The definition is debated among SEO professionals, journalists, and everyone else who has a stake in online content development; in the end, the phrase will hold different meanings to different people.
Search engines will also determine what quality content is by examining it through a variety of lenses.
In this post, well examine one facet search engines examine: how people use your content. Read through the below checklist to see how your content stacks up.
Are People Using Your Content? The Five Point Checklist
Does your content receive high click through rates?
If youre ranking well for some terms, but your click through rate stinks, this could signal to the search engines that a) your metadata isnt very compelling or doesnt relate to the search query, or b) the visual of your website preview isnt appealing to searchers.
Identify issues and start testing new meta titles and descriptions to see if you can increase CTR. Also, check to make sure the site previews functions work for all of your pages and that the designs come up clean.
Do people spend time on your site?
Are people happy staying on your site? Do people click on your search result, then jump back to Google to try to find a more relevant site? Dig into your analytics and identify pages that have high bounce rates.
Start testing content and reduce those bounce rates. It could be as easy as breaking up the content into more digestible chunks. It could be swapping some graphics out or moving a form or ad to a different part of the page.
The key to lowering bounce rates is to test, test, test and to not generalize pages. Look at each page with the fresh eyes of the consumer who just visited it through the search phrase they entered in Google.
Do people share your content with their social networks?
Just like your brand should be active in social media, so should your websites content. And its not about self-promoting your latest blog post. Its about engaging with social influencers who can help your content receive more visibility.
Do you have user-generated content?
Are you giving your visitors a chance to contribute? Do you have an interactive site? Give your visitors a voice through blog comments, question and answer widgets, forums and the like. Show the search engines (and your visitors) that you value people's feedback.
Has anyone linked to your deeper content?
Of course, theres also the longtime use indicator of how many people have taken the time to link to you (and what kinds of sites those folks have).
Make sure youre spending time link building for your deeper pages. If your content is likeable and gains traction in social media, that shouldnt be too difficult.
Learn from Your Used Pages
Once you dive into the fingerprints your visitors leave, youll be able to take steps in improving the content you publish. Take cues from the content that has been well used and apply that to your current content strategy.
In some cases, it might mean producing less content so you can focus on promoting carefully crafted pieces that people will respond to. This goes against most traditional SEO practices (its often preached to publish fresh content often); however, times may be changing.
Is there real value in publishing 10+ pieces a week if theyre all just falling flat? Theres more to content development than just frequency of publication. Are two or three popular pieces better than those 10 zombie pieces? Probably.
I believe that those are the questions the search engines have been asking themselves, and now their algorithms are starting to reflect that.
Focus on Quality Content, But Dont Forget the Algorithm
Focusing on how people use your content is important, but use indicators are not the only qualifications the bots consider.
Because algorithms are constantly updating how they evaluate web sites, its important to keep up to date with the search engines. Spend time creating content people will respond to, but dont ignore other important SEO practices, such as folder structure and page load speeds.
In the end, your SEO approach doesnt have to be either a) focus on the user and hope the search engines reward you, or b) chase the algorithm and make decisions based on what practice will give you the most immediate return.
Its healthy to have a balanced approach. Publish desirable content and stay on top of (and respond to) how the search engines are both winning and failing at their job of returning the most relevant results.
Note: Search engines dont explicitly share how they evaluate and rank sites. The above use indicator checklist comes from observations and analysis, testing, and content ranking successes (and failures). Please use the comments below to add your thoughts about how the search engines value content.
Meaghan Olson is a writer and digital marketer living in Chicago. She's a believer in the power of words – and in the technology that makes those words matter. Meaghan is the SEO Director at MyUS.com and she runs a site dedicated to giardiniera, the most delicious and under-appreciated condiment in the world. On the weekends, you can find her in section 157 at U.S. Cellular Field cheering for the White Sox.