What pops into your head when you think of quality? Swiss watches? German cars? Japanese manufacturing processes? Even organizations such as the American Society for Quality struggle with defining quality. Is it a statement of excellence? Does it reflect customer satisfaction? Is it more about how well something works? How good it looks? Whether it’s free of defects?

Content quality is subject to the same questions. One of the best collections of content quality definitions I’ve seen is Heidi Cohen’s. Heidi asked 25 of the top content marketers to define content quality, and even their definitions vary greatly.

After years in the content field, I’ve learned to look at content quality from two different perspectives: that of the consumer of content, and the provider of content.

  • Content has a job to do — not just for the consumer, but for the provider as well. (To the purists, I would say that acknowledging this fact is not selling out.)
  • Consumers ultimately decide whether the content did its job for them. Were they able to get an answer to their question and complete their task successfully?
  • Providers can more easily measure whether content succeeded on their end: Did consumers find the content? Did they read the content? Do they trust it? Did they take an action prompted by the content? What are the bounce rates, conversion rates? Did they engage with the content, share the content? Does the content reflect the brand? Can the content be easily translated?

With that context, let’s take a step back. What criteria matter for content that will succeed for both consumer and provider?

  • Hygiene issues — the original content quality criteria — still matter. Sloppy content does not build trust or help consumers. Continue to pay attention to the basics such as grammar, spelling, and style.
  • Ambiguity matters. Create content that is clear and easy to understand; use and reuse.
  • Results matter. Are you trying to drive leads, likes, shares, or sales? Make your content work for you by creating content that reflects your brand and your voice. Use consistent terminology that reinforces your message.

When setting quality standards to create quality content, it’s very tempting to start at the bottom — with the hygiene issues — and build your way up; or to add additional standards as you run into other issues. The challenge there is that you can end up with meandering lists of rules that are larger than they need to be and do not reflect the need to serve your users and your business.

Enter Content Why to drive your decisions about what you need. That will inform how you develop, measure, and distribute content. I guarantee the spotlight will shine on what you need to focus on, quality-wise.

By now you’re probably wondering: How much quality is enough quality? Am I spinning cycles going for perfection? Is good enough a cop-out? As with many business decisions, there’s a point of diminishing returns.

With quality measures, you can determine what that point is (whether you establish that point yourself by testing your content at various levels or checking industry standards).

At my previous company, we found that once we reached quality measures beyond about 80% on our Acrolinx scorecard, our results didn’t continue to improve enough to justify the extra time and effort needed to get that last 20%. Again, knowing your content Why helps drive the decision around what level of quality is appropriate.

Stay tuned for Alexia’s next article, Making the Leap From Developing Content Quality Guidelines to Implementing Them.

About Alexia Idoura

Alexia Idoura, ACC, PMP, started using Acrolinx with her teams in 2005, when her focus moved from content management to content quality. After a 20+ year high-tech corporate career, Alexia now runs her own global executive coaching company, Idoura Coaching, LLC. Combining a coaching mindset with consulting expertise gets results. http://www.idoura.com