Reputational Risks of Low-Quality Content

Reputational risks of low-quality content -

You put a lot of work into your company’s content strategy. You have a blog, perhaps a video channel, maybe a podcast, some long-form content. But low-quality content can ruin your reputation despite even the strongest strategy.

Don’t let low-quality content be the downfall of your brand’s reputation. Here’s how you can identify it, avoid it, and do better.

What Constitutes Low-Quality Content?

First, what exactly is “low-quality content?” Here are some common examples or warning signs:

  • All, or part, of your content is plagiarized.
  • The content confuses popularity and credibility.
  • Your content is difficult for your target audience to understand.
  • Your content serves no purpose beyond self-interest.
  • Content is too “shallow” in nature.

Now, why is this kind of low-quality content a problem?

How Low-Quality Content Can Hurt Your Reputation (& What You Can Do About It)

If you want to protect your professional or brand reputation, first you need to understand these common types of problem content you might come across.


When someone hears the word “plagiarism,” they often think of the wholesale copying of someone else’s work. This is true. It’s a type of theft that can cost you professional credibility.

However, plagiarism can also include unauthorized rewrites or other derivative works without the copyright holder’s consent.

If you publish plagiarized content and you’re found out, not only do you risk a lawsuit for the copyright violation, but your customers or other target audience could lose trust in you and your brand. Once trust is lost, it’s not easily regained.

A Note on Plagiarism Checkers:

You might think plagiarism would be easy to detect. And you might think running your content creators’ work through plagiarism checkers is the answer.

It isn’t.

First, if you insist on doing this, do it quietly. Never advertise for a freelance writer telling them you’re going to use Copyscape or a similar tool.

That wouldn’t only be unprofessional and disrespectful on your part (implying they can’t be trusted before you build a relationship). It also demonstrates ignorance.

These tools can alert you if someone copies another’s work directly. But they won’t protect you against those who unethically rewrite someone else’s content or create another unauthorized derivative work. This can get you into just as much trouble.

A far better course of action is to make sure you only hire professionals. That means paying them appropriately.

When clients cut corners with their budget, they often end up with creators who cut corners in their content.

The Content Confuses Popularity and Credibility

Sometimes low-quality content masquerades as high-quality content by sourcing quotes, statistics, or other information from popular sources.

For example, you might assume linking to a popular blogger in your niche is a good move. You might even think it adds to your credibility. Chances are good your SEO pro told you to do this.

Here’s the thing though:

Popularity does not equal credibility. And someone’s ability to attract their own audience in no way reflects on their expertise doing anything else.

It’s not uncommon for even highly-popular blogs to publish bad information. I’ve personally caught a top blogger in the copywriting space plagiarizing from a book. Another very popular blogger didn’t vet their guest posts well, and their site is now littered with bad statistics, improper sourcing, and flat-out false claims the data they cite doesn’t even back up.

Even if most readers of a popular blog don’t always have these insights, you can bet others in their industry are aware. And when you cite people like that as a credible source because you mistook their popularity for credibility, you risk being seen as guilty by association.

You can avoid this by incorporating sourcing guidelines in your brand’s style guidelines.

Credible sources should be primary whenever possible. For example, instead of linking to a blogger who wrote about a new industry report, link to the person or organization who did the study in the first place.

When linking to popular sources, always ask what value it adds for your target audience. What more will they learn? Is there a reason your content isn’t already providing this information? Are you only citing a source because you hope it will get you some attention?

Focus on citing true experts instead – professional researchers, professors, journal articles with peer-reviewed studies, and even government organizations where you need relevant data. Leave other sources for when there’s a specific reason to talk about them, such as recommending a site or resource to your audience.

Your Content is Difficult to Consume

Another sign you might have a low-quality content problem is if its consumers can’t actually get through it or don’t engage with it.

For example, if you have a company blog, make sure your blogger is a native speaker (or equivalent) of the language of your target audience. Close is not good enough.

If you write your own content and you’re not a native speaker of that language, hire an editor who is.

You could also have a problem if your content is unnecessarily long and you target an audience with a shorter attention span.

Or you might have accessibility issues.

Or maybe you’re releasing content in a medium your audience doesn’t consume (maybe they’re not into podcasts or white papers or whatever your pet content project is).

Your Content Serves No Purpose Beyond Self-Interest

High-quality content isn’t about you. It’s not about your company. It’s not about your brand.

Instead, high-quality content is about what you, your company, or your brand do for others. The emphasis should always be on the interests of your target market.

For example, no one wants to read your company blog when all you do is announce company news. There are better mediums for that (press releases for example).

The same is true if your blog exists solely for SEO purposes to rank your website higher in Google’s rankings. That might be your goal. But it isn’t the goal of your readers.

Great content should benefit you. But it does that by benefiting its consumers first.

Content is Too “Shallow” in Nature

Another sign you might have a low-quality content problem is that your content is “shallow.”

What is “shallow” content?

It’s not about content length. Very short content can sometimes be complete (such as providing a definition for a term people often have to look up).

“Shallow” content is content that lacks substance.

Even a 2000-word article can be shallow content if it loosely touches on several topics but never actually answers readers’ questions about any of them. So don’t confuse long content with substantive content.

This all goes back to making sure your content has a purpose (and meets that purpose). Shallow content leaves readers wanting more, but not in a good way.

High-quality content is a choice. And it’s a choice that can help you build and preserve your professional reputation. While low-quality content might sometimes feel like an easy fix for an immediate problem, it’s never worth the reputational price you could pay.

Jennifer Mattern is a freelance business writer, professional blogger, consultant, and publisher.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and more than 20 years' experience in marketing and PR, specializing in digital PR and new media (with significant experience in social media, online marketing, SEO, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience, including web development, mostly in the WordPress environment.

In addition to offering client services, Jenn also developed and runs numerous online publications including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

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