Long Live the Content King: Why Content Quality Reigns Supreme

If Google’s latest algorithm update in March proved one thing, it’s that high-quality content matters. The latest in a series of roller coaster updates penalized what Google considers “unhelpful” and “unoriginal” — all aimed at reducing lower-quality content on the SERP.


While this is bad news for websites that rehash already-ranking content, it is a welcome change for creators, creatives, and strategists who care about the quality of their output. Businesses looking to win in the SERPs must prioritize quality ahead of hacks and tips that deliver zero value to their intended audience. 


1. The Extra Emphasis on Experience

Since 1997’s blockbuster flop, Batman & Robin, was politely described as being “too much,” audiences have been desperately hungry for more authentic, grounded experiences. And they got their wish. 2005’s Batman Begins re-introduced the caped crusader as a more grounded, less silly hero. The results were very successful. This sentiment brings us to every digital marketer’s favorite acronym:  EEAT.


EAT has long been a marketing acronym for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Google added an extra “E” for Experience because it’s Google, and it could. Who’s going to stop them? 


But the truth is that a user’s interaction with a piece of content goes a long way. A reader’s ability to enjoy what they’re consuming matters as much as any other feature. Few people want to interact with a website littered with ads and filled with a thousand-word essay about their “life-changing” experience in Texas, prefacing a BBQ recipe. Users who don’t enjoy their experience will find something else — maybe a competitor’s content. 


So, how do you make the content experience enjoyable? It’s simple: understand what your audience is looking for. Knowing your audience’s needs and accurately anticipating their reaction nurtures the creator-consumer bond. 


The better the audience experience, the more they’ll return to your website — nurturing trust and improving content signals for SEO performance. 


2. The End is Nigh for Content Mills

In a study titled “Social Spam Detection,” the effect content mills have on the internet is plain and clear:


Information consumers end up with less relevant or valuable resources. Producers of relevant resources receive less cash as a reward (lower clickthrough rate), while producers of junk receive more cash. One way to describe this is pollution. Virtual junk pollutes the Web environment by adding noise. Everybody but the polluters pay a price for Web pollution: search engines work less well, users waste precious time and attention on junk sites, and honest publishers lose income. The polluter spoils the Web environment for everybody else.


If you’ve been paying content mills or farms to create large quantities of “junk media” so you can rank high in the SERPs, now might be the time to revisit your strategy. Previously, the algorithm “didn’t care” if your link was part of junk-written media as long as it was written media.


However, with Google’s latest update and its emphasis on helpful content, whatever benefit you would have enjoyed from content mills is diminishing quickly. 


3. The Artificially Intelligent Elephant in the Room

Anyone who has written professionally in the last three years has encountered ChatGPT. The popular but controversial chatbot has simultaneously increased productivity for creatives and caused plenty of trouble


Those who have succeeded with ChatGPT use it as a virtual assistant — like the Majel Barret-voiced computer in Star Trek: The Next Generation or Jarvis from Iron Man. If you turn to ChatGPT to build a basic structure or find some cited information, you use the chatbot productively. 


If you use it to write an article to copy and paste into a blog, you’re why we can’t have nice things. This is what inspired AI-detection software. People don’t want to read your lack of work; they want to read your thoughts, opinions, and insights. AI can help you put those together but can’t think for you. 


Ironically, AI may have made us all realize the value of the human soul by showing us what art looks like without it. To showcase work without the artist, we proved why we need the artist. People who use this exciting new tool, like an improved paintbrush for their canvas, will do well as they create. 


But remember, it’s about the artist at work, not the brush. Imagine painting a stunning work with an innovative new paintbrush only for people to get hyped about the brush. People will eventually recognize AI’s more appropriate role in our lives. 


Now that you know how content creation and audience expectations are changing due to the extra emphasis on content quality, it’s time to discuss what quality content is exactly.


What Makes Content High Quality? 

The mark of quality content is the amount of value people take from it. That value can be entertainment, knowledge, tips, or expertise — anything the reader/viewer can walk away from, feeling like they’ve gotten something out of it. Whether they find it amusing or informative doesn’t really matter as long as they’ve engaged with it. 


Take SEO for personal injury attorneys, for example. When people search for a personal injury attorney’s services, something terrible has probably happened to them. They are injured, involved in a car accident, have difficulty getting insurance to cover the claims, or something else awful. What people find when they’re searching has to be quality; otherwise, they won’t trust the service. 


It’s too severe an incident to have a piece of content covered in ads or hanging out on a shady-looking website. People reading “What To Do After A Car Accident” want to know what to do after a car accident. It is not light, Sunday morning reading for them. The quality of what they find must be valuable, or people will move on. 


Another example would be those seeking medical advice. While you should always talk to your doctor, nurse practitioner, or medical professional for advice, some things are meant for public consumption. COVID-19 couldn’t be a more prevalent example. 


The CDC has produced many high-quality infographics to share critical public health information effectively. Credible, reliable content is vital when the entire world is losing its mind. We know what happens when people get false information during a pandemic.


One last example that broke all the rules of online engagement is the 50-part viral TikTok series “Who TF Did I Marry?” by ReesaTeesa. This was about 8 hours of lengthy talking content. There were no fancy setups, catchy hooks, fuss, or muss, just a good story told well. Even without any SEO tricks, people were hooked


So many digital marketers get swept up in all the “rules” of creating high-quality content that they often forget to go back to what hooks us: a good story. You don’t have to worry about hitting the marks if the substance of your source material is strong.


Who’s Really the King? Content or Audience Engagement? 

Finding the right balance between spontaneous and organic versus thought-out and strategic can be challenging as they’re on opposite sides of the spectrum. 


When it comes down to posting high-quality content for millions of online users, make sure that whoever consumes your content finds it valuable. That value can be entertainment, knowledge, a passing curiosity, or a connection to the community. It doesn’t matter as long as there is some kind of value. 


Luckily, Google’s constant algorithm updates are proving this point. With every update, we get closer to a Google monopoly — just kidding — we get closer to more valuable, high-quality content. Google is cutting out shortcuts like artificial intelligence or keyword spamming. It’s also rewarding organic, spontaneous posts because people enjoy them more. This speaks to their desire for grounded, authentic content, something they can relate to. 


It’s been a wild roller coaster for digital marketers, but the goal has been the same the entire time: give a little bit more of a sh*t about the work you put into content creation. Because if you come at the king, you best not miss. 


About the author

Chris Blondell is a Philadelphia-based writer covering tech, business, law, true crime, and anything else that pays the mortgage.