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Google is increasingly valuing ‘quality content’ when it comes to search rankings, according to a new report.

This isn’t exactly news to most marketers, but the way in which Google determines quality is evolving. 

According to the study, positive signals such as the amount of time spent on a page are having an increasingly significant impact on rankings. This means it’s more important than ever to keep the reader engaged. 

With that in mind, I’m going to use this post to try and explain how you can achieve ‘quality content’ on your site based on some of the key findings from the study. 

And to learn more on this topic, download our SEO Best Practice Guide or book a place on our next SEO Training Course.

1. Make it relevant and readable

The study found that ranking factors such as word count and Flesch readability have increased. The average text length of the top 30 pages increased by 25% since 2014, which suggests Google is increasingly valuing longer form content that is easily digestible. 

This makes sense. If your content is too short it's unlikely to go very deep into a subject and with so much content to compete with these days publishers need to offer more than just top-line information or news.

The readability is an obvious one too, because no matter how brilliant your content is you’ll lose people’s attention quickly if it’s full of convoluted language and pointless jargon

2. Focus on user experience

Creating a brilliant user experience is something we often talk about on this blog, and it is no surprise that good UX can impact on Google rankings.

If your content is well-structured and easy to navigate then people are less likely to get fed up and go somewhere else. More time on the page signals to Google that your content is relevant and interesting. 

These days, however, it is not enough to only focus on desktop user experience. Making sure your site works well on a mobile device is also hugely important, and 30% of the top 30 pages use responsive design. We can only expect this trend to increase as mobile's popularity grows. 

3. Stop worrying about keywords

We all remember those 'digital marketing blog London' dark days of the internet before Google started clamping down on black hat digital marketing techniques: sentences stuffed with nonsensical phrases and not a readable piece of digital marketing blog London writing in sight.  

Thankfully those days are over, and the result has been a boom in the kind of content a human being would willingly read. Consumers benefit and marketers get to use their creative side once again. 

When you’re writing a piece of content, whatever it is, your primary aim should be to make it fit for human consumption. This means it needs to be both readable and enjoyable.

If the content you’re writing is actually relevant to the search term, it should naturally contain keywords relating to that subject anyway. As you can see from the chart below, the top-five ranking pages contain far fewer keywords in the body text than the next five. 

4. Backlinks are becoming less important

According to the study, year-on-year correlations between backlinks and search rankings are decreasing.

This suggests unnatural link building is an increasingly poor use of your time. Instead you should focus on creating the kind of content that people will naturally want to read and share. 

Backlinks with keywords in the anchor text have significantly declined, which is likely a result of Google's attempts to combat unnatural link building. 

5. What about social signals?

The jury is still out as to whether social shares directly impact on search rankings, but there is certainly a correlation between social shares and SERP rankings. Webpages at position one have twice as many Facebook signals as those at position two, for example. 

Whatever the link, the more shares your content gets the more people it's going to reach. This is important not only from a brand awareness point of view but also as a way to drive more traffic to your site.

But social signals are also a good way for marketers to gauge whether their content appeals to consumers or not. If nobody is ‘liking’ or sharing your content, perhaps it isn’t relevant or interesting to your intended audience. 

Conclusion: confirming what we already suspected

We’ve been hearing about the importance of quality content for a while now, so the results of this study are not necessarily going to surprise people. 

But what they show is that marketers were correct in their assertions that the days of trying to ‘game the system’ are pretty much over, and now it’s about putting time and effort into creating content that is genuinely valuable.

Personally I think this can only ever be a good thing, for both the marketers who have to feel motivated to come into work every day and the consumers who have to read this stuff. 

To read the full Searchmetrics report go here.

Jack Simpson

Published 31 August, 2015 by Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

252 more posts from this author

Comments (18)

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Paul Morris, Director at Superb Digital

Great post Jack. Quality content all the way then. The approach I'm trying to take is creating "cornerstone" content which is long form and evergreen. Unfortunately I wasn't blessed with great writing skills so I've teamed up with great content writer, worth paying as he can produce it much quicker and to a higher standard than I.

over 1 year ago

Andrew Martin

Andrew Martin, Head of SEO and Analytics at Personal

Agreed - 'quality' content in itself. Thanks for sharing these observations. I'll be using this as more fuel to help push my SEO agenda forward.

over 1 year ago

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Camilla Zajac, Copywriter at Green Light Copywriting

Yes! Quality first! Great article. Good also to see your comment about making sure that blog posts aren't full of jargon...

over 1 year ago

Sean Xie

Sean Xie, MD at Zendo Media / Startup Empire

Interesting insights. However would be great if there are some individual case studies on each point can be added

over 1 year ago

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MI Digital, Storytelling For Enterprise Clients at MI Digital

Absolutely agreed. The team at MI Digital learned about quality content a long time ago we needed to serve our clients better by being more accessible and interesting than stuffing KWs. The knowledge today is serving us well. Great article.

“Take your brand out of the story. . . . . .Make your customers the hero.”

over 1 year ago

Antonio Tajuelo

Antonio Tajuelo, Head of Data and Analytics at Relevant Traffic

Strong social signals usually means your content is great for your public. Does that means that Google takes social signals as a ranking factor? Not necessarily, but those metrics usually are highly correlated.

over 1 year ago

Samuel Smith

Samuel Smith, Furniture Shop at Home and Style

Yes, you are right. Content is king.

over 1 year ago

Jason Malikow

Jason Malikow, Founder at Precision Local Marketing

Good insight, Jack. I'll echo the importance of longer content for marketers working with B2C home services clients. Many homeowners are curious about the structural and mechanical parts of their homes. A contractor who can clearly explain why a furnace needs to be replaced and who has pictures and video to support an article of about 1,500-2,000 words will perform well in the SERPs and on the sales calls.

I think there's a reassuring quality about accessible, detailed, and informative content that reassures homeowners.

Jason Malikow,
Founder, Precision Local Marketing
http://www.precisionlocalmarketing.com

over 1 year ago

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George Giamadakis, General Manager Creative Marketing at NHP

Provide meaningful connections through great user relevant and customer experience content is the way to go. Easy to say, but not so easy to achieve- but if it was easy everybody would do it. This is but one of the reasons, why we as marketers do what we do.
Fantastic blog.

over 1 year ago

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Jeff Ferguson, CEO/Lead Consultant at Fang Digital Marketing

The jury isn't out on social signals, it's been stated pretty clearly multiple times that it doesn't directly influence rankings. The correlation isn't so much a correlation as a reverse correlation - pages that are popular with social media are usually popular in organic search for the same reasons, because they have awesome content. Focus on the awesome, the rest will come.

over 1 year ago

Sarah Abraham

Sarah Abraham, Marketing Manager at SEO Falcons

This is some really great insights. everything that we should take care of. It means that the content we normally create has no value until or unless it is acknowledged by the audience. User engagement on the content is the key factor and it is really very important. The problem is to make clients understand about this fact. I know some people who are constantly trying to build more and more content without focusing what their target audience actually wants & all of that is going in waste, because there are literally 0 engagements. & now thanks to you that I can share these stats with them, and try to make a solid point..

Sarah Abraham
Marketing Manager - SEO Falcons
sarah@seofalcons.com
http://www.seofalcons.com

over 1 year ago

Mitch Crainer

Mitch Crainer, Freelance at Blogger

Yay!!! This is so true. I could not agree with you more. Machines aren't running the relevancy and rankings of content. It is us people! :) It is how interesting and relevant the content to readers for them to get reached. It is nice to see how the transition is coming to its place where marketing your content would be based on your readers and not on the codes being injected by some black hatters for unnatural link building. keep pushing the content!!!

over 1 year ago

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Mukul Kalra, self employee at cipl

I am totally agree with ur words that quality content pay more attention to the viewers apart from this backlinks also pay their great role as in great competition time interval site usually catches the visitors due to that.

Thanks for sharing the remarkable data.

over 1 year ago

John J B Russell

John J B Russell, B2B Business Development & Marketing Director at Looking for Work

Quality will always win out at the end of the day... But it's reassuring to see that quality content is the key driver of effective marketing content going forward. Thanks for sharing!

over 1 year ago

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Dana Tor, Content Manager at ActiveTrail

Thanks, very useful article. I have to say i value length and deep and thorough articles more than anyone, yet sometimes i find that length does not necessarily means good content. How does an engine search, an algorithm knows how to spot quality content then?

over 1 year ago

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Daniele Viola, Avvocati per malasanità at www.risarcimentosalute.it

Condividiamo il suo articolo, noi di www.risarcimentosalute.it & www.tuteladelmalato.com stiamo applicando ai nostri portali le sue informazioni ed i risultati ci sono scrivendo nelle ricerche google parole fondamentali per noi come malasanità e risarcimento malasanità.
cordiali saluti Staff avvocati malasanità Risarcimento Salute, Milano 2016.

about 1 year ago

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onatola toppy, boss at hoy

You have done an excellent job. It was more than interesting and informative. Got amazing tips to produce high quality content.Thanks for sharing with us this amazing post.I got quality content from this Great guy for website 2 days ago and i am o second page on google.Contact him via this link: https://goo.gl/vR1CPR

about 1 year ago

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Gabriel Nwatarali, Designer & SEO at Tech Help Canada

You are right!. Link building is slowly becoming less important. I still think that quality link building is still a great tactic. Google has become more user focus.

However case studies will help drive this home, and I am sure that many will agree.

Google is now focusing on quality and I continue to see some websites with low DA / PA rise to page 1 on certain keywords, but they are still ranking big brands, even though there is no keyword relevance. To me, this is an indication that backlinks are still high on the dial but quality is now high also.

Gabriel Nwatarali
Owner at Tech Help Canada
http://www.techhelp.ca

about 1 year ago

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