I think we all would agree that the world is filled with some pretty crappy content. Just scroll through your Facebook / LinkedIn feed and count how many posts start with the title “The Secret to…” (example).
What I’m still trying to figure out is, if that is the “secret” then it’s not a secret anymore, right?
Every author claims to know the coveted “secret” to their industry, and it’s extremely easy as a reader to get sucked in. I mean, how can you not click on a blog post that is titled, “97-Year-Old Shares the Ultimate Secret to Happiness.” I want to be happy. I want to learn from someone who is mature and wise…
The issue is that more times than not, articles like these are written by a 20-something-year-old writer who simply quotes the 97-year old. Now you’ve spent seven minutes reading a bogus article from an underqualified person.
Raise your hand if this has happened to you. (I’m raising my hand)
Articles like this are much more valuable if they are actually written by the 97-year-old. Or, if the 20-something-year-old author interviewed the 97-year old. In that case, the title wouldn’t be misleading and readers would walk away with exactly what they hoped for.
It’s time for this crappy content to end.
In this post, we’re peeling back the layers of what quality content actually is. We’re not diving deep into analytics, or any type of complicated marketing jargon that would overcomplicate things. We want to make things simple. We want this article to be actionable. We want to explain everything in laymen’s terms and present a simple plan for evaluating the quality of your content.
At the end of the article, you can download our quality content checklist. Feel free to print it out and tape it to your desk as a friendly reminder that together we can end the production of crappy content.
Is Your Content the Right Length?
This is the million-dollar question. Ask any content marketer and you’ll hear “200 words,” “300 words,” “400 words,” “500 words,” “a minimum of 1000 words…”
With so many opinions, how do you know who is right?
Well, if you think about content in this way then everyone is right.
What these marketers are neglecting is that word length choice should be based on how your readers are consuming your content. Quality content should always be written with your audience’s reading habits in mind. If they read your content on mobile, then write for mobile. If they read your content on desktops, then write for desktops.
But what about Google? Don’t they prefer long-form content?
Yes, Google certainly has a proclivity towards long-form content, but mobile users crave short and to-the-point articles. This article, for example, is written for the purpose of reading on a computer. Right now, in our company’s life, more people are reading our blogs on computers than mobile phones. Even though we know that mobile search has overtaken desktop search by 60%, we’re still optimizing for desktops.
Your word length goals should center your audience:
- If you want to produce content for desktop, go for longer articles – 1,000+ words with outbound links and images.
- If you want to produce content for mobile, include lower word counts, bullets, large headings, and outbound links to other mobile-friendly articles.
Does Your Content TMSIDK?
I’m a huge podcast listener. From Tim Ferris, to Serial, to TMSIDK.
What is TMSIDK?
Tell Me Something I Don’t Know is live journalism wrapped in a game-show package and hosted by Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the Freakonomics books and host of Freakonomics Radio. The show is brilliant. The premise is about sharing interesting facts that both the experts and the audience doesn’t know about.
The best part about each fact is that it has to fit into three categories:
- Is the fact something you didn’t know?
- Was it worth knowing?
- Is it demonstrably true?
Why I like this strategy for content is because it fills one of the main reasons people write in the first place – to share knowledge that others are looking for. If your content can check the box on all three of these criteria, then you’re on your way to quality content.
Does Your Content Have Rich Media?
“Rich media” means photos, videos, music etc.
Having rich media within your content improves your inbound links, social media shares, and time spent on page by 40%. Simply put, people respond to rich media better than plain text.
Google also factors in rich media when evaluating quality content. This is because since articles with rich media have a 40% higher likelihood of being shared, inbound links will increase – a strong search ranking factor.
Inbound links are when other sites link to your site – this strategy is one of the strongest factors in Google’s ranking algorithm and rich media is known to be 12x more shareable than simple text. Think of inbound links as social validation. They act as stamps of approval for search engines.
But know that it is possible to have quality content without rich media. Harry Potter is gripping content yet there aren’t any photos, videos, or music in those books 😉
Is Your Content Well-Written?
One sentence – EVERYONE appreciates a well-written article.
Refine, re-work, and obsess over every word. I suggest that you look into the writing tool, Hemingway App. It’s a great resource for improving your writing skills.
That is all 🙂
Does Your Content Have the Right Formatting?
Now that you have refined your words and you’re ready to publish your article, it’s time to look at formatting. Quality content should be ascetically pleasing and skimmable.
It pains me to say this but a majority of people are not reading your content. You heard that right, they’re just scanning it for the little nuggets of gold that your title suggests they will find.
In order to make your content skimmable, consider:
- Having short sentences and paragraphs. Notice how everyone on LinkedIn is doing this now?
- Having bullet points or lists (similar to this one)
- Bolding important parts
- Adding italics to quotes
- Having headers and sub-headers break up the text in a hierarchal fashion.
Google can now recognize layout. Their algorithm can potentially penalize you for poor formatting. So, if your readers don’t call you out on it, the all-mighty Google will.
Is The Author of Your Article an Expert?
This one is important so listen up.
Not everyone is an expert. Thus, Google heavily weighs the expertise of an article’s author. Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines demonstrates how the author’s expertise affects the authority and trustworthiness of the article.
If you plan on writing something with the intention of helping others (which a lot of the content online does), then make sure there is proof that demonstrates the author’s credibility. This clearly falls into Google’s evaluation of “Your Money Your Life” (YMYL).
“Your Money or Your Life (YMYL) are pages that can have an impact on your current or future well-being (physical, financial, safety, etc.). YMYL pages should come from reputable websites and the content should be created with a high level of expertise and authority.”
If you’re a business that produces content, evaluate the credibility of your authors.
- Are they well-known?
- Do they have the expertise to speak about your subject?
- Are they known online as leaders in the space and have strong brand recognition?
This is exactly why we started ContentPair. Our mission is to connect well-read business blogs with experts. Join the waitlist to be notified when we’re ready to launch.
Where Else Has the Author Been Published?
A well-known term within the digital marketing community is “Author Rank.” This term represents the amount of content that the author has published. The more the content, the higher the rank. While this isn’t an official part of Google’s ranking strategy, it does hold merit and deserves to be discussed. Simply because if the author is published on multiple sites, then it most likely means that their writing quality content. Otherwise, if they weren’t, they wouldn’t have as many publications.
If you’re looking to improve your business’s content production, look to content partnerships. When evaluating writers, look to see where they’ve been published. Have they been published on trusted websites? If so, then it’s a good indication that they’ll produce quality content for your business and brand.
Does your Content Perform Well on Social Media?
For a long time, Google has denied that social media plays a role in their quality search ranking. According to them, no matter how well a piece of content performs online, it won’t affect how they rank it. However, many studies contradict these claims. Now, I’m not here to take a stance on one side or the other, but I find it hard to believe that they don’t weigh social media when deciding the quality of content.
Content that performs well on social media is another form of social validation. It’s logical to think that the more an article is shared, the more inbound links it will attract, thus strengthening the argument for quality and that it’s related to Google’s algorithm.
Lastly, Does the Content Provide Value?
I can’t stress this enough. One of the fastest ways to understand if your content is quality content is to write it with your readers in mind.
I’ve seen this over and over (in fact, I fell and still fall into this trap sometimes). I see businesses create content that THEY like and want to read, as opposed to what their readers want. More times than not, writing content without consulting your readers first will result in topic misalignment.
So, in order to help, here are a few questions to always consider when deciding on a topic. Value can always be derived from these:
- Does it answer a question that your readers are asking?
- Does it address one of their problems?
- Is the perspective unique?
- Is it written by a noticeable expert?
If you answer yes to any of these four questions, and you’re not stretching your answers, then it most likely provides value and is, therefore, quality content.
In 2018, I challenge you to double down on quality content. If you’re an expert and you want to start building your brand, or you’re a business and you want to improve your quality content, then you can now use this knowledge and lead the way in ending the publication of crappy content.
As promised here is the Quality Content Checklist. Download it HERE.
I would love to know your thoughts on this. Please submit your comments below. Let’s start a healthy discussion about quality content.