Creating unique, high quality content for company websites, blogs or social is one of the biggest challenges businesses face. Each piece you publish must accurately reflect your business and be unique, engaging, and relevant to have any positive effect with your readers – and with search engines.
Use this informal litmus test to see how your content measures up. Be critical in your evaluation of your new content; you’re only hurting yourself by going easy on it. If it helps, have an associate objectively score your content (if you feel that work you’ve created is Your Baby, you need a fresh set of eyes on it).
If you answer “No” at all – ever – to any of these questions, make your best effort to improve the work before you hit publish.
Before you write/draw/record or otherwise create content:
- Is there a need for what I plan to create within my market? If you answer “No” or “I don’t know,” research the topic, reader feedback, competitors and the market before proceeding.
- Have I done my best to make sure there’s nothing too similar out there already? If not, search for similar pieces of content before proceeding.
- Am I doing this for the right reasons, or is it because everyone else is or I feel like I have to? If not, why are you doing this? Aren’t you wasting your time?
Once you’ve created your draft content, evaluate for:
- Have I researched and properly referenced all previously published information I’ve mentioned? If not, do your due diligence, know your topic, and credit previous works.
- Have I had someone proofread for spelling and grammar? If not, have someone else read over your work, as it’s incredibly difficult to edit your own content.
- Have I had someone fact check my work? If your content required any kind of research and wasn’t written from first-hand experience, have a colleague fact check to ensure accuracy.
- Can I prove new concepts or ideas I’m putting out there? If not, even when writing from personal experience, it’s still important to back up what you’re saying (even if it’s a theory) with your own case studies, reports, images, etc.
Relevance & Value
- Is this something my readers/viewers/listeners are likely to care about and/or learn from? If not, determine your purpose before proceeding to help create focus.
- Is this directly related to, or does it tie in to, my product/service or industry? If not, stop reaching and hone in on what matters.
- Is my contribution to the topic at hand timely, or is it an evergreen topic? If not, find a more current angle to tie your content to, or ensure the information you’re offering won’t become quickly outdated to make it evergreen.
- Can a reader/viewer/listener take one crystal clear point away from this piece of content? If not, you may lack focus or need to split it up into multiple pieces of content to keep each one on point.
- Does this piece of content offer something my target market can’t get anywhere else? If not, you need to add your own perspective or knowledge.
- Am I properly quoting or referencing the work of others? If not, or you’re not sure, use only 50 word or less excerpts (not a law, but a best practice) and link back to the original source.
- Did the majority of the content come from my own personal experience, my opinion on a news or industry topic, or otherwise out of my own mind in some shape or form? If not, and the work consists largely of content sourced from elsewhere, it’s really a form of curation, not content creation. It needs your own personal flavor (and quite possibly less of everyone else’s) to make it unique.
- Does the voice, tone and overall message match my own (for a personal site) or those of my company? If not, take another crack at it. Your brand message is what makes you unique and your visitors expect your content to be consistently “YOU.” Give them what they came for.
Engagement & Purpose
- Does my content satisfy an actual human desire for information, humor, controversy, insight, etc.? If not, pinpoint what it is you want the reader to think, feel or do; discover what you need to do to elicit that response. Think of Google’s Do, Know, and Go searcher classifications and try to understand what it is your visitors are looking for, then deliver it.
- Have I made clear what action I want the reader/viewer/listener to take next, whether it’s to share the content, call a phone number, email my company, complete a purchase, or sign up for a newsletter, for example? If the answer is no, add a clear call to action.
- Does this piece of content offer resources to explain industry-specific terms or offer more in-depth information on introduced topics? If not, provide links to definitions or other content; don’t assume all readers are at one level or understand all concepts.
- Is it easy for people to share this piece of content? If not, add or update social like and share buttons for all major networks and add a subscribe option.
- Is my content accessible for people of differing levels of abilities? If not, use descriptive alt text for images (this has more than SEO value!), transcribe audio, or caption video.
Finally, before hitting the publish button, ask yourself:
- Is my formatting easy to read, with callouts where necessary to highlight important points, enough white space, and logical paragraph breaks? (For video content, is it easy to watch, clear in high resolution, etc. For audio, is the sound optimal and volume steady?) If not, view/listen in a preview mode and make changes as necessary.
- Does my summary, meta description or excerpt clearly and accurately explain what people can expect to find if they click a link on a social site or search engine? Further, do I deliver in the content itself what I promised in the description? If not, take another shot at your description until it accurately reflects the content and vice versa.
- Is my title logical, relevant, eye-catching, attention grabbing, and likely to appear in searches on the topics I’m targeting with this piece of content? If not, come up with a few alternate titles and try them on for size before choosing the one you will tie to the content, forever and ever, amen.
Anyone can publish online, it’s true. If you want your content to stand out, however, it’s important to up your game.
Once you’ve run through this list a few times, these points should become second nature and a part of your content creation process. You will begin to consider these factors earlier in your process, making it less time consuming and easier to optimize as you write or record. Print this out and keep it handy as a pre-publication checklist.
Do you have other elements in your own content litmus test that your writing or other pre-published work must live up to? Let us know which standards you measure your content against in the comments!