Since content marketing moved from the more rudimentary, offline forms into a digital form (c. 2004), and with drivers such as subscription-based content marketing platforms pushing the practice into the mainstream, the level of focus placed on the importance of content has continued to gather pace ever since. And it’s no bad thing.
However, in my experience, whilst organisations and big corporations might finally have gotten more of a grip on the notion that content is needed to provide ‘the backbone’ for their marketing campaigns, this widespread adoption has (perhaps somewhat predictably) also spawned quite a lot of shit and/or super mediocre content.
This is because, whilst getting some content created might be nearer the top of an organisation’s ‘to-do’ list these days, the true effort, skill and resource needed to creating quality content? Perhaps not so much...
I’ve banged on in many blogs about how frustrating I find the enduring habits of some in thinking that running off any old nonsense will do. In the industry, we have recently entered a renewed phase of content marketing/digital marketing, where another tick box has been added for your content creation (depending on the circumstances/brief of course), and that is that it should not only deliver some value to readers and be of a decent quality, but also embody a degree of ‘authenticity’ too.
Like many things that have been generated by someone creative, words and the way they are stitched together (as well as what counts as ‘good’ vs ‘bad’) can be very subjective.
For example, an article crammed with jargon, technical or industry-specific language might be high quality in the eyes of some, but others might feel it misses the mark because it’s too hard to digest by the reader. Add to that the fact that sometimes it might be perfectly reasonable to use more technical or niche language and really you might become quite overwhelmed by the prospect of what makes a quality piece of content.
Everyone’s experience is different, but I believe that there are, at the top level, some basic principles regarding content creation (for the web) which will always stay the same. They provide the basis for an ‘acid test’ for each and every bit of content out there.
- Writing for the end user
First and foremost, what your content offers the end user has to be one of the most important considerations when you’re creating content. When people start reading something - even from the first headline - they’ve started doing so because they’re looking for something; whether that’s information, guidance, inspiration or even comfort and reassurance.
It means that what you’re creating at your end needs to be useful and relevant for your end audience. If the content has no value, what’s the point of it being created?
Sometimes, something can appear to be really good; it reads well, looks credible, it’s spot on in tone of voice… but it’s actually flawed because it’s missed the mark with the real meat of the content - the facts. The truth. The numbers. The specific advice.
When it’s called for then, do that extra reading around the subject. Use those investigatory content tools to uncover interesting third-party sources you can draw on. Do some deliberate digging.
The other type of accuracy I’m talking about here comes down to spelling things correctly, avoiding typos and being spot on, stylistically (for example, making headings/sub-headings clear).
Writing for the end user
Something us writers can be guilty of on occasion is a bit of self-indulgence. I’m guilty of it sometimes - I admit it. But being wrapped up and immersed in your own views and thoughts can really dilute the end product for the audience. Also, think of your clients; they are counting on you to create something which really resonates with their prospects or existing customers.
Thinking of the end user/reader links in directly with the previous ‘value’ point above.
So, in order to tick this particular box, you need to be able to keep assessing and checking your draft content at various points, to see if it’s still meeting the brief.
No prizes for guessing what this principle is all about. The key to producing content that truly engages people often lies in how unique and relevant that content is. Is it bringing something different or exciting to the table, or not? Is it reworking something else, but giving it a fresh new angle?
Suffice to say, to stand a chance of your content really striking a chord with the end user, some real consideration time needs to go into it. From a singular social post to a lengthy white paper, it needs to be thought through. We all have different approaches for this, and that’s fine.
I know that I often take some time to reflect on a brief or the task at hand (particularly if I have too much free rein from the client!), and then give it some space to ferment in my head; almost to the point sometimes of it becoming procrastination. It’s like filtering ideas down to the final cut. It’s then, when I’m confident about approach that I’ll finally jump in and start crafting something.
I guess there are many ways you can cut this one. There’s optimisation for search engines of course, but as well as this, you could also look at ‘optimisation’ in the context of ‘user intent’. For example, have you understood what it is the end user/reader might have questions on and want answers about, and addressed this enough in your content?
What I’ve tried to distill into the above is really my own take on what makes content - good content. It’s trickier to execute these principles in practice sometimes, so I’m not pretending that you can just ‘follow the above steps and you’ll find it’s all simple’. I don’t think it is necessarily simple getting to that end point. However, what I hope this blog does help you do is reflect and refocus on what’s important whilst you’re in the midst of content creation, so you can make sure that the end content has real purpose and resonates successfully with your audience.
If you enjoyed this article and the ideas behind it, connect with Fi on Twitter. 👋🏻