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10 Exceptional Bloggers Answer The Question, “What Is Quality Content?”


Session: Shane Ketterman
Speaker: Where Did My Traffic Go? How To Create Compelling Content In A Post-Panda World

Some would say nothing has really changed over the past year in terms of quality content.  But I say it certainly has.  Some would also say that quality is quality and the rules remain about the same as always.  But since Google made major changes to their coveted search algorithm throughout this past year, known affectionately as Panda, I have seen a lot of changes in the organic search results and the way Google views your content when it comes to displaying it on that coveted “first page” of the search results.

Google’s Panda update, also called the “high-quality sites” update definitely had an impact on many sites out there in terms of their organic traffic from search.  Originally, it was targeted at sites known as content farms but on April 11th, 2011, it went even further.  On that date, Google rolled out the U.S. Version of it’s Panda update and people who were not running content farms (including myself) saw a major drop in traffic.

In the days that followed and even more recently, we now know that this new algorithm that Google is using has redefined not only the SEO field but had put a new face on what is considered ‘Quality Content’.  In order to determine what quality content is, Google needed to get better at making the determination and in order to do that, it starts off with human quality raters.  These are real people (not machines) who look at hundreds of websites.  As this is occurring, computers (using machine learning languages) are following along with the humans and mimicking them.

Once the computer running the Google search algorithm becomes as good as the human at rating the sites, then it is pushed out onto the Internet.  Also known affectionately as GoogleBot.  If you have Google Webmaster Tools installed (and you should) then you can see crawl rates and references to GoogleBot.  This is the algorithm.

In essence, the new way Google judges your site is from a human point of view.  If this sounds a bit like we are getting closer to singularity, then you aren’t alone. Ha!

So. What happens next is a series of judgement calls that I will be diving into during my talk on Friday, November 4th at 3:00pm , and I’m even going to dive into some very controversial findings that may surprise you. However, here are a few of the new content sins and following that are some responses from a few really well-known and respected bloggers I got when I asked the question, “What do you consider quality content?”

A Few Content Sins

1.  How much of your unique content is above the fold? If you bring up your site, take note of how much actual original content exists within your eye-level view.  This is important because it should be more content than, say, ads.  Also, if there is not a lot of original content above the fold, it can be considered duplicate content.  Here is a great free tool to check your own values.

2.  Trust and Design factor.  How trusted is your site?  Would you trade your credit card information for something on this site?  Would you tell others about the content because it is so amazingly written and unique?  Quality over quantity is at play here.  Also, how is the design of the site? Can you navigate easily? Is the design pleasing to the eyes? Derek Halpern talks a lot about this topic over on Social Triggers and this post he wrote about the headline test is an excellent example.

A few more questions that the algorithm may be seeking are whether this site’s articles are driven by genuine interest or whether it’s written for search engines; do the articles include insightful analysis; and if this were a book, would you bookmark these articles to come back read later?

3.  What is the ratio of ads on each page to the content displayed?  Having a greater ad ratio to content ratio is definitely one of the newer content sins.

4.  Does your site have a lot of affiliate links and auto generated content?  Google sees this as “machines” building your sites and not a real human.

I’ll definitely be presenting more of these at BlogWorld but suffice it to say, it’s a new world in terms of organic search traffic.  Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz says that for those sites out there that are suffering, it’s best to begin improving engagement metrics and start shifting from pure SEO to “web strategist” when thinking of search.

Ask The Bloggers

I asked 10 bloggers ( a lot of them speaking this year at BWELA) a simple question: “What do you consider quality content?” and here are some of the excellent answers:

Chris Garrett – ChrisG.com
“Quality Content is relevant to the audience, easy and interesting to understand, easy consume, and achieves the goals you had in mind for it.”

Tyler Tervooren – Advanced Riskology
“Quality content” has always been the same thing to me ever since I started reading in first grade.

#1: It’s useful and teaches me something I didn’t know before.
#2. It’s entertaining and makes me happy I read it.

Caleb Wojcik – Pocket Changed
“Quality Content is about putting in more effort than you need to when creating. Instead of stopping at the “good enough” stage, you keep at it until what you publish is pure gold.”

Chris C. Ducker – Virtual Business Lifestyle
“In my eyes, quality content is content that is simply jam-packed with MASSIVE value. Ideally, it should motivate, inspire and solve problems for the reader / viewer – and above and beyond everything else, it should change the way that people think about what you’re talking about in the content itself. I always try to make sure that when somebody is done digesting MY content, that they sit back for a minute, or two and then – take ACTION!”

Adam Baker – Man Vs. Debt
“Quality content is simple. Content that helps solve a specific need of a reader or customer in an unique method or style.”

David Risley – DavidRisley.com
“Does it help people accomplish something? I think that’s a pretty good gauge for quality content.”

Amy Parmenter – The Parm Farm
“Quality content is content that serves your audience.  So, what does your audience need?  If you can answer that question and deliver day after day – or even week after week – that’s quality content, and your readers will probably respond and engage accordingly.”

Pace Smith – The Connection Revolution
“Quality content is content that makes a difference in you — that leaves you more inspired or more informed than you were before you read it.”

Ben Eadie – Video Blog Basics
“This is very subjective in my eyes, a beauty is in the eye of the beholder instance. Quality content is content that informs, educates, entertains or any combination of these. Quality does not mean professional writing, does not mean perfect video it does not mean you need to spend a ton of money making the content. As long as it is one or more of the above points of informing, educating, or entertaining to your audience you have made quality content.

Lara Kulpa – LaraKulpa.com
“Quality content comes from the ability to think differently than everyone else. Just because mashable.com writes an article about how G+ users have increased 1297% since it opened up doesn’t mean you should write the same article. Now, if you wanted to write about it, you’d fare better than stating the facts if you compared it to the total number of Twitter followers that Lady Gaga got in her first month (by percentage). Or what the profit loss percentage has been of Company X over the last year. Think different, write different, stop rehashing what the big guys put out there and make it your own. That’s quality content.”

I’d like to thank all of the bloggers who participated and I’d like to ask you what you consider quality content and if that has changed within the last year as Google adjusts it’s algorithms?

Shane Ketterman shows people how to invest in their future selves by offering handcrafted work that helps them discover ways to live and work on their own terms, find their purpose, and live a better life without having to follow the typical templates. His work can be seen at http://www.rewirebusiness.com.


  • Lara Kulpa

    Thanks for including me, Shane! Honored to be in a post with all these great thinkers! 🙂

    • Shane

      You are more than welcome. You are also one of the great thinkers 🙂

  • Trish

    Like Lara went into briefly, I think unique, original content needs to be a really strong focus when trying to create quality content.  I don’t think it’s enough to say quality content is just useful to the reader, because if your content is useful but a carbon copy of everything else that’s out there, you’re failing to set yourself apart.

    When I have an idea for a post, I Google it first to see what comes back.  Not so I can copy anyone, but so I know the ways I need to set myself apart if I’m going to write about it.      

    • Shane Ketterman

      Hi there Trish.  I love that idea of Googling it first – – that’s really cool and I’d love to add that to my talk! I think that it is definitely going deeper than just good and unique…because good and unique can already be found, so how to you do better?

    • Lara Kulpa

      You hit it on the head, Trish. That’s a trick I’ve used in the past as well – to see how others are writing about something and make sure that I do it differently… do it so that it shares a part of me and what I know, my own experiences and opinions and sense of humor and everything. 🙂 Thanks for your comment!

    • Anonymous

      I think that’s an excellent idea, and I will have to try that from now on. That way, I’ll know exactly what I need to do to make my posts different than all the other content on the web.

  • Caleb Wojcik

    Thank you for including me on this Shane.

    I’d also echo what many of the other bloggers said. Being both helpful and entertaining are two of the most important things to accomplish with your content. 

    • Shane Ketterman

      You are more than welcome Caleb – – your work is absolutely amazing and a perfect example of “compelling” content 🙂

  • Sarah Arrow

    Hi Shane, when I am focused on quality content I stop looking at what the A-listers are putting out and talking directly to my audience. I find out what they want and then I write it. Wish I could get across the pond to hear you speak! Looks like I will be able to make NY though in 2012

    • Shane

      Hey Sarah!!! You know what I’ll do? I’ll send you my slides 🙂 I’d love to meetvya and say hi!!

  • Lisawsdream

    Good information about quality content. Having a blog site, and gathering more visitors every month, I like to make sure we write good quality content so that our readers stay on our site for longer.
    Having the good information above the fold is important.

  • Oluwajoba

    Great post. This is really enlightening!

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