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Why Bad Content Does More Harm Than Good in SEO

  • Timothy Carter
  • 5 min read
Why Bad Content Does More Harm Than Good in SEO


Search engine optimization (SEO) is popular because of how powerful it is. After a few months of creating content, building links, and fostering a better reputation online, you can climb to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) and attract a ton of traffic to your website.

Unfortunately, many optimizers get overzealous in their desires to get to rank one. In haste and eagerness, they develop as much content as possible, disregarding quality for the sake of getting more posts published. While content is not just good, but necessary for SEO, we need to acknowledge that bad content can actively do more harm than good.

The Allure of Quantity Over Quality

Content is essential for any SEO campaign. That much is a given, and you might already know this essential truth. Slogans like “content is king” have floated around the SEO industry for decades now, and some websites end up earning the benefits of search engine optimization naturally just because they produce such amazing content.

Content serves multiple purposes simultaneously. For starters, it's an opportunity for you to optimize for specific keywords. You can write content with engaging headlines and powerful body copy, all including examples of keywords and phrases you think your customers and prospects will search for. Over time, Google will begin to associate these keywords and phrases with your brand and with specific pages of your website, making it more likely for those pages to show up when users search for those keywords.

Additionally, each new piece of content on your website represents a new page that can eventually make it into Google search engine results pages (SERPs). It's also a new potential destination for your link building efforts and it can play a role in boosting your domain authority.

Because of all this, it's tempting to favor quantity over quality. After all, each new post on your website is a new opportunity to rank, a new opportunity to optimize for specific keywords, and an opportunity for future link building. If you see a surge in visitors after only writing 10 articles, wouldn't you see an even bigger surge of visitors after writing 1,000 articles?

This idea motivates millions of optimizers to churn out content as quickly and mindlessly as possible, neglecting quality standards in the process and unknowingly sabotaging their own campaigns.

The Problems With “Bad” Content

So what are the problems of bad content? Is it really that big of a deal if one post on your website is poorly written?

  • Google standards. Though we don’t know all the details, we do know that Google evaluates the quality of the content in its index. It considers the quality of the content on your website, and uses that as part of its evaluation for your trustworthiness, and therefore your rankings. In truly egregious cases, bad or poorly written content may end up penalizing your site, compromising its ability to rank effectively both now and in the future. Usually this is reserved for very bad cases, but consistently having poor quality work on your site can ultimately compromise your reputation in the eyes of Google.
  • Link earning potential. We also need to think about the link earning potential of every piece of content on your website. If you want to rank for a chosen keyword term, writing a piece of content that contains that keyword term isn't going to be enough. That's because your domain authority and page authority are partially based on the quantity and quality of links pointing to you. It's possible to build links manually, but it's safer and in many cases more efficient to naturally attract links to your website. People tend to build links only to content they trust and value; if you don't have any trustworthy, original, informative pieces on your website, your link earning potential is going to be almost zero. On top of that, building links manually will become more difficult, since you won't have as many strong anchor pieces to form the foundation of that campaign.
  • Customer perceptions. When working on search engine optimization, it's easy to start favoring search engines over your own human visitors. But we can't forget about their experience. Even in a best case scenario, where you're low-quality, high-quantity content does help you get higher rankings in search engines, the poor quality of your work will end up skewing customer perceptions and reducing your onsite conversion rate. People may lose trust in your organization and be less likely to work with your business in the future.
  • Reputational damage. By extension, if you continue churning out bad content, you can suffer long-lasting reputational damage, making it much more difficult to get listed or published with major publishers, even if they're closely aligned with your industry. Pursue quantity over quality long enough, and you may never fully recover from this.

Ultimately, this means that bad content is definitively worse than having no content at all. You're hurting your chances of increasing in rankings, you're damaging your reputation, and you're sabotaging the future of your campaign.

Is Your Content Bad?

Some people find it hard to tell whether their content is bad, where they have no real ability to judge the quality of their content impartially. How can you tell what the difference between good and bad content is?

These are some of the high points:

  • Length. Some studies suggest the ideal length of a post for SEO is in the ballpark of 2,000 words. it's also possible to rank highly with much shorter or much longer content. What's important is that you cover a subject in sufficient detail; writing a couple of sentences isn't going to be enough. Generally speaking, the longer your posts are, the better.
  • Depth. Of course, we also need to think about the depth of your writing, rather than just the length. You may write a piece that's 10,000 words, but if it doesn't offer significant new insights, or if it goes over the same point multiple times, many of those 10,000 words can be considered fluff. How much detail do you include in your work? What new insights are you offering?
  • Originality. How original is this piece? It should be obvious that plagiarism is out of the question. But covering the same topic as another website or putting someone else’s thoughts into new words can be just as bad. If you want to stand out in the search engine world, you need to come up with new ideas and cover topics that haven't yet been touched. If you can find 10 competitors, all of whom have a very similar post already, your work may not be worth publishing.
  • Validation/credibility. Are you validating your claims in the article? How credible are your sources? Linking to other high-quality pieces is a great way to substantiate some of your claims, especially if you cite specific figures. It's also important to establish your own credibility as an author over time; the more publishers you work with and the more links you have pointing to your website, the more authoritative you’ll be seen to be.
  • Technical issues. High-quality content is also devoid of any technical issues. I’m not talking about technical SEO here; instead, I'm talking about technical issues with how the content loads or how people interact with the content. If it doesn't work on certain mobile devices, or if it's structurally hard to read because of how it's formatted, you're going to experience significant issues.

There's nothing wrong with producing as much content as you can; In fact, there are many advantages to having a larger body of content to work with. The most important takeaway here is that quality always needs to be your top priority, superseding quantity in the process.

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