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7 Questions to Objectively Determine the Quality of Content

Date published: July 13, 2015
Last updated: July 13, 2015

It’s hard to measure the quality of your content. It’s not like word count (which can be objectively and independently measured) or format (which can be quickly interpreted). There’s a sliding scale of content quality, and your piece could fall anywhere on that spectrum.

Two factors make the quality of content even more important in the modern era. First, Google’s algorithms are becoming even more sophisticated, detecting minute indicators that tell it how valuable a content piece is. This means content quality continues to grow in importance when determining a site’s rank, especially when compared to quantity. Second, the sheer volume of competition in the content marketing world means if you want to stand out, you have to offer something really worth reading.

To make the evaluation process simpler, I’ve created an easy-to-follow seven-point checklist that you can use to (somewhat) objectively measure the quality of your content:

1. Is the Topic Original?

You can check this one before you even start writing. Look at your topic and consider whether it has already been covered by another source. If you’re simply rewriting something you’ve already read, scrap it and start again. If you aren’t sure, Google the topic and see if anything similar pops up. If something does, you’ll need to make a change.

This doesn’t always mean completely scrapping the topic, but it does mean making adjustments so that your topic will stand out. Can you cover a different element of the story? Can you cover it from a different angle? Can you go into further detail? If so, make the proper adjustments and run with it.

2. Are Claims Backed with Data?

Next, think about how you’re framing your arguments. Are you backing up your claims and assertions with data or verifiable evidence? As a general rule of thumb, every article should cite at least one external source. If you don’t have any objective data supporting your claims, it could be a sign to both readers and Google crawlers that you aren’t speaking authoritatively on the subject. Your research doesn’t have to be exhaustive; sometimes a quick search is more than enough to help you find the data you need, but you must find something or risk losing authority and credibility.

3. Is the Article Easy to Read & Free of Errors?

This one generally requires an outside opinion, since it’s easy for writers to become blind to their own writing styles. Generally, you want your article to be readable at a middle school level though some niche topics may demand a higher vocabulary. Still, the simpler you can write, the better, and writing in a casual, conversational tone of voice can help your message come through more clearly. Get a coworker or friend to proofread your work and make sure it’s free of any grammatical, spelling or syntax errors. Such mistakes can be costly for your search ranks, as well as your reputation amongst your readers.

4. Are Sentences Concise?

Some writers stuff their articles full of vague sentences, general content or obvious preliminary information in an effort to artificially boost their size and scope. It’s true that longer articles appear more detailed and more authoritative, but only if that length is a result of meaningful sentences and analysis.

There should be no fluff in your article at all. Each sentence should have a clear intention, directive and value to the reader. If you’re concerned about this, look at each sentence and ask yourself if it can be deleted or shortened without changing its meaning. If it can, do so.

5. Can the Article be Skimmed?

This is more of a formatting issue than a writing issue. Most modern readers don’t have time or can’t be bothered to read every last word of your articles, so make it easy for them to scan your article at a higher level and still understand what you’re saying. You can do this by making structured subheadings, breaking your content up into different sections, and using numbered lists and bullet points to call out highlights that are worth extra mention.

6. Are There Practical Key Takeaways?

Modern content needs to be useful, or readers won’t bother reading it. For most companies in most industries, this means providing detailed instructions, specs or information regarding a product or service. How-to articles, FAQ articles and other informational pieces have accordingly become popular in the content world. If these types of content aren’t possible, highlight whatever intangible yet practical benefits your content has to offer, such as increased insight or greater perspective on an issue.

7. Is There a Visual or Interactive Component?

Written content is often overlooked, even if it’s well-structured and well-written. To spice up your content, attract more readers and keep the readers you do have happier, include some kind of visual or interactive component. An embedded image or video can greatly enhance the appeal of a written piece, as can an invitation to engage, such as a corresponding survey.

If you can answer all of these questions with a “yes,” you’ve got a well-written, high-quality content piece on your hands. Strive to make all your published materials adhere to these seven important standards, and if you ever miss the mark, learn from your missteps and update the content accordingly.

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