Good Content vs. Bad Content

By: Guest | April 2, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Jayme Thomason.

I spoke at a content marketing conference a while back, and sat horrified in the audience while another speaker advised an audience full of newbies that 50 short, keyword optimized posts are better than a few longer pieces.

I understand his intentions, and that he probably wasn’t condoning crap content. But what all those new, eager marketers in the audience heard was “quantity over quality.”

This is not good advice.

This is the mentality that is creating our global content pollution problem.

If this is the way we’re going to conduct our content marketing initiatives, then we’ve missed the point of content marketing altogether. The point I’m referring to is much like the concept of PR: Build relationships by adding value. (Read Lisa Gerber’s article for a great example of this.)

People are not stupid. They can tell when an article is stuffed full of keywords, and they know why: To bait them.

If we continue to view content as bait with the only purpose being to get them to visit our websites and buy something, we’re essentially taking the old push advertising model and trying to adapt it to content (which won’t work).

The reason any of us do any kind of marketing is to sell more of our stuff. We all know that. But our marketing department’s attitude should be: “We provide value to our target audience so they build a favorable opinion of us. That way, when we share good content with our network, they share it with their network.”

Bait content does not get shared. It’s viewed once, the reader is let down, and they move on. You’ve lost them.

Let’s compare two scenarios.

  1. Acme Company does some keyword research to find out what their customers are searching for relating to what Acme company produces. They give the list to the writers and say, “make sure these keywords appear in the headline, subheadline, and six times throughout the body copy.” I need 50 of these articles per week.[Later] Potential customer finds one of their articles on one of those weird article sites that has those annoying advertising links that pop up (because they don’t want this crap on their blog). Potential customer reads what she can of the article, assumes the writer was drunk when he wrote it because it makes no sense, and she moves on. No click-through to their site.
  2. Smartie Company also does some keyword research to find out what questions and needs their customers have which prompt them to search for the products Smartie Company produces. They read all the articles their customers are reading to get a better understanding of what content is out there and what “holes” exist that Smartie can fill. They get in a room and brainstorm with their sales team to develop an editorial calendar with six months’ worth of well-though-out, valuable, optimized content.[Later] Potential customer finds an article while searching for a solution to a problem, finds a helpful step-by-step article giving her exactly what she needs, and then shares it with her LinkedIn group. She bookmarks Smartie’s blog site so she can come back later.

These scenarios may be a bit extreme, but my point is good content marketing has everything to do with your mindset. To impress robots, go with Acme’s strategy, for long-term, real company growth, go with Smartie’s.

There’s a lot of competition on the web for your audience’s eyeballs. Every time someone shares something you’ve written, it’s like getting a vote. Pay attention to the articles getting the most votes, and you can better understand what your target audience wants from you.

True story, one of our customers, an online monitoring company, was surprised by this: They have a fantastic, well-strategized blog where they talk about trends and insights about online behaviors. You know the post that, to this day, got the most shares, likes, and tweets? A coupon for free doughnuts on National Doughnut Day.

Interesting, how we think what our customers want from us is meaty thought leadership, but sometimes, they’re just hungry and feel like having a doughnut. This customer did not change their content strategy because of this, but now they’re not afraid to throw in some fun. Just some “food” for thought.

When asked about the quantity over quality debate (and there is one going on), we tell our customers this: Content marketing only works if you can sustain it. And you can only sustain it if you’re publishing thoughtful, valuable content at a frequency you’re comfortable with.

Bait content is not sustainable. What the other speaker should have said was, “whether it’s one post a day or one post a week, as long as it’s adding value to your customers, then you’re doing it right.”

What do you think?

Jayme Thomason is as the co-founder and CEO of DivvyHQ, the simple, spreadsheet-free editorial calendar application built specifically for content managers who manage multiple projects, clients, and teams and are longing for a simpler solution. She is on a mission to take her simple approach to content marketing to the masses. Follow @jaymethomason on Twitter and @divvyhq or email her at

  • Dear Jayme,
    We should be friends. That is all. Actually, cheers on the post. I agree. Valuable content is much more sustainable than bait content (It doesn’t leave a bad aftertaste, either.). I appreciate SEO, but I’m always focused on writing good content first and on adding value for my audience. The keywords tend to take care of themselves when I do so.

  • Well put, Jayme. I still see this all the time with local businesses taking the advice of SEO consultants. Their blogs are unreadable and a serious turn off. 

    • jaymethomason

       @KenMueller Eek. It’s a tedious, but satisfying, job to turn clients from SEO abusers into content marketers. Keep up the great work!

  • jaymethomason

    @ginidietrich Thank you for letting me guest post!

    • ginidietrich

      @jaymethomason It was a really good post!

  • How much do you believe that the price to develop good content plays? Truly good content doesn’t come cheap or easy and far too many companies (particularly those engaging in bait content) show how much they value – or don’t value – content by what they pay to develop it. Just look at sites like Elance and Guru, where companies routinely pay $50 or $100 for a batch of 50 or 100 articles.
    Unfortunately, ever effective method for marketing has people who have the contradictory view of not valuing the marketing approach, and therefore no investing, yet wanting to beneficial results of said approach.
    Of equal importance to the quality of content is the method of distribution. In my role, I understand that people who read print, websites, and mobile, each want different content, or want the content presented differently. For our daily newspaper, a print reader might want to read a longer, statistic-laden play-by-play from last night’s game. The digital reader might want something shorter, with some art and video – perhaps the stats provided in an interactive way. The mobile reader might prefer video highlights.
    Now all of a sudden, that quality content has a new wrinkle as one must consider writing, photography, video, graphic presentation, advertising, etc. as part of the content.

    • jaymethomason

       @ClayMorgan Indeed. Coming from a freelance copywriting background, I was always so frustrated when those “content farm” sites would undercut my pricing by like 80%. When clients don’t truly understand the value of content, they win every time. When clients do understand the impact content has, those sites have no chance. But you’re right…this is still a huge educational need.

      •  @jaymethomason  @ClayMorgan Ugh. Don’t even get me started on sites like Elance and Guru. People kept telling me to apply for gigs with sites like them. I just couldn’t do it, not even when I was a fledgling entrepreneur/freelancer and needed the work.

        • jaymethomason

           @Erin F.  @ClayMorgan Erin, that was most likely a very good decision for you. Even though it was maybe a slower start, it has probably netted you more in the long run, eh?

  • Add the word “free” and you will almost always see an increase in the number of eyeballs. People love free and it almost doesn’t matter what it is.
    One of the challenges we face is that so many businesses and people have adopted a short term outlook predicated on their need for instant gratification. It is a huge mistake. Growth based on strategic thinking is better than slinging mud at the wall to see what sticks. 

    • jaymethomason

       @TheJackB Awesome advice! Thanks so much!

    •  @TheJackB I didn’t know that about “Free”.  I may try to use that strategy in my next  blog piece, “Top 10 Free Freebies for Promoting Freedom or Movies by Morgan Freeman”.

  • jaymethomason

    Thanks for sharing! @jmellott99 @dyllanconstinc @dbproductionLtd @Mikinzie @SaraNeedham

    • DyllanConstInc

      @jaymethomason happy to share, great content as always.

  • ginidietrich

    @tamcdonald It’s only quality for you

    • tamcdonald

      @ginidietrich Is that a good thing? 😉

      • ginidietrich

        @tamcdonald For you? No way!

  • ginidietrich

    @_SKG I miss your green face

    • _SKG

      @ginidietrich Um….not quite sure how to take that Gini. 😀

      • ginidietrich

        @_SKG LOL

  • Too much bait is just stink bait anyway. 
    Even though all my online friends will tell you socially I’m just a goober because I’m too lazy to learn any of the ‘stuff’ that you are supposed to know, in some ways it has kept me from wanting to get caught up in the ‘game’. For better or worse, what you get of me is pure all uneducated Florida Cracker redneck that wouldn’t know a keyword if it jumped in my boat…, uh post.  
    Ok, I’m really not that naive, but I know what I like to read and all I know is it better be readable. I don’t know much but I do read enough and I do know good content vs bad content and I’ve seen plenty of both in here (not here Gini, I mean in social). You don’t get to vote at my site however, I’m still under a probationary period.
    Thanks for sharing and good to see you at Gini and Lisa’s. Hopefully they had some food; all I got were Saltine Crackers w/ ketchup dip and Old Milwaukee beer when i was there last week. However, it doesn’t take much to get me to come to a party……
    Happy Monday.

    • jaymethomason

       @bdorman264 Stink bait – hee hee! I’m totally going to use that line in my next presentation, hope that’s OK! 

      •  @jaymethomason @bdorman264 Oh! Speaking of saltine crackers… there is a video somewhere of @mollimegasko trying to prove a point that you can eat xx number of saltines without drinking water. I believe she failed. but anyway…

  • jaymethomason

    @seanmalarkey @_SKG @rjfrasca @mariustorjusen Thanks so much for sharing my post!

    • mariustorjusen

      @jaymethomason I found it very relevant , so keep those good tweets coming

    • rjfrasca

      @jaymethomason Absolutely. Great post 🙂 Have an awesome day!

  • jaymethomason

    Thank you for sharing, @beckygaylord!

  • jaymethomason

    @thesnowlegacy @anandp29 @cbmatthews @aschottmuller @DomJofo Thanks so much for the Twitter love!

    • anandp29

      @jaymethomason You’re welcome!

  • jaymethomason

    @soundtrack_pro Thanks for sharing!

  • I want you to know, I LOVE the doughnut story and it confirmed for me that it’s OK to run the guest post we’re running on Thursday. Some times it’s OK to just have fun – we don’t always have to have a point. Regardless, we do have to be interesting/entertaining. 
    Also, YAY! The buffer button is back! Thanks, leowid !

    • LeoWid

       @Lisa Gerber no worries Lisa, all is shiny and easy to share again! 🙂 

    • jaymethomason

       @Lisa Gerber  leowid So happy to hear, Lisa!

  • TRGArts

    RT @kmueller62: Good Content vs. Bad Content via @ginidietrich #artsmarketing #nptech

  • jaymethomason

    @voxoptima @stefsealy @NancyCawleyJean @rjfrasca @mongoosemetrics Thank you so much for the Twitter love. Love making new friends!

    • NancyCawleyJean

      @jaymethomason A good post MUST be shared! Look forward to more! Do you have a blog I can subscribe to?

  • jaymethomason

    Thank you for sharing! @drjasonsnyder @razoo @saintinc @giseleNMendez

    • saintinc

      @jaymethomason Great article! 🙂

  • jaymethomason

    @lisagerber You’re such a wonderful editor! Thanks for making me sound so good!

    • lisagerber

      @jaymethomason I had great content to work with. 🙂 thanks for the nice note. Made me smile.

  • markalves

    @briancarter Good article. But, the line “This is not good advice” wraps underneath the author’s pic — looks like an unfortunate caption.

  • jaymethomason

    @spiral16 @KristaKotria @ HurstAaron @summerjoy Thanks so much for sharing my article!

  • JustInTheSouth

    @BJ_Emerson Thanks for the RT BJ. Hope all is well with you.

  • JamesDuthie

    @alexwood15 Thanks bro

  • jaymethomason

    @clairedowdall @schneiderb @alanariley Thanks so much for sharing!

    • clairedowdall

      @jaymethomason @schneiderb @alanariley my pleasure! It’s a great post 🙂

  • mindywithrow

    Thank you for taking a stand for quality against quantity. When I read your line, “They read all the articles their customers are reading to get a better understanding of what content is out there and what “holes” exist that Smartie can fill,” I was cheering. That’s exactly what I do as part of my content inventory and gap analysis for clients, and it always pays off. 
    There is still a common lack of understanding, even among clients who prefer to produce lengthier content on a less frequent basis, about what constitutes good content. Like brands who have a perfectly good press room but then fill their blogs with press releases. (I wrote about this recently: I just might read the rest of a site–even the press releases–if the original content I landed on was really useful and entertaining, but if it’s not, I’m outta there.
    Thanks for a great discussion, Jayme!

  • Nivlong

    @scrappy_face @SpinSucks I vote for good content!

    • scrappy_face

      @Nivlong High 5 for content! 🙂

  • jaymethomason

    @cmgpartners Thank you!

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  • KattAnnPaul

    Great article! Awesome point, i totally agree.