If you play buzzword bingo with a content marketer for long enough they’re liable to tell you that content is king and that you should really be focusing on content quality over quantity.
In my humble opinion there should be no relationship between the quality of content and the quantity you choose to put out. They seem to be heavily interlinked in most marketers minds – and they really shouldn’t be.
How marketers think of content quality vs. quantity:
I feel a lot of marketers make sweeping generalisations that content quality and quantity work like this for everyone:
Once you start to increase the quantity of content you put out, eventually this will have a negative impact on the quality of that content you’re publishing.`
The reality is that may or may not be true for your company.
The quality of anything is really subjective:
How do you determine the quality of anything? On one of my last visits to Boston we went to a Japanese restaurant. There were 8 of us at that meal and we all agreed the meal was fantastic. Great food, great service and a plentiful supply of rice (seriously, they gave us a lot of rice).
Like any good foodies we recommended it to a bunch of our engineers. The same quality food, service and generous portions of rice.
They hated it. We’re forever in their black book when it comes to food advice.
Quality is subjective. What I find valuable in a piece of content isn’t necessarily going to be what someone else finds valuable. In the chart above we would be replacing “content quality” with “content metrics”. We need to look at these metrics in aggregation. For example using metrics like engaged time we’re able to make informed decisions on how well our audience is connecting to the content we’re publishing.
Engaged time has been shown to positively impact both return visits and brand recall. You can obviously look at metrics around social shares, but it could be argued that the correlation between social shares and engagement is pretty weak given how frequently people share articles based on the title alone.
Moz also use a pretty cool custom metric to look at the quality of their content, called the one metric.
As long as these metrics stay above a certain threshold set by you, that’s applicable to your market, theoretically you should be able to produce as much content as you want.
Quality is influenced by a range of factors:
The quality of anything is determined by a range of factors, not least by what your own perception of what quality is. One of the best examples of this is wine, yes, lovely lovely wine.
Tests are constantly being carried out to determine if people can really tell the difference between an expensive bottle of wine and one you can pick up on the cheap at your local supermarket. This article from forbes lists a range of fascinating tests proving how difficult this task can be.
“In his second test, Brochet took an average Bordeaux red and poured it into two different bottles. One boasted a grand cru label (an indication of superior quality) and the second bore an ordinary vin du table (peasant wine if you will) label. You can guess the results. “Despite the fact that they were actually being served the exact same wine, the experts gave the differently labeled bottles nearly opposite ratings. The grand cru was “agreeable, woody, complex, balanced and rounded,” while the vin du table was “weak, short, light, flat and faulty”. Forty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only 12 said the cheap wine was.””
You need to decide on what “good” or “great” is for your market. How good is your competitors content? What quality bar do you need to reach to surpass what they’re doing? How do they determine what good is? Is it because the post has a lot of shares, is from a particular author, brand, it’s written well, it’s using imagery, video, what are the labels your audience use to determine quality?
As content marketers the quality bar we set ourselves is going to be determined a lot by the industry we are in. If I was starting a blog in the marketing industry the quality of my content would need to be really high in order for me to grow an audience. I would be entering a market where there is a lot of investment being put into the publishing of content each and everyday.
There are other industries where that quality bar is probably a lot lower. What my audience think is a great piece of content may be considered extremely average in other industries.
Maybe your chart looks like the following:
What this chart tells us is, you will keep stretching yourself until content quality is impacted. At some point the quality of your work will dip below the bar you’ve set yourself.
Maybe that does represent a lot of companies out there. In these cases it’s not that quality and quantity are interlinked, it’s the company has made a bad choice. They have chosen to go beyond what their capable off and got into a situation where there are diminishing returns.
Of course what the best companies do is this:
Maybe the quality of their work suffers when scaling early on but they find ways to bring that quality up without ever going below a point where they start to see diminishing returns. They hire additional staff, agencies, freelancers, or start to source content from within the company.
For these companies the decision on how much content to produce is determined more by their audiences appetite for content versus some intrinsic link between the quantity of content they publish and the quality of that content.
The above are extremely simple charts for example purposes only (data geeks, don’t come at me with chart errors!), but the point of the post is to move away from sweeping generalisations that you constantly hear being touted as the latest catchphrase by marketers. I would challenge people to think a little more deeply about the quantity vs quality issue. There is only a connection between both if you let there be and haven’t properly planned ahead.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kieran Flanagan has a proven track record in helping SaaS businesses, from start-ups to enterprise-level grow their traffic, users and revenue. He is a thought leader on growth marketing and speaks at events across the globe on the topic. For more frequent updates follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.