The Evolution of Content Quality Criteria

For too many organizations I meet, content quality is assumed. Or, it’s delegated to those creating the content. Defined and documented content quality criteria don’t exist. They aren’t part of a service agreement with content creation teams. When content quality criteria do exist it’s typically defined at the lowest level of quality maturity.

Of course, this makes no sense. It’s part of the legacy of where and how content has traditionally been sourced. Agencies and production teams were hired to not only deliver quality content, but to figure out what that actually meant.

With greater content production and accountability moving internally, this gap in thinking and practice is an important reason for low content performance. It also impacts content operations productivity. Content time-to-market is delayed, and costs rise, due to re-work of content products following initial and often multiple reviews.

Here’s how I describe the evolution in content quality criteria:

Is content well written, on brand, accurate and up-to-date? The traditional and still prevalent definition of content quality criteria. Obviously necessary, but in the digital era, insufficient. This is table stakes.

Attractive, engaging, easy to read. Good advice, and table stakes.

Findable. Does it address SEO requirements with the correct key words, metadata, image tags, etc. I would add: are related assets connected or cross-linked?

Contextually Relevant and Personalized. This is the new baseline standard, it seems to me. This means it’s designed or tailored to address a specific context, and the purposes of content users and audiences in that situation. Ask yourself: is content in the right forms and formats for delivery channels and user preferences? Dynamically changing content meets this criteria.

Insightful and Useful. This is a notch higher, but a condition for what we call high-performing content. Since content serves two masters — users and audiences — usefulness must support both constituents. Too often the purpose and needs of content users are overlooked. Think of your sales and channel content, for example.

Shared and Re-used. Not just your finished assets (table stakes). Are the important content components within the finished asset accessible and re-usable? Also required is the ability to re-configure and re-assemble those components.

Long-life Asset. Can assets be maintained to extend their useful life, a requisite definition of any “asset.” This means assets that require maintenance must be easily found and edited.

Content Source of CORE Assets. This moves content quality criteria beyond the individual asset. This definition shifts focus to the quality and completeness of a “core” set of organization-wide source content, with which to create high-performing, situation-specific assets.

Core content elements are high-value, highly shared assets, that are common to multiple functions and content purposes, across the organization. (CORE: create once, reuse everywhere.)

Core assets are created based on a well-defined information architecture. These shared and re-usable content elements are developed and deployed as modular, microcontent components.

Content Source is the central access and search point to find any and all assets that are appropriate for specific users and functional groups. This includes (among other and emerging types):

  • Finished documents
  • Core component elements
  • Text and linked text (links to web-based internal and third party assets)
  • Image files
  • Audio and video — as finished, components, and raw source files

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