There is a mammoth amount of content out there. You can use content created by other companies to learn about almost any business process.
But sometimes, because there is such a huge amount of content, it can be hard to determine what content you should use to inform your own strategy and which content isn’t trustworthy.
How do you determine which content informs your strategy and guides your tactics and testing?
Today’s post looks at eight questions you can ask to determine whether a piece of content is credible.
Marketing and business are changing rapidly because of the sheer number of technological advancements in the last decade.
When you evaluate a source, you want to ensure that you aren’t referencing a piece of content that is too old.
What is too old? Generally, you want to know that the content you source from is no older than 2–3 years tops.
Imagine the new startups, innovations, and technologies that have been developed in the last few years.
In some cases, you may be able to get away with pushing to 5 or so years. But that is only acceptable for topics that are evergreen (do not change over time) or industries that haven’t been impacted by digital technologies (hint: there aren’t many of those).
When referencing a source, be sure that it isn’t too old, or the information you learn might be flat out wrong.
Look at both the author and the brand. What makes them credible? Find out what the brand sells and the experience level of the writer. What makes them an expert on the subject you are researching?
Look for degrees, certificates, and qualifications held by the author and/or the brand. Look at the works produced by the brand or author. Are they actual authorities on the subject matter?
Different topics require different amounts of skill and experience. Thoroughly vet both author and brand to determine whether they have the authority they boast about.
This goes together with the previous question. Who paid for the content you are reading. When you read content, observe any leans or biases towards a brand or tactic.
This tells you where the money for the content/research comes from. You need to know this, because if you are about to go all in on a tactic and you find out that you need a super pricey tool that the content is pushing, you may have wasted time and energy on something that may not align with your brand’s vision.
The prior couple of questions lead to this one.
Determine what the brand sells. Are they selling a competing service or one that compliments your own?
This guides how they write content and how helpful that content will be to you.
Everyone has an angle and content marketing, by its very nature, always has a lean. This is not bad, it is just a fact. Your own content marketing has a lean. Notice that lean when you are vetting sources, to determine whether the tactics recommended in the content are right for your brand and vision.
This one is simple and should have been mostly answered above. Does this brand have the same target audience as you?
Sometimes, they can have a competing angle, but the same target audience. This can work in your favor, as it will help you understand what competitors are doing/recommending and you can choose to use or lose tactics based on that understanding.
One way to determine if you should trust a piece of content is to see if your peers do too.
You can observe this by looking at a brand’s social media channels and their SEO ranking on Google.
Does the brand rank high on key subject areas on Google? Google’s algorithms look at factors like time on page, length of content, and how long the website has been in place. If the content/brand ranks well on Google, then it is likely you can trust their content advice.
Did you know 93% of searchers never go past the first page of Google results? This can be used as a guide to gauge brand credibility.
The same goes on social media channels. How many followers does the brand have. Do others engage with the brand’s content? How much? This gives you clues into the social credit of the brand. It’s hard to be a bad brand writing bad content and still do well on social media.
Credible content builds off other credible content. When you were in school, you needed to reference credible sources before making broad sweeping statements.
While the rules aren’t quite as strict in content marketing, statistics and facts from outside sources are crucial in determining if a piece of content contains advice worth following. Look for content that contains 2–3 outside sources.
Ensure that those references are from equally credible sources by using this entire article.
If you are using content to guide your tactics and testing, then you want to ensure that the content is actionable.
Do you come away from the content with knowledge and ideas of steps to take? Or is the content filled with useless, vague generalities that could mean anything?
You want to answer yes to the first question and no to the second. If you come away from a piece of content with more questions than answers, maybe that piece of content isn’t credible or at least not concrete enough to strategize off of.
The next time you read a blog post, ask yourself these questions:
- Why should I trust these words?
- Can I use them to inform my marketing tactics or business strategies?
- Why or why not?
It’s important to choose credible sources, otherwise, the advice in bad content could lead you and your brand astray, resulting in lackluster outcomes. It can and will cost your brand money. Ask each of these questions as you browse content and notice how you choose better content to listen to as a result.