This article was written on December 11th, 2012 • By: Temple Stark • Content Marketing
A customer who knows you can deliver consistent quality products is more loyal than one who has to guess whether, this time, you’ll deliver. But first, a potential customer has to have heard of you.
Put another way, you strive for quality in what you do but new customers come to you through various marketing channels. These channels are full of content and your company makes first impressions every single day. This means the tools you’re using to draw in new customers should be equal in quality to everything else you do as a company.
As we talk about quality content, it becomes necessary to define quality.
- Definition: QUALITY – NOUN. The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind
- General excellence of standard or level. (-Merriam-Webster)
You’re trying to be the best in your industry or at the very least always striving to do better. Those companies you compete against for dollars, hearts and minds are the “other things of a similar kind.”
The Three-Step Plan
It’s obviously somewhat of a subjective thing, this idea of quality. However, there are baseline elements of “quality” that the majority of us could probably agree on.
1. Make It Count
Every word, frame, and every action counts so don’t waste time creating a lot of excess. It helps to have an expert on the subject or medium but even if you do, that does not guarantee good writing — or videography or photography.
If something is an hour long or 5,000 words long, that does not mean it is better suited to make your point if it is filled with superfluous content. The 400-word article or the 1-minute “pitch in the gut” is often more effective because you’ve boiled down your point to its essence. Look back at things you’ve read, watched and viewed. What trend do you see? Trim the fat and the fluff in your content. Then go ahead and trim some of the muscle, too, so you deliver the prime cut to those you hope are paying attention.
3. Spread the Word Internally
There should be a short guide, a 10 point list — something — that helps everyone creating content within your organization to achieve a certain level of quality. This ability to define quality is important if you have a team of people creating your content. Without that baseline of understanding, consistent quality is difficult to achieve. You might have an editor but as with composing a photo and hoping Photoshop can save it, they can’t fix everything at the end.
Finding Content Creators
If you have people who can write within your existing team, great, then let them write (or shoot video, take photos, etc.). If they weren’t hired to solely be a writer for you, but rather have other duties in their job, it’s likely they have enough to do and getting the quality you want may take too long or may not happen at all. But using internal team members, only will likely still not be enough people to accomplish all you want to do.
If that is the case, pay attention to those who choose to interact with you online, especially if they are within your own industry. Look out for people who love what you’re doing but can still fairly poke and note when and where you can improve. Ask them if they’ll write for you; preferably paid guest posting, but services traded in kind might work well, too. This way, you already know their work, to some extent, and you know they understand a fair bit about your company and could become invested in delivering great quality for you.
No Overnight Delivery
Quality can cost a little more and perhaps take a little more time than just checking it off your to-do list. But if you as a company or a content provider have thought about the importance content holds for you, then just keeping that in mind will cut down on both time and cost.
Though the path toward quality seems clear enough, there are a lot of incremental steps to get to the destination. One of the quickest ways to get to the Promised Land is to hire an outside company to handle it all from top to bottom. That gets it done, and you’ve bought into a team of experts. If you go this route, it can be tough to find an enterprise that fits your needs perfectly, but they are out there. You just need to go into your search with a strong idea of what you want and what help you’ll need to reach your goal.
If you feel your own company is too stretched to produce quality content, scale back and focus on what is most important to come straight from your team. Doing this allows your team to develop a rhythm of production and to get comfortable with the process. Nothing builds success more than feeling good about what you’ve done in the past.
This advice may buck the trend of convention that says get on everything, do everything, get it all done now. This more focused approach also works better than mediocrity across all platforms because you can focus not just on the content but the other details of search engine optimization and marketing it out.
Whichever way you ultimately decide, it is unlikely you’re going to get everything you and your company thinks of as quality right away. Hopefully you only need a 90 degree turn at the most and not a 180-degree turn, but either one is tough to impossible to achieve overnight. Allow time for changes to take effect and observe results as you go along the path.
It’s a Worthwhile Struggle
In a recent WordTracker podcast interview, Content Creation Coach Nick Usborne discussed the value of having content that doesn’t just exist, but matters:
“Ultimately, content is all you have. It’s everything you see on the screen,” he said. “Probably the more important, the more urgent question is, why is quality content important? That’s something that companies, webmasters, writers, struggle with. It’s a strange thing to struggle with because, intuitively, we must understand quality content is better but we’re under a lot of pressure to produce content … Very often the content we create is not as great as could be. And that’s a problem and it hurts us, particularly in the post-Panda world.”
Whether you hire a company or build an in-house team, having that baseline idea of quality in mind is absolutely critical for consistency. If you are after Goal XYZ one month, it does no one any good to switch that up the next month and every month thereafter. So have a clear idea of what quality means to you. Also, have a clear idea of when you want to see your goals accomplished.
Instead of impatience, expect a steady but gradual change and keep on pushing to achieve the level of quality you believe will bring greater success and reputation to your business.
How Do You Measure Quality’s Effect?
Some content is meant to last and is there to set off the signals that will get you noticed by the search engines — and those using them — for a long time to come. If you have pages on your site that will largely remain static — your “About Us” page for example – then doing it right the first time is the best policy.
Some content is meant to have an immediate, short-term purpose. Though your standards may not be as high for that playful video that “just happens” in the office, it’s memorable only if it’s good or has a point.
The good news is, spelling and grammar are not directly related as a ranking signal to Google, but studies have shown that if spelling and grammar are poor on a site, as the grade level of the writing goes down, the page rank trends downward, as well.
Google’s advice for putting anything on the web, is, when you create something, imagine you’re submitting it for review to the best in the business. As a business owner, how you measure quality is ultimately about achieving a level that makes you happy. If your company continues to grow at the pace you expect, and your customers always praise you for exceeding their expectations, then you’re a winner in the game of life.
But it doesn’t usually happen this way without an organized effort. For example, a photographer isn’t going to get business if they can’t produce images other people want, no matter if she thinks every image she’s chosen for her website is her favorite and better than the one before it.
Customers’ ideas of quality have to be taken into account and are one of the very best measures of progress. They’ll tell you if they didn’t pick up what you were throwing down.
So ask. Ask with prizes. Ask with sincerity. Ask with the intention to change. When you make a change based on feedback, be sure to mention change is being made due to customer suggestions. Become known as a company that responds. That’s a great deal of what social media is about for a business (the rest is branding). iPhone apps builders do this all the time when they update and fix bugs or add features.
Reputation Is a Welcome Legacy
As someone who thinks of himself as primarily a writer, I used to not be a fan of the word content. My thought was, writing is a craft, not merely “content.” I was wrong.
There’s two points here. Content when done correctly and well is a craft. And content is more than writing. It’s a word that describes everything from writing to links to video to music to infographics to photos to, well, you know the drill.
Moving ahead, really focus in on what “done well” means to you, develop a plan, and form guidelines around it. If this is a new plan to your organization, explain to your employees it will be evolving at first. To a certain extent, also explain to your customers/clients that something good is afoot. Doing things well consistently is important because your company will be around for a long time and a reputation for quality is what everyone strives for.
Content may be king. But quality content is the emperor of the universe, so aim high.
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