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Quality Blog Content: It’s Not What You Think

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Quality Blog Content “You have to have quality content on your blog to succeed.”

“Search engine optimization only works if you have quality content.”

“Content is king.”

How often have you heard people say one of the above phrases or another version that essentially boils down to the need for high-quality blog posts if you want to succeed as a blogger? The word quality is throw around more often than any other, and justifiably so. I fully agree with the advice that, as a blogger, you will live or die by the quality of your content.

But what is quality?

One of the main problems I see in blogging world right now is that few people actually define what constitutes quality content. So let me ask right now: What is quality blog content? I personally don’t think there is a single, all-encompassing answer, but if you aren’t asking yourself that question, I wonder: how can you honestly be providing true, quality content?

What Quality is Not

I think we need to be disillusioned about the true definition of quality content as it relates to blogging. What comes to mind when someone says quality blog content to you? I’ll tell you my knee-jerk reaction:

  • Quality content is well-researched.
  • Quality content is written artistically and with care.
  • Quality content is original and interesting.

That’s my knee-jerk reaction…but I’m not sure it’s correct. At least not entirely.

If your blog needs quality content to be successful, and quality content is well-researched, artistic, created with care, original, and interesting, I have to ask: Why are there so many popular blogs online that do not have any of these characteristics?

I’d like to suggest that quality is not the same online as it is in the print media world. In fact, I think the definition of content quality online is still evolving.

What Quality Really Is

So if quality isn’t any of those things I’ve listed, what is quality content?

I’d like to suggest that quality content is this: Content created that will help you reach your overall blogging goal.

We’ve been talking a lot about goals here on the NMX blog recently. Last week, I asked, “Are Your Blogging Goals Realistic?” and before that, I posed the question, “Are Your Actions Aligned with Your Online Goals?” As a blogger, you probably have (and should have) several goals, but if pressed, what is the single thing you hope to accomplish with your blog? Is your goal to…

  • Sell a product?
  • Raise brand awareness?
  • Position yourself as an expert?
  • Educate your community?
  • Entertain readers?
  • Promote a cause or idea?
  • Enjoy the blogging process?

Any of these are justified goals, and most bloggers will point to more than one. But what’s your one general, most important goal? In order to create quality content, everything you write has to be created with that one goal in mind.

Quality in Action

To illustrate how this works, I’m going to use two very different blogs as an example. The first is celebrity gossip blog TMZ, and the second is social media blog Social Media Examiner. Very different blogs, right? But in their respective niches, they are both extremely popular.

TMZ’s goal is to entertain readers. You don’t go to TMZ for education, and they aren’t really trying to sell anything. Readers visit TMZ as a guilty pleasure, to pass the time, and to satisfy the natural curiosity we have to know how celebrities live.

Social Media Examiner isn’t about entertaining readers. This site is all about education. Yes, they sell products, and I’m sure they certainly want to be seen as experts in the social media field, but overall, this site is about educating their community.

Forget about niche, if you put content from TMZ on Social Media Examiner, readers will absolutely not think it is quality. The opposite is true as well. TMZ readers would not be happy if they started blogging in the same style as Social Media Examiner.

The Subject Nature of Quality

To everyone reading this post, the choice may seem simple: You’ll take Social Media Examiner over TMZ any day, am I right? But we’re an insular community in many respects, and what we like isn’t necessarily what others like. A lot of people use the Internet not for work, but for relaxing when they get home. The last thing they want to read online is educational content. They want fun. To them, Social Media Examiner may seem extremely low quality because the posts are long and boring.

In other words, quality is subjective.

It’s important to remember that why you’re throwing around advice that writing quality content is important. What’s quality in one niche or even to one blogger might be drastically different in another niche or to another blogger. So before you point to someone and say, “You content is not quality” and more importantly before you give advice about how to create quality content, it’s important to step back and ask whether or not the content is aligned with the goal of the blog.

Readers are Speed Dating Your Blog: How To Land that Second Date

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I’ve never done speed dating, but I’ve seen it done often enough to understand how it works: you have two or three minutes to talk to another single before a bell rings and you both move on. You meet several people during the course of the event and write down the names of the people you like best so you can connect in the future.

Speed dating is all about making snap decisions about people and relying on your instincts. And believe it or not, that can lead to a lot of dating success. Judging people so quickly might seem harsh, but being forced to focus on what’s important to you can help you instantly identify people who really might be right for you. This certainly isn’t the dating scenario that’s best of everyone, but it has its advantages.

As a blogger, you’re going to be propelled into the same situation. Readers actually have a fairly long attention span if they like your content – but they make the choice about whether or not they like your content in just a few seconds. If you aren’t good at “speed dating,” they fairly quickly move on to the next blog.

So what can you do?

Looks Matter

You don’t have the be the hottest person in the room to get a date, but you do have to care about your looks at least a little. Nobody wants to date a slob who hasn’t showered in weeks. If you put on a little lip gloss, you’ll make a much better first impression.

Online, the same is true: looks matter. Your design doesn’t have to be flashy and expensive, but it does have to be clean and pleasing to the eye. Give some thought to your design, especially anything “above the fold” (anything you can see without scrolling). If you aren’t a design maven, don’t worry. No matter what blog platform you use, there are plenty of free themes you can use out of the box and even more themes you can use if you’re willing to spend a little money. This list is a great place to start when looking for a WordPress theme, and you can find some great Blogger templates here.

Be Yourself

There’s a great line in Disney’s Aladdin where the genie turns into a bumblebee to try to convince the title character to “beeeee” himself. Puns aside, it’s really good advice in most areas of life.

The fact of the matter is that people come to your blog because they like getting information from you. So let you shine through in every word you write. This does not mean you have to be super personal on your blog. Being objective, formal, and informational, is certainly a legitimate blogging style. But what is important is that you are consistent and every sentence reflects the style. You want readers to understand what your blog is about as soon as they start reading. If you try to be too general and appeal to everyone, you’ll only be boring, which is a good way to ensure you never get that “second date.”

You will lose some readers this way. Not everyone is going to like you. That’s okay, though. As long as you are yourself from the start, you will attract your people, the people who really are going to connect with the things you write. These are the people who will really become fans.

Treat Every Post as the Most Important One You’ve Ever Written

When you have just a short time to spend with someone while speed dating, every word you say is being judged. If you’re boring or talking about topics that don’t interest me, I’m probably not going to want that second date. Likewise, on your blog, new readers are not going to tolerate boring or uninteresting posts.

We all have bad blogging days, and we’ve all written posts that are kind of “meh.” It happens. But keep in mind that every post you write could be the very first post someone reads on your blog. If a post doesn’t represent your blog well, don’t publish it.

The Second Date

Remember, just because there’s a second date doesn’t mean there will be a third. Ultimately, you want your readers to “marry” you – subscribe to your blog and become loyal fans, not just semi-regular readers. So focus on long-term design, consistency, and post quality if you want readers to put a ring on your finger.

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