If you’re thinking, Andrew, you’re a professional writer, you’re biased, well … you’re right. I am biased. That doesn’t make the phrase any less true, either. If a grocer told you “vegetables are good for you,” you wouldn’t respond that he’s biased and therefore his statement is untrue. Would you?
Luckily in this case, my bias carries with it some benefits.
When you are knee deep in content generation seven days a week, you tend to pick up on some things — things like the fact that not all content is created equal and even the most fool-proof content plans don’t work if the content isn’t spot on.
Do you want spot on content? Of course you do. Let's take a look at three important characteristics:
Above all, content should be informative. In creating informative content, the inclination for many people is to go long, to put as much information as textually possible into each piece of content.
The problem with this approach is that longer isn’t always better.
Let’s start with emails, as an example. When you open an email from a company and find that it’s too long to be read in a single screen — in other words, you’d have to scroll to continue reading it — what do you do?
Chances are strong that you delete it more or less immediately, which nobody would blame you for — you don’t have the time to read a massive promotional email that may or may not be valuable to you. In order to perform their function within an inbound marketing plan, emails must be concise, generally 200 words or less; any more than that and it’s not going to get read.
Blog posts are the same, but at a different place on the word count scale. If you publish a blog that’s email-length, 200 words or less, you run the risk of not imparting enough information and making a reader feel as though they’ve wasted their time. Too long and a reader is much more likely to give up partway through, never reaching the all-important call to action (CTA) at the end. There are, of course, opportunities to experiment with long-form blogs, but that might be a topic for a different post.
The same holds true for eBooks, web pages, white papers, infographics — even social media posts. Every content form has a word count sweet spot, and when you miss that sweet spot you’re missing leads.
I know what you’re thinking and yes, I really do have to say this: the quality of your content is extremely important.
Everybody knows that, but when it comes practice — to producing content in a live environment — a lot of pressure can be felt about producing enough quantity and quality loses out to it with alarming regularity.
To use a relevant example, how many times have you “liked” an interest group (niche or otherwise) only to watch as it morphs into a glorified meme and clickbait aggregator that has absolutely nothing to do with its intended topic? If you’re like most people, your answer to that question is “very often.” Chances are high that when that happens to a group you’re in, you leave it.
Instead of thinking in terms of quantity, try thinking in terms of consistency. A blog that posts once a month can perform as well as, even better than, a blog that posts daily — if it has a high level of quality. Posting high quality content with regularity is far better than posting low quality content in high volumes.
Your content, obviously, should never be plagiarized. Thankfully plagiarism is not a particularly large issue in industrial sectors. So why do I bring this up? Sharing.
It’s a generally held best practice that the majority of your content should not be self-promotional. The numbers vary depending on who you talk to, but it’s generally thought that a maximum of about 30% of your content should be explicitly self-promotional. This leaves us with 70% more content to fill and the common misconception that any content is good content.
In our social media-minded environment, the first thought for many is simply to share content created by others in order to fill that quantity gap. Ideally, though, the remainder of your content should be self-generated informational content. This habit is fed by confusion that can arise as to what qualifies as educational as opposed to self-promotional.
For example, say you're writing an eBook extolling the properties and virtues of a material. It can be educational if executed well — even if the material is one you specialize in working with. If you're continuously linking out to other websites instead of coming up with the information in-house, you're going to end up sharing somebody else’s inbound marketing content — and they’re the ones who are going to end up getting your leads.
Don’t get me wrong, content sharing can be a valuable and mutually beneficial approach for related companies open to cooperation, but that is when it is carefully planned and performed sparingly. Using it as an easy fix for arbitrary quantity quotas, however, is doing you more harm than good.
Content is, paradoxically, both as simple and more complex than it seems. Its core principle (good content gets good leads) is simple; but complexities (like ideal word counts, quantity vs. quality, audience targeting, secondary objectives like SEO, and a host of other variables) can complicate things quickly.
Well, I’m starting to reach the higher end of recommended blog post length (see what I did there?), so I’m going to sign off for now. If you want more guidance on content and marketing as a whole, contact us.
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