You’ve heard it before—if you want to be successful in content marketing or SEO, you need to consistently produce high-quality content for your brand. But “high-quality” is a generic and ambiguous term that could mean a lot of things. It theoretically refers to multiple mediums of content, and applies to content written for any strategy for any brand, but what does it actually mean? Is there some kind of switch that triggers and suddenly turns a low-quality piece into a high-quality one?
It’s not a binary system—there’s a sliding scale of quality, and obviously, you want to get as high on that scale as possible. If you’re concerned or confused about the ambiguity of the term in relation to your own strategy, refer to this 15-point checklist, which I’ve used to define “high-quality” as succinctly and clearly as possible:
If your topic is one that’s already been done to death, don’t bother writing it. It will fail to generate any meaningful momentum, and most users won’t even notice it. If you’re doing something that’s already been covered, you need to offer a new or unique spin on it.
The headline is one of the most important parts of any piece of content—it’s what Google will use to interpret the intention of the article and what will form users’ first impressions. If your title isn’t descriptive, or accurate, or compelling and concise, users won’t click. Spend some time here.
After someone reads your article, will they walk away with something of value? Will they have the means to accomplish one or more of their goals? Will they have a better understanding of a certain topic? You need to offer some kind of utility here.
If you don’t already have a thought-out, well-described idea for your brand voice, that’s step one. A consistent, unique brand voice is the only way to build a loyal audience over time. When completing your piece, make sure it keeps that brand voice showcased and consistent.
This can be subjective. Generally, lists and “bite-sized” forms of content need to be short—under 1,000 words in written form or under 5 minutes in video form. More comprehensive, research-based pieces need to be longer—over 1,000 words or over 5 minutes. No matter the length, make sure every word (or every minute) is used to add value.
No topic exists in a vacuum. Even if it’s never been explored exactly before, others in the industry have written about similar or related topics. Be sure to do your background research before writing the piece, and include that information in your finished product.
Good pieces rely on others to bolster themselves. Your article should feature links to other pieces in your own archive (to support your own site structure and add information when necessary), and external links to outside sources that support your claims.
Few modern content pieces are successful in only one medium. If you write an article, for example, it’s a good idea to include an image or embedded video. If you do a video, include still images or written phrases to complement your work.
There’s already a discussion around this topic, even if your topic is somewhat unique. Are you adding something original to it, that’s never been mentioned or described before?
This is a subjective measure, but it’s an important one. Consider your audience; are you using words and terminology that are too complex for them to understand? Are you writing in a way that’s difficult to decipher or confusing? Be as simple, clear, and concise as possible.
Like a good novel, content should have a beginning, middle, and end, with well-structured parts in between. If your content isn’t organized logically, it will throw users off.
Modern web users have little patience for unorganized or strangely formatted content. Your articles should feature numbered lists, bullet points, or subheadings to make themselves scannable and easy to follow.
It’s not enough to talk to an audience; you have to invite the other side of the conversation. Encourage users to rebut or comment, and encourage them to follow your advice and report back with results. Keep your audience engaged.
Have you explored everything related to your topic? If you don’t have enough room to do this, you can mention side topics in passing along with a link so users can do their own supplementary research.
This can be a hard question to answer, but think about how other authorities in your industry will receive this content. Will they mention it in their own posts? Will they use your information as research for their future content? The more likely you are to be cited, the better.
Follow this checklist, and you should have a high-quality piece on your hand. Google will see this content as more authoritative than others, and your readers will appreciate it too—that means you’ll earn more loyal readers, more brand enthusiasts, more followers, and of course more links and shares. Keep your standards high, and your content and/or SEO strategies will reward you.
Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.