Something that's been bothering me lately is the measurement of "high quality" in the content marketing world. My issue is, I think the bar is too low.
I'm not exempt from this, either. The more I learn and improve, the more I realise how low my content quality was in the past.
What really bothers me about the content we tend to accept as "high quality" is that those of us creating this content don't respect our audience as much as I think we should. As a reader, if you come across an article by an author you deem "high quality," or content on a site you think of highly, it's fair to assume you can trust it. I'll talk about being a discerning reader another time, which is something else I'm working hard on myself, but as content writers I think we could all benefit from assuming our readers won't be discerning. Not because we think they can't think for themselves, but because working from this assumption will improve our work.
I've written some reminders for myself about what kind of content marketing I want to do, which will hopefully help to illustrate my point:
The authentic content marketer:
- Does their research: It's not your reader's job to check your facts. Also, Wikipedia doesn't count. If that's the best you can find to back you up, don't write the post.
- Admits (and attempts to fix) mistakes: Graciously accepting help from others who point out errors in your work will lead to higher quality content for everyone else who visits that work in the future.
- Crafts content that offers value: Put users first and they'll drive customers for you. Link-bait is just gross.
- Focuses on quality: Don't publish something if you know it's not good. Don't link to a source that links to a source that quotes someone else—that's just sending your readers down a rabbit hole.
- Above all, respects their audience: True respect for your audience should be your guide in every content marketing decision, whether it's a strategic decision, a choice of topic or just a decision about whether your content is ready to be published.
I don't want to dwell on what not to do, because I think as we focus more on making choices that respect our audience and creating truly high-quality content, we'll more easily recognise the "do nots"—and they'll make us cringe.
Sadly, I know from my own experience how easy it is to fall into the trap of thinking you are creating content with your audience in mind while being blind to the shortcuts you're taking, the low-quality research you're doing or the repetitive formula you're using too often to structure your content.
I've been there, and made all of those mistakes. I'll probably make them again. Though I'm more aware of my own weaknesses now and at least try to make sure I'm always improving.
The best way I can see for us to work against these lazy content mistakes is to stop encouraging them—if you see a glaring mistake in an otherwise great piece of content (my go-to example is lazy research), let the author know and don't share that content. No doubt as a content marketer your audience looks forward to content you curate from others as well as your own; be known for sharing good stuff as well as creating it. Set your standards higher and only share the best content you find, thereby rewarding the content creators who really do put in the effort to be authentic and make high quality work.