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What Is “High Quality Content?”

Posted by on Feb 25, 2011

On the heels of my little rant on writing a few days ago, I find myself reading a blog post talking about ways to reduce your bounce rate and find myself getting irritated once more. It’s a guest post, which I figured it had to be because I’ve never seen the author, Karen, write anything this, well, I said I would be nice. So, let’s just jump to what’s irking me, as if you hadn’t already figured out by my title and by checking out that blog post.

The first recommendation is to write “Fresh, High-Quality Content”. Frankly, I see this particular phrase often, and at this point it makes almost no real sense. Well, not that it doesn’t make sense; it makes no sense that no one ever tries to explain what they mean by it.

Let me ask you this in two parts. One, how many times have you seen that phrase in some incarnation? Two, how many times have you actually seen anyone describe what they mean by it? I’m betting the answers are “a lot” and “none”.

To me, unless people start backing it up, it’s a useless statement. Here’s the reality; everyone thinks they’re writing high quality content. That is, if they’re actually writing the content at all. Scrapers aren’t writing anything so we know they don’t care. And the people who pay a dollar a post don’t care either.

But those of us who do care, me and all of you who visit this blog (and I thank you for it), believe that we’re writing high quality content. But are we? Well, for the first time someone’s going to break down what is considered “high quality content”. Yeah, it’s going to be me. Of course this is my opinion, and you can debate me on it later on. But I have a feeling you won’t, and either you’ll learn something new here, or be able to finally say “hey, that describes me” and know that you can pass right by any other posts that talk about “high quality” content as the way to get more visitors or subscribers or backlinks or reduce bounce rate or… well, anything that’s not actually new, tangible, or a case study.

1. If you’re writing about something that’s supposed to teach someone something new, did you explain it well enough? Did you write something like “take this code and paste it into this file, upload it and it’ll work”? Or did you write something like “if you’re trying to fix something add this code to this file in this place so that it will do this; then upload it and look to see if it worked? To me, if you take the time to explain in some fashion why you’re asking people to do something, or giving step-by-step instructions, you’ve just written high quality content.

2. If you’re trying to tell a story and you don’t skip on details, such that people are left wondering “what the heck was that about”, then you’re creating high quality content. No one wants to read War and Peace every day, but no one wants to read Dick and Jane anymore either. If you believe you can tell good stories and you can do it verbally, then you should be able to do it by writing it. Don’t try to finish your story too soon, and don’t try to be funny if you’re not funny. Tell it like it is, and if it’s a funny story and you tell everything that happened then it’s high quality content.

3. Are you writing something about a particular belief or thought? Have you taken the time to explain why believe as you do, or are you just saying something and moving on? Saying “I don’t believe in same sex marriages because the Bible says so” is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen or heard. Saying it and then getting into a rational reason (because there’s no place in the Bible that even talks about same sex marriages; people “infer” it from a few places, but it’s not there specifically), even if I or anyone else disagrees with you, ends up being high quality content. The same would hold true with “I think Lady Antebellum stinks” and not following it up with something that you really don’t like that makes sense. If you said “I don’t like the way they look”, that looks and sounds idiotic; if you have constructive criticism about it, or want to say that you like someone else better for whatever reason, that’s high quality content.

4. Are you being true to yourself? This is the real truth. If you’re writing because you want to get ratings and you’re trying to write what you think people want to hear, you’re fooling yourself. You can’t ever write high quality content if you don’t believe what you’re writing. Trust me, with all the blogs I’ve written for other people, there are times when I’ve looked at the content and said “man, this stuff is garbage”, and I knew it was. The people I sold it to thought it was great because that’s what they wanted, but it was garbage all the same. Some of what wrote for Demand Studios way back when was junk because that’s what they wanted; that’s why Google’s going after those article farms.

If you’re writing what you know, what you feel, to the best of your ability, you’re writing high quality content. And you know what? Unless you’ve cracked the top 100 blogger list you’re going to have lots of bounces. Unless you have a sales page that draws in a lot of people who spend a lot of time looking around you’re going to have a lot of bounces. And the best high quality content isn’t going to reduce it one bit.

Think of it this way. What we strive for is to get people to subscribe to our blogs in some fashion. We want them coming back. That’s our first goal. Our secondary goal is to try to encourage people to look at some of our other content in some fashion. I link within posts to previous posts on this blog. On another blog I use the recent posts widget. My two main blogs are both under 200,000 per Alexa, and both have bounce rates of more than 70%. That’s just how it goes.

Overall, you want to do the best you can. People love that, and they’ll love you and keep coming back for more. High quality content; you do that with every post you write. Keep that in mind; y’all are great! 🙂

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Hey Mitch,
I completely agree with you. Almost 80% posts I read that are related to anything that is related to blogging (yeah, funny sentence), especially if it is written by a newbie, has that “fresh quality content” part.
I am sorry to say but that post doesn’t even answer it’s own questions.

And saying that you need to produce fresh content… after 3 months of reading thousands of posts, there is not much “fresh” content out there. There are fresh approaches to stuff and fresh way of writing, but no one is “inventing the hot water”.

What I have noticed, and I agree with you on that one is that you need to explain stuff. Be helpful. Help people do something. That is what is great content.

February 25th, 2011 | 9:51 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Thanks Brankica. Yeah, throwing something out without some reference as to what you’re talking about makes no real sense most of the time. The talk about “content” was just today’s thing; there are many others we see whenever someone writes one of these types of posts. Your posts are really detailed; that’s why I like your blog.

February 25th, 2011 | 11:17 AM

I think about this often as well, ultimately I don’t really lose my mind over it, I mean, when I publish something I usually think it’s good enough to be there in first place, and I hope others perceive this quality as well. Of course I can’t pretend it’s good for everyone, nor I think that can be your final goal, as stuff appealing to all demographics are usually kinda boring.
I believe we should all strive to do our best without worrying excessively about it.

February 25th, 2011 | 10:24 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Exactly Gabriele. The thing I gripe about is I see that phrase everywhere, yet without a definition by anyone is means nothing.

February 25th, 2011 | 11:13 AM

Thank you!! I am so darn sick of seeing “as long as you have high-quality content…” [insert eye-roll here] It never heps!

Where is the standard? What I think is quality might be mediocre to someone else, which I discovered recently when I saw a blog audit of a site I frequent. It made me realize it’s so subjective, but you’re the first person I’ve seen who even acknowledges the term and dared to define it!

How are newbies like me supposed to learn where par is so I can at the very least meet that? How can I write “high-quality content” when it’s all been written a thousand times before, anyway?

With no reference (until now), I’ve just followed my own advice: I write what I want to read. It seems to work. Kinda. =)

Thanks again, Mitch!!

February 25th, 2011 | 6:28 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

No problem Delena; I felt it was time to at least take on the terminology and help present something a bit more tangible. Of course, you’ll be seeing that phrase somewhere else later. lol

February 25th, 2011 | 7:32 PM

Guilty! I may have interjected “high quality content” into my articles at one time or another and for the life of me, I can’t remember if I explained what it meant. Although, I may also have written something explaining what high quality content is at one point. LOL!

But, I agree with all your points here, Mitch. There are no strict rules to high quality content. If somebody is providing information, like what you are always doing, then that is high quality content to me.

– Wes –

February 25th, 2011 | 10:47 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Wes, for shame! lol I think more people write high quality content than the other, as long as they’re writing from the heart rather than copying from someone else.

February 26th, 2011 | 1:35 AM

In terms of content, to categorize the quality is difficult. Quality content can be even duplicate content, many people will disagree, but that’s a fact. A single “unique” article is not a quality content. 20 articles are not quality content too – the idea is those 20 to be interlinked if relevant, have images – visual stimulation (reduce bounce rate), video or if related to location – Google map. About fresh content, this is another myth, it depends on the nature and topic of the site or blog. I will return back to images, I can share my experience about travel industry. Perfect layout, large images, bullet points on the right side of image describing amenities, title of the page – “Luxury 4 Bedroom Villa”, every month, I used to receive 20 enquiries with question – “How many bedroom in this villa?”.

February 26th, 2011 | 7:01 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Carl, I’ll take kind of a different stance with you here. True, duplicate content could be quality, but it’s still duplicate. Also, I don’t believe content has to be either linked, relevant to anything, or have images. Personally I feel if you’re not producing new content, whether it’s you or someone else writing it, and you’re only parroting what someone else says without having a point of view of your own, its not quality content. Layout isn’t content; it just “is”.

February 26th, 2011 | 12:30 PM

I agree with you, to some certain extends personal touch and originality is much better. Just yesterday I published an article, which was not really a duplicate content, probably about 50% as I had to be accurate with some fact, i was surprised, it was general content regarding outdoor activities in one particular area – 6 hour after I publish the article there were 29 retweets, honestly I thought that this article is not interesting, it doesn’t follow the trends (currently low season in this area), and 50% dupe content hit #1 on Google, pre-occupy first 27 results on Google latest, first 4 results on Google blogs.

February 27th, 2011 | 8:43 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

That’s pretty amazing, Carl; you must have a nice following of people for that particular topic.

February 27th, 2011 | 1:48 PM

I know that posts, I too thought it was, hmm, not well researched to put it in a gently way.

Quality content can’t be defined because everyone thinks of something as being good with their own perspective and so you might have an explanation that other people like, but there might be more people that don’t agree.

I have seen a lot of posts that don’t follow the normal flow of a speech, written composition etc. That is statement, the the reasons and facts that support that statement (which also includes an explanation if it’s not obvious).

I honestly don’t blame the guest poster, I didn’t knew this the first time I started to write articles, and I am probably guilty of using this kind of expressions, but the fact is that many people use such idioms and don’t take the time to explain what they mean in their perspective.

February 26th, 2011 | 3:50 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

That’s true, Alex. And I wasn’t really beating up on this person because I see it everywhere. I’m just on one of those kicks where I see things that don’t make any real sense and just need to answer them.

February 27th, 2011 | 1:46 PM

Hi all, may I just intervene at this point and note that I didn’t write the mentioned post, it was written by guest blogger “Joshdd” and it’s his point of view on “bounce rate”.

I would also like to point out that he hasn’t answered one single comment on the guest post, so it’s not very likely that any of his future posts, if any, will be posted!!!!

February 28th, 2011 | 12:04 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Hi Karen. I indicated in the first paragraph that I knew you didn’t write it because I knew that wouldn’t be your style. Still, it’s a common phrase I’m sure you’ve seen all over the place, as I have, so the post would have probably come even if I’d seen it elsewhere.

As to that guest posting thing, man, it’s hard because you tell people to subscribe to the post so they can answer questions, and if they don’t you don’t always want to remove the post either.

February 28th, 2011 | 12:37 PM

Thanks Mitch, some people skip through posts, so I just wanted to make sure people knew 😉

I will be adding those that don’t reply to their Guest Posts to a list so they will be heavily scrutinised before getting another chance to post!

February 28th, 2011 | 12:57 PM

Wonderful breakdown, Mitch. You know what they say about opinions, and I don’t know how many times I’ve read about how to write high quality content, but your explanations are spot on. Obviously, you have to write it yourself (or be VERY involved with a writer, I guess) to have that first step towards quality. From there, it’s about the post itself. But you have to be in the equation first of all!

Nice site you have here, Mitch! btw, absolutely love the Macaw…that is a macaw, right?

March 7th, 2011 | 11:26 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Thanks Wayne. Yes, that is a macaw, though I usually just say parrot. lol As for the post, I just hate seeing the same thing over and over without explanation of any kind, and if it has to be me, then so be it. 😉

March 7th, 2011 | 4:00 PM

Hey Mitch, seems the title was completely off the mark because the post seems to be more focused on getting people to come back and not keeping them there when they first land, which is what bounce rate is all about. I left a comment with ideas to actually decrease the bounce rate and hopefully people got my meaning.

As to what quality really means you’re so right, most people only tell you how you need good quality content and how content is king but most don’t tell you what that really is. Good on you for laying it all out.

March 8th, 2011 | 11:34 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Thanks Sire. I also thought that title was off the mark, although to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure how one can really go about reducing bounce rate that I haven’t already tried. But the line about quality comment… just seen it too many times without anything added to it to suit my taste.

March 9th, 2011 | 1:03 AM

And if you don’t mind my asking what measure have you used to lower your bounce rate?

March 9th, 2011 | 1:10 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

I haven’t been able to lower my bounce rate Sire. I haven’t even really worried all that much about it. However, if you’re going to attempt to lower the best way to do it is to link to articles within your own blog to keep people there for a longer period of time. That way, it encourages people to look at things you’ve highlighted if they like the article they’re reading at the time. I much rather judge the success of my articles based on the length of time people stay on them, which is a metric that Google Analytics gives you. And across the board, except for that article on cleavage, people tend to stay between four and five minutes. To me that means they’re reading the articles, and that’s a good thing. That cleavage article… let’s just say that I believe that article gets a lot of people in, turns out not to be what they thought it was going to be, and they leave. 🙂

March 9th, 2011 | 11:34 AM

Reckon I should have a look at my analytics just to see how long they’re staying on my posts…..

Had a quick look, on average they’re spending over 3 mins per page and I have a bounce rate of 66%. Looking at the drill down by content performance it doesn’t really make much sense, I have articles where they 27 mins on the page but the bounce rate is 92% and on others they can spend 50mins with a 50% bpunce rate. Then on others I have a 0%, does that mean they have fallen asleep while reading the article?

March 11th, 2011 | 8:21 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

That’s funny Sire, because I have some stats just like that as well. I think that’s why one has to throw out most of the stats for individual pages and look at the overall site averages. Bounce rate is always high on blogs, and all we can hope for it to entice some people to stick around awhile longer looking at other posts of ours.

March 11th, 2011 | 12:34 PM

Out of all my blogs Wassup has the lowest bounce rate, but the site that has the lowest of them all is my forum with a bounce rate of 50%, but then it also has the lowest traffic.

March 11th, 2011 | 5:42 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

The site for me with the lowest bounce rate is my medical billing site. All my blogs are in the 70% range. But that’s okay.

March 11th, 2011 | 11:43 PM

Hi Mitch,

I’ve already given you kudos for this post elsewhere, so let me just add this: we are our own worst critics, or should be. If we take the time to proof-read, edit for clarity and introduce eye soothing white-space, the perceived quality of the content rises.

Yeah, I said it. LOL “Perceived Quality.” As with anything, quality is in the eye of the beholder not the beholden!

I have written posts that made me cringe. Yet, when the comments started flowing, I found that some readers got something out of it that I never even tried to push out! I think this is what is meant by being true to yourself.

By the same token, I try not to believe my own hype. Maybe people are just on their good behavior. You know, like when you go see the new baby…



March 30th, 2011 | 10:49 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Mitch, you made me laugh out loud with your last line; hey, I’m always on good behavior, baby or not. And you’ve touched upon a great point. I’ve written posts that I thought were great that have gotten little response, and then I’ve written posts which I thought might be mildly entertaining that have generated a lot of heat and conversation. You just never know what’s going to come across to people, which is what makes all of this fun I guess.

March 30th, 2011 | 10:55 AM