Rinse & Repeat: Quality Content Checklist
By Amberly Dressler, Managing Editor
These days, everyone is a publisher, or so it seems with the creation of blogs, graphics, videos and similar material to persuade audiences to buy, try or “like” a company’s products or services.
Content marketing has impacted nearly every industry – and its adoption is simply incredible. Aberdeen Group recently found that 83 percent of its marketing respondents practice content marketing, and, guess what? Many of their efforts benefit enterprises with increases in site traffic, lead generation, customer acquisition and retention, social media engagement and search rankings (check out must-know content marketing stats at wsm.co/statscm). After so many years of publishing content to achieve these rewards, however, a natural decline in quality can occur.
With many efforts, practice does indeed make perfect but that’s not always the case with content. Sure, the more one writes the more confident they become as a writer, but if they aren’t careful, publishers (whether that’s a blogger, an SEO, a journalist) can become out of touch with what his or her audience really wants, how to effectively analyze efforts, the best ways to produce content and the optimal channels to share it. Let’s check off items from this quality content list for, well, everyone.
Conduct a Monthly/Yearly Content Audit
Reviewing past content successes and failures is a smart way to understand what has worked and what hasn’t in order to make more effective decisions going forward. Unfortunately, not all content producers have access to analytics other than page views and social shares, but reviewing and documenting even these basic metrics and then sorting them in Excel by most-viewed and most-shared, respectively, is a valuable practice (if their content management system doesn’t already offer access to more meaningful data or provide some integration to do so through a third-party provider).
SEOs may start to notice trends in the topics that are high performers and under performers, sparking their creativity to repackage (like turning a popular blog post into an infographic or a slideshow into a video) or update (e.g., version 2.0 or 2017 edition) content that was previously popular.
Once an audit system is established, they can start to add other attributes like most-used keywords to analyze even more trends in performance. Merging two popular topics into one could be a hit like, “Virtual Reality’s Impact on SEO.” Likewise, if one’s CMS doesn’t create word clouds for them, using a tool to generate their own, like Wordle, WordItOut or Tagul (based on the keywords that most-often appear within highly viewed/shared articles) may be just the spark – because of its visual representation – they need to complete an editorial calendar (more on that below) that fuels great content all week/month/year.
Establish a Cadence
Like in email marketing (wsm.co/6automate), establishing a regular content publishing schedule can prepare readers/viewers to expect when new material will be out – helping to increase traffic and read rates while reducing bounces for those hosting content on their sites.
A person, for example, who expects a software company’s blog to have daily posts because that has been the case in the past, will be disappointed when there is no fresh content to meet their expectations. The likelihood of them revisiting older content or diving deeper into the site is slim while the probability of them leaving for a competitor is much greater.
Companies need to evaluate how much content they can reasonably create without impacting other key areas of business (if hiring additional creators, taking on freelancers or opening up publishing to guest contributors is not an option).
Top B2B Content Marketing Metrics
According to the recently released "Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends" report from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 28 percent of B2B marketers don't measure the ROI of their content marketing. Failing to do so is a mistake, because tracking metrics — the right metrics — enables you to concentrate on the content marketing activities that most benefit your bottom line. Read more at wsm.co/b2bmetric.
Treating content creation as an afterthought or as an annoyance will not bode well for the company’s rankings, reputation or revenue. Readers reward thoughtful content by recommending it and spending time with it – signals the search engines will reward too.
The frequency at which a company publishes isn’t as important as creating the right content for their audience and delivering it based on their expectations.
Create a Calendar
Traditional publishers don’t conduct business without an editorial calendar – a document outlining their coverage for a set amount of time – and SEOs, bloggers and the like shouldn’t either. Planning content – whether it’s for the week, month or year – supports the previously mentioned cadence by keeping writers on task and advertisers, for the case of many, privy to publishing plans to meet their own agendas.
Using the previous two checkpoint items can help creators with their calendars: what has been popular, what hasn’t worked, how often should publish and what does our audience expect from us? It is wise to look at editorial with both a short- and long-term view. During the week, this content is published on this day (e.g., Mondays are devoted to makeovers whether that’s a local landscaper or a beauty salon, Tuesdays are focused on tip-based content, Wednesdays are how-to videos, and the list goes on).
Website Magazine, for instance, breaks down the week by our channels, devoting Mondays to E-Commerce Express, Tuesdays to Mastering Search, etc. By doing so, we hope our audience knows what to expect from the content on the site and the content being delivered by email. What’s more, it makes it easier to schedule from an email administrative perspective, allowing recipients an opportunity to self-select the content they want and providing advertisers a targeted audience.
A more high-level view of the year should also be recorded – which is particularly timely considering the New Year is now just weeks away – as it allows for content creators to tailor material to their industry (e.g., e-commerce software providers may provide research around reasons to replatform in November and December knowing that retailers will take on these projects immediately after the holiday season). Likewise, popular topics could be revisited each year as they are likely to change in some ways.
Local merchants, software vendors, airlines, hotels, retailers and other verticals are all keeping writers employed – relying, in many cases, on those with journalism backgrounds to give their content initiatives life. With that, however, enterprises must be willing to adapt to employees' experience where calendars are created and style guides are adhered to.
If a style guide doesn’t exist within an organization, it should be created for consistency. It can be difficult, for instance, for someone not familiar with the Associated Press Stylebook to forgo their Oxford/serial commas or understand when to spell out numbers (e.g., one, two, three) versus using the figures (10, 20, 3 million). Whether it’s AP Style, Chicago Style, a homegrown guide or a hybrid of different approaches, being consistent is key and allowing content creators to establish that consistent style, as well as edit for it, is part of quality control.
There’s perhaps nothing more writers like doing than to write about writing, so our editors have compiled more to this checklist (including the importance of vetting guest bloggers, improving “scan-ability,” investing in education, etc.) online at wsm.co/cqcheck.