What Is Good Content?
Write great content, that's what Google wants! While this is technically correct SEO advice, the problem is that it doesn't really give you a clear blueprint of how to do that. "Great" is an adjective, and not a very descriptive one at that. What's great for a college course, a fictional book, or a website for Google are three very different things.
The good news is that Google has been very open with what they want to see, and it's clear from the past few years what exactly "great content" means to Google. By understanding what features Google looks for when ranking content, you can write great content that ranks well, too! Not just now, but into the future, as well!
Top Goal: Be the Most In-Depth Resource
A very good way of looking at what makes "best" content is looking for content that is the most in-depth, useful, and delivers the answer to what a Google search is most likely looking for with that phrase. Someone writing blog posts with this always being the top goal is going to consistently beat out bloggers looking at keyword percentages, LSI terms, and things like that.
Be the resource that is genuinely the most helpful and you will consistently beat out posts whose content is "better optimized." There are ways to be a better resource than others, and by focusing on these specific things your content will shine for both the reader and for SEO purposes.
Charts & Graphs
We're not talking about those stupid charts on many low quality affiliate sites that have a linked picture, a linked title, a brief description, and then a "buy now" button or "check price" button. That doesn't give enough information. Now a chart that has a picture and title, a brief description, size/dimensions, weight, average cost, and average grade: that is a fantastic resource. One that probably stands out compared to every other website in your niche.
A heavy informational table like this will not only get a big thumbs up from Google, but in certain specific searches can even be converted into a Snippet.
Good content is informational and well-organized in a useful way.
Statistics & Original Research
Statistics are useful, they are original information, and really good charts tend to get links. That is further SEO help and builds that authority that Google wants to see. In fact, there are many successful bloggers who have noted they build all their content around the tried and true knowledge that "Original statistics attract links."
This goes hand in hand with the importance of original research. So much content online is rehashed. Even when you look at the top five results in Google for a term, so often the same information is in each one just re-written or re-phrased a certain way. Yet some very commonly asked questions have no reliable online answer. Because "It depends" or "It varies" isn't an answer. Look for questions searchers might be looking for.
Contact experts in the field. Visit forums. Ask friends who have first hand knowledge. Want to know how one type of rifle compares to another? Start a conversation with a gun shop owner. Have no idea what makes it hard to start a campfire? Talk to a local Boy Scout Troop. Want to know what to look for when looking at a new house? Talk to a local contractor or renovation specialist.
That verbal information may not appear anywhere online. This is way more common than you would think. Get original research, original information, and be the go-to resource for that information. Add in a quote, if you can, and this even allows you to look at sites that copy your information later and demand a link, or report them for copyright.
Good content is original and informative.
What Do the Top 5 Results Look Like?
Do your homework. Are there closely related topics or questions that all of them answer? Are one or two of these results real outliers compared to the others? What makes them stick out? You may find that each result in the top five tackles one part of the issue none of the others do.
If you cover all the important questions and areas those top five results do, and provide the best all around resource you will eventually win those top ranks.
Good content is in-depth, comprehensive, and provides important related information the searcher also needs.
What Questions Have No One Answered?
Even nowadays there are massive information gaps all over the Internet. This is especially true if you are an affiliate marketer. So many of those sites are focusing on products or re-hashing the same basic FAQ over and over again in different ways. What questions did you have as a beginner in this niche? What little tricks or bits of knowledge have you learned? If you are new, then what questions do you have and struggle to find a clear answer to?
These are all opportunities to provide clear information that answers questions as thoroughly as possible without getting bogged down or making things over-complicated.
Good content answers questions clearly.
Can you talk about personal experience? Google wants to know why they should provide your content to others. A product review where it's clear the person has actually used the product will rank over one where it's clear the person has not actually used them or tested them. When you can talk about being an expert, or having your own experiences Google gives a lot of weight to that. It's not the end-all, be-all, but if you can add a personal experience that is a definite plus to your website or blog content.
Good content offers reasonable first-person experience from an author you can trust.
Original pictures definitely matter. At some point your site is going to be checked by human eyes and people can tell the difference between a good picture and an average one (or bad one). Even many common stock photos are obviously stock photos, although these can been acceptable. They are better than nothing or a terrible picture. That said, original pictures are easy to pick out and are going to add authority to your content in really strong ways.
Good stock photos are acceptable, like those with paid sources, but good original pictures matter. Plus if you took the pictures, then you can do a reverse Google Image Search and find anyone who uses your photo. Send them a follow up email saying they need to attribute the picture with a link. You'd be surprised how many links you get. Those who don't, copyright claim.
That way even with good original pictures you not only get authority and build trust but you may even get links, too!
Good content has very good pictures that are original, whenever possible.
The Small Technical Writing Tips
There are small technical tips for writing good content. Most of these have been gone over to death, and honestly more sites hurt themselves by going so by the book heavy with Grammarly on the technical stuff that their content is sterile. That said, there are little things you can do to set yourself apart as good content.
First, mention your main keyword or topic in the first paragraph. I love story-telling styles to pull a reader in, but you do want your main topic in the first paragraph for the engineering side of SEO and Google. Make the first paragraph state what the article is about, lead into the story with paragraph two (if you're using that method).
Two, watch your tone. You're not a high school teacher at a private school lecturing to kids as a captive audience. Have life. Have an actual style. Make your content enjoyable to read. This matters not only directly but will also help indirect SEO factors like bounce rate, time on page, or repeat visitors.
Three, use the power of a summary paragraph. Early on have a basic summary or topic paragraph that lets the reader know what the page is about. This should be clear, succinct, and can even take a bullet point or list format. In social media this would be the TL;DR version. Having this early looks good, can help win snippets, and sets the stage for what's to follow.
Beyond that use proper grammar and punctuation. If it's obviously you're not fluent in the language you're writing in, that piece of content is going to struggle.
This was a badly kept secret back in 2010 and it's an even worse kept secret now. Many of these "AI advances" are actually armies of gig workers who are manually reviewing search results, comments, feedback, and websites. In other words, if your site is going to rank highly in the search engines then at some point your website is going to be reviewed by human eyes. Keeping this in mind helps remind you to write naturally and for the reader. This is always good advice, but it is valid SEO advice now, as well1
Good content is written for the reader!
If you follow these tips you will be producing great content that Google (and your readers) will absolutely love!