aspects of your life.

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