It’s undisputed: well-crafted, high-quality content is how a brand builds an audience, trust, and loyalty today.
Great content helps you earn the attention of the people who need your product or service. Existing loyal customers are drawn to quality content, too, in large part because it builds trust and authority, creating top-of-mind awareness for your brand.
The quality of your content also correlates strongly with how favorably the content — and therefore your brand — is viewed by and served up in search engines.
If you’re convinced that creating quality content is worth the effort, the five heavily researched tips in this post can have you creating winning content in no time.
But what’s easy to describe isn’t always easy to execute, especially for brands whose staffs are already stretched thin and who often see “create quality content” as another task in a long line of blindly ambitious goals.
“Quality” isn’t a matter of judgment from web searchers and search engines
Ask 10 marketers how they define quality content and you’re likely to hear explanations that include a laundry list of buzzwords, phrases, and acronyms that few business owners have the time or the inclination to understand:
- “It all comes down to Dwell Time.”
- “The key metric is Time on Site (TOS).”
- “If your content is of high quality, it should acquire a meaningful number of links.”
None of these statements is inherently wrong, but they are all fatally flawed, largely because they amount to after-the-fact goals that place all of the emphasis on judgment by search engines and web searchers.
In other words, these are elements appraised after you design, create, and share your content.
What’s most important for business owners, however, is to have a way of knowing if your content will build authority, trust, and, hopefully, customer love before you get to this judgment by third parties.
Accurately assessing the effectiveness of your content requires a process — one that makes the creation of quality content feasible and replicable for brands of all sizes.
Developing a foolproof approach to consistently create quality content
In the last decade, I’ve written for numerous print and online newspapers, magazines, and online blogs, in addition to editing print magazines and online blogs with millions of annual readers. Over that time, I’ve been fortunate enough to help hundreds of brands with content marketing, content strategy, and SEO.
The biggest constant in every area of my work is that most brands struggle to consistently create quality content.
For a long time, I thought the culprit was a lack of talent, as most brands simply didn’t have it. Or goals, since so few are clear on what they should be. Or chasing Google and the other search engines.
But in the last three years, while working with dozens of brands and managing a large, successful marketing blog, I was able to uncover exactly what causes content creation problems, how to eliminate those issues, and what the results can be once that rock is rolled away.
I was able to develop, vet, and distill a five-step process that has led to hundreds of bloggers and brands being able to successfully create content on a consistent basis.
Here are the five ingredients I’ve found your content needs to build trust for your brand.
Ingredient #1: Accuracy
Is the information factual? Is it backed by data, research, or at the very least, capable of being corroborated by a third party? As a dyed-in-the-wool empiricist (Yeah, Hume!), one of the things that really raises my hackles about blogging is the rampant opinions expressed as fact.
Everyone is not an expert.
The good news is, you don’t have to be. Even if you are an expert, that doesn’t mean you know everything.
As famed psychologist Angela Duckworth wrote in her widely celebrated book Grit:
“If you want to know what I’d … do if I needed to know the answer to a question [I didn’t know] … I’d just call someone who actually knows.”
You should feel free to do the same.
Reach out and interview experts at non-competing brands. They’ll develop more of an awareness of your company’s work and could reciprocate the gesture in the future.
Ingredient #2: Accessibility
Can the audience for which the information is intended readily consume the content on all types of devices (e.g., mobile, desktop, tablet, phablet, etc.)?
Content often gets consumed via a smartphone or other mobile device, by people who are on-the-go.
So make sure your content is published on a site that’s:
- Mobile-friendly or responsive,
- Delivers a great user experience, and
- Can be viewed from anywhere and at any time.
Don’t forget to think beyond text.
By 2021, more than 75 percent of global mobile data traffic will be from video content, according to a 2016 Cisco study.. YouTube is currently the number two search engine behind its sibling Google.
Your brand should consider content types ranging from short videos to podcasts, data visuals, and other forms of interactive media.
Smart brands will greet this news with enthusiasm, realizing the rise of video is an opportunity to use their assets wisely.
It’s very likely that you have team members who’d be excited to use their talents to create a podcast or short video tutorials for your brand, especially since both require minimal equipment and can pay huge dividends in fostering authenticity and trust.
Ingredient #3: Application
How meaningful and relevant is the content to your ideal prospect? How strongly does it apply to them?
Does it meet them where they are, with clear guidance to get them where they want to go?
This is what I call the “just-for-me” aspect, which can really make your content sing. When readers/viewers walk away feeling like “This brand knows me,” they happily return.
Hit ‘em in the feels by showing visitors you understand them and their needs:
- Put together a list of questions your sales team, customer service, or other frontline folks get via phone, in-person, or through online forms.
- Pick a question you’d most like to answer, and then do a quick Google search of that question, making a note of the top results.
- Create a piece of content that answers the question better and differently than anyone else. For example, you could create and post a short YouTube video of you answering the question, then write a blog post and embed the video.
- Repeat the process with the entire list of questions, making notes of what worked and what didn’t.
Ingredient #4: Action Steps
Blogging is hard to beat for delivering quick-hitting tips that let the audience walk away and immediately take action. It’s what readers and viewers expect.
Any piece of worthwhile content should have at least one solid takeaway.
Sadly, business owners too often forget that their audiences are frequently just looking for enough information to help them make a decision.
When you create content, strive for what I call the trifecta:
- Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em (with your headline)
- Tell ’em how they can get it done (with a few paragraphs of text or a short video detailing the steps), and
- Tell ‘em what you told ‘em, (with a short summary at the end.)
Over time, readers will recognize that you respect their time and their goals, leading them to see your brand as a resource for pertinent, easy-to-consume information.
Save the in-depth details for a whitepaper or case study.
Ingredient #5: Authority
For content to really resonate, it needs to be authoritative — a quality that encompasses everything from the site the content is published on to the author and the substance of the content itself.
Does it take a stand? Does it make a clear, compelling point? Is the author a credible source? Should you reasonably expect to be successful after following the advice shared in the content?
Of all the information I’ve given to business owners and seen them find success with, this one stands alone.
Before creating any content, ask yourself: How am I uniquely qualified to tackle this topic?
By pushing yourself (or the writer who creates the content) to answer those questions in advance, you create a competitive advantage based around authority.
Earning trust is well within your brand’s reach
Crafting really good content gets easier and more replicable when you have a process, or checklist, if you will, to help keep your steps in order. (Atul Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto can help.)
Armed with a solid brand, a worthwhile product or service, and the courage to push the limits of your content creation, you can dominate your category faster than you can imagine using the ingredients above.
Reader Comments (14)
A few things. First, where can I find more about you? I really enjoyed this article and I want to read more from what you have to say.
Also, I thought that your application of this was good. On one of my websites, I have been really battling back and forth on whether I should spend time SEOing the directory (essentially where leads come from) or the blog (where I am building an audience and building links as well). I’ve gone back and forth in my mind but over time I think I forgot that the purpose of my content wasn’t necessarily to drive traffic, but rather to build trust. I appreciate the reminder.
ronell smith says
We all come at this topic from different angles but for many of the same reasons: helps the search engines find and parse our content; establish relevance, trust, authority and customer love for our brands; grow traffic to our sites; and to sell more of our products and services.
What’s key, however, is realizing there should not only be a goal for every piece of content you create, but there must also be a minimum threshold of quality to enhance the likelihood of reaching those goals.
For example, if you hope to have a successful blog, establishing clear, consistent rules ensures that authors and audience members know what to expect. The same should apply to onsite content in general, where the first rule should be to find what you do well and focus your energies there, early on especially.
Thanks for reading the post. You can also find me on Twitter @ronellsmith and Medium at https://medium.com/@ronellsmith.
Also, sorry for spelling your name wrong. My bad.
ronell smith says
No problem at all, Tim.
Michael LaRocca, Technical Editor says
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” (George Bernard Shaw)
ronell smith says
Amen, Michael. Amen…
Mathenge Maina says
This blog post is straight on point. The web does not need any more valueless content. It is already saturated with too much content that even readers are finding it hard to even breath. What the web needs, is content that adds value.
Content that is well researched and gives the reader value for his or her time.
People do need to understand that the content they decide to create, they should have first hand knowledge about it and they should have a great command in it. Which is what I believe the author called Authority.
Thanks for this post.
ronell smith says
Thanks for reading the post, Mathenge.
When I used to edit one of the most popular blogs in online marketing, one of the first things I would ask would-be bloggers pitching an idea for a post was “What qualifies you as an authority on this topic?”
Many saw this as a way for me to shut them down, as I was only looking for a single answer–that they were an expert.
In reality, there were at least two sufficient answers:
– I work or have worked in the area and have expertise on the topic, or
– I do not have expertise in this area, but I will seek out experts who are qualified to speak on this topic.
We don’t have to be the experts; we simply need to know where to find them.
Hi Ronell, thank you for this article.
This article succinctly describes what I often thought to be high quality content (which was wrong). And then replace it with what high quality content really is. Often times, I’ve focus on unique, well-written as the qualities of good content. But without rendering value and solid action steps, I may have been missing the ingredient to trust and loyalty. Time to take a holistic review of creation process.
ronell smith says
Thanks for reading the post. Quality begins with the brand in mind. If not, it’s too easy to create something that’s of value to the audience but not to the brand.
Jason Hathcock says
Really powerful article with a lot of helpful information for someone just starting out in this business. I always hate recreating the wheel when someone has already learned through trial and error. Thanks for sharing.
-Jason (Life Blogger)
ronell smith says
Thank you, Jason, for taking the time to read this post.
André Spiteri says
Great post, Ronell.
Accuracy is definitely non-negotiable for quality content. And to ensure accuracy, you need to go to the primary sources. The internet has made this easier than ever. But — ironically, I guess — Google often becomes a crutch instead of a tool.
Barbara Reed says
Love the question “What qualifies you as an authority on this topic?” This is so key to building trust. Thanks for a great article.
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