Content is king, it is often said. But judging by the results of a recent report, the king’s claim to the throne is in question. And, if that weren’t bad enough, his would-be loyal subjects may not be as loyal as he previously believed. This article examines content quality and asks the question: How does your content rate?

Last year, content quality platform provider Acrolinx released the initial findings of its Global Content Impact Index. In this first-of-its-kind study of global content quality, Acrolinx employed its proprietary linguistic analytics engine to parse 20 million sentences (more than 160 million words) produced by 340 global companies. 150,000 pages of marketing, corporate, technical, and customer support content was analyzed based on thousands of rules that fit into three general categories:

  1. Spelling and grammar — the mechanics of the content
  2. Style and readability — how readable the content is
  3. Voice — how formal or informal the content is

Content Quality Ratings: Numbers That Give Pause

The study alarmingly discovered that 69% of the brands evaluated had inferior content. In fact, the companies examined earned overall content impact scores below Acrolinx’s benchmark of 72 points, the lowest threshold for content to be considered effective.

Overall, only 19% of the organizations analyzed produced high-quality content consistently, regardless of where in the business the content came from. Retail businesses scored the highest in content quality at an average of 73.2 points. Telecommunications companies, on the other hand, earned an average score of 66.2 points.

There was a small silver lining. 46% of the companies scrutinized had variance scores of fewer than seven points (meaning they’re creating content that’s sufficiently consistent to avoid brand erosion). The key takeaway is that a whopping 81% of enterprises need to either improve content quality, ensure that their content is more consistent, or both.

Adding salt to the wound, a follow-up study by Acrolinx found that less than 20% of these companies created high-quality content on a consistent basis.

Why Quality Content Matters

70% of marketers are creating more content than ever before, according to the Content Marketing Institute. But with greater content volume comes increased risk. Mistakes, inconsistencies, and inferior quality are often the result. Add to the mix consumer expectations. A study of British consumers found that content quality impacts consumers’ desire to buy. 59% of those surveyed said they would not buy from a company that has poor grammar or spelling errors on its website or in its marketing materials.

“Five years ago was when the market started exploding around content — there was a shift in digital channels. That massive shift created a gigantic burden on content to perform, which resulted in companies having to create a lot more content,” says Dr. Andrew Bredenkamp, founder and CEO of Acrolinx. “But these companies have had no way to measure how well the content is performing other than anecdotal measurements such as page views and social sharing. It’s like driving a car down the road at 100 mph and trying to navigate by looking in the rearview mirror — you’re not looking forward to see how this content will perform, you’re looking at things that have happened in the past.”

Bredenkamp says that global content quality is way below average and accurately measuring content is crucial today to compete effectively.

“Poor quality content has a major impact that can lead to lack of competitiveness, lost sales, and decreased customer loyalty,” he says.

Additionally, inconsistent content quality confuses customers and makes them think they’re being sold and marketed to by multiple people instead of one organization — which can cripple your brand. But content with consistent quality produces favorable consumer experiences, resulting in improved credibility, trust, and reputation for the company and increased satisfaction for the customer. A 2014 study by McKinsey & Company bears this out. A third study released by Acrolinx in April of this year showed that higher-quality content increased purchase intent two-fold and conversion rates three-fold.

To Boldly Go Where No Content Quality Study Has Gone Before

Bredenkamp notes that Acrolinx chose to conduct this research for two key reasons.

“First, we wanted to elevate the conversation about content quality in the marketplace. Business leaders are investing in content to help drive their businesses. Most have no idea how to measure and improve their content,” says Bredenkamp. “Second, we wanted to introduce to a broader audience the idea of content scoring. We have a unique technology engine that can score and analyze tens of thousands of pieces of content. Today, it is possible to quantify content quality.”

Ask Bredenkamp who should be paying attention to the data, and he’ll tell you that it’s in every content professional’s interest.

“The chief marketing officer needs to care because content is a reflection of the brand. Middle managers and vice presidents of marketing responsible for supervising large libraries of content need to have a way to gauge effectiveness long before the content is published. And writers especially need to be aware, as they are in a position to create content for a wide range of topics and are often responsible for memorizing the brand terms and style guides for tens of thousands of products and services — which is incredibly difficult,” he says.

The challenge is that many companies operate in silos. “Imagine,” says Bredenkamp, “a huge company like IBM trying to get thousands of employed writers to compose copy the same way. It’s impossible to get that many people writing content consistently based on some kind of defined style guide,” he says. “Especially when you add the complexity of different languages, different products, and different brands.”

Taking Steps to Improve Content Quality

So, what’s a busy company that needs to constantly — and reliably — churn out copy to do?

“At minimum, there needs to be a voice of concern in every organization that acknowledges content quality as an important topic, just like product quality was in the 1980s,” says Bredenkamp. “Second, organizations must have an objective way to measure content quality. And third, new tools and technologies should be adopted that help companies create consistently high-quality content every time.”

“Companies that give priority to content quality will have an advantage in the years to come because they will have high-quality content driving sales, revenue, and customer loyalty,” adds Bredenkamp.