27 Aug The Do’s and Don’ts of Quality Content, According to Google
We all have our own definition of ‘quality’. For example,
some British gangster/football hooligan film enthusiasts might refer to Danny
Dyer as a ‘proper quality’ actor. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that
viewpoint. When it comes to creating content for the Web, our opinions don’t really matter. Google is the shepherd and we are the sheep. The search engine has a
very clear idea as to what is good quality and if we don’t follow along it will happily kick us out of the herd.
Quality content: What you should be doing
Every time you set out to create a new piece of content, you
should do so with Google’s definition of quality in mind. This definition revolves
around the following 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.
Let’s take a look at each of these principles individually:
Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines
Whether you’re a business or a blogger, achieving the highest
ranking possible for your content is the ultimate goal. Google is where the
majority of people will find your content and the first page is where you can
expect to receive the most traffic, resulting in more of everything – views,
shares, comments and conversions. We’d be lying if we said your content shouldn’t
be optimised with search engines in mind, but you definitely don’t want to write in
a way that favours bots over humans.
Any time you put finger to keyboard, think about how your
content will influence the behaviour of the user. Is it of use to them? Are
they leaving your site more knowledgeable than they were when they landed? Have
you given them something to act upon?
Google loves good content that is written for people. That’s
not to say you should write without a target keyword in mind, just don’t be
trying to shoehorn it in at every given opportunity. Keep everything natural.
Writing primarily for users ties in with Google’s third
principle of avoiding tricks intended to improve search rankings, so we’ve
covered two points in one here.
Don’t deceive your users
Don’t write content that on the face of it appears to be one
thing, but is in fact another. Let’s use this Meta title and description as an
If you stumbled across this in the search engine results
pages (SERPs), would you expect to click-through and read a brilliantly
informative post about Google making Twitter essential due to the integration
of tweets in search results, or would you be hoping for an article about how to
potty train a cat?
Of course, the keywords used in your search already signalled your
intent to read about the Google-Twitter hook-up and seeing an article about
cats when you clicked on the link would be rubbing you up the wrong way to say the
least, cat fan or not.
From articles to page titles to social media posts promoting
your posts, make content readable and relevant to your niche.
Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make
your website stand out from others in your field
Quality content in Google’s mind is something well written,
engaging and valuable to the reader. It’s also original, even if the idea
isn’t. Without originality you’re just another member of the pack. Your writing
style and thought process have to be unique; the content you put onto a page has
to be better than anything that has gone before it and rewarding enough to
convince a reader that your website is the go-to place for information – they
don’t need anyone else.
If you’re offering a new take on an old idea, present new
information, new studies and new sources. If you can do this, you’ll establish a nice little corner of the market for yourself and Google will like
you for it.
Quality content: what you shouldn’t be doing
So we’ve covered what you should be doing to fit the Google
mould as a provider of quality content. Here’s what the search engine would
prefer you not to do:
- 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
- Each of these things falls squarely on the side of black hat
SEO – unethical practices that are sure to land you with a Google penalty.
To make it explicitly clear what you shouldn’t be getting up
to, let’s once again look at each of these techniques individually:
Automatically generated content
Auto-generated content is content that’s been put together
using some kind of software – the result typically being a post that barely even
makes sense, let alone offers value to the reader. Article spinning (creating
dozens or even hundreds of articles from a single piece of content), RSS feed
scraping, content stitching (piecing together content from different
webpages without adding significant, original value) and automated translation
without human review are all forms of auto-generated content. Back in the pre-Panda
days when SEO was an ‘anything goes’ type of game, automatically generated
content was a god send. Thankfully, these days there’s a bit of order to
Participating in link schemes
According to SearchMetrics, correlations between backlinks
and search rankings are decreasing. This means you don’t have to worry as much
about going out and building links; rather focus on quality content and let the
links come naturally. What it also means is that taking part in any sort of link
scheme – whether that be buying links, exchanging links, automated linking,
dropping irrelevant links in forum posts or signatures, getting links from
low-quality directories, or over-optimising content with anchor text links – is
a bigger waste of time than it ever has been.
If you’re interested in building links without feeling the
wrath of Google, this post that we
wrote a little while back could be helpful.
Creating pages with little or no original content
Duplicating results or stealing content without attribution
is you saying to Google: “hit me with a penalty”. They will and you’ll deserve
it. Every page you create must offer value to the user, and be your own
To reference that actor that you might deem to be top
quality, but I wouldn’t necessarily agree, Danny Dyer, cloaking is a ‘proper
naughty’ thing to do. It involves presenting different content to search
engines and human users. For example, Googlebot could visit a website and be
served a page all about Peppa Pig, but when the user visits that same page they
see Killer Hog, a gigantic wild boar that terrorised the Australian outback. It
makes for a pretty horrible user experience.
Here’s Google’s, now former Head of Web Spam, Matt Cutts, taking about why cloaking is bad:
A redirect involves sending a visitor to a different URL
than the one they initially clicked on or entered. In most circumstances this
is done for good reason; for example if you’ve moved your site to a new address. However, sometimes redirects are used to game search engines and that’s when
they become sneaky.
Sneaky redirects are often used in a similar way to cloaking
– by showing search engines one thing and redirecting users to something else –
and they shouldn’t used.
Hidden text or links
Another old-school Black Hat SEO technique used for gaming
search engines and achieving an artificially high ranking for content. Hidden
text and links are only visible to search engine robots and usually placed in
content by using a text colour that matches the background, hiding text behind
an image, setting font size to 0 and positioning text off screen. As you’re
going to be making content primarily for users, there’s no need to be hiding
anything from them.
Doorway pages are horrible. They are pages created for the
purpose of ‘spamdexing’ – spamming the search index with pages that are
customised to selected keywords and programmed to be visible to search spiders.
Google’s examples of doorway pages include:
- Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific
regions or cities that funnel users to one page
- Pages generated to funnel visitors into the actual usable or
relevant portion of your site(s)
- Substantially similar pages that are closer to search
results than a clearly defined, browseable hierarchy
Scraped content is stolen content, copied and republished
without attribution or added value. It is plagiarism and the lowest of the low.
If you struggle with creating original content, hire someone to create it
Participating in affiliate programs without adding sufficient value
Affiliate marketing can be great – it’s a market worth some £9
billion in the UK alone. If your content creation centres around an affiliate
program – publishing product reviews, descriptions, etc. – you’ve get to make
sure it offers significant benefit to the user. Content can’t be copied directly from the merchant. It should instead be presented in a way that
convinces the user to choose your site over that of the merchant.
Make sure you create fresh, original content regularly, with
any affiliate program content just one small part of what you offer.
Also, any affiliate program must be relevant to the type of
content your website is focussed on. For example, a site about sport shouldn’t
be in a partnership with a merchant that sells knitting accessories.
Loading pages with irrelevant keywords
Always refrain from keyword stuffing.
If you sell second hand cars, no one is going to be interested
in reading about how your second hand cars are the best second hand cars
because you’ve been in the second hand car game since before second hand cars
were even a thing.
Creating pages with malicious behaviour, such as phishing or installing viruses,
trojans, or other badware
Don’t be that guy.
Malware, spyware and viruses are perhaps the worst thing about the internet.
Don’t attempt to install anything on anyone’s device. Don’t force change a
user’s browser homepage. Don’t spam people with pop-up ads. Just be a normal
person that provides good content.
Abusing rich snippets markup
Rich snippets are the bits of extra text that appear under search
Abusing rich snippets is to add fake information such as
reviews or ratings. Information should always be accurate; you’ll get found out
eventually if it’s not.
Sending automated queries to Google
Using any kind of software tool to send an automated query
to determine how your webpages rank in search results is against Google’s
Terms of Service. They don’t like it, which means you shouldn’t do it.
So there you have it, quality content according to Google.
Do what they tell you is good to do and avoid anything they say is bad to do.
If you haven’t the time or manpower to create original content on a regular
basis, we have a full in-house team that can do it for you. Feel free to
contact us for help whenever you like!