The good, the bad and the useless: What makes a worthwhile piece of online content?

For any content producing site, be it a national newspaper or a blog about turtle-breeding, ‘sticky’ content is the Holy Grail. This is content that both attracts eyeballs, and more importantly, ups repeat visitors. Yet a singular problem remains. Without a hawkish eye for quality, good content can easily be lost in the 27,000 GigaBytes (give or take) of internet traffic generated every second of every day.

People don’t have time for low quality content and they’ll certainly avoid repeat visits anywhere they find it. At Scredible, we are obsessed with good content, which is why we’re designing our app to be similarly ‘choosy’.

As you might imagine, that’s easier said than done. The challenge comes in ‘teaching’ an AI system to learn the difference between good and bad content, in the same way a person would – selecting what’s new and interesting out of the myriad of sites regurgitating identikit articles.

For any aspiring content producers keen to create articles that will cut through the noise, here are some of the benchmarks to determine ‘quality’ content:


A quote that comes to mind time and again is: “A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.” It’s from The Truth, Terry Pratchett’s satire on the newspaper industry. In an age when people source their content socially, this has never been truer.

Like any journalist or sceptical reader, it is important to consider the source: are articles generally well written; does the site publish regularly; is there more than one writer (one-writer blogs have to produce output that’s significantly high-quality); does the site have a good reputation; and does it have a bias that muddies the validity of what is being published? Good content can come from anywhere, but sites which work hard to build their track record are more likely to get read.


We’re all taught not to judge a book by its cover, but a poorly designed website rings alarm bells for both humans and machines. If the navigation is difficult, articles are badly edited or tagged, or if it actually hurts the eyes to look at, it’s unlikely to get past our filter.

Niche websites may not have the slick design of the big title magazines and newspapers, but if they fulfil the primary role of providing credible content that’s insightful and industry specific, and at least look neat and have ‘tied their laces’, they are more likely to appeal to readers.


Asking how long a ‘good’ article should be is a bit like asking how long a piece of string should be. A good article can be 300 words or 1,500. The important factor is that the length does justice to the subject matter. Certain topics, such as academic reviews, ‘how to guides’ and political thought pieces will be better suited to long articles, where image-heavy listicle articles will be scored highly despite being light on word count. At any length, the cardinal sin is padding. Internet users are used to being able to digest quickly and move on, so adding unnecessary words can be a killer.

Asking how long a ‘good’ article should be is a bit like asking how long a piece of string should be. Click To Tweet


Some of the worst culprits for padded articles are those reeking of a desperation to optimise their SEO. Even if readers don’t spot the tell-tale signs at first, the highly repetitive use of the same phrase or keyword can wear users down and leave them dissatisfied. Content producers need to ask: What use is a strong SEO score, if once the reader gets to the article, they’re put off? An article that is well written is going to attract more visitors and wider attention for a website.

Being counterintuitive

This can also be called ‘having the element of surprise.’ Really great articles are those that provide a different angle on a known subject and present completely new ideas and discoveries that can educate and inform. A lot of online content doesn’t actually add anything new to conversations or simply states the obvious. Content that surprises and offers a new angle is what will excite and engage readers.

This article originally appeared in Digital Marketing Magazine.