Updated: 10th September 2019
You might have heard the expression content is king, which has long been the view of many online gurus. Having said this, it doesn’t mean you should stuff your site with as many articles as you can.
It’s true that content is king. However, we have to refine this to make it more accurate. The truth is that high quality content is king!
Firstly, I’ll explain to you why quality is important. Next I’ll outline how Google determines quality. To summarize I’ll outline how to write articles that sing to people and search engines!
What Qualities Does High Quality Content Have?
If you research what search engines want from your blog posts, you’ll see that content quality is a factor valued above many others.
As of July 2019, Google tells us:
The Google Search index contains hundreds of billions of web pages and is well over 100,000,000 gigabytes in size.Google
Every day people create new sites and new pages or modify them. Consequently this presents a storage and a processing problem for Google.
Let me explain.
The number of web pages grows substantially every day. As a result, Google’s storage architecture has to grow to accommodate more pages in its index.
Google has to understand the subjects of these new pages and assess quality as well.
How does Google separate the wheat from the chaff? What guidelines does it use to determine which content adds little or no value? And ultimately, how does it decide which content has high quality?
Search Quality Evaluation
Google uses automated algorithms to examine hundreds of factors so it can assess the page quality. Primarily it examines factors like:
- Freshness – is the content recently published, updated or is it relevant right now?
- Relevancy – is the visible text relevant to a search query, are there relevant images or videos and are the HTML elements relevant?
- Spaminess – is the content trying to “game” its way to the top of the search results?
- Usability – is the content easy to use or easy to access?
However Google doesn’t just use automated processes to assess page quality because real people look at them too.
There are tens of thousands of Search Quality Raters working all over the world to assess webpages on Google’s behalf. They assess them according to very strict rules in order to help determine a Page Quality Rating.
What are Search Quality Raters and How do they Define High Quality Content?
Before we begin, it’s worth pointing something out from the start as we need to be clear.
Search Quality Raters do not directly influence the rating of specific webpages. As a result they cannot remove pages from the index. Having said this, raters do influence the evolution of the algorithms that determine quality ratings.
How Do They Do This?
Search Quality Raters make searches identified by Google. They rate the quality of pages appearing in the results so Google can refine its algorithms with them.
The idea is that rater quality analysis will help to improve the algorithms’ understanding of what constitutes low quality content to help Google refine its search results.
Raters principally look at the results for specific search terms to understand two things:
- Is the purpose of the page is beneficial?
- Does the beneficial content achieve its purpose?
If a rater doesn’t see the purpose of the page as being beneficial, it gets a low rating. Assuming raters see it as beneficial, next they examine it to see if it achieves its purpose.
From here raters assess the page again to see if it’s beneficial and meets its purpose. These assessments are called E-A-T tests.
E-A-T… Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness
E-A-T represents Google’s view of what quality content should look like. It’s also a great acronym to use in the title of a blog post!
Google is very open about what expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness are and how they can be assessed.
Let’s look more closely at what the E-A-T quality markers mean for pages that have a beneficial purpose so we’re clear.
Expertise: expert skill or knowledge; expertness; know-how.Source: dictionary.com
In their 2006 study “The Philosophy of Expertise”, Professor Evan Selinger and Professor Robert P. Crease explain an expert as being:
Someone who possesses an extensive fund of knowledge and a set of skills and knowledge for apt and successful deployment of this knowledge to new questions in the domain.Source: Google
Professor Nico Stehr and Professor Reiner Grundmann support this in their 2011 publication “Experts: The Knowledge and Power of Expertise (Key Ideas)”, stating that experts:
Have accumulated experience in contexts relevant for taking action, and thus enjoy both trust and social respect.Source: Google
This is reflected in how Google asks raters to assess the expertise of content writers:
- What makes this person an expert and how do they prove their expertise?
- Does the person have appropriate experience, qualifications or accreditation for what they are writing about?
- Is the content written in a professional way?
- Are there grammatical errors or spelling mistakes?
- Has it been edited regularly or reviewed?
- Is the content substantial or thin?
- Does the writer show clear and valid research where appropriate?
As an example, I might write a blog post about an aspect of quantum physics. My content could be well researched and beautifully written with no spelling errors. It might read well and look convincing to the average person.
But I don’t have suitable qualifications or accreditations in this field. As a result I can’t demonstrate my expertise and so it’s highly probable that my post will have a low expertise score.
Authoritativeness: having due authority; having the sanction or weight of authority. Substantiated or supported by documentary evidence and accepted by most authorities in a field.Source: dictionary.com
Google defines authoritativeness as:
The authoritativeness of the creator of the main content, the main content itself, and the website.Source: Google
What Does this mean?
Well it sounds pretty similar to expertise in some ways and Google tells us that:
High quality pages and websites need enough expertise to be authoritative.Source: Google
This tells us that to be authoritative you have to have expertise. Authoritativeness is the provable demonstration of your knowledge and expertise about your particular subject.
In Google’s eyes, authoritativeness is the rating of your website as a whole and you as a writer in your particular field.
Trustworthiness: deserving of trust or confidence; dependable; reliable.Source: dictionary.com
The idea of trust is essential to all our relationships from romance to business partnerships. If we don’t trust someone it’s likely we will not interact with them above a superficial level. In this case it’s also likely we will not believe what they tell us.
For example, if you don’t trust doctors it’s likely you’ll reject what they tell you. If enough people felt like you, the doctor would struggle to practice medicine.
As a content creator, how is what you say credible? If your website, your content and you yourself do not appear trustworthy, how will you survive?
There are several ways we can demonstrate trustworthiness. Some of these are connected to expertise and authoritativeness. We can show:
- Professional qualifications that prove expertise in our field.
- Membership to professional organizations that have strict controls over how we must behave.
- Trust signals on our websites like security features, digital signatures, etc.
A further way to gain trust is through reputation, as people believe their peers.
Professor Coye Cheshire writes in his 2011 study “Online Trust, Trustworthiness, or Assurance?” that:
A common way to infer the trustworthiness of another in online environments is through explicit or implicit third-party reputation information.Source: Coye Cheshire, Associate Professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information
Third-party ratings and reviews provide evidence from impartial sources that a business, person or website is trustworthy or not, based upon the experiences of real people.
Consider the millions of blogs and the amount of pages about a topic in any niche. These pages run into the billions so it makes the evaluation of the trustworthiness of the content by the reader a very difficult task. This is where third-party reputation signals help.
In 2014, the US data and measurement company Neilsen carried out research about the importance of content quality in consumer purchases. The research suggests that consumers see credibility and impartiality as critical when assessing trustworthiness before making purchases.
This clearly illustrates the value of trust.
How You Show What a Good E-A-T-er You Are?
By way of a summary, here’s how we show expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.
To ensure Google sees our content and website as high-quality, we have to focus upon the following.
- Continuously produce content aimed at helping people.
- Provide substantial content that has real value.
- Make sure your facts are correct, well researched and provable.
- Write professionally, with correct grammar and spellings.
- Build relationships with reputable, recognized organizations and individuals online and offline.
- Provide an excellent site experience for visitors.
- Keep professional qualifications up to date and display your credentials openly.
- Make sure your site works well on any device without errors like broken links and images.
- Make your About Us, Contact Information and / or Customer Service Information pages easy to find and make sure they contain relevant and useful information.
- Respond to reviews and feedback as quickly and professionally as possible.
Thanks for Reading! That’s it for now.
Do you have anything to add to this discussion on content quality?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below… or ask me something and I’ll respond as fast as a rocket!