The 8 Hallmarks of Quality Content and Why Your Strategy Needs Them

By Deirdre Ilkson on June 17, 2020

Quality content is an elusive beast, one that's as hard to define as it is to create. In its loftiest form, quality content is an asset that isn't just read but reread, shared, and discussed. Quality content stays in our minds long after it's consumed. It inspires feelings, actions, and outcomes. It makes audiences feel seen, heard, and understood. Simply put: Quality content affects users in meaningful, positive ways.

Quality content is also purposeful. It addresses your audience's pain points and needs, giving them the information they seek when, where, and how they want it. It helps them make better decisions and navigate life a little easier. Quality content satisfies your audience while also representing your brand and everything it stands for.

Prioritizing these eight hallmarks can help you achieve quality and consistency across your brand's content spectrum, no matter your industry. Although your content may not always satisfy every criterion, it should incorporate as many as possible so it can deliver rewarding experiences to users and help your brand stand out.

A couple laughs while looking at funny, quality content marketing on their smartphone.

Featured image attribution: Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.

1. Purposeful

Everything you publish or post must have a clear, strategic purpose that aims to bring value to your audience and your brand. If you aren't sure what a piece of content's purpose is, who its audience is, or how it aligns to your overarching content strategy, you'll want to take a step back.

You shouldn't publish something that neither meets your audience's needs nor drives strategic outcomes, no matter how incredible it sounds or looks. If you commit wholeheartedly to ensuring that each piece of content achieves its purpose, you'll be able to more accurately assess its impact and measure its success through performance metrics and KPIs.

You'll want to establish outcomes by which to measure your content's success. Business outcomes have a direct effect on your sales, profitability, and market share, while brand outcomes primarily influence how your organization is perceived. Some examples of outcomes that are achievable through content include increasing brand awareness, improving audience loyalty, and boosting market authority.

Purposeful content:

  • delivers on its intended goal
  • effectively encourages the action you hope users will take
  • aligns with your brand's content strategy and voice

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2. Original

The internet is a loud, crowded place. For your content to gain traction, it needs to distinguish itself. Google rewards originality and relevancy, which means generic content will likely struggle to perform in search and fail to make a compelling statement about your brand.

This doesn't mean you have to chart untrodden territory with every piece of content. However, what you do create should bring a fresh perspective to a well-worn topic or tell a story better than it's ever been told before.

This is, perhaps, the most challenging hallmark to consistently achieve, but doing so can help your brand reap considerable rewards. Original content is not only more discoverable and memorable, but it's also more likely to drive engagement and create lasting connections between your brand and its audience.

Original content:

  • offers a unique, fresh, or unexpected perspective
  • is superior in some way to similar assets already available
  • surprises or delights audiences

3. Empathetic

Users can sniff out subterfuge from a mile away and Google knows it. As semantic search capabilities have improved, the dictatorship of the keyword has ended and a new era has been ushered in, one in which search engines promote content that's hyper-relevant and designed with user intent in mind.

This shift means it's more crucial than ever to create extraordinary content that's perfectly tailored to the needs, mindsets, and intentions of your audience. By practicing empathy, you can better understand what your audience cares about and, in turn, deliver the kind of content they want and are likely to search for. Empathetic content that's engaging and informative is also more poised to land atop SERPs and drive key business outcomes.

Empathetic content:

  • is highly relevant to your target audience
  • reflects their needs, wants, fears, and experiences
  • tells a story or relays information that they care about

Related: To create exceptional empathetic content, consider incorporating the five elements of empathy in your brand's strategy.

A positive elderly man and a smiling young woman watching a quality content marketing video.

Photo attribution: Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.

4. Valuable

You're asking users to spend arguably their most valuable commodity on your content: their time. You need to be confident that what you're offering them is worthy of their investment. This becomes even more important when you're asking them to provide information in exchange for access to your content.

A value exchange in the user's favor can help you foster trust with your audience and convert one-time visitors into devoted followers. A negative value exchange, on the other hand, is likely to result in indifferent users who bounce from your site and reach for the unsubscribe button.

Valuable content:

  • delivers a tangible benefit to audiences
  • enriches their lives by moving them to think, feel, or act differently on their own behalf
  • gives your brand a competitive edge

5. Authoritative

When evaluating content quality, Google continues to rely heavily on an assessment of a site's expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. This is especially true for content that may affect a user's health, happiness, safety, or financial stability. But the value of authoritative content goes beyond its appeal to Google's latest algorithm.

Users increasingly demand original, accurate, well-researched content that's produced by subject matter experts. But remember, authoritative content should speak to your audience members, not at them. If it uses an approachable tone and a storytelling style that's authentic to your brand, authoritative content can help you build lasting, trusting relationships with your audience.

Authoritative content:

  • is factually sound, accurate, error-free, and supported by credible sources
  • uses jargon mindfully and addresses users as partners
  • contains topics and perspectives aligned with your brand's expertise

6. Respectful

Would you seek help from someone who dismisses your problems as foolish, talks down to you, or responds exclusively with information you already know? Probably not. To create quality audience-centric content, you need to start from a place of respect.

Respectful content speaks to users in their own language, using technical jargon when appropriate. It acknowledges the diversity that exists across users by avoiding alienating assumptions and exclusive language. Respectful content also offers insights and solutions that are within reach for your audience.

When your content does all of this, it's able to facilitate authentic connections and value exchanges between your brand and its audience that pave the way for deeper engagement.

Respectful content:

  • meets users where they are and speaks to them in accessible language
  • has depth and rigor that are appropriately challenging
  • is inclusive and doesn't make assumptions that may alienate users

7. Artful

A blog post shouldn't be a drag to read but, rather, artful and something that enriches the lives of its audience. Beyond being easy to find and share, content needs to be easy for users to absorb. No one should have to read a paragraph twice in order to understand its meaning.

Having a high-quality editorial process is critical when creating artful content. This helps ensure that your content deploys effective, straightforward language to make even the most complex, technical, or challenging theses clear and engaging. It helps eliminate barriers to understanding and makes way for better user experiences.

Additionally, Google algorithm changes continue to elevate standards for artistic quality, prioritizing results that marry strong images with strong content. That means imagery can no longer be an afterthought when you're creating content. Instead, it's imperative that you support outstanding content that's produced by talented creatives with relevant, diverse, and engaging images that improve the user's experience.

Artful content:

  • is clear and easy for users to understand
  • contains logical and persuasive arguments
  • is supported by cohesive, meaningful visuals

8. Optimized

The most compelling, articulate, valuable asset is useless if no one can find it. Short attention spans and the rise of zero-click searches mean that content needs to be easily discoverable and immediately impactful. Simply put: Your brand needs to give users exactly what they want, where, when, and how they want it.

Using industry SEO best practices and lessons from your top-performing content, you can ensure that the editorial and creative decisions you make set your assets up for success. For example, if the asset will support a strategy focused on driving organic search traffic, ensure it's optimized for maximum SEO potential by reviewing every field, from its title and SEO description to its subheads, CTAs, and image fields. If the asset will be distributed via social media, look at what has engaged this audience in the past to make smarter decisions about your titles, social copy, and the topics you ideate around in the future.

Optimized content:

  • is discoverable, calls for engagement, and drives results
  • uses keywords in an organic way, both within titles and image fields
  • strategically uses lists and subheads to call out key pieces of information

Related: For more tips and insights on using data to drive better results, download Skyword's free Secrets to Raising Your Data IQ report.

Why You Should Strive for Quality Content

Producing content can be a tedious affair. Sometimes you have to call on writers, editors, videographers, designers, and others still to translate an idea into a full-fledged piece of content. But investing time and effort into crafting quality content is worthwhile, as it's what your audiences crave and what ultimately benefits your brand the most. Using these hallmarks of quality to guide your content creation process helps ensure that all of your hard work pays off.

However, these hallmarks shouldn't be treated as a one-and-done checklist that guarantees success; quality is a never-ending quest, not a fixed state. There's plenty of content that doesn't comply with these guidelines but still feels right, performs well, and fulfils its strategic purpose. But when your content veers off track and fails to meet its goals, these tips can help you make adjustments to boost its quality as well as fuel continued improvement across your future assets.

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