If you’ve read up on content marketing or you’re involved in the “industry” you’ve inevitably heard about this debate that’s been swirling through blogs and Twitter accounts for some time now: quantity versus quality. The idea is that you can’t possibly write quality content if you’re producing it frequently. It might be something you’ve thought long and hard about—especially if you’re planning your content marketing strategy and budget for 2018.
But rather than thinking about quality and quantity as two ideas that are inverse to one another, we’d strongly urge you to step back and think about the issue in the big picture.
What does “quality” mean?
If you Google “What is quality content?” you’ll find that the top hit is an exhaustive blog post that, more than anything else, explains how to use SEO properly. It essentially covers what Google does and doesn’t like, and it does so in over 3,000 words, making it a definitive guide for “quality” content based on the idea that search engines like longer content.
However, I think it’s safe to say that most people who land on that page (me included) did not bother reading the entire post. This blog post uses SEO tactics to lure readers, which is helpful if you’re interested in getting more site traffic because you’re selling ads. But if you’re like most brands you’re not selling ads on your site like a publisher would. You’re trying to assert authority and build new business.
We’re certainly not advocating that you ignore SEO principles, especially now that much of what’s good for SEO is good for your readers. But another way to look at quality content is by replacing it with the word “valuable.”
Substitute “valuable” for “quality”
Your content should always be valuable to your audience. If it’s not, you’re likely wasting your time. Focus on creating valuable content that would be appealing to your audience. Start by defining your audience, do your research to get to know them, and then develop some personas. This will help you define what your audience needs—what they see as valuable.
The folks at Hubspot have figured this out. They’ve gotten to know their audience over the last 10-ish years and have a pretty extensive list of requirements for submitting a guest blog. These guidelines not only ensure the content fits in with Hubspot’s strategy, they ensure that what outsiders submit will be valuable to Hubspot readers. It’s helped the blog grow to 215,000 subscribers and 2 million monthly visits.
Try content pillars
You can make progress with SEO without worshipping long-tail keywords or writing only for robots with content pillars. Content pillars are audience-focused, well-researched themes or “buckets” that can inform your long-term content efforts.
An ideal content pillar is a somewhat broad topic that your brand has a specific opinion about. The form these content pillars take is up to you and your marketing team. One suggestion is to begin building an in-depth library page around that content pillar. The library page is intended to be a definitive resource—it’s a longer-form piece of content that describes your take on the theme and includes links to shorter pieces of content that are related. It’s a page that should be built and updated over time. If it’s done right this valuable library page should boost your SEO around that pillar.
Key to making content pillars work for your brand is sticking to these themes for an extended period of time. Each piece of content your team produces should relate to a pillar or two, whether it’s an eBook or a series of blog posts. The initial research, messages you develop and your brand’s perspective can help you ensure your content is high-quality and valuable to the audience.
How much and how often?
The quality versus quantity debate says that if you create quality content, you can’t possible create enough of it. Of course, just like defining quality, you have to define quantity, too. A high quantity for one brand might be writing one blog post per week and publishing an eBook each month.
But for another brand, high enough quantity might be 1,200 posts a day—that’s what the Washington Post has taken to doing under Jeff Bezos. Their goal is to sell ads on their site, so the more pages, the more space for ads and the more potential for clicks. That’s probably not your goal.
The problem is that many brands don’t step back and think more about their goals. They’re thrown off by what they think they should be doing or what their competitors are doing.
This whole quantity debate sometimes leaves out a hugely important piece of your marketing strategy—distribution. Your distribution strategy can greatly impact your need to keep churning out content. If you have amassed a library of useful content, you should focus on putting it in front of your audience’s eyeballs rather than wracking your brain to produce new content everyday.
Depending on your goals and how you intend to distribute content, you might find that less content is more. If you’re using content effectively, you can get more mileage out of a blog post, article or eBook that you worked hard on. One technique we love is the brick and feathers approach—producing one larger piece of content such as an eBook or a white paper and following up with several smaller pieces such as blog posts, short videos or infographics. It’s an effective way to get the most out of one content topic, your subject matter experts and your big piece of content. It’ll also help you put that distribution plan into place.
Consider blockbuster content
Instead of mimicking the publisher model that so many have worked towards for the last decades, some big brands are getting smart and following Hollywood instead. “Blockbuster Content” takes a cue from movie production houses that devote resources to one big summer movie.
The result is usually that memorable movie that is everywhere for months after it’s released. You see interviews with stars on talk shows, you hear songs from the soundtrack, you see characters from the movie paired with other consumer products. Basically, everywhere you look you see that blockbuster movie.
For B2B brands, blockbuster content could mean:
- Major brand awareness
- More leads
- High engagement rates across content
The key, according to LinkedIn, is to focus on fewer assets, create something repeatable, and extend its use across multiple channels.
But first you have to bet big on it, which is a pretty big drawback for many B2B brands. There’s a lot of danger in sinking all of your resources into blockbuster content. And depending on how you’ve built out your content marketing team, it may be difficult to spend time planning and executing one big piece of content. Your sales team (and your boss) won’t be satisfied with minimal marketing activity while you create your blockbuster. Even worse, if you execute and distribute and it fails to deliver on its promise, you’re in trouble.
So, can you have it all?
Of course you can. But the key is to think big picture without getting tripped up on what’s happening around you and forgetting about your goals. If writing a new blog post every day doesn’t support your goals, don’t do it. If you know your audience hates eBooks and would find an ongoing blog more useful, there’s your answer.
And while you’re considering the cadence, define your minimum standards for quality.
In the end, there is no One Answer. Every organization is different, and needs to figure out the best way to attract the attention of its potential customers, and then build trust over time with that audience. Don’t blindly follow silly rules like “blog every day” or “every blog post must be 1,500 words”—they might be right for whoever is pitching the idea, but they aren’t automatically right for you.