In Content marketing

Quality content marketing has evolved throughout recent years, and staying ahead of the curve is part of the job of content marketers everywhere. The article below shares more about how the definition of high quality content has changed. CK

Article written by Jessica Ann originally appeared in Marketing Insider Group on September 29, 2020.

“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” ― Henry Ford

Ahh, quality.

It’s elusive golden word tossed around at least 20 times a day. If you’re the type of human being who refuses to roll with a mediocre definition of “quality,” you probably came here to define and learn what makes “quality content.”

But first, a bit about content on the web.

Do you remember the days when keyword stuffing was the way to go? People would determine a few keywords and cram it into as many places on their website as they possibly could. If you know anything at all about SEO today, of course you know this is no longer the way to go. Rather than pleasing Google, this will actually make Google mad. However, the days of just strategically placing your keywords on your website and calling it a day are also over. Just like consumers, Google is looking for high-quality content.

Have you ever been to a website that did not adequately describe the services the business offered? Or, maybe it didn’t give a good background on who they actually were? You were likely displeased and began looking elsewhere. As consumers, we want to read content on a website that is relative to what we are looking for and also interesting. This also means we don’t want to be bombarded with a sales pitch and awkward keywords. Well, just picture Google’s crawling bots as your everyday consumer. The new algorithm now crawls your website and determines if your content is relevant, readable, and intriguing.

Scary? A little bit.

Important? Absolutely.

Why Is Content Important?

Content is not only important, but it is the most important thing. Ultimately, your content is what will make your cash register ring. Good, relatable, and well-researched content is what sets your website and your brand apart from the masses of competitors all fighting for the spotlight in your industry. High-quality content is both what customers and search engines want to see. Every additional page of quality content is a new landing page, or avenue, for consumers to find you through.

By maintaining high-quality content on your website, you will also position yourself as an expert in the industry. The bottom line is that people trust and flock toward people and companies that they think sound reliable, trustworthy, and in the know.

Think of the last website that you visited. How long did you stay on that website? People are generally busy. They have something else to do and/or they just have a short attention span. If you don’t offer them what they are looking for and something they enjoy reading, they will likely just bounce – which hurts your bounce rate and your bottom line.

Now, think about their future choices as well. Are they going to come back to your website? Well, that mainly depends on the person and their interest in your product. But if they do, it is likely they are hoping not to see the same, boring content. This is where the importance of updating your content comes in. People always need a reason to keep coming back, so give it to them by updating your content. If every few times they visit your website it is updated, this shows them that you are actively focusing on their needs and desires. Updates are a good sign for consumers.

What Is the Mark of Quality Content?

The thing is, “quality content” is entirely subjective.

But there are a few objective and scientifically proven traits that make quality content, well, “quality.” Here are some tips on how to make your content full of quality:

1. Credibility

Let’s go into an alternate universe and pretend that this book was about dogs that dig deep-dish pizza (bare with me here). It’s a great book, and you found yourself devouring the content so readily that you forget to check out the credibility of the author. You do a quick Google search and discover something shocking: The author is a cat lover who is allergic to pizza. The credibility of the author would immediately take a nosedive, wouldn’t it? (for the record, this writer you’re reading is a dog lover who loves pizza).

my dog

This is my dog, Karma. (She likes pizza too)

This example demonstrates the need for credibility in your content. But for better or worse, credibility almost never has a “tell.” It just is, and it’s up to the readers whether they believe it to be credible. The easiest way to do this is by doing your own research.

Here are some ways to make sure your credibility is on point:

  • Writer. It’s the writer’s job to keep the content honest, real and relevant.
  • Tone. This means a balance between serious information and voice. Let’s be honest: Most online content is way too serious. Whether your natural “writer” voice is funny, frank or motivating, you should use it freely when you write. Your voice adds authenticity, which easily translates to credibility. 
  • Subject matter. Make your content meaningful to your readers. Always offer value in a clear way. Whether you’re giving career advice or supporting a controversial viewpoint about cats (who eat pizza), you need to come across as an “expert” about your subject matter without sounding condescending.
  • Unique perspective. If you’re rehashing the same material as everyone else in your industry, your content may not be perceived as “quality” because nothing sets you apart. Instead, infuse your content with your personal or professional perspective. When you integrate your personal experiences with your professional perspective, you can create content gold.

2. Virtuosity

Virtuosity is “an appreciation for fine objects of art.” So what in the world does it have to do with content?

Well, like art, content creates conversation and connections, both of which lead to business. And since I believe that marketing your business is an art form, virtuosity is the path to connect.

Some ways to determine if your content has virtuosity:

  • Design. Your content should live on a website that has a simple, stunning design. High-quality images (that you create yourself) always help too. You don’t always need flashy colors (or God forbid, flash) to make your web design stand out. You just need simplicity. Let your words be the focus of your site.
  • Grammar. Grammar is a staple of quality content. Just keep in mind that some of the best writers follow in the footsteps of Pablo Picasso, who encouraged learning the rules like a pro, “so you can break them like an artist.” You don’t always have to worry about misplaced commas when writing for readers of the web – but please, please avoid lazy, purposeless typos. 
  • Story. If design is the heart of quality content and grammar is the mind, then stories are the soul. Just like a good movie or book, stories reveal the invisible lines that tie your content’s purpose together. Regardless of content format, be clear about your story before you write a single word, or design a color palette. 

3. Engagement

Raise your hand if you like engagement. Now, raise your hand if you raised your hand.

If you just raised your hand at any point, great news! We’re engaged. Not in the “if you like it, put a ring on it” kind of way, but the “we’re actively getting to know one another” sense of the word.

I’ll  just leave a {hashtag/engagement} right here.


Engagement is one of the most crucial aspects of quality content because it’s the main method for adding context. In other words, when you create a piece of content, you’ve got the content itself and then “everything else” that makes it high quality and shareable. Engagement is the “everything else.”

Here are a few tips to engage with your audience on the most popular distribution platforms:

  • Blog Content. You’re a whip-smart human, so you may already know this: One of the easiest ways to engage on your blog is to allow comments. This builds a two-way connection with your readers, where comments allow the writer to see the reader and vice versa. (Just make sure the writer of the article replies and interacts with the commenters).
  • Facebook. Facebook is one of the noisiest platforms, so create a value plan before you publish anything. Don’t just post a link to an article. Rather, create context for everything you share. Make a bold statement or ask a question. Whatever you do, don’t push the “publish” button until you have clarity around your message, and you know what action you want to incite.
  • Twitter. When sharing an article on Twitter, tag the author. If the article is relevant to certain influencers, tag them, too. This increases engagement and lets the author know that you’re reading and sharing his or her work.
  • Instagram. Instagram has a whopping 300 million engaged users each month.To engage on this platform, you have to be selective about what you share. Only post high-quality images, and be sure to target your desired audience by utilizing hashtags and trending conversations.
  • Pinterest. On Pinterest, each article that you create must have a beautiful image to go with it. Consider using a plug-in like the “Pinterest Pin It Button for Images,” which allows readers to pin your images onto one of their boards using a single click.

Now that we know the objective aspects of engaging content, is there anything to be done about the inherent subjectivity of “quality” content? Well, for better or worse, it will probably always be just that: subjective. But by laying an objectively high-quality foundation, you can feel free to have fun and experiment knowing that its quality will shine.

The Evolution of Content Quality Criteria

For too many organizations I meet, content quality is assumed. Or, it’s delegated to those creating the content. Defined and documented content quality criteria don’t exist. They aren’t part of a service agreement with content creation teams. When content quality criteria do exist it’s typically defined at the lowest level of quality maturity.

Of course, this makes no sense. It’s part of the legacy of where and how content has traditionally been sourced. Agencies and production teams were hired to not only deliver quality content, but to figure out what that actually meant.

With greater content production and accountability moving internally, this gap in thinking and practice is an important reason for low content performance. It also impacts content operations productivity. Content time-to-market is delayed, and costs rise, due to re-work of content products following initial and often multiple reviews.

Here’s how I describe the evolution in content quality criteria:

Is content well written, on brand, accurate and up-to-date? The traditional and still prevalent definition of content quality criteria. Obviously necessary, but in the digital era, insufficient. This is table stakes.

Attractive, engaging, easy to read. Good advice, and table stakes.

Findable. Does it address SEO requirements with the correct key words, metadata, image tags, etc. I would add: are related assets connected or cross-linked?

Contextually Relevant and Personalized. This is the new baseline standard, it seems to me. This means it’s designed or tailored to address a specific context, and the purposes of content users and audiences in that situation. Ask yourself: is content in the right forms and formats for delivery channels and user preferences? Dynamically changing content meets this criteria.

Insightful and Useful. This is a notch higher, but a condition for what we call high-performing content. Since content serves two masters — users and audiences — usefulness must support both constituents. Too often the purpose and needs of content users are overlooked. Think of your sales and channel content, for example.

Shared and Re-used. Not just your finished assets (table stakes). Are the important content components within the finished asset accessible and re-usable? Also required is the ability to re-configure and re-assemble those components.

Long-life Asset. Can assets be maintained to extend their useful life, a requisite definition of any “asset.” This means assets that require maintenance must be easily found and edited.

Content Source of CORE Assets. This moves content quality criteria beyond the individual asset. This definition shifts focus to the quality and completeness of a “core” set of organization-wide source content, with which to create high-performing, situation-specific assets.

Core content elements are high-value, highly shared assets, that are common to multiple functions and content purposes, across the organization. (CORE: create once, reuse everywhere.) Core assets are created based on a well-defined information architecture. These shared and re-usable content elements are developed and deployed as modular, microcontent components.

Content Source is the central search and access point to find any and all assets that are appropriate for specific users and functional groups. This includes (among other and emerging types):

  • Finished documents
  • Core component elements
  • Text and linked text (links to web-based internal and third party assets)
  • Image files
  • Audio and video — as finished, components, and raw source files

Tips for Improving Your Content Quality

At this point, you are likely thinking: will anything ever be good enough? First, you had to abandon a solely keyword focus and actually develop good content that included your keywords naturally. Now, I’m telling you that you need to update that content, too? The world of SEO, marketing, and the Internet, in general, is always changing – therefore, you should be, too.

Google is regularly crawling through sites to see which ones should be boosted and which ones should be demoted.

If you have never focused on your website content before, or maybe you know you slacked a bit – especially after reading about how important it really is, don’t fret. It is never too late to get in the game. Here are a few tips for improving your content:

Research, research, research. Writing any content should always start with research. You need to research the keywords that you will use so that you can have the foundation on which you will build your content. The only way to present keywords in your content naturally is to build your content around them. Simply trying to stuff those keywords in at the end will not work.

However, keyword research is not the only thing that falls under research. The best way to get ahead of your competitors is to first see what they are doing. If they are at the top, they must be doing something right. Research your biggest competitors and see what type of content they are using. Of course, don’t copy them exactly, but you can use this as a guide for how you will mold yours. It might also show you a few things that could be done better before you ever even make the error.

It is not about you. You have probably seen it time and time again – you visit a website and it is full of technical jargon. The way the content reads sounds as if the creator of the project wrote it himself. As the business owner, it can be hard to avoid this. However, writing for your audience is the key to quality content.

Keep the content fun, in short and easily readable sentences, relevant to your website and product, but avoid technical jargon at all costs.

Ask for help. This is the one thing that nobody ever wants to do – it makes us feel like we have to admit that we can’t do it. However, there are people who specialize in developing engaging website content. If you find yourself struggling, it might be time to contact the professionals.

And the final tip: don’t stop there. Your content is vital, let it be the center of your website and then build around it. Think of your content like that expensive little black dress you just bought for a party. Would you wear it without the perfect pair of shoes, carefully done make-up, and a few accessories? Probably not. You should be treating your website content the same way. Add high-quality content to your website and then dress it up with design and other visuals, like video!

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