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How To Reduce Low-Quality, Unoriginal Content

As of April 2024, Google has confirmed–as we suspected it might–that it’s tuned its ranking system to reduce “unhelpful, unoriginal content on Search”.

Improved quality ranking: We’re making algorithmic enhancements to our core ranking systems to ensure we surface the most helpful information on the web and reduce unoriginal content in search results. (source)

They’ve completed the roll-out, and this may have impacted your site. If it hasn’t, great–you’re doing content right. If it has, we’re sorry to hear that. In fact, Search Engine Journal recently warned of the extreme challenges some sites are facing:

“The March 2024 core update has proven disastrous for many websites, with severe traffic losses persisting even after sites try to improve low-quality content, address technical issues, and realign with Google’s guidelines.”

Hopefully you don’t find yourself in this circumstance, and your site is on the way up, not down.
We are going to explain what sort of unhelpful content they mean and how to write rich, useful (and more-importantly–original) content relevant to your target audience.

What is Low-Quality, Unoriginal Content?

To explain this, we’re going to provide a tangible example that might resonate.

We’ve seen a heap of agencies deliver what we would suggest is content development – which is a little lazy. And we’ve seen many businesses upload content on their website that is not original.

We don’t want to name any agencies guilty of this (some may legitimately have thought the strategy a statistically successful one–and it probably was, until March 2024, when Google confirmed it’s not).

Anyway – for the purposes of this post, let’s say “Lazy Agency” has a client that offers carpet cleaning services in Melbourne. They’ve come onboard, because they want to increase their organic traffic. As part of their larger SEO project, they’ve been recommended a content strategy, including blog posts.

Great.

But this is what “Lazy Agency” does:

  1. Collect the client’s top-priority keywords
  2. Inputs those keywords into an SEO software like SEMRush or free service like Answerthepublic
  3. Checks out the most frequently searched questions related to those keywords.
  4. Plans a blog post (or many) around those questions
  5. Asks ChatGPT to write the content
  6. Does a quick scan to make sure there are no spelling errors (or let’s Grammarly do the work).
  7. They stick a CTA in the final paragraph, throw in some internal links and a few stock images, and get the client to sign off and publish the post.

Done. Now, they watch the traffic roll in.

It doesn’t.

Here’s what happens when we Google the title – How To Clean Your Carpet Like a Pro

In SERPs are numerous videos answering the question, Google’s SERP People Also Ask answers, Images, and pages and pages of carpet cleaning businesses, retailers, TikTok accounts, and more, advising how to clean your carpet ‘like a pro’.

The client checks Google Search Console ranking to find the post in position 50+.

Here’s the difference–the first organic ranked page for the phrase (not TikTok), has the following rich content:
✔️ Images
✔️ Age (original publish date in April 2021)
✔️ High domain authority
✔️ 1,000+ words
✔️ Internal links to relevant posts such as Cleaning Mistakes to Avoid
✔️ Listed ten top solutions
✔️ Recommended products with external links and CTAs in some cases (affiliate links)

Does the client’s content match this level of commitment?

The embarrassing answer is, of course, no.

They relied on AI to write the content. Even if they edit it carefully, ensuring it doesn’t read like AI, they have guaranteed that the content is not unique by utilising AI in the first instance. AI, like ChatGPT, scrapes across the internet to learn. Therefore, it can provide this content because that content exists. It can provide the answers to the questions because the answers already exist.

Because someone has already answered them.

image is a meme of a person using AI tripping themselves up

Should I Answer The Most Searched Questions?

Yes.

We don’t want to dissuade you from checking out the most relevant topics related to your industry and answering those questions. They’ll likely be the most commonly asked questions for a long time, and it’s good to have them answered on your site.

What we don’t want you to do is assume that you’ve answered the big, popular questions and traffic should now pour in.

Because your competitors will probably have already done that. So unless your site has:

  • Rich, unique, informative content
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Domain authority
  • Age
  • Backlinks
  • Great UX

Then, competing for these high-competition questions will be tough and with Google’s new strategy for downgrading low-quality unoriginal content, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Not only are you unlikely to knock out your competitor, but you might get penalised for being ‘spammy’. So, be careful.

Reliable, Informative Content For Newer/Smaller Sites

If you’re running, managing, or helping a young site, one that doesn’t have much content, has a niche audience, or low authority, and you’re working on the content to grow your organic traffic, there are options for generating content outside of the big, juicy questions (which you should also answer-with consideration for everything we’ve mentioned).

Here’s an example of a client of ours. We won’t give away who they are, or what the post was, but we wanted to show you how a blog post about something niche, can have significant impact.

This client has a strong site, with content that’s related to their services. We have answered all of the big questions, and we wanted something a little more lateral. We dug down deep into the keywords, utilising SEMRush, Google Ads keyword planner, People Also Ask SERPs, and brainstormed. We came up with a topic that sounded boring, asking a very small, basic question.

But, no one else had answered it.
And this is what happened.

a screenshot from Google Search Console showing the growth of a page’s organic traffic

We did it again for another client. This time, instead of answering the big main question, we answered smaller questions relating to that topic. Questions that their customers asked in one large post related to their main service offering.

screenshot of a page growing organic traffic in GSC

It became their most organically visited page and one of their strongest lead generators.

So, How Do I Find Rich Topics for High-Quality Content?

These are unicorns—diamonds if you like. You want to find content topics that will generate search queries but haven’t been spotted by competitors yet.

Get in there first, and even if your site is young and small, you have the chance to rank well for it.

First off – don’t use an engine like SEMRush. It has it’s uses–we’re fans. But not for this.

We’d recommend starting with GSC. Check out the keywords that you rank 11-20 for and work from there.

screenshot of queries in Google Search Console

You can also use Google Ads’ keyword planner to direct you with stats.

screenshot of Google Ads keyword planner

From the screenshot from Ads’ Keyword Planner, you can see we’ve highlighted ‘Washing rugs’. Now that narrows things down a bit. It might not be what our (pretend) client is selling, but it’s definitely related. Perhaps there’s a topic off that keyword instead.

You can use keywords like these and try the following for subtopics+additional topics:

  • Reddit
  • Google’s People Also Ask
  • Google Search Engine Pre-population tool
GIF of searching questions in Google
a screenshot of reddit about power washing rugs

If we Google ‘can i power wash a rug’ there are ZERO Australian sites that have answered this question. We may have just found a diamond!

All of this research leads to the following post structure:

Title: Can I power wash a rug?
H2: Can power washing a rug damage it?
H2: What kind of power washer should I use on a rug?
H2: Is power washing an effective way to wash a rug?
H2: What if I tried power washing and it didn’t work?
– This is where the client can insert their services as an alternative solution. Or, recommend products that the user can buy, making this an informative and helpful piece of content.

Even if our client isn’t able to supply videos, great imagery, schema, internal links to complementary pages (as it’s a new site), there is plenty we can provide for these topics.

I Don’t Think I Can Write Great Content

That’s OK. We can’t all be great at everything. But, we do write great content. We wrote this. In fact, we’d even welcome you to grab all of this content and run it through an AI-checker. No AI here!

Get in touch with our digital marketing experts are happy to help. And why not sign up for a complimentary 45-minute strategy session – obligation-free?

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