Quality Content or Quantity – The Right Frequency for You
Recently, HubSpot and MOZ teamed up to do a fairly unprecedented months-long study on their respective blogs, trying to come up with an answer to one of the most basic questions in SEO publishing tactics: Is Quality or Quantity better when publishing blogs and other shareable content?
What Moz and Hubspot Tell Us about Content Quality vs Quantity.
While the respective reports (linked above) were quite lengthy, let’s first attempt to quickly summarize the highlights of their findings:
Their methodology was relatively simple: They started with a benchmark for their current publishing, then ran weeks-long experiments with A) double the volume with “lighter” content, and B) half the volume with “heavier” content. The results were tracked across various metrics such as page views, online conversions, social shares, and so forth.
High-volume content increased the aggregate page views, but only by a few percent over the baseline. High volume also greatly increased new lead generation, in the short-term. On the downside, high volume posting led to a large spike in un-subscriptions to their email\RSS\etc lists. They clearly flooded some users with too many posts.
Low-volume content suffered in terms of those metrics but, on the other hand, specific types of high-quality content -which is encouraged by a low-volume schedule- performed best in terms of lead generation, especially over the long run. Then again, so did very basic “SEO 101” style articles.
In the end, Hubspot decided to keep their publishing schedule the same, but slightly adjusted content types according to which showed the best responses.
MOZ had much less dramatic results, overall. High-volume posting only showed marginal -a few percent- gains over the baseline and low-volume posts only dropped traffic\leads by a similarly marginal amount. Furthermore, they saw virtually no change in subscription rates, and no significant social media commentary for\against either publishing strategy.
The only major difference found was that high-volume publishing substantially lowered their on-page engagement (forum comments) per post. Aggregate engagement remained about the same; users were just more selective in which articles they responded to.
Moz decided that because so little is lost due to emphasizing quality that they’d rather “take a day off” every now and then instead of forcing mediocre content through the pipeline for the sake of a schedule.
Going Beyond Charts: Quality vs Quantity of Your Audience
So where does that leave us, and you, and all the smaller businesses who aren’t already recognized as leaders in their industry?
Well, our take is this: It really depends on your audience and your goals for them. That’s the one thing that neither Hubspot nor MOZ really commented on in great depth, although MOZ showed a bit more awareness\interest in their audience’s reactions.
In many ways, HubSpot’s metrics aren’t necessarily representative of what most businesses will face. Hubspot has (very successfully) positioned themselves as one of the top go-to sources for Inbound Marketing information, especially for newcomers. They have a very broad audience, and their market is essentially anyone who might ever engage in digital marketing. Likewise, they have very little reason to be picky about the quality of their leads. Anyone following them could potentially become a customer someday. So it makes sense they would prioritize sheer numbers ahead of all other factors.
But is your business in that same position?
Page views cost money. Middle- and Bottom-of-Funnel sales tactics cost money. Keeping up a high volume of content (HubSpot publishes four times per weekday) costs money. Yet nowhere, at any point, did they discuss their ROI on all this. And isn’t that the real bottom-line of marketing?
HubSpot has the luxury of spending a lot of money buying better metrics. That doesn’t mean it’s a good investment for organizations with smaller budgets or more select audiences. If anything, the results MOZ showed suggest that a lower-volume publishing schedule, with a higher emphasis on quality, would be the smarter investment for many smaller groups. (i.e., if cutting blogging costs by 40% only decreases leads by 5%, that’s a substantial per-lead savings.)
So, when trying to decide on a publishing strategy for your own blog, we suggest analyzing the following factors:
- Do your own tests. Even just a couple weeks’ experimenting with High-Volume vs Low-Volume and Light vs Heavy articles should give you plenty of feedback on what your audience responds to. Also pay attention to the return of those high and low volume posting in relation to conversion rates and sales.
- Focus on sales. Frankly, page views, social followers, and new top-of-the-funnel leads are all vanity numbers. They’re easily bought by throwing money at them. That doesn’t necessarily bring a positive ROI or justify the expenditure. Remember the bottom line.
- Research your audience. What content types do they prefer? Conduct studies, or just chat with them over social media. Tailor your publishing strategy to the audience you want to reach. Only the largest of businesses can really afford to be indiscriminate or “all things to all people.”
- Shares vs Engagement. Broadly speaking, more/lighter content will bring you more overall exposure, but less/heavier content inspires more discussion and individual interest in your blog. Which is better for you, again, depends on your audience and their buying patterns. (Similarly: Are you more interested in attracting new followers, or cultivating\maintaining an active community?)
- Think long-term. One of the most telling numbers in the Hubspot study was right at the top: Despite all their monkeying with short-term strategies, 92% of their leads and 75% of their traffic were generated from content that’s more than a month old. That strongly suggests having good archives may trump any short-term strategy. Moz also brought up the notion that it might be possible to fake freshness, simple date changes could bring those old powerhouse blogs back to life.
The Content Marketing Balancing Act
There’s no single solution to the problem of high volume vs low volume publishing, or that of quantity vs quality. In our view, these decisions should be made based less on raw online metrics\analytics, and more based on the long-term goals and profitability of your organization.
Are you mass-marketing and casting a very wide net in your marketing? Quantity is probably the answer. Are you more interested in cultivating a dedicated fan base and using them for outreach? Focus on quality content tailored to their needs.
Either way, keep an eye on the real money being spent, and look to optimize your content marketing for costs alongside other tactics. A handful of well-qualified leads are almost always more cost-effective than a bucketful of random passers-by.
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