How To Build Quality Content

Source: http://www.bing.com/community/site_blogs/b/webmaster/archive/2011/08/02/how-to-build-quality-content.aspx

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Building quality content is far more than simply building content.  And how do we measure “quality”?  In this post we’ll examine some of the factors often attributed to “quality” content, explain why you want to include them and help explain how the measurement of “quality” happens, though it may not be what you expect.

We’ll tackle these in reverse order, first examining what qualifies content as “quality”, then reviewing the basic outline of producing “quality” content.

Quality content – says who?

There are two main measures for good content.  First is the user.  Does the user feel the content you’ve produced is of high quality?  Are users engaging with the content?  While the answer may seem as simple as “Yes, they come to my site.  I get lots of visitors”, be careful you’re not missing telltale signs of the quality being not quite what you think.  If your visitors are staying on your website for only a few seconds, are they actually able to consume the content you have in that short period of time?  While it may feel like you’ve poured your heart and soul into creating the content on the website, quality is in the eye of the visitor, and short page dwell times can indicate the content is not capturing the visitor’s interest.  Something about the content is not grabbing their attention.

The second measure is the search engines themselves.  While the crawlers from the engines qualify as visitors in the above scenario, the crawlers will, in most cases, consume all the content they can find.  The engines can be used to give hints to the quality of your content.  If you’ve done everything you can to get pages indexed and still the engines won’t take the pages in, that’s an indication the quality of the pages may be low.  In this example, the quality we’re referring to isn’t necessarily the look and feel of the page.  The page may look great and offer all kinds of interactivity, but the actual content itself isn’t making the cut.  This can happen with highly dynamic websites which use content from other sources.  Ecommerce sites can be affected by this, using common product descriptions which appear everywhere across the Internet. Essentially it’s a lack of unique content that signals low quality.

The main point here is that both the visitors to you site and the engines themselves can be used to gather feedback on how your quality is fairing.

Here are some other things to avoid when producing content:

  • Duplicate content – don’t use articles or content that appears in other places.  Produce your own unique content.
  • Thin content – don’t produce pages with little relevant content on them – go deep when producing content – think “authority” when building your pages.  Ask yourself if this page of content would be considered an authority on the topic.
  • All text/All images – work to find a balance here, including images to help explain the content, or using text to fill in details about images on the page.  Remember that text held inside an images isn’t readable by the crawlers.
  • Being lonely – enable ways for visitors to share your content through social media.
  • Translation tools – rarely does a machine translation tool leave you with content that reads properly and that actually captures the original sentiment.  Avoid simply using a tool to translate content from one language to the next and posting that content online.
  • Skipping proofreading – when you are finished producing content, take the time to check for spelling errors, grammatical mistakes and for the overall flow when reading.  Does it sound like you’re repeating words too frequently?  Remove them.  Don’t be afraid to rewrite the content, either.
  • Long videos – If you produce video content, keep it easily consumable.  Even a short 3 – 4 minute video can be packed with useful content, so running a video out to 20 minutes is poor form in most instances.  It increases download times and leads to visitor dissatisfaction at having to wait for the video to load.  Plus, if you are adding a transcription of your video, even a short video can produce a lengthy transcription.
  • Excessively long pages – if your content runs long, move it to a second page.  Readers need a break, so be careful here to balance the length of your pages.  Make sure your pagination solution doesn’t cause other issues for your search optimization efforts, though.
  • Content for content’s sake – if you are producing content, be sure its valuable.  Don’t just add text to every page to create a deeper page.  Be sure the text, images or videos are all relevant to the content of the page.

How do I build quality content?

Start with a focus.  A plan.  If you focus on ensuring the best user experience, you’ll work at filling in all the blanks you can for a visitor to your website.  You’ll work on answering every question they might have about the topic they’re researching.  Let’ stake an ecommerce scenario as an example.  In this example, you’re looking to sell a cordless drill.  Trouble is, all you have is the data feed from the supplier and it contains only a generic description and pictures of the drill.  What do you do?

Your first step is to do some research to understand the relative value the content may bring you.  If this drill represents a reasonable profit margin, then it’s a candidate for optimization.  Basically, the conversions you’ll get for the time invested in the page content creation will be worth it – that’s what you’re trying to understand.

It’s fine to start with the basic content provided form the supplier, but expand on this.  Go into detail describing the product.  Don’t just state the weight as a number; relate it to something readers can understand.  Telling me it weighs 1.7 pounds doesn’t mean much to me.  Telling me it weighs about the same as a large can of tomatoes is something I can relate to.  Tell me it weighs about the same as a hammer – which I can understand easily.

Be detailed in describing what the purchaser will get.  Explain the warranty in detail.  Walk them through each item in the box, and show them lots of pictures.  You may even want to show the drill in action being used to drill into different materials.  Short videos like that make it easy to understand how the item to be purchased will work for my intended use.

In this ecommerce example, the next biggest issue you’ll face is scale.  Look to your metrics to help determine which pages to invest time in.  Not every project or page of content is worth a deep dive.  Target the ones that convert well and from which you derive the best returns for the investment.

Telling us about your content

Whether you call them rich snippets or by their proper names, the act of marking up your content to tell the engines more details about the content is a wise investment.  By following the plan outlined at Schema.org, you can embed meta tags around your content.  Visitors won’t see them, but the search engines will, enabling us to understand your content and use it in unique ways to create more engaging search experiences.  Take some time and review this idea to see if you can leverage the great content you’re creating in new ways.

Summing up

By taking this deep approach to building your content, the page a visitor encounters will be viewed as an authority on the topic or item.  Your goal should be that when a visitor lands on your page, the content answers all of their needs, encouraging their next action to remain with you.  If your content does not encourage them to remain with you, they will leave.  The search engines can get a sense of this by watching the dwell time.  The time between when a user clicks on our search result and when they come back from your website tells a potential story.  A minute or two is good as it can easily indicate the visitor consumed your content.  Less than a couple of seconds can be viewed as a poor result.  And while that’s not the only factor we review when helping to determine quality, it’s a signal we watch.

If you produce quality content, both the users and search engines respond.  Visitors to your site share what they find there, increasing your value and indicating to the engines you are valuable.  The engines themselves can see the links being built, the interactions that happen when you rank in the search results and the actions users take when they click on your result.

Build quality content and your future is secure.  Build low quality content and you are destined to end up lost in the millions of low-quality results that never see any traffic.

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