Achieving quality by watching user behavior

You’ve been hearing it for years, that quality matters.  It’s not a new message and one that predates the Internet.  It’s pretty obvious to most people, yet so little time is invested in planning to product a quality site and quality content, it seems.

In fact, the confusion is understandable simply because defining “quality” is subjective.  In terms of search, and SEO, it helps to think of quality as something that appeals to a searcher.  Quality is the end result of producing content that entices a searcher to engage you on the SERP and a user experience that keeps them coming back to your site again and again.

How are you defining quality?

As hinted at above, the answer to this question is a bit tricky.  You can have all the “quality controls” in place you can think of, yet still not perform well in search.  In fact, it’s not really up to you to state you have quality content.  The answer to “Is my content high quality?” can be found in understanding if visitors are engaging with it, and how they are engaging.

Spend time reviewing your metrics.  Look for consumption patterns. Understand what type of content they like, how much time they spend with each type of content and what “voice” seem to resonate with your visitors.

Yes, you should have quality controls to ensure proper grammar is adhered to.  You should have a plan to target and build content that aligns with what searchers are after.  Your site expansion plan should include building content that is related to your normal products and services.  The goal being to answer any related questions that come up when a visitor is researching a topic.

Being defined as quality

When someone searches online, they’re starting a task.  Looking for information or a product.  So put yourself in their shoes.  Think like they would think and walk through every logical step in their process.   Here’s an example.

Laura wants to buy a new fridge.  Before going to a store locally, Laura plans to do some research online.  She’s particularly interested in reliability and energy efficiency.  Laura knows that visiting every local store to collect that information to start comparison shopping is going to take a lot of time.  Not to mention that she knows every sales person will tell her their model is the best.

So Laura opts to search online.  She sees a website that allows her to compare prices and information across a wide range of popular brands.  Highly useful for her needs, so she’s happy to invest time there.  She also wants some review information.  Laura knows that gauging the average sentiment, while scanning individual reviews randomly, can help her build a truer picture of other owner’s satisfaction with each unit she’s researching.  She’s looking for crowd sourced ratings, as well as expert-level opinions.  Her original website has articles related to energy efficiency from known names in the field, and curates a deep list of product reviews from the general public as well.

This website has all the hallmarks of quality as we’d define it.  In Laura’s case, it equips her with everything she needs to hit a few of her local shops to get the best price and buy her new fridge.  She’s confident the site armed her with useful information and she’s happy to recommend a site like that to friends.  Maybe at the book club meeting on Tuesday night, or maybe on Facebook after she gets the new fridge installed.  The fact that she feels compelled to share the site with friends is a critical clue here that that website was quality.

Learning from Laura

As the website that helped Laura, there’s a world of learning to be found in her actions.  The first step is to reach out with a hearty “Thank you!” to her Facebook post.  This means you’d better be watching your brand and domain socially to see what people are saying.  People generally don’t expect you to spend all day chatting with them online, but they’re always pleasantly surprised when a brand takes a moment to thank them for their support.

Next up, take a run through your analytics.  Start trying to understand what related content users are looking for, or consuming, while their on the site.  Laura wanted a new fridge.  Was she remodeling her kitchen?  Maybe tiles, paint and other new appliances would also interest her.  To clarify something here, we don’t have Laura’s personal information per se, as Laura is a persona used to define a segment of your visitors.  You’re looking for patterns of behavior.  Patterns you can track to successful conversions.  Once identified, you know what to replicate.

Quality; social style

If you’re going to engage socially, set the bar high.  Respond to people in a timely manner.  Share information that’s beyond your own site.  Limit the sales pitches.  People like to see links to useful resources, so be liberal with the link sharing.

That point about sharing content beyond your own site is an important one.  If you don’t have the content people seek, link to it.  You’ll be seen as useful.  And it’s an opportunity for you to create fresh content on those related topics to be even more useful to followers.

In the end, quality is defined by whether or not visitors interact with your content; whether they click on your SERP result and stay on your site.  You can have other metrics to help define quality, such as time on site, pages consumed, etc., but in the end, if deriving traffic from search is important to your business, you’d better watch searcher behavior and be ready to try different approaches.  Being agile and catering to your visitors needs will go a long way to your being defined as quality.  And remember, where the searchers go, the engines follow.

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