Have you heard the good news about quality content? It’s the latest innovation that’s sweeping the nation. It’s going to revolutionize your content marketing efforts. If your current strategy is to crank out crappy content, then quality content is going to blow your KPIs away!
Okay, sarcasm aside: Every content marketer knows their content needs to be good to be effective. We call it “quality,” or “value,” or “usefulness.” But all of these traits can vary widely depending on your audience. For example, conventional wisdom might say that 500-word blog posts don’t connect with readers. But that word count may be just the right length for the people you want to reach.
So, when we get into the specifics, quality is relative and highly subjective. But it’s possible to define quality content marketing in a more universal way:
Quality content demonstrates to your audience that you are listening to them.
It’s that simple. Well, one step further:
Quality content demonstrates that you’re listening and you care.
We often think about what action we want readers to take. That’s a valid question; in fact, it’s the foundation of content marketing strategy. But for quality content we need to consider the flip side: How will the reader’s life be better after reading this content? Or, to really boil it down: What’s in it for them?
That’s the essence of quality content. And here’s how you can make sure your content passes the test. First, at the broadest level, there are two minimum requirements for quality:
All Content Marketing Should Be …
We talk a lot about best answer content at TopRank Marketing, content that:
- Serves a proven search need
- Addresses a customer’s burning questions
- Is substantial and comprehensive
Basically, it means that you’re putting in time and effort into researching your audience, what they need and how they’re searching for it. Then you’re crafting content that acknowledges that search and makes a genuine attempt to give them exactly what they’re looking for.
It’s hard to convince people you’re listening to them if all you can talk about is how great you are. Quality content has to be non-promotional. Now, some brands take this advice to heart, but create content that’s still promotional, just with a thin veneer of solving a problem. They’ll publish a “10 Ways to Be Better at X,” but each way just leads to their solution. That’s a cheat.
Real customer-centered content gives away valuable information that people can use even if they never buy from you. For example, here’s Quicksprout’s “Advanced Guide to Content Marketing.” It’s massive. It’s ungated. Only a tiny fraction of it is related to the solutions they sell.
Of course, your content mix should include some bottom-of-funnel content that will show how your brand solves a problem. But the majority of your content should focus on the reader.
So, quality content demonstrates to your reader that you’re listening and care about them. It does this by being hyper-relevant and non-promotional. It’s a good working definition, but still a little vague. Here are five ways you can approach content to guarantee quality:
Five Ways to Create Quality Content
#1: Tell a Story
Humans are storytelling animals. We’re wired to process narratives, to get pleasure from a good tale and retain the information within it. This is why people have a favorite novel or movie, but few have a favorite white paper or instruction manual. Tell a story that shows your reader you understand what their world is like. Tell a story that shows you understand what they wish their world was like. Even better, make them (or someone very much like them) the star of the story.
#2: Show Vulnerability
One of the quickest ways to make an emotional connection is to reveal your own shortcomings. Everyone has moments of failure; they’re what makes us human. Use your brand’s failings, and the lessons learned from them, to connect with the reader and help them improve.
The Buffer team is great at the kind of honest, meaningful discussion I’m talking about here. Their “5 Times We Failed at Diversity Big Time (and How We Fixed It)” is a good starting example.
#3: Help Them Look Smart at Work
What do most working people have in common, regardless of industry, function or seniority level? We all want to look good in front of our boss. If you are the boss, you want to look good in front of shareholders. Everyone can benefit from a little competitive edge, a tip or a trick or a bit of wisdom they can pull out at the next meeting.
#4: Help Make Their Job Easier
Another thing all working people have in common is that we would prefer to not work so hard. Anything that can help us get the job done quicker, with less effort, without sacrificing quality, is incredibly valuable. Keep that idea in mind when writing checklists, tools and tips, or how-to posts. It’s not just “here’s how you do this,” it’s “here’s how you do this better, regardless of your current skill level.”
#5: Help Them Improve Themselves
Your audience’s lives are bigger than their interaction with your brand. They’re bigger than the pain points your brand has the expertise to solve. If you can reach out to the broader sphere of their life experience, you can bring quality in new and unexpected ways.
This piece from LinkedIn’s* Jason Miller, “How to Survive a Mid-Career Crisis in Marketing,” is a stellar example. It’s a guide that’s not really about marketing at all; it’s about finding your true voice and pursuing passion. Bonus: Notice that the piece tells a story and shows vulnerability, too.
Quality Is Job One
Have you ever said to anyone, “I consumed some quality content the other day?” I sincerely hope not. Instead, you likely said, “I saw the greatest article,” or “Check out this cool video.” When content is useful, valuable, and meaningful, it’s not part of the deluge of content that surrounds us. It’s signal, not noise.
That’s the only type of content we should be in the business of making. Not just because it gets better results — it does, but that’s only part of the equation. When we create quality content, that means the work we do is useful, valuable, and meaningful. Personally, I wouldn’t waste my time doing otherwise.
Create content that connects. Check out these 10 powerful lessons in resonance from some of the industry’s top marketing minds.
Disclosure: LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.