What IS Quality Content … Really?

Jan 2016

What IS Quality Content … Really?

“I know it when I see it.”
– U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964)

When Justice Stewart penned the above words more than 50 years ago, he was talking about content. A very specific type of content: pornography.

Having joined his fellow justices in an agonizing attempt to wrangle the question of just what qualifies as obscene material, Stewart threw up his hands and avowed that he simply knew it when he saw it. (As my constitutional law professor at Loyola University once quipped, ’tis a pity that Justice Stewart could not have arranged to have his eyeballs preserved as a final authority on the question for all time.)

When it comes to quality content, many of us marketers are tempted to reach the same conclusion as did Stewart on porn: we just know quality content when we see it. If only we could stop there.

But we can’t. We must pull back the curtain and discover what it is that makes a piece of quality content. Why? Because our survival depends on our ability to create it.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and take a closer look at the defining elements of quality content — with examples from one of my own role models — and at how we can incorporate these practices into our own strategies.

1. Quality Topics

One of the many things I love about Darren Rowse’s Problogger team is their consistent choice of insightful topics — both on their own blog and in the third-party content they share on social media. You’ll never catch Rowse & Co. posting on one of those seen-it-a-million-times topics like “tips to improve your content marketing” or “why you should be blogging.” They know that they’re talking to sophisticated bloggers who are way past the basics. Their audience craves insights to help them take their blogs to the next level, and Problogger delivers.

Take, for example, Rowse’s post titled “How to Convince Someone to Be Interviewed on Your Blog.” Not only did he create a post in response to a fan question from his Facebook page (smart), but he also answered a pertinent question that many a sophisticated blogger has struggled with (very smart).

And look at the kind of stuff they post on Facebook:


We can definitely get caught up in following everyone else’s curated final-draft lives but the truth is, we create many…

Posted by Darren Rowse on Thursday, January 7, 2016

Action Item: For each of the topics on your editorial calendar, ask yourself, “Is there any way we can go deeper on this issue or approach it from a unique angle?”

2. Compelling Headlines

You can’t go wrong by following the two basic rules of headlines:

  • Rule #1: Tell readers what they’re going to get.
  • Rule #2: Use targeted SEO keywords.

Nothing wrong with creating content titles that follow the rules and leaving it at that. The thing is, most of our competitors are doing the same thing. We can do better. We can create titles that stand out from the crowd in that news feed or SERP list. Titles that pop. Titles that sizzle. Titles that say “Hey, gorgeous, come on over here …”

Once you’ve come up with a title that meets the basic requirements, see if you can dress it up a bit. Get your creative juices flowing and explore ways to add an inspired flair. (I know, I know, you’re tapped out from writing such a brilliant post, but dig deep. Or grab a fellow creative to get a fresh perspective.)

Case in point: Here’s how Problogger titled the roundup of their top podcast episodes of 2015:

What IS Quality Content … Really?

Nice. Very nice. Sure, they could have stuck with “Top ProBlogger Podcast Episodes of 2015” and done just fine with that. But they borrowed a trick from the orator’s toolbox — repetition — to create a headline that’s a bit more enticing. And they get bonus points for including some additional keywords while they were at it.

Action Item: When creating a title for your content, play with the words a bit and see if there’s room to add a clever spin. There won’t always be, but it’s worth the extra effort.

3. In-Depth Topic Coverage

It’s a question that has plagued us since the dawn of online content: “How long should it be?”

My usual response is to quote “the miniskirt rule”: It should be long enough to cover the basics, but short enough to be interesting.

That said, apparently Google has decided that it likes big posts (and it can-not lie), and so do audiences looking for good stuff to share. (The good folks at CoSchedule have done some excellent research on this topic; click here and here to learn more.)

It’s not that all long-form content is high quality. But most high-quality blog posts, e-books, and other content assets tend to run a bit longer than average.

So while I don’t advise padding your posts with fluff to boost the word count, it’s worth making an extra pass at each draft to see if you can delve a little deeper.

In his ProBlogger post “7 Effective Tips To Grow Your Social Media Presence The Right Way,” guest blogger Adam Connell could have easily presented his seven tips, scribbled an explanatory sentence or two for each, and called it a day. And it probably would have been a pretty good post.

But what made Connell’s offering one of ProBlogger’s most popular posts on social media for 2015 was his willingness to go deep. For example, under Tip #7, “Monitor your progress with the right tools and find what really works,” he included reviews of four of the most popular monitoring tools, complete with screencaps. That’s going the extra mile for your readers.

Action Item: The next time you crank out one of your standard-length blog posts, give it a second look and find opportunities to dive deeper into your topic. (And please, in the name of all that is holy, don’t add words for words’ sake.)


4. Good Information, Backed by Data

I can already hear your eyeballs rolling when you hear this, but I’m going to say it anyway: To create a quality piece of content, you need to have something to say.

Duh, right? And yet it amazes me how many content marketers get it so wrong, so often.

In other words, your content has to have quality … well, content. To put it another way, the ideas you communicate have to be relevant, compelling, and unique.

In her ProBlogger post “How to Write Brilliant Blog Posts: 5 Tips from Psychology,” Stacey Roberts offers unique, actionable advice to help bloggers “get in the zone” for writing brilliant posts. And her tips, which range from the level of background noise to the time of day, are all backed by solid psychological research.

Remember, when you create a title for your blog post, podcast, or other content asset — the title that will show up in search results and in social news feeds — you are making a promise to your audience. The ideas you share in that content is the fulfillment of that promise, for better or for worse. Let’s make it for better.

Action Item: Make sure the ideas you share in every piece of content are worth every minute it takes to read it. Make sure you’re keeping the promise made in your headline and giving your readers what they need to be able to say to themselves, “You know, I’m glad I read this.”

5. Good Writing

Of course, even the most compelling ideas are useless if they’re stuck behind some crap writing. But is “non-crap” the best we can expect from ourselves when it comes to how we write?

Now, the question of what constitutes good writing is another topic for another blog post. For now I’ll just say that it means more than good grammar and spelling. The writing has to flow. It has to intrigue. It has to cast a spell on the reader to keep him or her entranced from the first word to the last.

Poet Robert Frost once said, “The ear is the only true writer and the only true reader.” In every piece of content, your writing has to do more than communicate. It has to sing.

For our final example from ProBlogger, I’ll cite their excellent post “Start The New Year off Right with Jeff Goins’ Three Secrets to Full Time Blogging”:

“I’d like to be a writer,” I told my friend one day when he asked what my dream was. “But that’ll never happen.” And I quickly went back to moping around, waiting for my big break.

At the time, I was working for a nonprofit as a marketing director, secretly wondering what it might be like to write for a living. Little did I know how close I was to my goal.

Do you want to keep reading after that opener? I sure did.

Action Item: Make it your goal to end each day as a better writer than you were when it began. Spend some time each day on pursuits that will ramp up your writing skills, and use what you’ve learned every time you sit down to create content.

Your Turn: How do you define “quality content,” and what action will you take to raise the quality bar for your own content?

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About the Author

Rachel Parker, Founder & CEO of Resonance Content MarketingA self-described geek who can recite entire episodes of South Park by heart, Rachel Parker has had a passion for content ever since she was old enough to hold a crayon (purple, please).

As Founder and CEO of Resonance, Rachel helps businesses publish content that connects with their audience … and converts those followers into customers. She’s also the host of the Content Marketing Podcast and a sought-after speaker, having presented to many major business and marketing organizations. To learn more, download our complimentary audio 5 Things You Must Know About Content Marketing.


content_marketing_50 BizSugar KredFeatured Author on Business 2 Community


  1. […] Concentrate on quality content. There are truckloads of information on any topic you can think of on the internet. It’s at everyone’s fingertips. To get noticed, your content has to be better than the other guys. Rachel Parker of Resonance Content Marketing has a detailed article explaining what quality content is. […]

  2. […] Concentrate on quality content. There are truckloads of information on any topic you can think of on the internet. It’s at everyone’s fingertips. To get noticed, your content has to be better than the other guys. Rachel Parker of Resonance Content Marketing has a detailed article explaining what quality content is. […]

  3. […] Rachel Parker of Resonance Content Marketing has a detailed article explaining what quality content is. […]

  4. Oleg Solodov says:

    Hi Rachel,
    Thank you very much for so useful material. Elements of quality content are very important because it’s a base of any blog. Personally I think that it’s very hard to develop a personal blog platform because there are so many details, which is important to know and learn in process. Also, it’s very important to do it regularly and what is more important – be patient.

Our Clients Are Saying

  • Professionalism and Sincere Desire to Help

    I just didn’t seem to be able to find the time or the right words to explain what I offer and how my company helps people accomplish their goals. Rachel was able to ask me some questions, do some research and capture my voice while writing my website copy exactly as I needed it to be written.  Now, the copy on my website is much more professional than what I would have created and having this task handled by Rachel and Resonance freed up my time to complete other tasks I am better suited to do.

    It was a joy to work with Rachel. Her professionalism and sincere desire to help was apparent from the first communication until the final delivery. I will definitely use Resonance again and highly recommend their services.

  • Increased our likes and interaction rates

    Working with Rachel was a delight. Not only does she communicate very well, but she provided valuable insight about our social media platforms and followers. We have much better engagement with our fans and followers, which increased our likes and interaction rates.


  • Produced ROI Result

    Form.io needed someone who could grasp the complexities of our product, capture the subtlety of our differentiating value propositions, and convey them in the right voice for an exacting customer audience…. Resonance delivered, by crafting a multi-faceted online content marketing strategy that drove traffic and conversion, producing the ROI result we were looking for….

  • Increased website traffic, New Lead Generation

    We were experiencing a lack of internal resources to consistently maintain the Ustream blog. So we turned to Resonance Content Marketing to write blog posts on current industry topics while maintaining a consistent tone with the brand. The result is increased website traffic, new lead generation from gated assets on blog, and better educated/qualified leads. And I now have more time to spend on marketing strategy with the confidence that the content we push out is extremely well written and engaging.

    Rachel is an amazing writer and has really managed to create engaging and relevant blog material on topics that aren’t always super interesting. On many occasions, she has been able to quickly turn around one-off requests and the results are always top-notch. She has also helped guide our content strategy based on her expertise in content marketing, which has been a huge asset to our team.

  • One of the best “vendor” relationships I’ve ever had.

    My company had little or no time to spend on social media. Our needs were to ensure a steady stream of posts across three platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) by harvesting and re-purposing content from our own site and news streams. So I contacted Rachel Parker of Resonance Content Marketing.

    The result was two-fold. Not only did our ranks of followers grew steadily, the steady drip, drip, drip of content helped us train our personnel and direct their own individual social media efforts.

    Rachel and her team are extremely organized and open to discussion and new ideas. They deliver a rapid response to new opportunities — and an overall feeling of being on the same team. One of the best “vendor” relationships I’ve ever had.

  • Added 5 figures to my business in less than 4 weeks

    Rachel took the overwhelm and stress out of writing content for my marketing campaign! When I approached Rachel, I was really concerned that I wouldn’t have the time to focus on writing copy for a lengthy marketing campaign that included sales pages, solo emails, newsletters and social media updates. Well, let’s just say I’m glad I hired Rachel because I couldn’t have done it without her support and expertise. I loved how she used my voice and words to craft content that helped me reach and attract my ideal client. As a result of working with Rachel, I added 5 figures to my business in less than 4 weeks, hundreds of new social media followers and exceeded my sales and list building goals! You know your marketing copy is working when you hear someone say, “I see you everywhere”. Thank you Rachel for helping me not only get seen by my ideal clients but get paid!

  • Social Media Ranking Better Than Ever!

    We are so happy to have hired Resonance for our social media needs. We spend most of our time serving our clients and studying our field so we can provide the highest quality possible. We no longer worry about our social media, as we have total confidence in the wonderful work Rachel and her team have accomplished.

    Our social media is active, promoted, and is ranking better than ever! People often comment about what they see on our Facebook page. Resonance has added a creative, and artistic twist to our social media that is appealing and captivating to our audience. This has allowed me more time to work with my team and clients, so I can focus on service towards the people that help our business grow.

    I know there will be wonderful content on Facebook, and that Rachel will answer to posts, comments and questions as soon as a comment arrives. I am often impressed at how quickly she responds! Thank you Resonance! I highly endorse Resonance and encourage companies who need social media strategies to work with Resonance! You won’t regret it! 

  • Event Sold Out Two Years In A Row!

    Rachel worked with me on creating a content marketing calendar and content for the Big Social Media Summit (Big SMS) three years in a row. She is very organized and knows just the right amount of posts on social, email newsletters and content to send.  Her content marketing efforts helping us sell out our event three years in a row!  I am expecting the same for October 2014.

    Rachel was hired to write content for our email newsletter and content for our social platforms. In addition, she had a budget to do advertising on social media. She participated in the event live and after the fact to assure buzz was created before, during and after the event. As a result, our event sold out.

    When I work with Rachel, I have total peace of mind.  I know that she is on target, on time, reliable and delivers over and above the results I expect.

    I trust Rachel totally with her ideas on strategy, marketing and the content used to not only promote our events, but also post on my behalf on social networks. I have been doing social media for 8 years, and I hire Resonance to post on some of my social sites as it saves me time, and keeps my social sites relevant and current. They always post great, engaging content that gets my social properties likes, comments and shares.


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