A Technical Guide to Ranking and Scoring Quality Content

by Chase Sagum on August 6, 2012

When you’re writing content for your site, sometimes it’s hard to tell what quality it truly is. Will others like it? How will the search engines rank it? Does it have the ability to go viral? It’s hard to answer these questions on your own, and it can be very difficult to really gauge what others will think of it.

Unfortunately, without tracking how others (meaning readers and the search engines) are receiving it, and without tracking how the content is impacting your business, it’s hard to know if your efforts are actually worth it. If you don’t have a system to rank the effectiveness of your content, it’s like shooting in the dark. And you spend way too much time writing content to just shoot in the dark without ever knowing if you are getting close to your target.

But what is quality content? How do you know if the content that you are putting out there is actually bringing you results? How effective is the content that you are writing? Is it actually “quality” content, or are you spending all that time writing for nothing?

Well, don’t worry. There is no need to continue writing content, never actually knowing the results it’s generating. I have created a formula that can be used to help you rank content.

Type of Content

Quality Content Diner Sign

Dishing up quality content since 1998

First off, let’s talk about the type of content we are evaluating here. To properly use this formula, the content should already meet 3 basic requirements:

1. The content is blog content, not traditional static web content. Website content is written for different purposes and with different rules than blog content. When evaluating website content, there are other factors that come into play. With website content, if it doesn’t go viral it doesn’t mean it isn’t performing the purposes it was created for. But blog content can be evaluated on things like social metrics.

2. You have tried to make the content remarkable. If you didn’t put any effort into the content in the first place, then I can already tell you it’s not quality. You must have written the content with the purpose of actually providing a benefit to others, not just filling the page with words.

3. You wrote the content with the intent of it lasting a long time. Only content with long-term goals and lifespan is going to work here. In blogging terms, this is referred to as “Evergreen Content.” This is content that is meant to last a long time. If you don’t think that particular article will “stand the test of time” then there’s no use trying to evaluate its level of quality.

On to the Actual Formula!

Once you have a piece of content that is 1) blog content, 2) remarkable, and 3) evergreen content, then you can move on to using this formula to evaluate its level of quality. Each article will be ranked on a score up to 100.

1. Social Metrics

You first want to look at how the article performed socially. How do others feel about your content? You can find out how useful and unique others feel your content is by how it is received socially. How your article performs on a social level tells you how quality others think it is.

All points here are a bonus added to the overall score out of 100.

  • every Retweet = 1 point each
  • every Facebook Like = 1 point each
  • every comment = 1 point each
  • every other social bookmark = 0.5 points each (you can use a social bookmarking tool like addthis to help track this)

2. Conversions

Once you know how your content affected others, then you can move on to determine how your content affected you. You’ll want to evaluate the content based on how it helped meet your business goals. Basically, did it create any conversions (generate any sales or leads)? These are the types of factors that actually affect your bottom line, so these metrics are going to hold more weight when it comes to points.

All points here are a bonus added to the overall score out of 100.

  • every lead/purchase = 10 points each
  • each new subscription (RSS, email, etc) or download = 2 points each

3. Technical Requirements

Here is where you will evaluate whether your content has met the minimum requirements of quality content.

Answer yes or no to each of these criteria. Give the article 5 points for every yes (0 points for no’s).

Total possible points: 30.

  • at least 500 words in length = y/n
  • at least 1 image = y/n
  • at least 1 call to action = y/n
  • 2 outbound links = y/n
  • 1 internal link = y/n
  • clean url (no weird characters in the url) = y/n

4. Readability and Usability

This part makes up the majority of the score. This section is more subjective than the other sections of the formula. You’ll have to use your opinion and expertise a bit more here than with the other sections, so just be honest with yourself. You should be your harshest critic if you are really trying to evaluate if you are putting out high quality content or not.

Give each of these aspects a score of either great, good, or poor. Great = 5 points; good = 3 points; poor = 0 or 1 points.

Total possible points: 70.

  • Image Relevancy: is the image relevant to the article?
  • Image Quality: what is the actual quality of the image?
  • Title Quality: does the title adequately describe what the article is about?
  • Title Creativity: is it just another title? Or does it have some punch to it?
  • Title Length: does the article have a ridiculously long title?
  • H Tag Usage: is the article broken up with h tags to help the search engines understand what the article is about?
  • H Tag Quality: are the h tags engaging and descriptive? Really think about this one.
  • Bold Over-usage: you know an over-bolded article when you see one. Is this one of them?
  • Link Over-usage: are there too many links on the page? More than 10 links and you should start to evaluate your usage.
  • Link Quality: what is the quality of the links the article links out to? Are any of these links broken?
  • Logical Flow: does the article follow a logical order from the beginning all the way to the end?
  • Scanability: is it scannable? Is it easy for readers to scan the article to get the gist of what you are trying to communicate?
  • Context of Content: what is the context or relevancy of the article to the overall messaging of the blog/site?
  • Overall Formatting: are there any formatting errors? Think spacing around images, strange characters from copy & paste etc.

I have my score! Now what?

quality sealAdd up all of the points from your evaluation, and that is your article’s quality score. The higher the score, the better the article was. Once you have your article’s score you now know how quality that article actually is. Don’t sell yourself short… you shouldn’t be settling for any scores less than a 90. If an article has less than that, go back in and make any necessary changes that will increase the score.

This formula would be great to use for a site-wide content audit. You’ve already put in the effort to write the content. Now make sure that you are getting maximum results from the effort that you have put in. Go through all of the articles in your site and score each of them. Make any necessary improvements to the articles. This may take you some time to get through all of the content in your site, but you will end up with an all-around better site. Using this formula (and making the needed improvements) will help boost your site’s overall value, rankings, and success.

After your site-wide content audit is complete, then continue to analyze each article that you post. It would be a good idea to analyze your scores on a monthly basis. What is the average score of the content you’ve posted this month? Work to improve that average score each month. Also take a look at the trends throughout the articles. What are the common low points you are seeing across the content you are posting? Make it a goal to improve in your weak areas.

In Conclusion

Now that you know how to rank, or score, the content you are publishing, and what to do with those scores, you are now armed to produce much higher quality content. Use this formula to analyze your content, as well as yourself as a writer. As you make the necessary adjustments (both to your current content and moving forward), your site will be rewarded with better rankings, more readers, and more success overall.

This article was written by Chase Sagum. Chase covers content marketing, SEO, and Social Media on his Organic Internet Marketing blog.

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