Lee Odden

What Does “Great Content” Mean, Anyway?

great content marketingHow many times have you heard people (including me) rant and rave about the internet marketing benefits of great content? A lot, I’m guessing.  But how many of those pundits and the practitioners that read them stop to consider, What IS great content? What makes it great? How do you define that?

Is it great because the author thinks so? Or because the content was retweeted 700 times and shared 150 times on Facebook?  Was it great because there were 70 comments? Those are all things most marketers would feel satisfaction from in regard to content they created and published. But there’s a common disconnect with this idea of “great content”.

What’s the problem with 700 retweets, 150 Facebook shares and 70 comments? Nothing if you’re trying to win a KPI contest.  The lost opportunity is that most content that aspires to be “great” is created following subjective interpretations designed to achieve KPI outcomes.  “Let’s create an infographic!”, or “Let’s make a viral video!”. These content creation efforts are often mechanical, albeit often creative, efforts to produce something “great” but don’t necessarily answer the questions of “For Who?” or “Why?”.

As marketers, “great content” isn’t just defined by me or you is it? It’s defined by the people the content is intended for – prospects, customers & influencers. It’s defined by the people we’re trying to attract, engage and influence.

Not ALL content needs to be customer defined of course, because many people simply don’t know what they want or like. There are plenty of opportunities to produce content in support of defining a new market, category, concept or way of thinking.

I should mention part of the inspiration for this past was from a Tweet that Scott Stratten shared yesterday morning:

He’s right. Great content, I mean, “great freaking content”, is indeed what people share/spread/link to.  But there’s more to the story to make that work.

1. In order for the content to be more than superficial SEO Linkbait, the idea of “great” should consider customers – their interests, needs, pain points and preferences for media formats and sharing . So find out what that means in terms of customer-centric topics, the types of content they best respond to, social channels and even keywords.

Of course we’re not after a filter bubble effect, so there’s plenty of room for creative content that isn’t entirely sourced from customer personas and preferences, but re-framing what “great” means in terms of the final audience is important and often overlooked.

2. Promote the content to people who have influence over distribution (Tell 2 friends, who tell 2 friends, and so on).  The ability for your message to propagate is directly related to relevant social networks and community connections. Great content without an audience is pretty damn lonely.  As I like to say, “Great content isn’t great until it’s consumed and shared.”

In today’s competitive content marketing environment, promotion of content is essential to get traction. Then it will flourish or not on it’s own merit with the networks of interest that consume it. If you have an interest in sharing your brand’s ideas and affecting influence, then can you really afford to leave “great” content distribution to chance?

TopRank Social SEO Cycle

There’s a cycle to social and SEO for content sharing that shows some of the most valuable aspects of content marketing. Promoting great, customer and influencer centric content helps grow your network and attract links, which exposes your great content to an even larger universe of people who can share and link, and so on and so on. Each step of the way you can collect data that helps further refine your subsequent content efforts.

An additional reason for considering SEO and Social Media Marketing with great content is the increased weight on links within social content like Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus as influencers on search engine visibility.  Great search ranking of content isn’t just about keywords in title tags and links between web pages anymore.  A quantity of quality references and links within social channels (as well as the authority of those sources and rate of occurrence) are also important and are a big part of what happens when content is promoted.

So, if you want to create great content, maybe the first step might not be to decide which infographic designer to hire or which tabloid-inspired title tag to write for that monster list of resources you’re going to compile. The starting point is in understanding what it is that your target customer or influencer considers “great”. How does that manifest as topics, search and social keywords? What does it mean in terms of content format? Does it mean images, video, short format tips, long format lists, cartoons, infographics, user generated content and so on? What has worked before in the channels where your customers and influencers spend their time? What hasn’t?

Figuring out what your customers care about along with strong creative, social and SEO execution, means you can create content that is valuable, useful and far more likely to inspire specific business outcomes than something based on a personal, subjective definition of “great” and leaving it to chance to spread.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Very interesting post, thank you for sharing. 

  2. Avatar staceydean says

    Really great article. Some of the points you make are very
    valid, to the point and missed by many.

    Sounds like you know what you are talking about. Cheers

  3. Avatar Emily R. Coleman says

    This is a great article.  But it just recommends what we should all know already.  You should be writing for your audience’s benefit.  Your benefit comes from the audience wanting to read more and acting on your advice.  This hasn’t changed since the invention of movable type.  It seems to me that every time we come up with a new technology, we have to relearn the basics of effective communication.  A shame really.  Think of how much more profitably our time could be spent if we did not constantly have to reinvent the whee.

  4. Great post Lee! From a SEO point of you, I vote for great content that is engaging as h***. As many comments, likes, shares, tweets as possible.

  5. To me, good content is something that holds my interest from beginning to end. It’s also content that’s not full of links – especially links that don’t work or are totally unrelated to the  subject I’m reading about.

    • Great feedback Lynn.  A lot of links can lead to a “leaking” blog which isn’t good for the blogger but I think it’s also important to link up with other blogs/links to create a consensus about certain issues. Link sharing is the best way of doing this.  How often do you refer to other links?

  6. Avatar Justin Dupre says

    As for me, as long as the content is relevant and informative then it is great. This article for instance can be considered as having a great content.

  7. Avatar Sydney @ Social Dynamics says

    For me, I think great content pertains to being a classic staple, that would be useful for the current target readers and the years to come. If you can create content that embibes your brand and enlightens your readers at the same time, then it’s made.

  8. It’s very cute that you wrote the grammatically incorrect “For Who?” in an article about great content. 🙂   On a serious note: I am delivering SEO authoring training to a bunch of writers and editors today.  Your article is both timely and excellent! Thank you.

  9. Thanks a lot, I am actually thinking about doing facebook marketing and I really like your post.

    It make me realize that I MUST think about what my customers will like to see as contents.

    I am now searching for many informations that they will like and fun stuff for them before creating any fan page.

    Once again, congradulation for this post.

  10. Good content is something unique and original content. Good job Lee! thanks for this valuable post.

  11. I completely agree, we need to write about what our target consumers/customers/readers are interested in! Then I think you are well on your way to creating “great content!” Thanks for sharing!

  12. Great post! I wrote about something myself last week and determined that it is the readers who determine what makes “great content” not a marketer. I think everything that I write and determine worthy of the “post” button is a great, but if I’m not writing something the people who are reading my blog or site care about, it doesn’t mean anything.