Imagine that you’ve just written what you believe is a great piece of content. You’re ready to get it off your plate and send it out to the world. But wait just a second! Before you hit the publish button, are you positive that you’ve done everything you can to ensure your content’s success? After all, you’ve probably worked hard to create that piece of content, so don’t you want to be sure that it will work just as hard for you?
Below we have put together a list of the 10 questions that we think content marketers should always ask themselves before they publish their content. Maybe you’re already asking yourself some of them, which is a good start. However, unless you can answer yes to all of them for every piece of content you create, you’re doing your content and yourself a disservice. If you don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to make your content great, always ask yourself these questions:
1) Is it really readable?
It’s easy to bog content down in ways that make it hard for readers to understand. Using long, overly complex sentences, lots of acronyms, or industry jargon, for example, not only slow readers down, it makes reading the content much less enjoyable. Do your readers a favor and simplify your writing. They’ll appreciate it!
2) Is it easily scanable?
Even though we want people to read our content, the reality is that people are short on time and often skim instead. That’s why you should always ensure that your content is laid out to accommodate people who are scanning so that they can get the gist of what you’re trying to communicate even if they don’t read every word.
Improving scanability often is as simple as:
- Breaking up long paragraphs into smaller, easier-to-consume chunks
- Breaking up paragraphs with headings and sub-heads
- Putting key information into bulleted lists.
Long documents often also benefit from an executive summary or callouts that summarize key points.
3) Was it written with a specific audience in mind?
As writers, we always want our content to resonate with our audiences. Yet unless we have a good understanding of who our audience is — and in particular what they need and care about — that’s pretty hard to do.
So before you write your next piece of content, try to put yourself in your customers’ shoes: What pain points do they have that you can help them resolve? What types of content do they prefer to consume? What style is going to be most effective with them?
The more you consider your audience, the better the content you create is going to be.
4) Does your content have the right tone of voice?
While you’re thinking about your audience, think about what kind of tone of voice is most likely to resonate with them. Is it ok to adopt a casual tone, or is something more formal appropriate? Are you writing for a general audience or for one with a high level of knowledge and expertise? Is it ok to introduce a little humor into your writing, or does it have to be strictly professional. Getting the tone of voice right is essential to creating a piece of content that works for your audience.
5) Does it provide value to the reader?
This is one of the main tenets of content marketing. You’ve got to give your audience information that they need or want. It’s no longer enough to simply tout the virtues of your business, your products, and your services. Instead, you’ve got to use your content as a way of conveying to your audience how they can solve whatever problems they may be facing. If you don’t, you’ll be wasting their time, something that they surely won’t appreciate.
6) Is it optimized for search?
You need to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to make your content attractive to search engines. That means adding keywords in all of the right places (e.g., your headline, sprinkled throughout your content including the first sentence, and in your meta tags, to name a few). Adding links to other pages within your site and externally can also help.
7) Does it have a compelling call to action?
The whole point of creating content is to get your audience to do something as a result of consuming it. That could be something as simple as consuming even more content or it could be getting them to make a purchase. No matter what the case may be, your audience won’t do anything unless you direct them to with a clear call to action. Importantly, don’t dilute your message with too many calls to action. One or at most two is all you should include.
8) Does it have a great headline and image?
With so much content competing for people’s attention, you’ve got to work really hard at attracting people to yours. In most cases, the only bait we’ve got are the headlines and images that people see before clicking on a particular piece of content. Make sure that your headlines are pithy and engaging and that they accurately represent the content that people will find when the click through. Photos should be high quality, visually engaging, and not generic stock photography.
9) Does it give credit where credit is due?
There are lots of great ideas out there and not all of them are going to be yours. It’s fine to share other people’s ideas, but when you do, make sure that you give them credit for it. Take care to cite your sources. Not only will it make you look more credible and trustworthy, it will keep you out of trouble over the long term.
10) Do you have a strategy for distributing your content to the right people?
Creating the content is just the first step in content marketing. What are you going to do after you publish it to ensure that it gets in front of all of the right people? Beyond just publishing the content to your website, you need to consider how you can promote it through social media, influencer marketing, paid promotion, and other tactics. This is an incredibly important piece of the puzzle and, if you’re not giving it the attention it deserves, you’re missing out on a big opportunity.
So can you answer yes to all 10 questions? Or are there other questions that you like to ask yourself before you publish your content?