What is great content? How do we know it when we see it?
As blog writers, we’re told by the experts that if we write great content, the audience will come. When we promote ourselves on social media, and when readers click through to our posts, our great content will hold their attention. Our bounce rate will be lower, and the readers will become subscribers and – we hope – customers.
A recent post by Jeanette Paladino on how to define great content got me thinking more about what great content is and how we define it. Jeanette cites the oft-said phrase: “Content is king,” but then says we should ask: “Why am I creating content?”
This speaks to knowing what your goal and purpose is as a blog writer. Is it to educate people? Is it to show your knowledge so you can get readers to buy a product from you? Or is it some other reason?
I don’t think the reason matters, as much as you knowing it matters.
Jeanette cites Jon Morrow’s post on the same subject. Jon questions what great content is and admits that even he doesn’t know the answer. He says you have to continually redefine greatness to stay ahead of other bloggers and stand out. Content that’s getting great response in 2014 has four components: drama, data, depth and design.
Most importantly, he says you have to work hard to build great content. I think this is true.
I’m not sure I have a definition of what great content is, either, but I have some thoughts about where it starts.
Great content starts with good writing and editing.
Great content doesn’t have run-on sentences, misplaced or dangling modifiers, it’s/its errors, misspellings or apostrophes in plural words. Great content doesn’t distract me with too many errors for me to keep reading. Take these examples:
1. “If you don’t know anything about it, don’t worry that’s not Eishten stuff.” This is straight from a blog of someone who wants to give you advice on how to become financially independent. This isn’t great content because it needs a semicolon after worry, and I’ve never heard of Eishten. Have you? I have, however, heard of Einstein, and he is the genius usually cited when we want to imply something is easy. This author needs to check his spelling and punctuation to make his content great.
2. “Having been a search marketer in Denver for over 15 years, it is great that we have a digital marketing conference here today in Denver.” This is from a blog of a search marketing veteran and experienced blogger. The dangling modifier in this sentence tells us that the “it” was a search marketer in Denver for over 15 years. Search marketer is a job for a person. This content isn’t great because the person is missing from the sentence. The author needs to rewrite this sentence to make his content great.
I see many bloggers who are writing great content, and their posts aren’t full of errors that make me want to cringe or recommend that they brush up on their grammar skills. Here are a couple of good examples:
1. “The 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants citizens the write to keep and bare arms. No, wait, that’s the rite to keep and bear arms. Crumbs—I meant right!” This is a hilarious introduction to a blog post on homophones. This author does a rare thing – she uses purposeful errors to make her point. And, you notice, she corrects herself by the end of her introduction, which makes it clear she really does know the correct use of the words right and bear.
2. “Roosevelt lived a life worth admiring, it’s true – he read thousands of books, wrote a bunch of books himself, served in various levels of government (including, of course, the role of President of the United States), fought in wars, and nurtured a lifelong love of nature.” This is from a post about six lessons on success and happiness from Theodore Roosevelt. This is a good explanatory sentence of some of the things Roosevelt did in his life, but it’s also an example of correct punctuation use. The commas, apostrophes, parentheses – and even a dash – are all used correctly.
Great content is compelling and interesting. It lets the writer’s voice shine through and engage the audience. Great content also has that other component: technical perfection. You can have content that is technically perfect – no grammar, punctuation, spelling or style errors – but isn’t very interesting to read. And you can have content that’s interesting to read, or should be, if only it weren’t so full of technical errors.
This brings to my definition of great content: It’s interesting, engaging and technically perfect.
As Jeanette and Jon alluded to, we can debate on what exactly makes content interesting and engaging. Maybe that’s in the eye of the reader. What I find interesting, you may not, and vice versa.
But the technically perfect part? That’s prescriptive. It’s in the rules of English grammar and usage. And too many bloggers aren’t getting that part right, which makes their content less than great. If you’re going to put your content out there for the public to see, you need to get the technical part right, as well as getting the interesting and engaging part right.
Jeanette’s and Jon’s questions about what makes great content are worthy of consideration. After all, they inspired this post. Now, I’d like to pose a new question: What is your writing and editing process to make sure your content is great?
Readers, what do you consider great content? Do errors take away from your enjoyment of what would otherwise be great content? Let us know in the comments!