Content Marketing

Why Content Quantity Should Not Be Your Marketing Priority – Here’s Why #94

When it comes to spicy food, more isn’t always better. The same may apply to your content marketing efforts. Find out why you should prioritize content quality over quantity in most cases.

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Transcript

Eric: Mark, one of the common questions asked about content marketing is which is more important, quantity or quality? In other words, is it a better strategy to try to make every content piece the highest quality, or just try to publish as much and as often as you can?
Mark: Yes.
Eric: Huh?
Mark: What I mean is, it depends. But spoiler alert. For the vast majority of marketing situations, I’m going to come down on the side of quality.
Eric: Well maybe we should start by explaining the arguments for each side?
Mark: Good idea. So the debate was well represented by recent posts for two content marketers, for whom I have the deepest respect. The first is Steve Rayson of BuzzSumo, and the other is Ronell Smith of Moz. Now the exchange began with Steve’s post on the BuzzSumo blog titled “The Future Is More Content: Jeff Bezos, Robots and High Volume Publishing.” I want to say in advance that there is no way I’m going to do full justice to either Steve’s or Ronell’s full arguments. So be sure to visit and read each of their articles.
[Tweet “More content, or better content? Get the arguments for both sides at”]
Eric: It seems obvious from his title that Steve argues that more content is the wave of the future.
Mark: Indeed he does.
Eric: And on what does he base that conclusion?
Mark: He cites the results seen by publications such as The Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Part of the genius of Amazon is its exploitation of the long-tail. In retail that means while some items for sale will sell at huge numbers, the number of products that achieved viral sales are really quite small. On the other hand, while products at the long tail have lower sales per unit. Aggregated together over the inventory of millions of products, those sales numbers, are huge and far out number the volume of best sellers.
Eric: We know that there’s a similar long-tail in content. BuzzSumo and Moz have shown us data that confirmed that only a small amount of content gets large numbers of shares or links. While the vast majority of published content gets only a few, if any.
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Mark: Steve explains that Bezos has applied his long-tail retail strategy from Amazon to content at The Washington Post. Now while the Post certainly does publish now and again high-quality articles backed by extensive research and lengthy writing, the vast majority of its content is short, almost throwaway pieces, published daily at a dizzying scale. In fact, they now publish–this is amazing–over two million posts a day.
You heard that right. Two million pieces of content each and every day.
Eric: Is that successful?
Mark: Well, and here’s the rub, it depends on what you’re measuring as success. If our viewers take away nothing else from this video, I hope it will be at least this: in content marketing, as in any marketing, if you have not defined your success metric in advance, you’re bound to fail.
So if your metric of success is simply the number of readers on your site, then the post has succeeded exceedingly. As you can see in this graph, both The Washington Post and The New York Times, which employs a similar content strategy, have grown their traffic dramatically over the past year.
post-v-ny-times
Eric: So case closed, right? I mean obviously, the strategy of churning out more content wins.
Mark: Well, not so fast eager one. Remember what I said about defining your success metric.
Now let’s turn now to the Moz blog post by Ronell Smith titled “Why Content Marketing’s Future Depends on Shorter Content and Less Content”. Ronell argues that the model of the “Washington Post” and “The New York Times” doesn’t apply to all. Indeed, even to most content marketing situations. He points out that those entities are first and foremost, publishers. For them their content is their product. And therefore the Amazon long-tail rule applies.
Eric: I see what you mean. Their chief goal is to simply get eyes on their pages because that’s what drives advertising revenue.
Mark: Exactly. In other words, they have no real conversion goal beyond getting as many readers to their site as possible. Therefore, whether or not the individual content piece makes any lasting impact on the reader is of little consequence. If most of those two million content pieces publish each day brings in only a few hundred readers, that’s hundreds of millions of readers and advertising views every day.
[Tweet “If your #contentmarketing goal is ‘more readers,’ then more content might be the right tactic. More at”]
Man: But readers on site isn’t necessarily the right success metric for other businesses?
Mark: That’s right. In fact, it’s probably not the thing most businesses should be concerned about. If you are not a publisher, then you are probably selling products or services. And therefore, your ultimate success metric is…
Eric: Increasing leads or sales.
Mark: Of course. So while scaling up, churning out massive quantities of content may get you indexed and searched for a wide array of long-tail searches. Inevitably, the quality of your content will be reduced.
Eric: And that would probably mean fewer conversions.
Mark: Because lower quality content gives little incentive for anyone to buy your products or give you their contact information. But there’s further potential damage beyond the impact on direct conversions.
Eric: And what’s that?
Mark: The impact on your brand. In competitive business markets, it’s imperative that you build a strong impression for your brand. Brand reputation can have a big impact in the buyer journey. It’s critical to become top of mind when a potential customer is considering her choices. Only high-quality content can contribute to that.
[Tweet “For most businesses, how your content builds your brand should be top #contentmarketing concern. More at”]
Eric: As you said at the beginning, it’s not cut-and-dried that either quantity or quality of content is the winning strategy. It depends on your business goals.
Mark: Right. If you’re a publisher and your business objective is simply getting eyes on your site, then you might want to figure out how to massively increase the quantity of your content, as well as the number of topics you cover. On the other hand, if you are in almost any other business, then investing the time and resources to publish only high-quality reputation building content is the clear win.
Eric: Thanks, Mark. You’ve given us a lot to chew on here. Now, how about you? Do you agree with Mark’s assessment of whether either quantity or quality matter in content production? Let us know in the comments.
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About the Author

Mark Traphagen was our Content Strategy Director for Perficient Digital until February of 2019. He has been named one of the most influential content and social media authors in numerous industry listings.

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Thoughts on “Why Content Quantity Should Not Be Your Marketing Priority – Here’s Why #94”

  1. Hey Mark and Eric
    It is always fun to watch you two discuss really important issues with such ease and finesse. With everyone emphasizing on the quantity of the content because Google prefers it, you people have brought up the glitch of lengthy content into the limelight. Longer content may be preferred by Google,but it needs to have quality as well. The main focus of a business, i.e, it’s product or service should not be lost in a sea of words which do not add any value to it. Great Video.

  2. Hi Long, I remain unconvinced that longer content is favored by Google. It’s too simplistic an approach. As we tried to say in this video, longer doesn’t always mean better, nor does it mean a happier user. Google knows that. Again, my rule of thumb is create content that’s just long enough to cover the topic well and satisfy the user, and no longer.

  3. Hello Mark and Eric,
    Thank you for this informative yet really easy to digest video! Earlier in the day, I read a blogpost talking about the same topic and it had my head spinning. But when you explained it, things became so much clearer!
    Personally, I agree with the stand you have stated – that quality should be what MOPerficient Digitalbusinesses aim for (context matters again). A post of poor quality may reflect poorly on the business and decrease reader’s confidence.
    Perhaps a good way of looking at quantity is not the number of posts that we churn but rather the schedule.
    Readers become customers when they are confident in your business and a factor that comes into play is authority, which isn’t built overnight. There are people in the industry who has built up their authority (and readers confidence) without posting in large quantities. Instead they post consistently whether it’s weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
    Perhaps a better answer to the “quality or quantity” debate is consistency. But that’s just my two cents. Interested to hear your opinion on the matter! 🙂

  4. Great points, Chloe, and I totally agree! While quality must be “Job One” as Ford used to say, there is definitely a lot of value in consistency. It’s a cold, hard truth of marketing that no matter how much people love you today, if you fall out of their view, they will soon forget you. The challenge, of course, is finding a way to do high quality on a consistent basis.
    Here’s a personal example. When we decided to get into video, we launched a number of different video shows and series. Almost all of them could have been good, but we soon realized we couldn’t do them all really well on a consistent basis. So we chose to concentrate on Here’s Why, and committed to putting out an excellent episode every single Monday. We’ve kept that commitment for over a year now, and we believe it has paid off. Doesn’t mean we won’t eventually branch out into other videos as we gain capacity, but we knew it was more important to do one thing well and consistently than many things slipshod.

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