Updated: Sep 30, 2019
High-quality content creates trust, builds brand awareness, and turns strangers into customers and a
dvocates. We all know this, yet marketers keep failing when creating content; this post will show you how to avoid failure and be successful from the start.
The 2019 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks report shows that 96% of the most successful content marketers strongly believe that their organization’s credibility has increased because of high-quality content.
What is not so obvious is the definition of high-quality content. Words like “value” and “quality” are open to interpretation, and everyone seems to have an opinion on what these words mean.
I have put together a list of the core elements that constitute a high-quality blog post based on Google’s documents on SEO Best Practices, Webmaster Quality Guidelines, and the experiences of several renowned content marketing experts.
If your content covers these elements, it should fit most definitions of high-quality content.
1. It is Aligned With Your Business Objectives and the User’s Intent
You can’t define quality in isolation since it is a relative term. In digital marketing, it is largely determined by your business goals and the needs of your target audience.
You can’t call an article “high quality,” no matter how beautifully written and presented, if it doesn’t give the readers what they want from it or doesn’t contribute in some way to your business goals.
This confusion is precisely why searcher-intent is a key factor in Google Search algorithms.
For example, if your primary target audience is comprised of CMOs and Digital Marketing Managers of B2B eCommerce companies, even a 3000-word article about generic SEO advice is unlikely to gain their attention or turn any of the readers into your customers.
For you, and your clients, a more specific article would be much more valuable (something like this).
So before applying any other quality criteria to your content, ask yourself if it is something that your audience really want to read about. And even if they do, will it convert them into the kind of leads your business wants?
If yes, move on to the next points in this post. If no, come up with ideas that align with both the user’s intent and your business goals.
2. It Covers a Very Specific Topic in Detail
This is one of the most significant traits of high-quality content. It is comprehensive, in-depth, and goes way beyond surface-level knowledge. Instead of vaguely covering a dozen topics in one article, it addresses a very specific topic and covers it from all the relevant angles.
I am not advocating a certain word count or length.
If you can answer all the questions of your audience and cover a topic comprehensively in 1000 words, don’t drag it to reach 2500 words just because some expert says so.
I know several studies have proved that longer content ranks higher — for example, this study of more than 1 million search results by Backlinko.
But correlation doesn’t imply causation. There are other variables to consider.
Word count alone is not an indicator of quality. In fact, it can be really misleading. For example, I recently read a 3000-word article titled “73 Ways To Drive Traffic To Your eCommerce Store”.
From the outside, the word count looked impressive. But, I found that the article simply listed 73 different traffic generation strategies describing each in 30-40 words. As a result, the readers got no practical value from it.
The same article could have been much more useful had it focused on only one traffic generation strategy and described it in detail like this article about Quora.
To be considered high quality, your content needs to go in-depth and answer the questions of your audience.
What to Know About List Posts
So, rule no. 2 for creating high-quality content is to answer all the questions of your target audience on that topic no matter how many words it takes.
Your aim should be to create a resource that is more useful to your audience than anything published by your competitors.
3. It Solves Specific Problems and Offers Actionable Advice
High-quality content doesn’t just share information.
It also solves specific problems and offers actionable advice that the readers can apply straight away. It goes beyond “What” and describes the “How” part of a topic. For example, here are a couple of articles on the same topic: YouTube SEO.
One is published on a popular marketing magazine site.
The other is published by a leading SEO and content marketing blogger, Brian Dean.
They even have similar titles, but this is where the similarity ends. The first article shares half a dozen generic tips with little to no actionable advice.
The second one on Backlinko also shares 7 or 8 tips but goes beyond sharing information and tells the readers how to put each tip into action with step by step guidelines.
It is easy to see why it generated more comments and social shares as compared to the first article. So the next time you are writing an article, see if you have given your readers any concrete steps to follow.
4. It Shares Real-World Examples, Case Studies, and Data
We live in the age of fake news and propaganda, where it is increasingly difficult to verify anything you read online.
In a survey of US-based internet users, 65% of the participants considered online content “unreliable.”
Which is why sharing real-world examples, case studies, and scientific data to back your arguments is crucial to your content’s credibility.
Data, in particular, not only makes your content more reliable but also helps you earn natural backlinks from other high authority sites, as this survey of content marketers indicate.
Shopify is one company that uses examples and case studies in its content marketing strategy very effectively. This recent article on their blog is a great example.
Every sub-heading in this article has at least one real-life example of how entrepreneurs used the described strategy.
Doing so validates your opinions and give your readers a reference point to gauge the success or failure of your strategies.
5. It Uses Custom Visuals To Simplify Complex Ideas
Nobody likes reading never-ending blocks of text.
Because we are primarily visual learners and 90% of the information transmitted to our brains is visual according to a study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
One of the primary objectives of content creation is to share knowledge with your audience and help them take action. Content with visuals does that almost 323% better than plain text.
I find it much easier to remember information and understand complex data if it is presented in a visual format. Here are a couple of articles about website performance and speed. One shares all the information in plain text.
The second article shares the same information using visuals.
Which one is easier to grasp and remember?
The second one, of course.
You could also use clippings from relevant infographics published on other sites (linking back to the original source, of course).
Another strategy, which I feel is really under-utilized, is to embed relevant YouTube videos in your content. It not only enhances the overall user experience but also increases the time readers spend on your site.
This article about different animation companies is a good example.
They could have simply listed each company, but they chose to embed one video for every subheading, which drastically improved the readability of the content and the average time on page.
Considering the impact of visuals on your content’s performance and the ease with which you can find them, it’ is almost criminal not to use them in your content marketing strategy.
6. It Shares Relevant Resources and Tools
An essential part of making your content actionable and useful is to route your readers to detailed external resources they can use to explore the topic in more detail (if you haven’t created them yourself).
The same goes for any relevant tools or applications that can help your audience put your advice into action.
Ethical, for example, is an online magazine that promotes environmentally conscious spending and consumer behavior. Their content not only talks about different reasons why consumers should be more conscious of their buying choices but also gives them a huge list of alternative products they can use to make an impact straight away.
There are several ways you can help your readers with external resources. For example, you could recommend relevant books from Amazon, link to a published scientific study, route them to a course, or, if they are really serious about a topic, introduce them to a full university degree program.
For example, here is an article that lists the top skills social media marketers will need in the coming years; Data Science is one of them.
But instead of merely telling the readers about the importance of learning Data Science, it links to a complete online degree program in Data Science for marketers by a reputable university.
You need to be careful in recommending any resources or tools; make sure the privacy and security of your readers are not compromised in any way.
7. It is Scannable and Written in a Conversational Tone
Writing great content is useless if no one reads it.
A study by the Nielsen Group found that users barely read 20% of the content on a webpage. In fact, often they don’t read at all; they just scan content for highlighted points and important information.
Here is one of the heat maps from the study that shows user eyeball tracking.
The red area shows the parts of the page that the users read.
You can clearly see they are looking at the headlines, sub-headings, images, and lists. In comparison, there are hardly any eyeballs on the large text blocks on the page.
So how do you use this information to your advantage?
By making your content scannable.
Here is how:
- Break down your article into multiple sub-headings.
- Break the reader’s flow with frequent use of images.
- Highlight the key parts of your content using bold, italic, and possibly underlines.
- Use shorter paragraphs of 2-3 lines max.
- Write in a conversational tone and use words like You, I, Me, etc., that talk directly to the reader.
The formatting of your content plays a key role in determining how much of it is consumed by your readers; make sure you pay special attention to this part of content creation.
Are You Ready To Create High-Quality Content?
I have tried to break down the key components of high-quality content in this article so the next time you are creating an article you know exactly what you need to do to.
As apparent from this post, it isn’t as hard to create high-quality content as some people think. If your article covers all the points I have mentioned in this post, it will satisfy most definitions of high-quality content.
Let me know if you need clarity on any of the points. I would love to respond to your comments.