content writing quality beats quantity

In content writing, quantity beats quality

In Content production by Rob JohnsonLeave a Comment

Maybe it’s because I was feeling a little over-sensitive the other day when a prospect sighed while looking at a former client’s site. “Some of these posts aren’t what I would call great content writing,” he said. And he was right, in one sense. But that’s not the point.

The pendulum has swung too far. All the best advice from SEO experts at the moment is that in content writing, you should always go for quality over quantity. Google says it rewards the highest quality content. The SEO gurus from the US tell us that quality content is the key to the top spot on SERPs. Some will qualify their answer, and say quality and quantity are equally important.

But as a humble practitioner, I’m firmly of the opinion that in content writing, quantity is currently king. Less is no longer more. More is more.

Content writing in the old days

A few days ago, on this blog, Mark Brown wrote about how important quality content is. And I agree. I’m not saying you should ignore quality. I’m just saying it should be your second consideration, after quantity.

I’m not advocating the return to the pre-Hummingbird update days. Back then, a good strategy was to publish as much keyword-stuffed content as you could. Didn’t matter if some of it was gibberish. Didn’t matter if it was only a few paragraphs.

If something did strike a chord, you wouldn’t analyse it too much. You’d just promote the bejesus out of it with as many tricks as you could muster. Finally it would run out of steam, people would get sick of it, and you’d move on to the next one.

That tactic stopped working as search engines got smarter. Both Google and SEO agencies revealed that what we need to do now is produce the best possible content to justify ranking on page one of a search result.

Adequacy paralysis

But holding ourselves up to the standard of producing consistent 10x content just makes it impossible to get started. That’s something the greatest writers in history have always learned the hard way.

“A book is never finished, only abandoned,” said the American journalist, author, and screenwriter Gene Fowler. Same with a blog post or a white paper.

The difference now is, it doesn’t have to be abandoned. Until this point in history, publication was final. You had to abandon the project at some point in order to get it on a printing press.

But nothing is final for digital assets. Everything can be tweaked, updated and revised in a second. Previous editions of an idea can disappear as easily as live forever. In fact, not only can you retrofit a higher quality version of something you’ve done. It’s considered good practice to do so.

Practice makes perfect

By now, most of us have heard of the 10,000-hour rule. Malcolm Gladwell popularized it in an article in The New Yorker and many musicians and athletes swear by it. Whether Gladwell’s interpretation of the rule was correct or not, most of us intuitively agree with it. If you practice something over and over again for a long period of time, you will get better at it.

You may not become a virtuoso at it, but you will get better.

You will get a lot better at producing content if you produce a lot of it. That doesn’t mean revising the one long piece of content over and over again. It means playing and experimenting with different styles, different ideas, and different ways of structuring arguments.

A more contemporary term for this process is growth hacking. Writing lots of content is a way of growth hacking ideas.

Content writing is a process, not a product

Ten years ago, or even five years ago, you stood a chance of ranking in the top spot for a single good piece of content. That’s highly unlikely now unless you use other tactics, including on page SEO, social promotion, influencer outreach and paid ads. And even then, you need time. And persistence.

And even if you get to the top spot, or somewhere near it, your next challenge is staying there. It’s hard to determine how long this will be because it depends on factors completely outside of your control. Someone else could do a better study, or a newer one, or a more comprehensive one.

It makes sense to see your content as an ongoing piece of work, rather than an end in itself. And in order to do that, you need to write more. And keep writing.

More is more.

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