“Quality” content is the key to search success — and marketing success in general, but it can be hard to pinpoint something subjective like quality. Now, the Searchmetrics 2014 Rankings Report highlights some ranking correlations that tease out how Google defines “quality.” It’s an 85-page tome, but in this Content & Coffee, I’m sharing the top 5 quality signals you can use as check marks in your content strategy.

1. Don’t be afraid of length

There’s no magic word count, but the top 3 results for any given query jumped by up to 3,000 characters in length between 2013 and 2014No. 1 ranking averaged around 7,000 characters. More sentences positively correlate with ranking and the top 30 results for various terms average around 17 sentences —  but there are a LOT of factors in the study that play into result length. (something I question: What 17 sentence post averages 7,000 characters?!)

What to add to your content strategy: Ask when the info on a page needs context/ more info. Find ways to add to thin pages to flesh out the information. Go for those longer form premium blogs.

Read Brafton’s related blog post on how long-form content fuels thought leadership and traffic wins.

2. Target 11-year-old readers

The strongest correlation with a top Google position was content estimated at an 11-year-old reading level. So explain what needs to be explained in simple terms – ask a teammate or peer who may not be as immersed in a topic as you if they “get it” before you post.

What to add to your content strategy: More personality and analysis, less jargon. It takes a stronger writer (or designer or producer) to say it simply, and web audiences pick up on that (and so does Google).

Take a look at this case study on one engineering company who transitioned from all highly nuanced pieces to a mix that included accessibly posts: They won a lot of new and repeat traffic.

3. Diversify content for visual learners/ rich media clicks

It makes common sense to use a video or image series for a tutorial, but now data proves mixed media that contains visuals has a STRONG correlation with top search positions (No. 1 spots seem to average up to 7 image files on the single page). Note: The study didn’t provide specific data for video but mentioned “media files, including images and video” enrich search ranking.

What to add to your content strategy: Have pictures to accompany text and whenever possible, videos and infographics should be used to answer the right questions along the customer journey. Here’s a screen shot (from a Quick Sprout study) of the most engaging image types:

QuickSprout social shares and images

Still trying to find the right type of media to tell a story? In Brafton’s webinar on the most common video marketing mistakes, we highlight how to pick the RIGHT part of the customer journey to target with video.

Bonus tip: Internal linking is HUGE

It’s easy to get obsessed with the external links pointing to pages – and those ARE important, but so is setting the right link foundation with good site navigation. The study says, “It is clear that pages in the top search positions have comparatively more internal links than pages further down the rankings.

Internal links

What to add to your content strategy: Provide readers with easy access to related content, and link articles to commercial pages. The basic rules of content integration practices are good for users AND now measurably good for SEO.

Here’s a video explaining how to integrate your content, with insights on how Brafton helped a customer get more content-led site conversions (and stronger SEO).

Get in-depth tips on content for SEO in Brafton’s related webinar. Register here: Spots are limited.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.