I’ve noticed two troubling trends that motivated me to write this article.
The first involves “consultants” telling business owners that the quality of their content isn’t very important. They’re just trying to improve their client’s search rankings, so as long as they get the keywords in there, quality really doesn’t matter.
The second involves editorial calendars that are driven completely by search engine optimization (SEO). In other words, every topic is chosen based on keyword research and search popularity.
In this article, I’ll focus on why the first issue is bad news for business owners.
Quality matters. Just ask Google.
Quality isn’t very important.
Would you feel comfortable applying that statement to any aspect of your business? Your people? Your processes? Your customer service? Of course not.
Then why would this mindset be acceptable when it comes to content that’s supposed to help you grow your business?
I understand why it happens. Someone claiming to be an SEO expert wants a company to hire them to climb to the top of Google page one. The consultant knows content needs to be part of the strategy.
But good content ain’t cheap.
They don’t want to lose the business, so they hire a content writer from one of those discount freelance sites. They tell the client that quality isn’t that important. You just need to get the keywords in there. Over and over.
In some industries and locations where the competition for certain keywords is low, I guess that might still work like it did during the early years of Google. I honestly don’t know.
Truth be told, I’m not smart enough to figure out Google algorithms. But I’m smart enough to know what Google actually says.
If you go to Google’s webmaster guidelines and scroll down to the basic principles of quality, you’ll find the following:
- Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
- Don’t deceive your users.
- Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
- Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.
If you go to Google’s search quality raters guidelines, you’ll find that the most important factors when assessing page quality are:
- The Purpose of the Page
- Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness: This is an important quality characteristic. Use your research on the additional factors below to inform your rating.
- Main Content Quality and Amount: The rating should be based on the landing page of the task URL.
- Website Information/information about who is responsible for the MC (main content): Find information about the website as well as the creator of the MC.
- Website Reputation/reputation about who is responsible for the MC: Links to help with reputation research will be provided.
When you drill down to the “purpose of the page,” Google says:
- Websites and pages should be created to help users. Websites and pages that are created with intent to harm users, deceive users, or make money with no attempt to help users, should receive the Lowest PQ (page quality) rating.
So the notion that content quality doesn’t matter to Google is garbage. You may be able to temporarily game the system in certain situations, but as Google continues to get smarter, those silly games won’t work.
But there’s another reason why this approach is so misguided.
What happens when people get to your site?
Suppose your crappy content somehow helps you get a high search ranking and people click through to your website.
Think that crappy content will convert?
If you focus on keywords instead of helping your audience, providing value, and establishing your expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (see Google guidelines above), do you think your content will convince people to do business with you?
Getting someone to your website is only part of the battle. Isn’t the ultimate goal to keep them there and give them compelling reasons to contact you and buy from you?
That’s what good marketing content will do. Which is why you should write for your audience first and Google (and everything else) second.
Of course, there’s no reason why you can’t write for your audience and improve your search ranking. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. But you have to invest in quality content and SEO expertise instead of compromising one for the other.
After all, SEO isn’t a bad thing. Bad SEO advice is a bad thing.
If the goal is to generate clicks and visits, continue to pretend content quality doesn’t matter. If the goal is to make money, you might want to invest in content that’s relevant, valuable and helpful to your audience.
In Part 2 of this post, I’ll discuss how an editorial calendar developed with tunnel vision on SEO risks leaving your audience behind.