For as long as search engine optimization (SEO) has been in existence, the debate on what factor is the most important to rank on the first page, if not claim the top spot, has been ongoing. There are those who say that the quality of content is the most important thing being considered by search engines that affect a website’s ranking. They argue that you will rank on top if you have the best quality posts on your brand’s blog.
Those who oppose this way of thinking opine that this is oversimplifying the rather complex nature of SEO, as a high ranking on SEO include skills, money, efforts, and strategy, among other factors. Others also say that this is too arrogant, considering that if quality is the only factor for SEO ranking, then it must be that those sites in the second pages onward have content of inferior quality. This is arguably incorrect, they say. Let’s see if the quality argument really wins or if other factors are important as well.
Quality Versus Optimization
When you type in a keyword on a search engine like Google, then you click one of the results and you start reading the article, page, or site that you clicked, you are already in the process of evaluating what you’re reading, asking if the content you are reading is the information you were looking for, if you are understanding what you are reading, if you are interested in what you’re reading, and if the information is accurate and from a trustworthy source. These questions are related to writing quality, can be measured by search engines, and ultimately impacts our web browsing experience. When what we read is interesting, accurate, and contains the information we were looking for, Google knows that because it has tracked how long you stayed in the page and that you reached the end of the page, ,meaning you finished reading the entire page or article.
So does this mean that quality is the top SEO factor? Yes, in a way, but definitely not the only factor, and in some circumstances, get superseded by other factors. If you notice as well when you’re the search engine user, there are some pages that get prime placement in the search engine results page, but when you click and actually read the pages, the content is disappointing and bland. This can really make you reconsider whether indeed, quality is the only factor that will get you those high rankings. Those other factors include keyword inclusion, link building, and for some, money because they appear as paid ads. To conclude, quality is a top factor, along with a number of another factors, never the only factor.
When creating quality content, one of the first things to consider is what will Google consider quality? Google is constantly making efforts to enhance their search results – this means providing more quality and informative content that will be beneficial to searchers.
This is where quality content can become a bit tricky.
What do your consumers want to know?
Now, let’s talk a bit about optimization. This is where things like keyword inclusion comes in. After all, when we read a piece of content, we do not really think of how many times a certain word or phrase is mentioned. We think about those keywords when we are thinking about what to type in Google or our favorite search engine. But then, once we are already provided with results, we click on the ones we fancy and evaluate the article’s quality as mentioned earlier. We don’t remember those keywords anymore.
However, search engine robots have keywords as their primary consideration in ranking a webpage. So, then, an optimized piece of content is for search engine robots to appreciate and a high-quality piece of content is something that is for readers to appreciate. If a piece of content is not optimized, then even if it is of high quality, you as a reader may never get to read it because the search engine will only put in the second or third page of its search results. On the other hand, an optimized piece of content that doesn’t have a lot of quality will get read for a couple of seconds, only for the reader to click on the X at the upper right corner of the window to close it. So, there is a sweet spot where quality and optimization converge, and that should be the meeting point all content marketers, website administrators, and business owners should aim towards.
And now that search engines, particularly Google, have recognized the popularity of mobile search, you may seriously consider optimizing your digital assets for mobile.
A few years ago, Google only assessed your site’s desktop version when ranking and crawling pages. However, with the rise of the mobile landscape, that changed. Given that mobile users spend more time online than desktop ones, Google decided to provide them with more appealing and relevant search results.
That’s why it rolled out the Mobile-First Index in 2018. In other words, Google has started crawling the web from a mobile browser view. And, if your site doesn’t meet its standards, chances are your rankings will go down.
One last factor: Links
One more major factor that affects SEO rankings is the number of links. The more links and article has from other pages, the higher the probability that Google and other search engines will move it up on its rankings and cause a rise in traffic. It does not really matter if not a lot of people click on these links, as those search engine robots will spot them just the same. A quality link from a site or page that has high authority can send an article from the recesses of Google’s SERP to the first page.
So you may ask: Which brings the links, the content’s quality or its degree of optimization? Both. If an article doesn’t get optimized, it doesn’t get the attention of other websites that can possibly give the article some backlinks. If the article isn’t written well, then obviously no one will link it to their pages, no matter how Google champions it on their SERP.
Google isn’t going to give you a major ranking boost for having a lot of outbound links in your content. However, a user engaging with your content is going to spend more time on the page and trust your message more if you link to reputable third-party sources. Likewise, Google’s team of Search Quality Raters are going to be looking for this when they assess the quality of publishers’ pages, which means this is clearly something Google expects to see (more on this later).
The key term there is ‘reputable’ because Google will notice if you’re linking to a bunch of questionable websites and this is where link penalties come in. Luckily, you can protect yourself from any potential penalties by using the right link attributes.
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