10 Elements of High Quality Content

Jayson DeMers said it best in his contributed article to Forbes, “‘Quality content’ is far more than just a buzzword marketers throw around for fun.” High-quality content has become a staple of online content creation, and it shouldn’t be shocking. The need for excellent written content has been ingrained in society for centuries. It can be traced back to the roots of verbal storytelling. If anything is shocking, it’s that it has taken so long for quality content to become a “thing” in cyberspace. But what exactly constitutes high-quality content?

A Return to Tradition

Before the age of self-publication, how did magazine and newspaper articles get published? In most cases, they were either assigned to a staffed writer or contributed by writers seeking publication. Any old article wasn’t published; it had to be relevant, well written and brimming with excellence. It also had to make it past the editorial staff, which meant things like grammar, spelling, format and the presentation were vital. Audience engagement was a must.

Today’s online content is following in the footsteps of good old-fashioned writing with a technological twist. When it comes to quality, the required elements haven’t changed. It can be identified by the presence of 10 primary elements.

1. It Puts the Audience First

What does your audience need? What do they want?

The highest quality content is tailored like a fine suit. The creators—from marketers and department heads to writers and editors—know their audience intimately.

Putting your audience first involves understanding. Before you can effectively create content for them, you must understand:

  • What drives them and motivates their actions
  • Their decision-making process
  • The problems they face and seek solutions to solve
  • How and why your product or service can benefit them, including what makes your business different from your competitors

Half the battle of engagement is connecting with your audience. You will only accomplish your goals with tailor quality content, and your tailoring will only be as good as your knowledge of your audience.

2. It Nails Appropriate Length

Short versus long is a debatable topic in this day and age. SEO experts are among the first to point out Google’s preference for long-form, meaty content. The top ranked pages to most search queries often hit 2,000 words. But the rise of mobile has made this fact a little less pertinent.

According to a report by InMobi, 83 percent of consumers favor mobile commerce. Some 60 percent of mobile users use their phone as their primary means of going online. And according to DeMers, “mobile users are showing a preference for shorter, more succinct content.”

Nailing appropriate length goes back to putting the audience first. If the content creators have done their due diligence, they know the composition of their audience. The length of the content, from web pages to blog posts, will be tailored to audience preference.

High-quality content will focus on your goals. It will incorporate the intent of your audience. It will find balance between pleasing the search engine gods and delivering audience driven copy.

3. It Comes with Goodies

Supplementing content with images, videos or infographics is like icing cake. Every caterer knows some like it sweet and some don’t. It is entirely possible to produce high-quality content without media. But consider this:

A baker creates two cakes. One is decadently frosted with satin finished chocolate icing and raspberries. The other is lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Both cakes are pleasing to the eye, but the decadently frosted one sells 50 percent faster. Why? Its visual appearance outperformed the simpler, less sweet cake.

Image Credit: MyHoneysPlace.com
Image Credit: MyHoneysPlace.com

Excellence can come in text-only form. However, visual content will outperform it every time in the areas that matter, including:

  • Time spent on the page
  • Social media shares
  • Attracting inbound links
  • Engagement

4. It Makes Grammar Gurus Gleeful

Did you know bad grammar could kill your brand? Not only will it turn away potential readers (i.e. clients), but it will also decrease your search engine ranking. Google and Bing are all about the trustworthiness of pages and sites. If your content is riddled with bad grammar, poor spelling or typos, it decreases trustworthiness.

We’ve all had a run-in with self-labeled Grammar Police. Despite the comical tales, grammar gurus have valid points. Your audience is far less likely to trust, respect and share your content if it isn’t of professional quality.

This isn’t to say nothing less than perfection is acceptable. But you should strive for perfection. A missed typo isn’t the end of the world; content bursting at its margins with errors is!

5. It Carries Your Voice

A unique voice is an extraordinary thing in cyberspace. Audiences are bombarded with content non-stop on their mobile devices and in their inboxes. The best way to rise above the static is to present a unique voice that makes your brand recognizable.

According to Social Media Today, high-quality content will “align with your brand’s strategic goals and values.” It is imperative to have a strategic plan from content to social media from the start. Only then will you be able to create and maintain your unique tone, style, and voice.

6. It Looks Awesome

When it comes to online content, how it looks is crucial. Everything matters from the format and presentation of a single blog post to the overall website design. Factors to keep in mind include:

  • Typography: Are the fonts on your website and blog easy to read? Are they appropriately sized being neither too large nor too small? Pay attention to bold, italicized and underlined text. Don’t overuse or improperly use font weights.
  • Graphics: There is no excuse for shoddy graphics. A professional logo trumps bare text. A feature image for a blog captures interest and hints at the post’s theme. When properly crafted, graphics enhance theme and style. They can even tie a website and social media profiles together.

And let’s not forget the importance of mobile optimization. HubSpot reports 48 percent of users landing on a business website that doesn’t perform on mobile react poorly. Most people see it as an indication of an uncaring, unprofessional business.

7. It Offers a Unique Perspective

When you take a trip to the grocery store, do you purchase fresh or stale produce? It’s a silly question, but it packs a punch. You wouldn’t dream of buying stale, moldy vegetables from your grocer. Why would you expect your readers to digest stale or recycled content?

Image Credit: Sura Nualpradid via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image Credit: Sura Nualpradid via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fresh fruits and vegetables are as necessary to healthy living as a unique perspective is to successful content. People don’t want to read the same thing on fifty different websites or blogs. They want to read something unique.

“But Anita, it’s 2014. How is it possible to be unique when everything has been done?”

I hear this a lot, especially from students. To some extent, it’s true. It is 2014. After centuries of reinvention, how much more unique can you get?

“The only thing you sometimes have control over is perspective. You don’t have control over your situation. But you have a choice about how you view it.” ― Chris Pine

No one sees the world as you do. You can offer a unique perspective by offering a little piece of yourself. It’s the humanity of our content, our unique way of seeing things that grant fresh perspective. Never be afraid to tap into you because you are beyond limits.

8. It Isn’t Intrusive

High-quality content has no room for forced advertising or sales. Readers are well past the days of, “Buy this because…” and paragraphs of “click here.” Instead of intruding on their reading time with sales pitches and car salesman like calls to action, be a great storyteller.

Excellent copy inspires and educates. It is so beautifully written that the reader cannot help but act, either by learning more about the author or the attached business, product or service.

9. It’s Complete with Sources, Citations, and Links

Excellent content is usually accompanied by fact. Backing fact with sources through citations and links is a pillar of quality.

Some feel citing a source will pull attention away from their content, but it actually has the opposite effect. Readers appreciate fact over opinion. They are more likely to consider or agree with your opinion if it is supported by fact.

Give your audience the ability to arrive at a fully informed and educated opinion. You’ll win brownie points, not shift attention.

10. It Has an Identifiable Source

There’s nothing worse than reading a great article and having no idea who or where it came from. High-quality content has an identifiable source. Authorship shows responsibility, and it earns trust, credibility, and loyalty. If you ever feel a piece of content shouldn’t be attached to your name or brand, don’t publish it.

Write For Humans

The epic tip all writers, copywriters, editors and content creators can walk away with is this: Write for humans, not search engines. High-quality content is crafted with the end user in full focus. While it may contain a few technical elements targeting crawlers and search ranking, it must first and foremost be for the audience.

High-quality content is beneficial and full of value. It incorporates great storytelling. It’s pleasing to the eye. It’s a technical masterpiece, and it’s a little piece of humanity. How does your content measure up?

Feature Image Credit: wavebreakmediamicro at 123RF Stock Photo

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