Gini Dietrich

How to Create High-Quality Content

By: Gini Dietrich | February 12, 2015 | 
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How to Create High-Quality Content with a Marathon MentalityBy Gini Dietrich

In 2001, I trained for and ran my very first marathon.

I had just moved to Chicago from Kansas City and didn’t know a soul.

The people I worked with were great colleagues, but I didn’t have a lot in common with them outside of the office.

I needed to make friends and I thought the best way to do that was to take up a sport that would require me to spend a lot of time with groups of people.

I joined Chicago Area Runners Association and, every Saturday during our long runs, I made some really good friends. 

I trained with them for my second and third marathons (and all of the shorter races in between) and even convinced some to switch to cycling with me (I really hated running).

When I switched to cycling, I went from running marathons to riding centuries (100 mile bike rides) and doing many other kinds of races, such as criterions, time trials, and even racing on the velodrome track.

The training for long races is the same, no matter which sport you compete in. I ride every single day—between 20 and 40 miles—and those rides lead up to one or two long weekend rides (75-100 miles or more) and a few races each month. In season, I can easily ride 300 miles in a week. It’s A LOT of time on the bike, but it prepares me to not just race, but do really well in it.

But here’s the thing: You can’t go out and run a marathon or ride a century without training.

I know some people think they can, but it’s humanly impossible.

There has to be some sort of training that builds your body up to be able to withstand the abuse it will take during long-distance races.

Search engine optimization works the very same way.

If you want to always be safe from changes Google makes to their algorithms, the only way to do it is through really good content.

You have to have a marathon mentality.

What Constitutes High-Quality Content?

If you’re having trouble creating high-quality content, there are questions you can ask yourself to help.

These questions will serve as your guide during the rough days….during your long runs or rides, so to speak.

As you work through the list, ask yourself one very important question: Why is it that we all hate spam, self-serving newsletters, and the “me, me, me” found on most websites—but when we get to work and sit at our desks, we create the exact stuff that drives us crazy personally?

Maybe it’s because our bosses want it that way or, if you are the boss, you don’t know of any other way to do it.

After all, people do it, so it must work, right?

No! It doesn’t work. And Google will not love you if you continue this practice.

As you’re creating your content—blog posts, articles, website copy, eBooks, white papers, newsletters, podcasts, videos, brochures, case studies—ask yourself the following questions, suggested by Google guidelines:

  • If you received the information presented in the article, blog post, or email, would you trust it?
  • Is this something you would bookmark and share with your friends, peers, and colleagues?
  • Is the content written by an expert inside your organization, or is it written by someone without any experience or expertise?
  • Do you respect the author’s opinion—even if you disagree with it?
  • Does your site have content that is similar? If so, is the new content so similar that Google won’t be able to tell the difference?
  • Has the content been edited? Is it free of typos and spelling and grammatical errors? Is it factually correct?
  • Is the topic interesting to your customers and prospects? Does it help them better understand how to use your product? Are you giving them something to help them in their jobs? Are you making their lives easier?
  • Does the content provide original thinking? Even if you are using something in the news to tie back to what you do, does it have your own opinion included?
  • Have you done a search for your topic or keywords? Does your content provide substantial value when compared with the content that comes up in search results?
  • Is your site recognized as an authority on the topic?
  • Is the content solely yours?
  • Does the content provide a complete description of the topic?
  • Does the content provide insight, analysis, or other interesting information that is different than what others are producing?
  • Would you expect to see this content in an encyclopedia, magazine, or book?
  • Is it easy to read, with subheads, bullet points, or lists to help people easily scan?

A good rule of thumb is: If you don’t want to bookmark it and share it, no one else will, either.

The biggest challenge with ethical and valuable content creation is simple ignorance: Many of us don’t know how to do it, so it’s easy to slip into just getting it “done” and off your task list. While this wouldn’t have hurt you in the past, it will now.

Yes, it is harder to produce interesting and valuable content. But, much like a marathon and the training involved, it pays off in the end.

Sure, you may hit the proverbial wall, but if you push through it and your competitor does not, you’ll win every time.

Today’s Exercise

Set your timer for 30 minutes and pull out your editorial calendar.

If you don’t have one, jot down five topics you’re going to cover in the next month.

Now go through each of the five topics and answer the questions above.

If you answer no to any of the questions, you’re going to need to revise your topic.

You may even have to debate with colleagues (or, worse, a boss) about how to change the content to get a yes to all of the questions.

Once you have a yes to every question for five topics, you’re ready for Monday’s assignment.

Set your timer and go!

The Scavenger Hunt

If you are participating in the Spin Sucks scavenger hunt, today you will visit Martin Waxman’s blog.

We chose him for today because it is his birthday.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARTIN!!

(Lots of February birthdays around these parts.)

The secret word is in his blog post, “Why Do So Many People Suck at Communications?

Just write down the secret word in Martin’s box on your scavenger hunt card (if you don’t have a card, download it here).

We have eight more days—through March 3—so keep playing along.

And don’t forget…if you buy a copy of Spin Sucks between now and March 8, we’ll send you a fun package full of goodies to use in your office.

Just email the receipt to iboughtspinsucks@armentdietrich.com. Please include your mailing address so we know where to send the package.

Now get to work! Thirty minutes. Go!

image: This is the last medal I received from running marathons.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Of *course* I want google to love me! It’s such a relatively easy change / modification but I often neglect the “make it easy to scan” part ….. depending on my topic. But Yoast always chides me if I don’t have subheads so there’s that.

  • biggreenpen LOL! Yes, they will chide you for that. I actually use one of your blog posts in today’s webinar as an example of what to do well. So don’t be too hard on yourself.

  • ginidietrich biggreenpen aw, thanks!

  • You know, it’s really NOT that difficult to produce compelling copy/content. It really isn’t! Yes, there’s skill involved, as with everything, but it truly amazes me how many people/groups/companies take the easy (boring) route. Blah!!

  • Also: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARTIN!!!!!

  • belllindsay I think it’s because they truly don’t know any differently. It goes against everything we were taught in school and in the business world.

  • belllindsay Thanks. It’s becoming like Facebook here.

  • ginidietrich That’s a good point. But it begs the question: WHY are they teaching that in school!!?? Ugh.

  • First of all thanks for the birthday wishes, ginidietrich! Since the type you sued is in colour, I’m going to take that as my personal scavenger hunt assignment for the day!

    You’re so right about looking at the things we write and realizing that if we wouldn’t share them for any reason other than we have do, no one else will.

    The key is to have some fun with your posts and stories and try to push the bounds. Sometimes, what you write should make you feel a bit uncomfortable. And occasionally that will mean you blew it. But many times, it will show that you’re onto something new.

    And now, I’m going to try to add some communications to my content.

    I’m thrilled to be part of the game!

  • belllindsay ginidietrich More than ever we need to blend business with creative arts. But when I first got into corporate PR, I thought business writing meant dry and somewhat dull. That shouldn’t be the case at all.

  • Two words – single track.

    I ran my one and only marathon about the same time and mapped out the training, stayed healthy and exceeded my expectations; further driving home the point of doing the right kind of training and planning makes  a huge difference. 

    Which I didn’t do w/ my blog or my online presence, hence getting a 2-year suspension from Google or the wizard behind the curtain or something like that…maybe it was just my wife. 

    If it’s worth doing, then it should be worth doing right, huh?

  • bdorman264 Whoa. Seriously!!?? A two year suspension?? OUCH!

  • Well, I bookmarked this post, so you definitely proved your point! My rule of thumb is if I can find what I want to say on another site, I don’t write that post unless I can somehow add value to what has already been said. 
    As Gandhi said, “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.” I believe the same goes for writing blog posts. 
    And happy birthday, martinwaxman!

  • martinwaxman belllindsay ginidietrich I hope the ONE thing that comes out of this crazy digital/web/social media world we’ve created is just that – that organizations – even the most conservative ones – start to realize the VALUE in creativity and the craft of language!!!!

  • martinwaxman belllindsay Zuckerberg will have to make a $3 billion offer to ginidietrich sometime soon.

  • belllindsay martinwaxman ginidietrich Let’s hope! I’d love a living wage sometime in the near future.

  • JRHalloran belllindsay martinwaxman ginidietrich You’re young. You’ll get there yet. 😉

  • JRHalloran   I was going to write a comment but there is no way I can improve upon what you have said, so I’ll just say, “Yeah, what he said!”

    Happy birthday, Martin!

  • belllindsay bdorman264 Yes, yikes! I’d like to hear more about this. Guest blog post?

  • RobBiesenbach belllindsay bdorman264 YES PLEASE!!

  • jolynndeal JRHalloran Thanks to both of you! And I think the Ghandi quote is a good one to follow.

  • John_Trader1

    I have a friend who runs half marathons with me, and I’m here to tell you that he does zero training for it. He just signs up, shows up the day of the race and runs. Always outruns me too. Here I am busting butt to train and just does it. 

    Appreciate the advice in the post GD. I already shared it with my international team and we will use this as our guideline moving forward!

  • John_Trader1

    JRHalloran martinwaxman I love that Gandhi quote.

  • martinwaxman Happy Birthday Martin! Enjoy your day!

  • belllindsay martinwaxman ginidietrich I hope so too Lindsay!

  • belllindsay RobBiesenbach bdorman264 Pssst, I was just being silly; I think lack of direction (even after all the coaching @GiniDietrich tried to provide) and just general sloth like behavior pulled me away from my efforts.

  • John_Trader1 I have a feeling he’ll regret that one day.
    That, or he does more training than he cops to? (Maybe not running, but something else …)

  • jolynndeal JRHalloran How can you improve upon something with a Ghandi quote included…I mean really? I feel like that’s almost cheating! 😉

  • biggreenpen ginidietrich Yoast is like that best friend who tells you what you don’t want to hear, even when you need to hear it.

  • John_Trader1

    Eleanor Pierce John_Trader1 With God as my witness, the guy doesn’t train at all. I mean nada. He doesn’t do anything extra either making me wonder whether he is actually human.

    I’ll never forget running the marine corps half a few years ago with a marine friend who immediately lit a cigarette at the end of the race (which he finished in third place overall). I just shook my head.

  • John_Trader1 I’ll bet, though, he can’t run a full marathon without training. Mr. D is like that. He ran with me in 2003 and only did the long runs on Saturdays. He didn’t train at all during the week.

  • LauraPetrolino biggreenpen ginidietrich Yoast gives that one tiny little piece of positive feedback to me every time (after all those red circles): “you’ve never used this key word before – very good!” #ThatIsSomethingAtLeast

  • JRHalloran I like that rule of thumb.

  • jolynndeal JRHalloran LOL

  • bdorman264 I think it was just your wife.

  • martinwaxman ginidietrich Happy Birthday!!

  • JRHalloran martinwaxman belllindsay ginidietrich HOPEFULLY SOON

  • As per jolynndeal ‘s comment, all the comments in this blog post are way too good for me to find any niche of a remark to improve upon, so I’ll just say my favorite cardio sport is kayaking or paddling a kayak around the Toronto Harbourfront and the Toronto Islands, I can do that for hours! 

    Happy Birthday (again)  martinwaxman   !!!!

  • John_Trader1 Eleanor Pierce That’s messed up man. 
    I ran a half marathon one time (I trained, obviously!). Then my body decided running was stupid and gave me plantar fasciitis for TWO YEARS. No more running for me!

  • ginidietrich John_Trader1 Is Mr. D part robot, too???

  • Am I the only person in the room that has zero interest in running? I mean.. if I’m being chased, sure but for fun? I like things with the word “crawl” in it.. pub crawl.. food crawl.

    Anyhow… I got TONS of great new ideas during that marathon dumping session today called a webinar. Holy cow.. the notes! And then I had to run to the loo and missed a part!

  • Eleanor Pierce ginidietrich John_Trader1  

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzzZkkiJMv8

  • Eleanor Pierce ginidietrich John_Trader1 I hate him so much sometimes. He’s naturally athletic. Doesn’t have to try at all.

  • KristenDaukas I really hated it. I was super happy when the doctor said, “Find something else to do.”

  • Digital_DRK jolynndeal martinwaxman LOL!

  • You can run a marathon without training. I’ll dispute that from dawn until day and then some.

    Now if you are required to finish within a certain time frame, well that might impact the argument.

    And I am with KristenDaukas regarding running, bores the hell out of me unless it is part of a sport soccer, basketball etc.

    However I am a huge proponent of a marathon mentality, couldn’t agree more with you. It takes time to build a blog of substance and you only get it done by girding for the long haul.

  • LauraPetrolino jolynndeal JRHalloran Don’t hate me cause I’m good at it.   😛

  • Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes Shaking my fist at you!

  • KateNolan

    ginidietrich KristenDaukas I run because I like how I feel afterwards and it works, but I don’t get the whole “let me pay someone so I can run thing”. Oh, I get t-shirt? Woopee!
    And I missed the webinar, durn it. I need to lobby my bosses for some official Spin Sucks reading time, I think. 🙂

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