Google: Quality Content vs. Useful Content
There is lots of controversy in the SEO world as to which site deserves to be ranked the highest on Google. The usual consensus is that the better the information, the higher the rankings. However, on a site called Hacker News, Google engineer Ryan Moulton wrote that is simply not the case.
The discussion on Hack News was that W3Schools is showing up prominently on Google search results when there are other far more informative sites (to techies that is) like MDN, Mozilla Developers Network. For those that have never heard of either site, W3Schools comes up a lot on Google for programming related searches. For examples, if you wanted to learn how to call an external stylesheet in your HTML page, W3Schools will have top positions on Google. Yet, many in the tech community have found the examples of code on W3Schools to be dated, at times insecure, and the information explaining how the code works the way it does to be a bit on the thin side. Other sites like MDN do a fabulous job with the explaining the code and giving proper coding examples yet are not ranked highly on Google.
Here is what Ryan wrote: “there’s a balance between popularity and quality that we try to be very careful with. Ranking isn’t entirely one or the other. It doesn’t help to give people a better page if they aren’t going to click on it anyways.”
To summarize Ryan’s position as to how Google ranks sites, Google has to strike the right balance of what humans will click on. Most people will find it easier to click on sites like Yahoo! Answers, than they will on sites like Mayoclinic.
So while certainly Google cares about how well an article is written, it has to be engaging and written at an English level that will receive the most clicks. In my view, this means be creative with your layout. Make sure people click on your content, and stay on your page longer than they would on a competitor’s page. There are lots of ways you can do that (I think we have all seen the “next” “next” approach), but the more straightforward approach is to write content at a junior high or at most high school level. Highlight your content with attention grabbing headings, use bold font to capture attention, use colors. Don’t speak over your audience; speak directly to them. Engage them in a way that will keep them on your site reading your content. Make your content fun, succinct; provide examples, show pictures and videos.
Of course, just having “good” content is not enough; you still need to SEO your site. You still need basic on-site optimization. You still need good backlinks, you still need social media signals. However, writing human friendly content that will keep visitors on your site longer is definitely a step in the right direction. I stress human friendly content, as many SEO companies still place way too much emphasis on the keyword-to-content ratio, i.e. content written for search engines robots. Those are the search engine optimization companies you want to avoid.