A beautiful arched ceiling with windows and columns
A beautiful arched ceiling with windows and columns
#Content Writing

The Content Quality Checklist

Paul Kiernan

The user determines quality content, and the user is a fickle beast; that doesn’t mean you’re lost at sea. There are ways to create thoughtful, readable, shareable, clickable, and ultimately quality content.

Quality content should be your goal with every campaign. No one sets out to produce crap content when they are creating. The goal is always to create good, quality content. However, the word quality can become a stumbling block. What is quality content?

There is another stumbling block here, and that is who decides what quality is? Quality can mean one thing for Google and a completely different thing to your users. So the risk you run is trying to be a servant to two masters and making neither completely happy.

What is Quality Content?

Why not start here and define what we’re after so it doesn’t feel so elusive or ethereal.

First off, let’s set this straight, there is a difference between content writing and copywriting. In very brief, pared-down definitions, the primary purpose of content writing is to educate and entertain the masses. In contrast, the primary purpose of copywriting is to persuade readers to take some sort of action concerning your company, product, or campaign. Again that’s very boilerplate, and if you’re looking for more insight between the two, here you will find great information about the difference between content and copywriting.

For our purposes in this article, we’re going to focus on content. Quality content will have an immediate effect. You will get more visitors, reduce your bounce rate, and experience higher conversions, all if you have quality content. But, there’s that word again, quality. It’s so vague. If you look to our friend Webster’s, you’ll see that the word means: “the standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind.” What?? Thanks for the sour persimmons, brother.

Maybe this is a more straightforward question to ask, who determines if content is quality? The answer is your users. Sure, you may think that the man behind the curtain at Google makes this determination, and, on some level, you’d be right. However, the true measure of the quality of your content is going to depend on your users. Yay, right? Not really. You see, every user is different. So, unless you have the time and money to target every individual user, which may be the future of marketing, you’re going to have to deal with the fact that every user is different. Every user has a different intent and knows what they want. The tricky part is, you don’t. Well, not precisely.

Aaaaand, that’s it. Good luck, and thanks for reading.

Kidding, of course, we’d never do that to you. The user determines quality content, and the user is a fickle beast; that doesn’t mean you’re lost at sea. There are ways to create thoughtful, readable, shareable, clickable, and ultimately quality content. Creating quality content will require some creative writing skills and writing strategies to improve your content. Better content has a higher probability of being considered quality by your users and the engines of search.

How to Create Quality Content

A desk covered with notebooks, stciky notes, pens, scissors and writing implaments.

First off, this isn’t a quick-fix situation. You’re not going to read this article and then kapow; here’s some quality content. It is going to take work. But, if you put the time in and create quality content, the results will be worthwhile. So, here we go.

Write For Your Readers

There are things that you want to write about, however, when creating quality content, you have to think about what the readers actually want to read about. If you’re working on an eCommerce site, your readers want to know about products and deals. If you’re working on a blog, readers want to know about you.

When it comes to content, you want to know what the readers are interested in, what they worry about, what problems they have that may have brought them to your site. Quality content will contain material that the reader wants. How do you know what the reader wants? Well, the ThoughtLab content crystal ball is available in the gift shop, patent-pending. No, seriously, the way to understand what your readers want is to do a keyword search.

A keyword search will give you a clear vision of what you should be writing about and which words your users are employing most. It will also help your rankings; more visitors and lower bounce rates will signal to Google, the all mighty, that your page is a viable stop on the information highway.

Active, Readable, and Engaging Content

You want to get your message to land, and you want people to read your entire page or blog post so, make your content easy to read. One of the ways to help this is to consider the structure of your text. Too many blocks of text without headings or paragraphs, images, or graphs can scare your readers. Also, be aware of difficult words and lengthy sentences; these too may frighten off a reader. Understand that most readers like to skim and then land, so give them the power to glide through your content while still gleaning the meaning you’re after.

A caution here, using readable text does not mean you need to dumb things down. Never talk down to a reader, don’t let your content make the user feel as if you think they are stupid. Stay away from overly flashy language and arcane terms but, don’t be afraid to get the reader reaching for the dictionary once in a while. Content writers can engage, entertain, and elevate the reader with quality content.

Search Intent & Goal

Search intent is the reason someone searches online. Are they looking to answer a question, buy a product, have a laugh? The intention of the search is going to determine if the users define your content as quality. Does it get them what they want? If the answer is yes, they will land and stay on your page. However, if they want to know how many elephants Hannibal crossed the Alps with and they come to your page where you’re trying to sell them elephant sweaters, they won’t be staying long. The answer, by the way, is 38.

Consider search intent when you’re creating content for a specific page. Also, it will help you to match your goals with the search intent. For example, is your blog full of information and insight on a subject where you have the expertise, and you want more people to subscribe to it? Make sure you’ve got a subscription button on that page.

If users are transactional and they are looking to buy “the product,” You want these users to land on a page dedicated to “the product,” you don’t want them to land on your blog where you once referenced “the product.” Make sure you’re getting the right need to the right place.

Of course, none of this is hard and fast with clean-cut edges, users will bounce and search, and you cannot always know exactly what they want. However, a keyword search can help you determine what users may want, and then you can tailor your content or which calls-to-action you want to add to your page. A content design mindset will help you produce content that is user-centric and based on actual needs.

Earn and Hold Trust

When users land on your page, apart from giving them a reason to stay there, give them grounds to believe and trust you. Write about subjects you know and use simple, clear language that doesn’t make them feel that you’re playing them or spinning like a drunken politician. Unless, of course, your website is “spinning with drunken politicians,” in which case, good luck with all that.

If you’re posting images, shun the stock photos in favor of authentic photographs of you, your team, your pets, your kitchen during feast preparation, and your culture. Allow your users to see you and not some simulacrum of what you think they want to see. Honesty is complex, but it works.

When writing, be personal, open, and truthful about yourself and your experiences. Users will trust you if they know you’re sharing real emotions and situations with them. Believe this; users can tell when you’re spinning junk and looking to cash in by lying. Don’t do that. Users take a while to trust, and once they do, chances are they will stay loyal and promote you. However, if users catch a whiff of falsehood, they will turn on you and make sure everyone knows about it. Once you’ve broken user trust, it’s nearly impossible to get it back.

Set up a testimonials or reviews page; this shows users that you’re serious and welcome their thoughts. Also, bad reviews will happen; you never know what could spark a user any given day. Don’t argue with users, and do not erase a bad review. If a user sees a page of five-star reviews and nothing below five stars, they will wonder. However, if they see five-star reviews and a couple of twos and some harsh words, users will see you’re not afraid of criticism and that you’re open about what’s being said about you.

If you find that you’re getting nothing but two-star reviews and people are hammering you in the comments, in that case, maybe you need to rethink what you’re selling or saying.

Remain Timely

Quality content is not a set it and forget it situation. To be a trusted expert and have search engines favor your endeavor, annuit coeptis, you must keep your content up to date and relevant to the times. If you notice trends and have written about the subject before, bring it back, repost; no crime in that. What users will see is that you’re paying attention and that you have the knowledge they can use.

Keeping your content relevant and as up-to-date as possible is as important as producing quality content. Make sure you set aside time to update your content regularly.

Checklist for Creating Quality Content

An artist working at a table moving paints with a spreader

Checklists are great, and many professions use them. Pilots use them before every take-off. Medical professionals use them to avoid death or injury. The financial industry uses checklists when making investment research and decisions. Serial killers use them before going to the grocery store and killing all that cereal.

A checklist is a quick and easy way to make sure you’re on track, everything is in order, and it gives you a better chance to succeed. So, here’s a quick content checklist for you to go over before you publish any content to your site or page. These are just ten ideas; feel free to add more or lose ones that don’t work for you.

1: Is Your Topic Unique?

If your topic has been done ad nauseam, let it go. If the subject has been covered, but you have a unique or groundbreaking view, great, write that. Unique doesn’t have to mean no one has thought about it before; it means you’re bringing something new and uniquely you to the table.

2: Your Headline is Compelling

This works for users and the imperial wizard Google. A headline is how the Googs interprets the intention of your content. Does the headline grab and hold users, give them reasons to stay and engage? Is it descriptive and accurate? Spend time on the headline.

3: Is it Useful to Readers

Offer utility. When users read your content, will they walk away better for it? Will they be informed, have material that applies to their question or problem? Is your content just a waste of time?

4: Is Your Voice Clear and On-Brand

Is your content in line with what you’ve published for your brand in the past? You want consistency so your content cannot suddenly sound like another brand or person; you’ll confuse and upset your users. Be consistent.

5: How’s the Length

Look, there are rules of thumb, which in and of itself is a terrible saying, that governs the length of content. The going advice is under 1000 words for written and under five minutes for video. Okay, follow those if they work for you but don’t be constrained. As long as your content adds value to the subject, the length isn’t going to matter much. If your content is long, make sure it’s worth it.

6: Is Your Content Researched Properly

The internet is not a vacuum; if it were, my floors would be cleaner. There is information out there; make sure you research and present factual information. If it’s a new subject, there’s still something about it somewhere; find out and produce facts. Conjecture and unfounded opinion will get you labeled as untrustworthy.

7: Are You Adding Original Thought to the Subject

Are you bringing something new to the table? If the subject is well covered, why produce content about it if you’re offering your unique and original ideas. Don’t just regurgitate what’s been said before; add your take, view, and language to it.

8: Is It Easily Readable

Are you thinking about your audience, making sure you’re using words and language they can connect with? Are you working to elevate them a little without going way over their heads? Don’t dumb things down but don’t leave them in the dust either. Clear, concise, and readable.

9: Is it Actively Engaging

Are you talking at your audience or talking with them? By this, we mean are you leaving things open for discussion and cultivating an exchange of ideas? Are you encouraging users to give their opinions or follow your advice and report on the results? Does it engage beyond the page?

10: Are You Employing Multiple Mediums

For maximum impact, your content should use multiple mediums. If your content is primarily text-based, throw in some supporting images or video. If your content is predominantly visual, throw in some text to help the narrative become clearer.

ThoughtLab Does Quality Content

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It’s not easy, and it can significantly impact your brand, product, or page, don’t take content lightly. You know you need quality content, but you may not have the time or skills to produce it. That’s okay; ThoughtLab has you covered.

Stop in and get yourself a free consultation and find out how good quality content can elevate your brand, engage your users and help you stay on top of search engines. Give ThoughtLab a call today.