Content optimization vs. content quality
It’s not unreasonable to view content optimization and content quality as two sides of the same coin. One can indeed clash with the other, in that an individual writer or a site at large can prioritize either at the cost of the other. However, the two also overlap somewhat, and it is vital to stress this; the two are arguably best viewed as equal necessities. High-quality content will not perform well if it’s poorly optimized, and neither will well-optimized content that is low-quality. If anything, high-quality content lends itself better to proper search engine optimization (SEO), which is what this blog will argue for.
No matter how well one’s content is marketed and how well it’s optimized, its quality will be the primary factor that dictates how it performs. Content is how any business communicates with audiences, and audiences react better to high-quality content. Indeed, SEO training courses rarely fail to account for content quality. A plethora of factors dictate quality, but they can mostly be consolidated into the following;
- Length and depth
- Accuracy and substance
All of these factors directly correlate with overall content quality, and often directly overlap with SEO. It is thus vital to note that SEO endeavors that give results are often concerned with both optimization and quality, not the former alone.
Length and depth affect content quality
It has often been reported that longer texts perform better in terms of SEO than shorter texts, and there are indeed many indications to support this. Longer texts get more backlinks, which boost SEO and thus conversions and revenue. Longer texts also get shared more; it is not that Google prefers rich, long content by default, but that its audiences like it and engage with it more.
However, actual content quality found in holistically well-crafted content is what drives engagement. A text that simply tries to reach the optimal 1500-2000 word count through fluff will not be as engaging or effective.
A text that drags on without offering actual actionable information will not be seen as valuable, and will thus fail to perform as well in terms of engagement or conversions. A high-quality text will need to be informative and to-the-point, justifying its length with actual in-depth information that audiences find useful.
Presentation affects content quality
Likewise, a poorly formatted text with unprofessional presentation will fail to incite engagement. It might be tempting to neglect presentation in favor of production time, opting for quantity over quality, but individual text quality will affect a campaign’s effectiveness – and even brand loyalty.
Presentation directly affects audience retention rates, which in turn can affect conversion rates. Especially if one’s goal is longer content, as mentioned above, it is vital to keep content highly readable. Multiple techniques and features can all make a text more inviting, and thus more effective, such as;
- Multiple subheadings
- Images and graphs
- Short paragraphs
Readers will often want to scan a text in search of specific information, and proper presentation can enable this much better than long chunks of unformatted text.
Accuracy and substance affect content quality
Lastly, accuracy is an absolutely vital element of any high-quality text. Attempting to inorganically drag on a text or burying relevant information under hyper-technical jargon will severely undermine a text’s accuracy. A high-quality text should be as accurate as possible in the information it intends to convey, and it should favor substance over length.
As mentioned before, substance is a key factor that determines quality. Audiences do not appreciate padded content that cruises around the point, and they won’t engage with content that dabbles in generalities.
Audiences are looking for interesting, valuable, actionable information, and prefer content that delivers it accurately and concisely.
High-quality content will still not perform as well as one may wish if it’s poorly optimized. Whereas quality will dictate how well audiences react to content, proper optimization will ensure that content reaches said audiences. Many SEO factors such as keyword choice and density do not directly compete, or overlap, with matters of quality, but many others do – and should be treated as such.
- Quality and authoritativeness
- Depth and substance
- Freshness and output consistency
While some such factors will overlap with quality concerns, others will present a challenge; an ideal balance between the two should be found to ensure that neither quality nor optimization is hampered.
Quality and authoritativeness affect content optimization
Search engines value authoritative content and rank it higher in search results. What deems content as authoritative is, at its core, its factual accuracy and the site’s credibility, followed by the engagement that is driven by content quality.
Google itself has provided advice on this front, stating that, among other factors, content should cover topics in a “substantial, complete or comprehensive” way, provide “insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious”, and add “substantial additional value and originality” to the potential source material. Those are indeed factors that Google values highly in terms of search rankings, and so do audiences – establishing publishers of such content as authorities in their fields over time. High-quality content will meet these criteria organically, without presenting a dilemma between quality and optimization.
Depth and substance affect content optimization
As discussed before, audiences prefer substantive content. The social web indeed prefers longer over shorter content and shares it more. Optimal depth and substance are thus not simply quality-based concerns, but also vital optimization factors.
Search engines take social signals into account when they rank sites, such as shares on social media. Content quality will drive engagement, engagement will drive shares, and shares will improve site rankings and search engine visibility.
This cycle depends on the most basic aspect of a text’s quality, which is substance – thus having optimization and quality overlap.
Freshness and output consistency affect content optimization
Finally, search engines value freshness and output consistency. It’s this factor that often brings up the desire to cut corners in content quality, favoring swift output of bulks of content – but, as outlined above, quality compromises reduce engagement.
In terms of optimization, it is vital that search engines have indications that a site’s content is fresh and well-maintained. Indeed, one of Google’s content ranking factors is Query Deserved Freshness (QDF), tracking coverage of emerging trends.
However, bulks of new, low-quality content alone won’t suffice; usefulness to audiences will still be determined by engagement and substance, which will affect rankings. It is thus optimal to, again, combine quality with optimization, instead of neglecting one for the other.
Bryan Taylor is a freelance journalist who covers all things tech. He likes to share insights on digital marketing and SEO, and how they are reshaping the digital landscape.