Why Quality Always Beats Quantity in Content Marketing

Why Quality Always Beats Quantity in Content Marketing

Cara McCarron, President of The Content Company, joins the Content Pros Podcast to discuss why quality is king when it comes to content creation.

In This Episode:

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Full Episode Details

Why Quality Always Beats Quantity in Content Marketing

All Killer No Filler

You’ll probably never meet a marketing pro, or at least a good one, who would argue that consumers are consistently getting dumber. It’s a given that the general public is evolving and growing smarter with time. The question is how do we reach and engage them?

While traditional ads are still a major part of many companies’ marketing strategies, most are also looking to the world of content creation to strengthen their brand. As Cara McCarron, President of The Content Company, points out, people aren’t okay with fluff pieces and filler anymore. Quality is the name of the game.

It’s one thing to have a piece of content that hits a bullet point or two with a few hundred words in between to pass as a “blog post.” It’s another thing entirely to give relevant information in a well-spoken manner that flows naturally and looks attractive.

Adages like “less is more” and “quality over quantity” ring true here. Rather than a flood of content to keep your brand in the news feeds and inboxes of the world, a focus on impact with every piece you create brings real strength and relevance to your brand.

In This Episode

  • What it means to have quality content
  • How to balance authenticity with polish
  • How to find the right writer
  • Why clear communication is so crucial to hitting the mark with content
  • Why more than just the writing contributes to the overall experience

Quotes From This Episode

People are savvy more than ever, and it’s super obvious when you are just taking one paragraph and regurgitating it” — @caramccarron

We look to writers to be writers and marketers first and not just somebody who has an interest in writing” — @caramccarron

Because so many things are automated in our space, people are still trying to automate the part of it and you just can’t.” —  @caramccarron

As long as the client buys in to the strategy, there’s no problem.” — @caramccarron

“Slow and steady wins the race always in content.” Click To Tweet

Resources

Content Pros Lightning Round

What is the type of stuff that you’re watching on Netflix?

Cara’s daily go-to for herself and all four of her daughters is Friends. The episode order or season doesn’t matter, but they always put one on before bedtime. She’s also a huge fan of Stranger Things, Grace and Frankie, and The Blacklist.

See you next week!

What Great Brands Do That Good Brands Don't in Content Marketing

Okay content is easy. Killer content is hard. This nifty eBook shows you the difference, based on our real-world work with dozens of brands. A must-read!

Episode Transcript

Randy F.: Welcome to the Content Pros podcast. I'm Randy Frisch from Uberflip. I've got Tyler Lessard with me joining from Vidyard, and, today, we're going to talk about something that we all know, but maybe we don't put enough attention to it, which is the importance of the quality of what we're putting out there for our audiences.
I mean, there is so much content these days. The landscape has really changed from 5, 10 years ago when CMI was coming out and saying, "All right, you got to invest in content and be the leader in creating content."
Obviously, we still need to be the leader, but just having content doesn't cut it anymore, and I know, Tyler, for both of our companies, it's something that we know we've got to find a way to stand out and connect with people in a more meaningful way.
Tyler L.: It couldn't be more true. I think we democratized content creation and distribution for good early on, and now it's almost transitioned to the other way where it's too easy and people are flooded, and so quality content is now standing out and is really the hero of link building exercise of SEO, and, frankly, just for establishing a strong brand with your audience and building a following, so super excited to talk about that and give the audience I think some really practical tips on how to structure your content programs with the focus on quality over quantity.
To help us with that conversation here, we have Cara McCarron here today, the president of The Content Company and somebody who's been focused on this for a number of years with a broad set of clients.
Cara, would you mind just maybe introducing yourself a little bit and talking about what you've been up to the last little while and why quality is such a hot topic on your mind?
Cara M.: My pleasure, and thank you for the warm introduction.
Yes, my name is Cara McCarron, and I co-founded The Content Company. We're in our fourth year now. My background is really SEO, SCM. Even further back from that, I was ... I mean, my first job in advertising was selling ad space in magazines, so I come from a world where Google wasn't even Google yet.
Through the process of starting our company, and why I started the company really was I was on the receiving end of content for clients that I was working with. Even five, six years ago, there was still ... there was a lot of content coming out. We were talking about it quite a bit. People still weren't executing it as much as they are now, but the quality was suffering.
A lot of outsourcing happened to people that were not writers. They weren't expert marketers, anything like that, and so you would see that when ... as a result of that level of expertise, which was nonexistent. It would come in and it would just be really challenging to present content to a client when you knew it wasn't good, and so Ken ... Excuse me. My husband and I, we launched The Content Company and we really made an effort to focus on just the writing and we do nothing else. We do one thing really, really well, and we leave the strategy and all that other stuff to the agencies that we work with or the marketing experts that we work with.
Over time, there has been a big shift and people started jumping on board with, "Let's do content," but, as you mentioned, the quality is really, really suffering in our opinion right now and we’ll even say to clients, "Do fewer if that's your budget, but do really good ones. Don't, don't just pump it out so you can say you've put out three or four blog posts this week and none of them are, are relevant or engaging or anything like that," so, yeah, definitely, there's been a shift over the last few years and what it means to have high quality content.
Tyler L.: What are some of the factors that we all start thinking about? I think we'll dive deeper on some of these specifically, but as I think about what quality means for content, right, there's a lot of things that start race through my mind, so is it about having well-researched content? Is it about the format that I put it in? Is about hitting SEO keywords that are going to drive more inbound traffic? There's other things. How do you think about what quality actually means in the world of content?
Cara M.: I mean there's a lot of things that we talk about internally. I think kind of maybe the top three that I think about are one would be keyword stuffing. One would be adding fluff just, again, if ... We always say to our writers. We give them a range, so a writer can do 4 to 600 words for an average post, and the reason we do that is because if you've got a talented writer who's done their research and done everything that they need to on there and then they present a piece to you that's 500 words, but the client is demanding 6, you'll add fluff to that. People are savvy more than ever, and it's super obvious when you are just taking one paragraph and regurgitating it with a couple of different adjectives to make it a new ... and add a hundred words.
Keyword stuffing, fluff, adding fluff and then not having a purpose to the post, I mean, that's just good marketing. I mean, there's never ... and, again, if you're ... If a company or a client is struggling to produce content because their neighbor's nephew went to this school and so got to do all this, whatever, and they're struggling, they're just going to start putting stuff out there that has no purpose.
Sometimes, a company doesn't need to have two or three posts a week. Most don't. Most can get away with a really good post once, maybe twice a week, so, yeah, like those kind of would be the top three that we look for, and maybe I'll add a fourth in there. It's the flow of the piece.
The way that we read content is that it's almost like melodic. There's got to be a really good flow to it. If you've got somebody who isn't skilled at writing, and, truthfully, we don't ... We look to writers to be writers and marketers first and not just somebody who has an interest in writing because there ... You'd be shocked how ... I mean, maybe you wouldn't be shocked, but how many people at least that I talk to, we as a collective group talk to, who say, "I'm a writer."
We say, "Okay. Great. Send your stuff over," and it's choppy and there's no flow to it. There's no rhythm to it, so a lot of people will say they're a good writer, but if there's no flow or anything, so that would kind of be my fourth one, and people can generally ... I mean, when you listen to music, you can tell when it sounds good and it's pleasing to the ear and it's ... You can get a rhythm going when you're reading a piece of content. It's very similar, so I would say kind of those are the four main things that we see in a poorly constructed piece of content.
Randy F.: I want to just, in a very friendly way, challenge ... I mean, I agree with pretty much everything that you just said there, but I want to dig into, and I'm going to use your analogy with music because I think it's a good one. I mean, sometimes, there's music that just doesn't feel like a lot of thought went into it, right, and then, on the flip side, sometimes there's music that just feels over-engineered these day. Right?
Cara M.: Yep.
Randy F.: We're reading a lot these days about how they're actually using AI and data to write the next songs, right, because they know what people will like and they know what people are looking for.
How do you ensure that, as you're creating this very well-planned content, that it still feels authentic? Because that's one of the things, I'll be honest, like I'm not the most eloquent writer. My use of grammar is atrocious, but ... and, sometimes, when the content editor or my team takes a piece and it's about to go live and he chops it up a bit, and I'm like, "No, but it's losing like, you know, the grittiness and, you know, what I was going for," and so how do we balance the two sides there?
Cara M.: The big trick is getting the right writer, obviously. Right? It's a craft, and that's why if you send me a hundred writers, maybe two of them will be good. Like, when you mentioned AI and all that, a lot ... there's people who are so ... because content is being created that way, but, at the end of the day, there's an emotional connection that needs to happen between me and the piece that I'm reading. AI will never, in my opinion, in our opinion, will never achieve that.
The piece that is critical is having a writer who's invested in the client that you're presenting, so our client, and making sure that they have skin in the game. Providing them with all the information, all the logistical side of it is important, but I think it just ... it comes down to the writer and having them respect the craft because it's not just about ... again, it's not ... It's just not commoditized. You can tell. A human being can tell when a human being has put effort and thought and research into a piece.
If that's not happening, it's just obvious. There's ways you can see that, but like any piece that we get from our writer, a completed piece, we don't put it ... We put it through some automated mechanisms for grammar and duplicate content, that kind of thing, but every piece that comes out of our shop has been read by a human being, and we're talking 30,000 pieces of content has been read by a human every single time it comes out of our shop. That mechanism is in place to make sure that it doesn't sound contrived and it doesn't sound ... It has to be a conversation. I have to feel and it has to bring out some emotion in me when I'm reading it.
I don't know if that ... I mean, I feel like I sort of answered your question, but I mean ...
Randy F.: I see where you're coming from, so maybe let's take this in a similar, but slightly different question. I mean, first of all, I'm sure that you tell a lot of people they should come to The Content Company and work with your team to do this, but a lot of us have also built teams internally, so what are some of the best ways that you have taught companies to bring some of the best practices that you've put into The Content Company into their own organization? What are the right checks and balances and crossing of Ts and dotting of Is that kind of ensure that you can bring the same disciplines that you get through a group like yourself in your own team?
Cara M.: I mean, we don't often talk to clients who are doing just in-house. I have a lot of respect for companies who are able to do that. A lot are very good at it, but, again ... and I mean that isn't something that I necessarily have a good grasp or handle on how people are working internally, but, if I was to say to you, "Randy, this is how I would position my internal writers," first and ... Like research is key and having a really good communication with what is necessary," so, if we get a piece and we miss the mark, which it really does not happen very often, and the reason it doesn't is really because so much effort is put into the creative brief part of the whole equation.
Let's say you're the client. You and I, or you and your account manager, would have a ... or even the writer and whoever else they're working with, I think there's so much potential for problems when that beginning conversation isn't really hashed out. That's not so much a technical thing. That's just sort of a marketing thing. Like making sure that whoever is writing the piece, whether it's third party, in-house, whoever, has a really firm grasp on what exactly the client wants, the kind of voice that they want, the buyer persona that they're looking to hit, target in whichever form that they're doing it, but I think because ... and one of the frustrations we find is that, because so many things are automated in our space, people are still trying to automate the part of it, and you just can't.
It still has to be a you-and-me conversation. It still has to be, "Let's sit down and talk about the goals. Let's talk about are there keywords that you're really hell bent on ranking for, everybody's got keywords that we want to rank for, and the goal." That's always the biggest thing.
If ever we get a piece where it's missed the mark, it's because agency and client hadn't had a good enough conversation, so when ... by the time we get the order and by the time the writer's creating it, there's been a miscommunication before it even lands on us. I think, if I was telling anybody, what makes a good writer is the communication between writer and client.
It's so massive and it's so overlooked right now because everyone's trying to rush, but sometimes you need to just sit down and have a really honest chat with that client and figure out, and then, to that ... and this is a big one, this is a huge one that we see from time to time, not too much anymore, but the client really has to trust the agency or the account manager or the company or whoever they're working with.
What I mean by that is, if there's not enough trust and that client isn't sitting there feeling like whoever they're working with is the expert, they're going to start doubting and they're going to start picking apart the content.
We've had cases where we said to the agency owner, "Look, this is not a conversation between you and us. This is a conversation between you and your client, and really what this is telling us is that your client doesn't trust the strategy and doesn't trust what you're telling them because, if they did, they would let you navigate. And, right now, they're not," and so, often, we'll say, "If that's happening, you need to go back to the client and have another conversation and let them ... you know, make them feel more secure that you've got their back because, as long as the client buys in to the strategy, there's no problem."
Same thing, if the client buys into the strategy with the writer, they're good. It's just having that dialogue I think is one of the biggest things.
Tyler L.: I think much of what you said there, Cara, though is also true when we talk about internal, and I think exactly ... You're exactly right because, take our own team for example where we have a primary writer or a lead content marketer, and I totally agree where we put the trust in that individual as our champion for writing our key high quality content, and it's no different from if it were an agency or otherwise.
I think the way that we've scaled some of these things around that, sort of back to your earlier point, Randy, around sort of multiple authors even, the one thing I think is really effective is we have that individual or individuals who are those writers, who come from that journalistic writing background, who can build those hero pieces and they'll do one or two core blogs per week.
We don't push that person to have to be creating a blog three or four times a week such that the quality suffers. We keep that individual focused on producing high quality pieces, but then, in parallel, we'll have other contributing authors, and those may not be the higher ... highest quality pieces, but, to your point earlier, Randy, there are some of those sort of authentic pieces on different topics, and so I'll do the same, while I write a post on something very specific, right, i mean, it may not be a broad piece, but it might be something where it's just a specific topic that I'm interested in at the moment or have done some research on and will sprinkle those in throughout the week.
What's really effective about that is it keeps our core writer, that person who is going to create those quality pieces focused on one or two hero pieces a week, hopefully, just one piece a week maximum, so they can focus on that quality, so just some perspective from my side, and I think that holds true whether it's an internal writer or an agency that you're working with. If you can sort of work ... complement those activities with other pieces, it can really help you fill that out and not put so much pressure on every piece from your core writer being a big hero asset.
With that, we're going to take a short break to hear from our sponsor, but when we come back, I want to talk to you a bit about some specific examples of some really great content pieces, content assets, blogs or that you've done or that you've seen done that you can point out and say, "Well, that would really hit the mark," with respect to those quality factors, so hang in there and we'll get back on that as soon as we return from this break.
Welcome back to Content Pros, and we're talking about the focus on creating quality content over quantity. We've a lot of great ideas here with respect to what quality really means in the world of content.
Cara, I'd love for you to give a couple of examples, whether it's work that you guys have done or your clients have done or others you've seen in the market where you can point out and say, "You know what? They've done it. They've really cracked that code on creating content that meets those quality bars," that we can all kind of wrap our heads around those examples we can use for reference as we strive to do the same.
Cara M.: The first thing I do want to say is that so any of the stuff that we've created, we can't speak to. It's all white label and it's all ghost-written, so it's always really difficult for me to bring anything up that we've done for clients.
That's just sort of an FYI that, when we work with an agency or whoever, it's always their name on the pieces so, but, in terms of in the industry, search engine people, I'm a huge fan of them. That was one of the places that I worked at and learned a lot about search marketing in general and SEO. I have a ton of respect for the way that they put out content. It's relevant. It's digestible. It's just really good content for sure, and then, of course, the HubSpot, a lot of ... again, it's very ... like they get you down the funnel and they get you at the right time and they hit you at the right time when you're needing the stuff that you're downloading.
I don't know. I think, for me, good content isn't just about the writing as well. I mean, the writers of my life will argue with me on that one, but I definitely like to see ... for me, personally, I like to see some graphics, and both of those examples do a really good job of ... When you're downloading a whitepaper PDF or a tip sheet or E-book even, there's some nice graphics in there, and then I thought, for me, that leads me along the journey a lot better, video, too, obviously, so I think ... but, yeah, if I had to ... If I had to pick my kind of top two favorites, those would be them.
Tyler L.: What you said speaks back to the notion of the overall experience you deliver to your audience. Right? I think it's actually kind of a hidden one when we ... when I think about quality content, exactly what you mentioned earlier.
Randy, I know you're passionate about this as well. It's like what is the net experience that the person's walking away with? To me, it's like did I create something that they're going to walk away feeling good about engaging, where they feel like that was time well-spent, and part of it is the educational aspect and what's in there, but I think part of it is also, again, it's ... whether it's the visuals, whether it's the way you presented it, maybe it's sort of how you related it back to other pieces. There's an overall feeling, and it's hard to measure, but I think of did somebody walk away from something feeling good about what you served up.
Randy F.: Absolutely. I think you hit that on there, Tyler. I mean, we started off this podcast with something I couldn't agree more with, which is quality over quantity, but one of the things that I've been talking a lot about is the importance of experience over quality ... over quantity.
I think it's not that quality is not important, but, as we said, everyone's creating content now, so quality is almost not enough anymore because, as Cara just touched on, we want to make sure that we can create the opportunity for people to progress through that post or will actually want to see the next post if they really enjoyed the one we're in, so how do we tee that up? How do we think about that overall packaging up of content that people are going to consume ona day-to-day basis.
I don't know, Cara. I mean, maybe you can speak even just to the creation side of things and how you start thinking about stitching together various pieces that you're doing under the umbrella these days?
Cara M.: I think, again, we really rely with our agency partners to come to us and say, "Give us a sort of high, high level view of what they're trying to accomplish for a client."
There's a client that we've got in the U.S. that we've been working with. The client for us is the agency, but then they've got their client. We've seen the journey of where they're starting with regular blog posts and then they move to long-form posts, for example, so maybe they're doing a 2,000-piece one and then they'll have us do an E-book, so we ... we're, again, because we don't navigate the strategy, we're not in control of that, but we definitely see the progression of how they're managing it.
I always equate it to dating. Right? Like you're not just going to jump in and throw a book at somebody and expect them to really get anything from it. You've got to start them off slow. That's the whole purpose of the funnels that we're talking about all the time, but I think when people are stitching the story together that that's ... We're relying on the agency, but it's pretty interesting to see it being executed from the writing perspective, in the ordering perspective.
When we're seeing these new pieces internally, we look at that and we say, "Okay, that's really cool." It's interesting to see how they've change the strategy over the year, but I think it's ... Slow and steady wins the race always in content. I think it's never been more true than it is now, and it's just like let's baby steps people. We're not going to just shove all this massive un-digestible content at their mouth one time. It's the responsibility of the agency, but it's ... We've seen it, and it's usually just sort of, like I said, you pepper things through. You might do a longer post and, eventually, by the end of the quarter, you've got this really cool story that that person has started with and gone through the journey and, now, they're taking action of some kind, hopefully. Or that is the hope.
Randy F.: Cara, this has been a really interesting chat. As we start to wind down here, one of the things we always like to get to do here is and enjoy doing is again to know our guest. You've been so hot here for good reason on quality that I thought I'd take it into ... at the personal and see what is the type of stuff that you're watching on Netflix.
The reason I'm curious is because you are fairly a ... very focused on good writing. I'll admit I sometimes like fall in for the ... not the trashy stuff, but I'm just into the action sometimes, and I'm more into the suspense and the writing quality, but I feel like you're going to have some good items that you're watching or good shows that you're watching these days that are really well-written.
Cara M.: I don't know if I want to admit them, but-
Randy F.: Listen, we've opened up the can of worms. You've got to go there now.
Cara M.: Okay. The first one that I still watch every day, and it's pretty much my ... and a couple of my ... I have four daughters, and a couple of them, actually three of them watch, this is while before bed, is Friends still. It doesn't matter what season. I'll just throw one on, watch it kind of like a zombie and pass out, but the stuff that I'm ... There's two shows that I'm obsessed with ... three. One is Stranger Things, for sure. I'm mean that's such a throwback to my childhood [crosstalk 00:23:09].
Randy F.: It's so well-written. It's so well-written.
Cara M.: It is so incredible. Grace and Frankie. Is it Frankie or Grace? No. Frankie and Grace, the Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin show.
Randy F.: Okay.
Cara M.: Hysterical. There's a lot of talk about some super inappropriate stuff, but it is so funny, very well-written, and then Blacklist. That one. James Spader is like he's the cat's ass. He's so incredible. His acting is just like ... When you know him from being in the '80s to now, it's just ... He's spectacular to watch, but, yeah, those would be my three.
Randy F.: Nice. Nice. I know that Tyler has got a very soft spot for Stranger Things, too. In fact, I think him and his team at Vidyard actually did a fun spoof. I think it was around Halloween, if I remember.
Cara M.: Oh, wow.
Randy F.: Tyler, you can better speak to it than I will.
Tyler L.: We did. We're all Stranger Things fans here. In this past Halloween, our Halloween campaign was Stranger Views, which was, for us, the mystery we were trying to solve was who was watching your videos from the upside down. Anyways, yeah, it's vidyard.com/stranger-views, if you want to watch. We actually recreated a bunch of the scenes from the first season in a very fun way. It was so fun to do. Yeah, it was a-
Randy F.: It was good. It was good. I watched a couple of them. They were-
Cara M.: Tyler, who's your favorite character?
Tyler L.: I mean, I'm Hopper guy. Like Hopper is just-
Cara M.: Yeah.
Tyler L.: He's just so legit. He's so authentic. He is like a great piece of content to me. What can I say?
Cara M.: Yep.
Randy F.: For me, it's the kid with the curly hair. I mean, like-
Cara M.: Yeah. Dustin. Oh, man, he's the bomb.
Randy F.: Absolutely, and maybe it's because I got curly hair myself, and that guy is just so lovable.
Cara M.: He's relatable.
Randy F.: Awesome, Cara.
Cara M.: He's awesome.
Randy F.: This has been a ton of fun. I want to thank you on behalf of Tyler and myself for joining us on Content Pros. We've had a ton of fun, ton of insight.
I think a really important reminder for a lot of us who are out there cranking out lots of content to figure that out is don't forget to go back and make sure that it's quality. Yeah, there's enough out there that we have to stand out. We have to put the right stuff out in front of our audience and, if we do, they'll come back.
Cara, thanks so much, and we'll encourage people to check out The Content Company, and please do stay in touch.
For everyone who's listening, you can find more of these podcasts at contentprospodcast.com. We have all of our past episodes. Of course, we're on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play. Do leave us feedback how we can make this a better podcast for you. Until next time, this has been the Content Pros podcast.
 
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