Google Ranking Factors 2017

02. Content Quality: How Important Is High Quality Content?

With Will, Kirsty, Dawn and Ned.


Dawn Anderson
Director Move It Marketing

Well, it’s important. We know that Google helps with the Raters guide, for instance. Their 60-odd page document which, if anyone fancies spending a couple of hours and acquainting themselves with, they are definitely worth reading.

But we know things, like for instance, that stipulates “meet needs above the fold. Answer the questions that the searchers are looking for”. Rich content seems to sort of be important, too, but I think ultimately as well, it all depends on the intend what people are looking for. Long form content seems to be more relevant for informational queries and question answering. That said, the page that ranks for “How to boil an egg” has about 150 words.

So, whilst we know that it is really really important, quality content, we know that there are areas where poor quality content ranks, worldwide. We know that the conversation not longer go … I think it was a roundtable with Andrey Lipattsev who’s saying that poor quality content still ranks where there is no other content to compete with it. So we know that there is still some really, in some spam countries ….

Will Critchlow
CEO & Co-Founder Distilled

It’s worth remembering the massive strives forward on this. So Panda, though the evolutions of it, did make a massive stride forward on getting rid of some of the low quality content, and especially when there is something better to rank.

The thing for my mind is, I think in a lot of the cases this is, literal quality on its own is not necessarily a ranking factor. But they’d like it to be. Like I told you everything else is a proxy for that, like everything else they measure is essentially trying to figure out is this the best result for this user. And we have seen on occasion that quality can dominate. You can get pages ranking that don’t appear like they should, on the metrics. And really quality is the only thing left but it such an intangible thing. It is such a hard thing to actually define.

Ned Poulter
CEO & Founder Pole Star Digital

That’s what I was going to say. So how do you define quality in like you said with a tangibility attached to it. It’s really really difficult.

Dawn Anderson
Quality is really subjective.

Ned Poulter
Especially, when you consider search intent and it’s only a best guess then anyway. You mentioned about informational searches versus transactional searches and how content could be better for that. But I think as SEOs, the whole production of content for SEO is the thing that’s probably created this problem. It’s the fact that “SEO text”, as it were, sucks. It’s not good. It’s good for what we think the search engines want, but it doesn’t actually meet the needs of the user. So, that’s why copywriting and the art that is copywriting is probably glazed over, or has been glazed over. Especially in SEO. When, if you talk about the kind of old school advertising. It was essentially really about that. So, “what is quality?” is hard to define. But it’s clearly something, as you said Will, they’re looking to get to.

Kirsty Hulse
SEO Digital Type

I think that one of the things that’s also really important for us, as “the SEO” to manage is: I was working with an ecommerce brand, a new fashion brand and they stocked multiple different brands within their bigger brand. And they had, for the most part, their long, quality, rich blog content ranking for the brand queries which were largely transactional. So all kind of quality content, that we created as a strategic decision, started actively making them lose money because those pages don’t convert.

So, somehow we need, as kind of the SEO, to try and work out a content-strategy where we are the ones that are figuring out intent by using various different things like, doing your keyword-research, trying to tag it and figure out the keyword-intent behind it and then create the content and the pages that are appropriate. So that in some instances, they are not quality content in the way we think of it, in terms of really long rich content. That might just be image-focused, hugely, inspirational…

Dawn Anderson
… Inspirational, ideas, you know you got to connect the intent with what are people actually looking for. So, if somebody is looking for ideas, it tends to be that they are after pictures, they are after an image section, they are after support and help. You have to build the whole. it’s not a case of just building one-page-content. It’s building the whole environment in a section of a site that kind of supports what it’s about. If that makes sense.

Ned Poulter
It’s actually like talking about relevancy.

Dawn Anderson
… yeah, absolutely. It’s quality sections rather than just quality individual pages.

Will Critchlow
I think we’re gonna see this as a bigger deal in the next year or two. You know, we’re hearing Google talk about the shift towards actual direct machine learning in the ranking factors.
John Giannandrea is moving that way, versus Amit Singal’s route of saying “it has to be all human tuned and tweaked” and whatever and I think that, when you throw in all of the usage data, all of the bounce rate back to search results, all of those kinds of things.

Again, they are measuring content quality by proxy, essentially, or, at least, satisfaction and user intent. And alongside that I think they are going to be measuring literal content quality more, as in quality of text. Because the better computer are at understanding the actual language, the further we can go down that road.

Dawn Anderson
I think today, Sergej Brin has been reported on Bloomberg as saying that he is absolutely amazed at the speed at which machine-learning has been coming along in natural language processing. So you know, you look at some of the, I have loads of academic journals, not just from Google but from that whole field of machine-learning natural language processing on Google Scholar alert, and the number of them that come through every morning is growing.

Ned Poulter
Which I supposed is testament to itself.

Dawn Anderson
Yeah. So the speed of this whole field is picking up and it’s across that all across Silicon Valley. You know, even non-search companies are doing it.

Will Critchlow
My careful question is, I wonder how long until Google removes the guideline against machine-generated content. They are doing most of the work to make that an obsolete guideline. And it’s going to go away at some point. And I’d love the sweepstake on which year are they going to remove that guideline?

Ned Poulter
Which moment in which year! Not just which year!

Will Critchlow
But, when do they remove the guideline that says a computer can’t have written your content.

Dawn Anderson
Please, don’t put that out as a blogpost.

Kirsty Hulse
Provided you can’t tell is written by a machine, it’s obsolete anyway.

Will Critchlow
Yeah, it obsolete as a ranking factor. But they have it as a guideline.

Juan Gonzalez
SISTRIX

Great. Thank you very much.