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A Measure of Greatness

     
1:50 pm on Jun 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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"I have great content" - is there a more meaningless claim on the subject of SEO?

It is meaningless in the rhetorical sense that no one thinks the opposite is true. I have yet to see someone claim they have average content. As a matter of fact (though depending on your selected meaning of the word "average"), half the sites on a given topic are below average- anyone want to self-report?

But it is also meaningless in a more substantive sense. What do we mean by greatness? How do we measure it? In what sense can this be true?

Can greatness be measured statistically? Is bounce rate, time on site, or returning traffic a basis for determination?

Is greatness related to the veracity of the content? Can you have a "great" article if the central claim is false? For example, could an article on the [Brilliance¦Disaster] of [Trump¦Brexit¦Merkel¦AfD*¦Macron¦Maréchal] (delete as most easily offends you) that is "great" if you believe the opposite? Can you have a "great" article on unicorns?

How does the concept of "greatness" intersect with other criteria, such as target audience. My "great" primer on, say, GDPR would be less than helpful for a first year law student. The law student's dissertation on the same subject would be a useless guide for webmasters.

How do you assess "Greatness" in your own output?

How do you assess claims of Greatness made by others?

*For those that care, AfD is lead by Gauland, Meuthen and/or Weidel. No, me either.
2:41 pm on June 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I regularly asses my sites and find the content has become average and needs to be enhanced to a more superior form.

How do I assess my content? Combination of analytics & usability testing. What is the avg time spent of page? How far do they scroll down the page? Does the page convert? Do usability testers score it with high satisfaction? How many times did the usability tester curse or slam their mouse during the test (yeah webcam video capture is very insightful)? How many social likes/follows/links has it attracted? Plus a bunch of other factors. Looking at one signal usually doesn't tell the full story. Compiling different data points tends to be safer and a more accurate perspective.

Once we think we know the correct improvements, we go to A/B testing to prove it actually is more profitable. We don't assume anything. It is usually very foolish to make assumptions or blindly follow personal opinions. Other people can do that, but we find its more profitable to hold ourselves accountable with data & testing.

The internet landscape is constantly changing and IMHO it is necessary to constantly change our standards & best practices to keep this evolving demand satisfied. 15 years ago, a 400 word text only article could have converted great. Now users want images, videos, detailed information & expert analysis that looks great on mobile, tablet, & desktop screens while also downloading super fast. So yeah, our standards & best practices have definitely evolved to keep users happy & returning.

I don't care about others claiming "greatness". That is their problem. When a client hires me, I don't argue about personal opinions. We jointly review the analytics & usability data to highlight ways to increase profits. Clients tend to enjoy bigger profits more than personal opinions.
3:36 pm on June 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I don't think about "great content," I think about "useful confent." Does the page have intrinsic value for my target audience? That's what matters.
3:38 pm on June 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@goodroi
A very insightful analysis, from a professional SEO!

TL;DR= Greatness is the ability to generate revenue? [Or a, ahem, good ROI?]

What about for a smaller site, one unable to implement such a process-driven search for validation? Or, as a Pro (and thus not necessarily an expert on the subject matter), is data the only validator of Greatness?

I would be interested in the view of smaller site owners who do not have product testers, and cannot do extensive split-testing.

How about relative levels of Greatness; "my site has better content than theirs". Can that be a meaningful statement, or is it just a subjective view?

ETA-
@EG
"Useful" is all well and good, but is just an exchange of terms. So, same questions, just replace "great" with "useful" - how do you measure it, in yourself and others?

"Confent"; is that similar to covfefe?

[edited by: Shaddows at 3:45 pm (utc) on Jun 18, 2018]

3:45 pm on June 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Can you have a "great" article on unicorns?
Why, yes, you can. That would be Spiritalis unicornis: das Einhorn als Bedeutungsträger in Literatur und Kunst des Mittelalters, originally a 1970 dissertation, later published as a book by--wait for it--Jürgen Einhorn. (Really.) I think it remains the definitive work on the subject.

Sorry. You just picked an unlucky example :)
4:11 pm on June 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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How many different kinds of "great" are there?

If one is in it for the money, how much you make determines how great.

If for education/info ... how many helped with the right answers is great.

If one codes properly, creates a fine experience, then that's great, too.

If great means being bigger than anyone else, get back to work, you ain't there yet. What are you doing reading this stuff?
4:27 pm on June 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Shaddows Just because a site is small does not mean it can't be resourceful. Everything I mentioned is well within the reach of every site owner that is willing to work.

Google Analytics is free and used by many small site owners. Small site owners also have access to their own log files. Those sources can be harvested for many useful data points. You can create a spreadsheet with built in formulas to process the varied data points and sort your pages under different criteria so you can triage a website.

As for usability, you can do it on a very small budget or even for free. You can recruit site users or newsletter subscribers to do free usability testing. Small site owners can also spend a few dollars and use a crowd sourcing website. No, it won't be as informative or in depth as expensive usability testing but it will often be good enough for a small site looking to survive & start thriving.

For A/B testing, there are free & trial options. A small webmaster can also perform their own dirty A/B test by manually changing things. It is not the most accurate but if a site has zero budget, it can be a good enough solution. Simply comparing a few weeks of page A metrics vs weeks of Page B metrics can give useful insights and boost profits enough so the small site can invest in their website.

It is funny that many small webmasters fear the big companies and many big companies fear the small sites. Small webmasters can definitely compete with big budget companies. Those big budgets usually come with big bureaucracy & silly inefficiencies. Small webmasters can often be more decisive and beat the big companies if they work hard.
5:15 pm on June 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@goodroi
I've never thought to be afraid of any site. When we were small, we knew we were doing things better than the big boys. Now we're big... well we've engineered some advantages that would be non-trivial to compete on.

Those are some solid suggestions. I would only add that Piwik/Matomo is available to those with an allergy to Google products. I see you are very enthusiastic about data-driven insights, which is understandable given your profession. In-house, I am a data person, too.

But, to put it delicately, I don't think many content creators are data-driven. When a Googler such as John Mueller says "write great content" I just don't see most webmasters, including most members, executing a process to determine greatness. I think it is intrinsically bad advice- a failure to Know Your Audience. Yet, point one in any conversation about traffic acquisition (or lack thereof) is about how great the site is. How do you quantify that?

@Lucy
Possibly the best case of nominative determinism I have ever heard! Although "Bedeutungsträger" applied to Unicorns sounds Freudian. Sometimes a horn is just a horn.
6:43 pm on June 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@Shaddows You & I both know that John Mueller and all Googlers need to speak in vague terms because they have millions of webmasters in different situations with different skill levels listening including many ignorant newbies and countless spammers trying to figure out how to manipulate the Google. There are also a bunch of trouble makers like me, that pounce on John when he gets too specific and gives information that might not be 100% accurate for 100% of webmasters. John is a nice guy and I would never want to be in his thankless no-win job position.

IMHO it is better to not over analyze word choice but instead look at the overall message. What is being said? What isn't being said? Why is that message being addressed by a Googler? Are they trying to steer webmasters away from an exploit in Google? Are they trying to encourage a certain adoption to help Google's business plan? Are they trying to encourage development in an area that Google has high user demand but low webmaster supply? Are they just pumping out some goodwill public relations to reduce the number of unqualified idiots clogging their forums?
6:52 pm on June 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Great thread.

I've always used the inverted pyramid format of writing, which works well on the web for both scanner and reader visitors alike. Within that the emphasis is on telling a story (story telling is perhaps the greatest known 'secret' of visitor engagement) to get the info across, hold attention, and make the conversion.

Then comes the sugar tech/aesthetics of making the content easy to swallow: typography and white space, imagery and media, layout and colour, etc.

Plus of course the content: appropriately well written for intended audience(s) answering immediate questions while drawing visitor ever deeper.

After which comes analytics: what percentage went how deep, followed which links, returned at a later date, converted, etc. (as mentioned by prior posters, subject to individual business requirements) all of which combines to inform you of how the page is being received while highlighting possible weaknesses.

Both 'good' and 'great' labels are highly subjective; what meets the grade for one demographic may not for another, one experience level but not all, etc. How to reach, engage, hold, convert, etc. more than one audience with a single page of content (or how to seamlessly funnel visitors to appropriate version) is the most difficult aspect (imo) of being good/great within one's niche.

As to whether one's is well above niche median there is a real simple test: is it interchangeable with that of competitors? If yes, you are strictly mode. And that is unlikely to be good and definitely not great.

I will add that there is a huge gulf between using analytics and doing an analysis of the results. Many do the first to fail on the second. Also that while convenient neither GoAn nor Piwik beats log analysis however few webdevs know to bother to learn how. Unfortunately the lazy hazy days of paste or plug and play are fast receding as competition increases. Too many have forgotten or failed to realise that webdev is first and foremost a technical endeavour and secondly a competitive business model: failure is definitely an option.
7:11 pm on June 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Sometimes I see a post here where someone says that their site has great content, then mention that they write 3 or 4 new articles everyday.
Reminds of the old hack writers who could churn out a new dime novel every week.
8:00 pm on June 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Reminds of the old hack writers who could churn out a new dime novel every week.

There are audiences for that kind of hack (as in writing). Some of it can be very profitable. Merely an agreement that there's no one size fits all for being either good or great.