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Content for SEO

Whoa, hang on a minute… what happened to “B is for Backlinks”?

Well, as much as you can’t have a good website without good Architecture, you can’t build backlinks to content that doesn’t exist. It’s also much easier to build backlinks to content that is good, so we’re going to start with building some great content and then we’ll talk about getting links to it.

Content creation is one area where you can’t “fake it ‘til you make it”. The “it” is the content… you’ve got to make it.

SEO is dead, long live content

If you’ve heard the phrase “SEO is dead” then you’ve probably also heard the phrase “content is king”. This buzz-phrase, unlike the previous one, has some weight to it.

Google has been putting emphasis for some time on the quality of a website’s content as the most important “ranking factor” in its index. This is a good thing – quality of content is certainly a more level playing field that the technical efficacy of a website or how many back-links it can garner.

It’s also, for Google, an area where it is a lot harder to automatically generate a result. Focusing on content, rather than other areas, puts the focus back on the “human internet” and takes it away from things that can be manipulated by software or technical changes behind the scenes of a website that may be beyond some users to implement.

For website owners, creating quality is a good thing as well. Quality content gets readers, and it keeps them. Quality content helps convert readers into customers/subscribers/members etc. And quality content attracts that most elusive of things – the organic backlink.

So, quality content is an all-round good thing. All we have to do now is understand what “quality” content really is…

Thankfully, Google are rather more transparent in this area than in others.

How Google assesses the quality of content

We’ve talked a lot about Google’s spiders and robots, but we haven’t talked about its humans. It has lots of them.

Spread all over the globe, Google employs thousands of “Quality Assessors” who are employed to test the search index, look at the pages it returns as “top pages” for queries, and then manually rate them using a well-documented set of criteria.

Imagine what you could do for your website if you could get hold of one of those documents, right? You can. Just Google “Google Quality Assessor Guidelines”. 

It’s one of the most overlooked, underrated, but absolutely essential things that anyone building and scaling websites should read, re-read, then read again with a batch of highlighters and sticky notes on hand.

Why hasn’t your SEO guy put a copy of this document in your hands? Probably because he wants you to think that he trained at Hogwarts, interned with Gandalf the Grey, and might disappear back into The Matrix at any moment…

Either that, or he doesn’t know about it.

Bottom line, if you haven’t got a copy of this document then you need to go and get one. It may not live on your desk, but it should live on somebody’s in your organisation – if only because it’s pretty thick printed out and you can hit your web developer over the head with it.

(I don’t actually condone violence to developers – we’re a naturally skittish bunch and will retreat to our underground lairs if startled.)