Content Quality in 2024: Everything You Need to Know for SEO

Content Quality Everything You Need to Know for SEO

If there’s one thing you know about search engine optimization (SEO), it’s that content matters.

We’ve all heard the endless regurgitations of the adage that “content is king.”

But guess what? It’s repeated because it’s so damn true.

Content has always been at the heart of SEO, with the types of content that are most valuable for SEO and how those pieces of content are considered have changed drastically over the years.

Remember just a decade ago when it was common to make fun of people for capturing phone videos in a vertical, portrait layout? Now it’s rare to see any horizontal, landscape videos.

That’s because content changes. Technology evolves. Users adapt.

And the people over at Google are no dummies. They know that content changes and that users change, so they changed their search algorithms accordingly.

If you want to survive in this era of SEO, you need to understand the modern dynamics of content quality.

So how has the concept of content quality changed?

And how can you master it to get to the top of the SERPs?

The Helpful Content System (HCU)

Helpful Content System


Google’s Search Quality Evaluators Guidelines have long served as the gold standard for what “good” online content is. They were a bit vague, arguably intentionally, but they helped to clarify some ambiguities and provide solid direction for content creators on the web to get started.

Over the years, many updates have descended upon Google’s primary search algorithm, changing how it evaluates certain elements and improving its ability to deliver quality results to users who need them. But fundamentally, the outlook for quality content has remained mostly the same.

In March of 2024, Google released a core update and a spam update that caused ripples in the SEO community. Many practitioners were blindsided by this unannounced set of updates, especially because they’ve introduced new content evaluation standards.

The most important aspect to understand here is the fight against unhelpful content. The March core update integrated what’s known as the “Helpful Content System” (HCU) into the algorithm, redefining aspects of content that are seen as helpful or unhelpful.

Low quality pages are “pages that do not achieve their purpose well because they lack an important dimension or have a problematic aspect.”

That’s vague.

And unfortunately, we’re unlikely to get a more specific description in the near future.

We are, however, familiar with traditional E-E-A-T guidelines (see our section on “What Makes Content Helpful” for more details). And we have some experience optimizing websites to succeed in Google’s environment. So we can draw some intelligent, practical conclusions about what that means.

Additionally, Google revealed some new spam policies that penalize websites using unscrupulous and unethical tactics for the pure sake of increasing rankings.

Many of these policies focused on:

  • Scaled content abuse. Scaled content abuse is the act of creating large volumes of content only for ranking purposes. There’s nothing wrong with creating a lot of content, but if it’s only intended to push rankings, it’s considered spam. Note that this refers to both automated content and human generated content.
  • Site reputation abuse. A website having a high domain authority no longer means your content on that site is inherently valuable. Thanks to Google combating site reputation abuse, low-quality content on third-party sites is about to be penalized. Note that this policy only went into effect in May.
  • Expired domain abuse. Expired domain abuse is the act of buying expired domains with relatively high authority for the sake of using them, in combination with low-quality content, to achieve higher rankings. It is also being penalized as a result of this new update.

What Makes Content Helpful (and High-Quality)?

Google is all about helpful content.

It wants to eliminate unhelpful content.

Obviously, your job in SEO is therefore to make sure that all your content is helpful, rather than unhelpful.

But what exactly does that mean?

Helpful, high-quality content is evaluated based on the following qualities:

  • Usefulness. The usefulness of a piece of content is dependent on its ability to help users solve a given problem. There are many problems for which users will conduct searches; the big question is whether the content they find actually helps them on their journey.
  • Relevance. The relevance of a piece of content is dependent on its alignment with user search intent. When users searching for something encounter this article, are there motivations satisfied? Or do they need to go back to search results and find something else?
  • Thoroughness. The thoroughness of a piece of content refers to its depth. Does this piece of content fully answer all the questions the user came with? Or does it overlook some important points?
  • Engagement. The engagement level of a piece of content is a function of its ability to spark conversation and interaction. This is one reason why controversial content often works so well; it calls people to engage.
  • Genuineness. The genuineness of a piece of content is a measure of its transparency, honesty, and authenticity. If you’re writing content for the primary goal of optimizing for search engines, this can be a hard one to pull off.

We also have to consider user intent.

Googles March 2024 update introduced the latest in a long series of changes designed to focus on successful fulfillment of user intent. In other words, Google rewards and prioritizes websites that effectively give people what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.

To make content that can fulfill this, you need to accomplish a few separate missions. First, you need to know what your users want and what they intend to do. Second, you need to know how to fulfill that intent. Third, you need to create content that successfully appeals to these users and allows them to accomplish what they want to accomplish.

There are four primary types of intent around which you can create content:

  • Informational. Users with informational motivations are looking for answers to specific questions. For example, they might want to know why all the dinosaurs died out; properly informative content will answer users’ most pressing questions on this topic.
  • Commercial investigation. Users with commercial investigation motivations are looking to compare products and services. For example, they might want to know the inherent advantages of two competing software products.
  • Transactional. Users with transactional intent are looking to buy a product or service. Good content here usually helps users decide whether they need to make this purchase and how to move forward with it.
  • Navigational. Users with navigational intent are looking for a specific website or article. It’s hard to create content specifically for users with navigational intent, but if you have strong content already, users with navigational intent might discover your website.

It’s important to understand that while there is some overlap here, these concepts are best treated as discrete. If you’re writing content to serve users with informational intent, you shouldn’t pack it full of transactional language.

The better you serve user intent, the more helpful your content will be seen to be.

E-E-A-T guidelines have been around for a long time, but they’re still incredibly relevant. Don’t forget to craft all your content with these guidelines in mind.

  • Experience. Experience is all about demonstrating the knowledge and history of the author. It’s about using personal and professional experiences to make your content more informative, more relatable, and more helpful.
  • Expertise. Expertise is all about showing that you know what you’re talking about. It allows you to provide much more helpful information and clarify points that non-experts wouldn’t be able to explain.
  • Authoritativeness. Authoritativeness refers to the reputation of both the author and the website on which they’re posting. It’s largely a function of how these entities are presented on external sources and how much validation they have.
  • Trustworthiness. Trustworthiness is arguably the most important, demonstrating how accurate, honest, reliable, and safe the content on a website is. Google prioritizes trustworthiness because it’s a prerequisite for ensuring that users are reading content that will not harm them.

Strategies for Better Content in 2024 and Beyond

These strategies can help you create better, more helpful content in 2024 and beyond:

  • Focus on accessibility and usability. There are many considerations to bear in mind when developing content. None of them are relevant unless your users can actually access, read, and properly enjoy your content. It should be no surprise, then, that Google is unkind to websites whose content is inaccessible, hard to access, slow to load, or broken. Accessibility and usability need to be among your highest priorities, or else none of your other content strategies are going to work in your favor.
  • Create real value. Value needs to be at the heart of everything you do. Most of Google’s algorithm changes and new policies have been efforts to combat low-effort spam designed only to increase rankings. It has always, and will continue to prioritize content that provides real value to users. That means the most successful brands of 2024 and beyond will be ones capable of creating real value for users – not merely the appearance of real value. The more genuine, honest, and helpful your content is, the more it will be rewarded. Don’t take shortcuts.
  • Do not compromise on relevance. User intent is one of your most important considerations, now that the March 2024 core update has dropped. You need to be able to understand and master the art of catering to user intent if you want to be successful. Relevance is something you cannot compromise on. All the content you develop should be intended to serve a certain kind of user intent, and it should be able to serve that intent precisely and consistently. If you’re concerned about meeting this standard, consider collecting user feedback and objective website analytics to see if you’re on the right track.
  • Prioritize quality over quantity. Prioritizing quality over quantity has been a staple of successful SEO strategies for many years. The difference now is that brands will no longer be able to coast on low-effort, high-quantity strategies. Every piece of content you develop should be exceptionally valuable, and if you don’t have an idea for an exceptionally valuable piece of content, don’t create one. Adding to the endless sea of internet noise isn’t going to advance your cause.
  • Build credibility gradually. E-E-A-T guidelines are very important, but you can’t take any shortcuts to follow them. Your expertise, experience, and reputation are byproducts of time investments; any attempt to fabricate your credentials or imply a bigger reputation than you actually have is probably going to work against you. Similarly, making big pushes for content development and brand promotion could register as spam, so make a commitment to build your credibility gradually, step by step.
  • Stimulate more engagement. Most marketers understand that engagement is important for certain marketing strategies, like producing and distributing content on social media. But they underestimate how powerful it is for onsite and offsite content. Consider stepping up your efforts to stimulate more engagement directly, such as by covering more controversial topics, sparking new debates, and inviting people to share their own experiences in your comment feeds.
  • Do better than your top competitors. You can’t be the best content creator on the planet, but you might be able to become the best content creator in your industry. SEO is a competitive field, so what’s most important is having better content than your rivals. Study competitor content closely so you can make content that’s better in at least one respect, if not several.

Creating content was never easy.

At least, that’s true of good content.

But these days, creating good, valuable content is more challenging than ever.

That’s why it’s so important to develop content with a partner you can genuinely trust.

Introducing us… ta-da!

Whether you’re interested in a simple consultation or you’re ready to explore our content creation and link building plans, we’ll be here waiting for you. Contact us today!

Timothy Carter