What does Google consider “quality content”? And how do you capitalize on a seemingly subjective characteristic to improve your standing in search?
We’ve been trying to figure this out since the Hummingbird algorithm was dropped in our laps in 2013, prioritizing “context” over “keyword usage/frequency.” This meant that Google’s algorithm intended to understand the meaning behind the words on the page, rather than the page’s keywords and metadata alone.
This new sea change meant the algorithm was going to read in between the lines in order to deliver content that matched the true intent of someone searching for a keyword.
Write longer content? Not so fast!
Watching us SEOs respond to Google updates is hilarious. We’re like a floor full of day traders getting news on the latest cryptocurrency.
One of the most prominent theories that made the rounds was that longer content was the key to organic ranking. I’m sure you’ve read plenty of articles on this. We at Brafton, a content marketing agency, latched onto that one for a while as well. We even experienced some mixed success.
However, what we didn’t realize was that when we experienced success, it was because we accidentally stumbled on the true ranking factor.
Longer content alone was not the intent behind Hummingbird.
Let’s take a hypothetical scenario.
If you were to search the keyword “search optimization techniques,” you would see a SERP that looks similar to the following:
Nothing too surprising about these results.
However, if you were to go through each of these 10 results and take note of the major topics they discussed, theoretically you would have a list of all the topics being discussed by all of the top ranking sites.
Position 1 topics discussed: A, C, D, E, F
Position 2 topics discussed: A, B, F
Position 3 topics discussed: C, D, F
Position 4 topics discussed: A, E, F
Once you finished this exercise, you would have a comprehensive list of every topic discussed (A–F), and you would start to see patterns of priority emerge.
In the example above, note “topic F” is discussed in all four pieces of content. One would consider this a cornerstone topic that should be prioritized.
If you were then to write a piece of content that covered each of the topics discussed by every competitor on page one, and emphasized the cornerstone topics appropriately, in theory, you would have the most comprehensive piece of content on that particular topic.
By producing the most comprehensive piece of content available, you would have the highest quality result that will best satisfy the searcher’s intent. More than that, you would have essentially created the ultimate resource center for everything a person would want to know about that topic.
How to identify topics to discuss in a piece of content
At this point, we’re only theoretical. The theory makes logical sense, but does it actually work? And how do we go about scientifically gathering information on topics to discuss in a piece of content?
Finding topics to cover:
- Manually: As discussed previously, you can do it manually. This process is tedious and labor-intensive, but it can be done on a small scale.
- Using SEMrush: SEMrush features an SEO content template that will provide guidance on topic selection for a given…