How to Objectively Measure “High-Quality” Content

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Ask any SEO or content marketing agency what it takes to rank with SEO, and the phrase “high-quality content” will surely be included in whatever answer they give—and for a good reason. While SEO has long been a technical marketing endeavor, the level of content and strategy it takes to rank continues to increase.

But what does it mean to write quality content, and how can you measure it objectively? Surprisingly, one of the best measures comes from the king of content itself: Google.

For content to rank organically—especially in highly competitive environments—Google has two standards that must be met. Let’s dive into what they are and how to use them to get more organic traffic.

How Google Measures High-Quality Content and How You Can, Too

 

Google arguably has the most remarkable content-based algorithm known to man. It scans billions of web pages each second and updates rankings for keywords based on many factors. 

But beyond its algorithm, Google also uses real people, called “Search Quality Raters,” who use specific criteria to review selected content and report their findings. These raters use two primary standards when providing feedback to Google: Page Quality and Needs Met.

“Page Quality” Rating

 

Page Quality is the first standard to consider when creating high-quality content. Understanding the page quality rating will equip you to objectively evaluate your content — and your competitors.

Page Purpose

The first thing a rater will seek to understand is the given purpose of any page it reviews. Some pages are product pages designed to showcase and sell products. Some are articles intended to inform and educate about a specific topic, while others are home pages or forums with unique purposes. Websites with clear, understandable pages are much more likely to be digested by humans and algorithms.

If a rater cannot understand the purpose of a page, or if they feel it intentionally confuses users, they may not be able to give feedback on its content accurately. As long as the purpose is easily understood, no page type gets preference over another (e.g., a blog post isn’t prioritized over a home page simply because it’s a blog).

Potential Harm

Above all, Google wants to show content on its search engine that is helpful to humans and keep harmful content off its search engine. Any content a reviewer feels is spammy or deceitful is given a low-quality rating. That’s why the second criteria used to determine Page Quality is whether the content is harmful. 

Harmful content can include content with harmful external links, content that is clearly copied/pasted from another website, malicious content designed to deceive readers, or content that is knowingly untrue and makes claims easily known to be false.

For instance, an article claiming to help allergies telling readers to drink poisonous substances, or a product page selling illegal substances disguised as supplements would be given the lowest possible Page Quality rating. 

“Needs Met” Rating

 

The Needs Met criteria focus on how well the content initially meets the searcher’s intent and how well it answers questions or provides specific information the user seeks.

Matching intent (often called Search Intent) is a core step in any SEO content strategy. It’s about understanding the purpose behind a search query so that you can create content to satisfy that intent better than anyone else. Sometimes the intent of a search is straightforward—someone in Cincinnati who searches “pizza shops” is looking for pizza shops near their location. However, some searches are ambiguous. If someone searches “Oceans,” they might be looking for a song called Oceans, a movie about Oceans, scientific research about Oceans, or places to visit near an Ocean.

Search Intent

Search intent is where most brands miscalculate their SEO content strategy. When the content you create doesn’t match the user’s intent, it will struggle to rank no matter how good it is. The rater’s job is to determine the best intent of the query and then ensure that ranking pages match that intent correctly and completely.

“Fails to Meet” vs. “Fully Meets”

The next step beyond judging intent is to gauge how complete and robust a piece of content is. Raters examine several criteria: the result’s relevance to the search query, its thoroughness, timeliness, the credibility of its source, and the level of user satisfaction it provides. They continually consider whether users might need to seek additional information.

The rater will give the piece of content one of 5 scores:

Rating CategoryDescription
Fully Meets (FullyM)Pertains to specific queries where nearly all users find immediate satisfaction without needing further results.
Highly Meets (HM)Mostly relevant and helpful, though some might look for more information.
Moderately Meets (MM)Useful to a broad audience or highly useful to a niche group; some seek extra results.
Slightly Meets (SM)Only somewhat relevant to the query; many users would want more results.
Fails to Meet (FailsM)Does not satisfy user needs, leading most to seek other results.

For many queries, raters look to see how completely a piece of content answers the questions and the level of information it provides. A blog that lightly reviews five different products and mainly copies the information about the products from Amazon will be deemed as “Moderately Meets.” An article that reviews 15 products, shows original, hands-on experience with each product, and provides a complete list of pros and cons for each product will be rated as “Highly Meets” or “Fully Meets.”

What About E–E–A-T?

The Page Quality and Needs Met standards are both part of Google’s overall guidelines when analyzing content. The search engine raters also determine quality by reviewing the trustworthiness of the source of the content. This is measured by a standard called “EEAT” which grades the validity and strength of a publisher.

EEAT stands for “Expertise, Experience, Authority, and Trustworthiness.” If a brand or author demonstrates they have experience/expertise (credentials) and their content is authoritative and trustworthy, it can play an indirect role in how Google will rank their website.

StandardDescriptionExample
ExperienceThe first-hand experience of the creator.A travel blogger who has spent a month in Bali sharing detailed insights about the local culture, food, and attractions, supported by personal photos and anecdotes.
ExpertiseThe expertise of the creator.A board-certified cardiologist writing an in-depth guide on the implications of high blood pressure, including recent medical advancements and treatments.
AuthoritativenessThe authoritativeness of the creator, the main content, and the website.A machine manufacturer who supplies products and parts writing an article about proper use and maintenance.
TrustThe extent to which the page is accurate, honest, safe, and reliable.A research article discussing the effects of a new drug, published on a peer-reviewed medical journal’s website, accompanied by detailed methodology, results, and sourced citations.

Is EEAT a Ranking Factor?

Google maintains that EEAT does not directly influence organic rankings, meaning there is not a specific part of its algorithm that mathematically measures EEAT. However, brands that demonstrate EEAT consistently will have a better chance at achieve SEO success.

Why This Matters for Your Company

 

Your content must consistently satisfy both Page Quality and Needs Met standards in order for you to see sustained organic rankings and SEO results. But meeting these criteria is vital beyond Google and organic traffic.

These crucial factors enable your brand to capture your audience’s attention and persuade them to take your recommended action. Content that results in meaningful action—whether selling a product, promoting a piece of research, or answering a complex question—performs best for a brand when it meets these standards.  

How Sitemap.io Creates Content

 

SEO firms tend to have a leg up when writing content that gets ranked. Firms like ours take keyword research, intent, and content quality seriously. We don’t pretend to be experts in every field, but we understand the research and work it takes to create content that will be trusted and ranked by search engines before it can be distributed to millions of people. As your website’s authority increases in the content arena, your prospective customers develop a heightened awareness of your brand and how you can help them. 

At Sitemap.io, we offer each client a custom plan that fits their unique brand and challenges. We begin by creating a road map from the pain points of your ideal customer to the solution you offer. We use our expertise to help you align your content with your customer’s needs and build it out from all angles in a way that delivers SEO results and strengthens your brand. You’ll find that each piece of content is strategically developed to move people toward your product or service. Throughout the process, we see ourselves as partners working with you toward a common goal. 

Picture of Austin Cline

Austin Cline

Austin Cline is the founder and principal at Sitemap.io. He is actively involved in the SEO community and frequently writes about the intersection of great content marketing and search engine optimization. You can connect with him on his LinkedIn and sign up to get his posts to your email by joining our email newsletter.

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