In our other articles on the subject of content marketing, we have seen that both the design and type of content format that is used has a huge impact on ranking performance. We can determine the SEO performance of a content format based on the ranking distribution. But what are the reasons for the vastly different performance of different formats?
Content profiling: What makes a content format successful?
The next step is to find out what makes a content format successful. What are the concrete differences between a high-performance content format (HPCF) and a low-performance content format?
In order to understand the success factors of content formats, we need to systematically analyse and describe them. It is in doing this that we can uncover the differences between these formats. I call this process ‘content profiling’.
For a systematic analysis, we can follow the ARTS SEO formula (German) and divide the process into four steps:
- Accessible: Is the content accessible to Google?
- Relevant: Can the relevance for a specific keyword be clearly identified?
- Technically important: Are the pages technically important in a measurable way?
- Satisfactory: Is the content format satisfactory for users?
The first three steps, A, R and T, mainly involve technical SEO. In this post, we will focus focus on the fourth step, “Satisfactory”.
Is the content format satisfactory to users?
The question of whether a content format satisfies the user’s search intent is crucial for user signals, such as short clicks. Grappling with this question involves dealing with many soft factors that cannot be measured as easily or as precisely as technical SEO factors.
In order to make these soft factors more tangible for a content format, it makes sense to divide the content profiling into the three components of a content format:
- Content – the content itself
- Framework – the framework into which the content is embedded
- SERP snippets – the design of the hits on the search results pages.
These three components define the content format and often determine how satisfied users are by a content format. In this article, I would like to go into more detail on the first point, ‘Content’. The other two points, ‘Framework’ and ‘SERP snippets’, will be covered in two further articles about content profiling.
These 8 criteria are important in the SEO evaluation of content
In order to evaluate the different elements of a content format for the SEO channel, you first take a URL and determine its focus keyword. The focus keyword is the most important keyword for which the page should rank. If you want to compare several content formats with one another, you should ideally look for URLs from each format that target the same focus keyword.
These URLs can then be evaluated for the following eight criteria with the focus keyword in mind. To make these important factors more tangible, you can, for example, create a content profiling scorecard in a table and rate the individual criteria on a scale of 0 to 10 points.
1) Focus on search intention
Does the content focus correspond exactly to the search intention of most users, and is it easily recognisable? Is the content thematically too general or too specific? For example, someone searching for ‘vitamin C’ would probably not want to read an article about the vitamin C content of lemons from Sicily. That would be too specific. An overview of all vitamins, on the other hand, would be too general. The more thematically specific the content of a website is, and the more that individual pages overlap in terms of keywords, the more important it becomes to provide the content with a content format that includes overview pages and has a clear focus.
2) Lifetime of content
Will the URL lose quality in the coming months and years because the content will quickly become outdated? If the content is unlikely to be a good hit in the near future, the page will not rank well in the long term. An article about sightseeing in Bonn has a fairly long lifespan because little will change. However, an article about an upcoming event at the Beethoven House will not be very useful after the event. Evergreen content is best for SEO purposes, unless you optimise specifically for Google News and Hot Topics (QDF).
4) Satisfactory scope
Does the scope of the content satisfy the search intention? Or is the content too short or too long (not ‘snackable’)? There is no universal formula for the scope of content or the length of texts. The appropriate length depends upon the search intent and varies per keyword and keyword group. Someone searching for ‘cooking rice’ doesn’t want to have to read 5,000 words, but rather learn as quickly as possible what to look out for. On the other hand, someone who searches for ‘pram test report’ is quite prepared to read a longer text and appreciate an article with a wider scope and lots of detail.
3) Updated content
Updating is closely related to the lifespan of content. If the content is updated regularly, even pages whose content becomes outdated quickly can achieve good rankings over the long term. A single news article, for example, is usually no longer updated. A topic page, on the other hand, displays the latest information and articles on a keyword and thus does not become outdated.
5) Content quality
How should the content quality be assessed in comparison to content produced by competitors (factors include language, competence, love, text, images, videos, graphics and uniqueness)? The height of the bar is determined by the competition. The quality of user-generated content (UGC), such as forums, is in most cases below the quality of editorially maintained content.
Does the site appear well-structured and clear to the user? As a user, can you find your way around quickly and without having to think too hard? Many successful content formats tend to use a large font size, include a table of contents with jump labels at the top of the page for longer texts, use images to break up the text and use a number of subheadings to help structure the text.
7) Added value
Is the site just self-promotional or does it offer real added value to visitors? Many corporate websites are not much more than digitalised company brochures. They are the opposite of content marketing. Such content comes across as very promotional and offers little in the way of added value to users.
8) Further links
Are links to further content (ideally on the same domain) clearly visible to the user or is the page a dead end? Further links allow users to dive into a topic as deeply as they like and thus appeal to a broader target group.
These eight categories overlap a fair amount and are not set in stone. The categories can be changed and added to depending on the segment, content format and needs. The insight that is gained is more important than exact adherence to the process.
In the end, content profiling should reveal the strengths and weaknesses of different content formats. The goal is to use this information to build high-performance content formats and further improve their ranking distribution.
In addition to evaluating defined criteria, it is worth producing a write-up of the perceived strengths and weaknesses of a content format. What is most important here is how content makes people feel. Users make an initial judgement about a content format and decide whether to stay on the page in a fraction of a second. This takes place more on an emotional, as opposed to an intellectual, level.
Content profiling network diagram
Once you have evaluated the criteria for different content formats, you can make a visualisation of this assessment with a network diagram. In this way, the strengths and weaknesses of the formats quickly become apparent. For a clear presentation, the characteristics of the individual criteria should always be such that a high value is better than a low value.