Creating valuable content is a process.
It’s one thing to haphazardly throw some words together and call it a blog. It’s quite another to create content that has real SEO value for your company and is also received well by your target audience.
Each additional layer you add to your content can help boost its SEO value.
This post will explain how you can evaluate the SEO value of every piece of content you create.
How Google Determines High-Quality Content
Google’s algorithm changes constantly, but there are two human inputs that can affect how your content shows up in search results:
- Behavioral Analysis: Google looks at user behavior factors like the dwell time and average time on page.
- Quality Raters: Google hires humans who manually check its search results using quality rating guidelines.
Because of the human role in content consumption and their effect on search engine rankings, it’s important to make sure that your piece satisfies both technical and human requirements.
Let’s start with the technical considerations for how to evaluate the SEO value of a piece of content.
You should know which keywords you’re optimizing for before you start writing. Always keep these keywords in mind when you’re writing because you’ll find natural opportunities to include them in your content.
Adding keywords after the fact isn’t ideal. Doing things this way will only result in wasted time spent rewriting to ensure your content can actually be found by people via search engines.
The keywords you chose should be a realistic reflection of your ability to rank.
For example, a new website shouldn’t try to rank for a keyword with a high level of competition — it will be effort wasted because those other established websites already have an unfair SEO advantage.
Similarly, you should look for keywords with a reasonably high level of search volume. Unless you have a super niche business, a monthly search volume of less than 100 won’t do you much good.
When you’re using SEO to drive organic traffic to your business website, you need to make sure you’re driving the right kind of traffic. Volume for volume’s sake doesn’t help to accomplish important business objectives.
A simple tactic for being purposeful with keyword choice is to consider the intent behind the term. Keyword intent can reveal where someone is in the buyer’s journey. Your editorial calendar should be filled up with pieces that help customers at every stage.
Your headline (H1 tag) is usually the first thing searchers will see in the search results. It also helps tell Google what your page is about.
Make sure to include a keyword within the first 65 characters of the headline, because that’s where Google cuts it off on a search engine results page. If you have a long title, place the keywords at the beginning to make sure that they’ll be included.
Use a tool like CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer to give your title the best chance at attracting your audience.
Although including keywords in your article is important, it shouldn’t be the focus of the article.
Focus on writing the article in a natural way. When creating content, think about what will resonate with your audience, and not just how to incorporate a certain keyword.
Going overboard could result in a penalty for keyword stuffing. It’s hard to find agreement as far as the ideal keyword density in an article, but it can help to see how SEO experts have come to their own opinions on the matter.
URL (or ‘Slug’)
Search engines look at the URL of your content to understand what the post is about. Make sure to include one or two keywords in the URL.
Remove any unnecessary clutter (dates, categories, etc.) in the URL so Google can more quickly determine what your content is about and whether it matches the searcher’s query.
Although Google says your meta description won’t help you rank better, your SERP snippet can act as a “teaser” to convince searchers to click through and read your content. So make sure your target keyword appears here (naturally).
Also, while you’re at it, make sure your keyword is included in your title tag (if, for some reason, your headline and title tag don’t match).
Earning & Building Links
Ever since Google rolled out its Penguin update, those that have used spammy tactics to create backlinks that manipulate search results have been penalized harshly. For the worst offenders, de-indexation was the punishment. For others, epic cleanup measures had to be undertaken to regain their place on the search engine results page.
Still, inbound and navigational links matter when you’re trying to evaluate the SEO value of a piece of content.
However, quantity isn’t quite as important as quality.
Within the body copy of your content, link to external pages on trustworthy websites whenever relevant and helpful to your audience.
Within your own website, linking to your own pages improves indexing of content and points readers and search engines toward the most relevant content on your site.
The last major link related factor relating to how to evaluate the SEO value of a piece of content is how many websites are linking to it. Links from relevant and trusted domains are incredibly valuable for your SEO efforts.
Let’s just make this simple: The perfect content length is whatever length your audience wants – and that will depend heavily on your industry/niche.
There is no one-size-fits-all length for articles. The length of your article should depends on your content goals.
Regardless, every year there’s some new study saying you need to write several hundred more words if you want to rank.
In the past, a blog post of 250 words was adequate. Then 500 words became the new acceptable.
However, according to more recent research by SnapAgency, the ideal length for regular, general blog posts is at around 1,000 words. But for heavy hitting posts that want to receive search engine traffic, 2,500 words is probably more ideal.
Google considers articles with under 300 words to be “thin content.” As far as Google is concerned, thin content also means articles with an absence of value.
When evaluating the SEO value of a piece of content, more isn’t always better. Trying to get by with the bare minimum won’t get you anywhere. Of course, don’t just add words for the sake of hitting a certain word count — the world has enough fluff-stuffed content.
Length isn’t the only factor for determining quality. Ask yourself:
- Does my content tell a story?
- Is it engaging enough for my target audience to share?
If not, a rewrite may be necessary before publication.
A final content consideration with regards to SEO is whether your content effectively answers a question. Optimizing your content for a featured snippets is an excellent opportunity to appear in position 0 on the SERP.
Several factors can influence how a page is ranked. One important factor is readability.
When asked previously, former Google engineer Matt Cutts always stopped short of confirming that spelling and grammar mistakes matter in search engine rankings, but finally confirmed so in a Google Webmaster video in 2011.
Besides affecting your rankings, spelling and grammar mistakes can also hurt your credibility, which can certainly have implications for your company’s bottom line. According to Charles Duncombe, a single spelling mistake could cut online sales by 50 percent.
Tools such as Grammarly and the Hemingway app offer some useful readability, spelling, and grammar features.
Content that is only made up of text has never been the gold standard. Images help break up complex concepts and make content more engaging.
Stock photos are OK if they’re relevant and not overused in your industry or across the web. Original images are best.
While you should use one image at minimum, a great piece of content makes use of multiple images, screenshots, and examples within the body of the content as well.
Alt Text, Title Text, & Captions
Images can be optimized by using keywords in the file name, alt text, title, and when appropriate, captions. Google cannot see images the way humans do (though visual search is getting better), so they rely on these elements to help understand what an image is about.
Besides using keywords, your alt tags should effectively describe the image to help with overall accessibility.
Reduce Image Size
Part of image optimization is reducing image file size. This has a lot to do with page load time, an important factor of technical SEO.
Don’t Forget About Video
Video content can help you to claim a highly coveted featured snippet for your given term, and can help you to rank in different types of search. An easy way to boost the SEO value of a piece of content is to strategically share a video that complements the topic at hand.
Although there is no proven Google-backed link of social media’s connection to SEO, achieving some level of virality with your target audience can indirectly help with SEO through:
- Building backlinks when people share or discover your content on these mediums.
- Search visibility, as some posts from social media sites also come up in search engine results.
- Increased traffic or conversions, because more people are sharing content.
To see this in action, consider the recent in-depth case study BuzzSumo put together after one of their recent pieces of content achieved virility in part from social media sharing and referrals.
Measuring the SEO Value of a Piece of Content
The following metrics may be useful for measuring the SEO value of a piece of content, and benchmarking it against other content assets:
- How much organic traffic it drives
- Organic ranking/visibility
- Leads/conversions generated
- Social engagement (shares, comments, likes/retweets, etc)
- Brand awareness (impressions)
- New subscribers generated (email/social)
- Sales/revenue generated
- On-site engagement (time on site, time on page)
A tool like Google Analytics can be helpful for coming up with these numbers.
A great piece of content takes time to create, time to rank, and time to accomplish specific business goals. As such, it’s unwise to try and pump out content at a high frequency without a purpose behind it, or the time and effort required to give it the necessary SEO value it needs to find success.
This checklist can help you to determine if you’ve included all of the necessary pieces to give your content the best chance at SEO success:
- Keyword chosen with low-medium competition
- Keyword chosen with over 100 monthly searches
- Keyword chosen according to the intent of the searcher
- Keyword used in Title
- Title optimized to intrigue searcher to read the article
- Keyword used in URL
- Keyword used in body copy multiple times, but without getting in the way of article flow
- Keyword used in Meta Data.
- Meta description optimized to draw searchers in
- 2+ internal links per 500 words
- 2+ external links per 500 words (relevant & high quality)
- Earn/build relevant and high quality inbound links to the article
- Content exceeds 1,000 words
- Content tells a story worth sharing
- Content answers a question optimized for a rich snippet
- Readability is optimized
- No spelling or grammar mistakes
- Images are compelling and original when possible
- Image optimization best practices implemented regarding keyword use and image size
- Video is used when appropriate
- Content contains social share buttons, click to tweets, and is proactively shared on your company’s social media channels
- Metrics and tools are put in place to measure your content
How do you evaluate the SEO value of a piece of content? Is there a factor or metric we missed?