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Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Looking At Content Quality From Different Perspectives

8:17:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg No comments
"One of the most obvious, yet surprisingly overlooked, components of a search strategy is the creation of quality content...//... The key question, however, is what is "content?" And what are the characteristics of good content?" (Search Engine Watch)

What exactly is content quality? There is much talk about high quality content, but very few dare, care or know how to define what they mean with it. Or, when talking about high quality web content, they point to what search engines define as high quality content, which does not at all need to be perceived as high quality content by your intended users.

I wrote a post some time ago about measuring the quality of a content product and pointed to three main content quality attributes – accuracy, timeliness and completeness. I put relevance as a forth quality attribute since I discussed content quality from a producer perspective. However, from a user (as apposed to producer) perspective, relevancy must be said to be the most important quality attribute of all. There are plenty of additional attributes to consider if I am to cover all dimensions of content quality, but it is fairly logical that - for a user- the content must:

1. be useful for the user’s objective or task (e.g. relevant)
2. be available when the user needs it (e.g. timely)
3. include all that the user needs to know, no more no less (e.g. complete)
4. come from a source that make you trust that it is true (trustworthy)

Content that is not perceived as relevant by the user is practically useless for the user. From a content producer perspective, content relevancy means knowing exactly what the user wants, something which is very hard to figure out. Even if you are both the producer and the user of the content, it is hard to know what will be relevant to you simply because your objective and usage context (the usage scenario) might differ from time to time. Given that it is practically impossible for a content producer to know what each and every user will consider as relevant in each and every usage scenario, it is more usable to talk about typical users, or roles, and typical usage scenarios. I recently read a nice post by Aurora Brown called “Redefining Quality Content For The Web” where she exemplifies how the perception of content quality changes with what perspective you perceive it from.

From a user's perspective, quality (or my preferred term, valuable) content, whatever the medium, is characterized by one essential factor: it fulfils the user's needs at the time they're looking for.”

From a search engine's perspective, quality content seems to be determined by the most on-topic (relevant) and trusted material in the online community. Relevancy is affected by the number of links to a page's content (like 'votes' for the page), the content's significance, how well the search engine algorithm understands the meaning of the page (semantics) and how well the content matches the searcher's topic. Trust is the other part of the equation, and is determined by the types of sites that link to a webpage.”

"From a web owner's, web masters, or website owner's perspective, quality content is simply content that garners links, offers value to users, is properly optimized and draws traffic that can be used for brand recognition or monetization.”


The point to make here is that content producers need to focus on defining (and measuring) what content quality really is so that they can ensure that the content they provide to their intended users is perceived as high quality content, and that this requires considering many different perspectives when doing so.

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