We work with a lot of SaaS founders, content marketing managers and solo-content marketing teams. We often ask them, how do you currently evaluate your content marketing efforts on a post by post basis. What we’re trying to find out here is how do they know when they’ve produced a good piece of content.
Often they’ll wait until they hit publish, see whether their content gets read, shared and commented on and then base their decision on that.
But that causes problems. You’ve already spent a great number of hours writing your blog post, so what happens if it doesn’t perform well?
You’ve wasted time, effort and probably money too.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. All you need is a framework to self-assess your content and have an accurate understanding of whether it’s good or bad before you hit publish.
In this post, we’re going to give you that exact framework to help you understand exactly what a good piece of content looks like and how you can ensure all your content is great too.
Why your content needs to be good
To begin with, let’s come to an understanding of what makes a good content creator. A good content creator is one who thinks about the words, images, structure and story behind the content they’re producing. Meaning, they consider the language and tone used, and the delivery of the content they share with the world.A good content creator is one that thinks about the words, images, structure and story behind the content they’re producing. Meaning, they consider the language and tone used, and the delivery of the content they share with the world. Click To Tweet
We all know that Google has a strong preference for great content. It’s no longer a viable route to think about quantity over quality.
But many writers struggle to evaluate their own work, especially when it comes to grammar, punctuation as well as the overall theme and story behind your content and how that content fits into your overall content marketing strategy.
Each time Google updates their algorithm, whether it be Penguin or Panda, there is always a strong desire to encourage us to create better content. Because the better your content is, the better your readers are served and Google wants their readers to find the exact information they’re looking for when they want it.
Even if you’re not a writer by trade, you should still be able to evaluate whether your content will resonate with your audience or not.
You can also use this framework if you’re working with a freelancer or content marketing agency to assess whether the work they’re producing is at the standard it should be for the price you’re paying them.
Many of you, who don’t see yourselves as a creative will make the right decision and hire someone who is to handle your content marketing, but evaluating whether or not their content is good is a task in itself. It’s easy to look at a piece of content and tell whether they’ve used the right ‘their’ ‘there’ and ‘they’re’ or whether they’ve gone, crazy, with, their, commas, and, used, far, too, many.
But working out whether the actual content is good and better than anything your competitors are producing is a lot harder.
Further to that, if you read your content and then read your competitors and see theirs is better, without the proper framework in place, it’s difficult to know what you need to do to improve your content.
Is the content original?
The internet is a crowded place. Especially in SaaS companies, you’re producing content in a saturated market whereby all your direct competitors are also producing content too.
If you depend on search to drive traffic to your site, you need to create original content. Why would Google rank your content on the first page, if there are other blogs that already do a great job of explaining the same concept you’re trying to explain.
A simple method of discerning whether your content is original or not is to search for the phrase you hope your audience will use to find your content.
Suppose you want to write a blog post about “The Benefits of a Loyalty Program”
These are the search results for that term. You should now look at that content, compare it to your own and check that your content is better.
- Perhaps add more detail?
- Maybe use more examples?
- Perhaps you have a better grasp of clarity when it comes to explaining your argument?
Find what makes your content original and less boring and focus on that 100%. When readers land on your webpage, you want to present them with information/structure/storytelling they can’t find elsewhere.
Is the content appropriate for your audience?
We spoke about originality but there is 100% a limit to how original you should be. There is such a thing as ‘too weird an analogy’.
For instance, let’s assume for a second you run an email marketing software company.
A simple google search of: “how often to send an email” comes up with a number of results.
So you decide in an effort to be original you want to publish a post that suggests you should email once a year, or even to go as far as never at all.
For an email software company, whose sole income depends on people using your software to send emails, this is an outlandish claim.
One that is only valuable if you are able to provide actionable advice and evidence that what you’re saying is truthful and will benefit your readers.
So consider, if you want to be original that your thoughts are also backed up by evidence.
Second to that, if you do decide to improve on the content out there by using different examples and analogies, you don’t want to go so widely out of context that your audience doesn’t understand or relate to what you’re saying.
Does your content add value to your site?
Ask yourself this question:
“If we didn’t publish this piece of content, would our readers be any better off?”
What that means is, does your content actually add value to your website. Think of every piece of content you publish as the homepage of your website, product or business.
Does the content you’ve produced grasp the expertize you have? Does the content act as a substantial depiction of what your business is about?
If this piece of content was the only piece of content you had to offer, would anyone want to learn more about you?
If the answer to any of those questions is: no, your content isn’t providing enough value.
This works on two levels.
On a top level, let’s assume again you have an email marketing software. You might write a really well-written blog post all about the benefits of getting 8 hours sleep. It might well be the very best piece of content about that topic, but it adds no value to your site because your direct customer and audience want to hear from you about email marketing and the struggles they face.
At the core level, it comes to not just writing content because you want to hit the publish button.
Your software company is about email marketing software, but that doesn’t mean you should post content about email marketing if it’s not going to add value.
A 250-word blog post titled “10 tips to improve your email marketing” is unlikely to add any value. It gives you 25 words to write each tip and doesn’t leave any space for an introduction or conclusion. We’re great advocates of longer content, but that content should also cover depth rather than just length.
So going back to your 250-word blog post. Is it going to add any value? Do your readers care?
If you really want to succeed at content marketing, you need to make a promise to your readers that you will provide them with endless value (especially if you want them to return to read further content).Contrary to popular belief, you don't need to post every single week if you want to succeed at content marketing. In many cases, 20% of your content will reap 80% of the rewards. Click To Tweet
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to post every single week if you want to succeed at content marketing. In many cases, 20% of your content will reap 80% of the rewards.
Does your content tell a story?
Your content doesn’t need to win the next Pulitzer prize, but it does need to tell a story. Now if your blog post is a step by step guide detailing how to change the size of an image, you probably don’t want to fill it with an unnecessary tale about how your cat was chased by a dog.
But you do need to ensure you start at the beginning, include a middle and have an end. Whereby the readers feel accomplished by reading your blog.
So if your blog post about how to change the size of an image starts with uploading the altered image to WordPress, then you have missed the beginning of the story. Unless you’re creating an ‘advanced guide’ most readers won’t know how to get to that stage.
In the above example, breaking down the steps into a numbered list will increase your chance of being featured in Google’s featured snippet.
If you have a how-to blog post, make sure you have included:
- Introduction: explaining why the user would want to follow your guide and how their life will be improved by doing so
- Middle: A middle section that actually explains HOW-TO
- End: Wrap it all up with a conclusion.
Does your content marketing align with your business goals?
We say it time and time again to our clients, but it should be said to you too:
Don’t write content for content’s sake.
Meaning, your content should have a goal. That goal should be aligned with your overall business goals.
To see how and where content fits into your business goals, we like to use the following template.
For instance, your business goal might be to increase revenue.
So you try content marketing to encourage those leads.
So you create content along a sales funnel that takes a reader from a stranger to a fan and advocate in order to close them and help them become a lead.
If you’ve outsourced your content think about how you feel when you read it. Do you find yourself skimming the content drifting from one point to the next because it’s information you’ve read elsewhere?
Sometimes you have to go with your instincts. If the content is good and you’re reading it and you’re engaged, it’s more than likely good content.
The ultimate aim here is to make your readers feel something.
There are a range of different things they could feel.
For example, this piece of content made me feel shocked at the thought of spending $20,000 on a domain, but also made me feel excited at the prospect of uncovering an incredible business opportunity.
It doesn’t matter so much how your content makes people feel as long as it makes them feel something.
Will it look good on the internet?
Seasoned content marketers will know this, but writing for the internet is different to writing. You can’t write a paragraph with 14 lines. Well, you can, but the chance of people staying to read the wall of text is unlikely.
You need short sentences and short paragraphs to match your audiences short attention span. Writing for the web is different to a book.
With a book, a reader has taken an objective decision to read your book based on a review or opinion that the content is worthwhile.
Online content is so accessible if your work doesn’t keep their interest straight away, why should they give you any more of their time? They’ll be another 14 articles with the same content anyways.
And in terms of readability using:http://copyandcheck.com/saas-storytelling/
- Serif font over sans-serif
- Large font over small font
- Breaking up your text with headlines
- Using bullet points to represent lists
- Including images for context
Will all go a long way to creating a good piece of content for the web.
Does it have correct spelling and grammar?
Their is know correct way two right too sentences.
I doubt your spelling and grammar is this bad but it’s still important. Incorrect spelling and grammar hinders how easily digestible your content is.
There’s also no excuse for poor quality work when content marketing tools like Grammarly and Hemingway exist.
Grammarly is a free (paid options available) tool that helps highlight any spelling or grammar errors you make.
Keep in mind, it’s not 100% accurate and sometimes offers suggestions that need to be taken with a pinch of salt. But, if you’re struggling to edit your own work, it’ll be able to alert you when you miss the u off “thought”.
Have you spent time producing it?
Some of our blog posts take up to and beyond 20 hours to put together. That’s not because we’re slow writers or we run out of ideas.
But because we make a promise to each and every client that the piece of content we produce on any given topic will be the best on the internet for that topic.
It’s a promise we don’t make lightly and one we try hard to make sure we follow.
Even if you have impeccable knowledge about the topic and a very quick typing speed, a good blog post cannot be produced in an hour.
Spend time making sure you’ve double checked your statistics, added relevant images and made sure you’ve created the best asset about that topic.
Have you read the best content that already exists on that topic?
Reading comes before writing. At least that’s what I tell all my writers to do. Spend one hour of each day reading. It doesn’t have to be about our client’s work.
The more you read the better you write.
What’s more, if you haven’t spent time reading the best content that already exists, how do you know if you’re producing something better?
And no: reading the titles isn’t enough. Just because someone has 10 tips in their list and you have 11 doesn’t make yours better.
Keep in mind that when someone lands on your blog or article, they’re looking for solutions or answers to the problems they have.
If your content is all about you and what you want to write about, without any thought to what they might’ve already read, you’ll push them away.
Back to the point of value. When you think about your content and whether it adds any value to your site, also consider whether it adds any value to your readers.
In one years time, after reading and digesting your blog posts, will your customers be better off?
If you have answers like: “in one months time, by following the rules of this blog post to the letter, our readers should have measurable results” or “in one months time the reader will have a better-secured website based on the steps they’ve taken in this post”, you’re onto the right path and know you’re creating valuable content.
We’ve all been there.
A friend has a new project or business and asks you to share it with your network.
Only you don’t think it’s very good and you’re embarrassed to be associated with, or endorse it.
If the same goes for the piece of content you’ve just produced, it’s time to get working on it.
It’s easily done, though.
Your content manager tells you, you need to get a new post up and so you rush to put together something as quickly as possible.
I’ll let you into a little secret:The world doesn't end just because you don't publish a blog post week in week out. Click To Tweet
Takeaways – How to evaluate your content marketing
We spoke with a founder who said the best thing he did was to share his unpublished content with his team who always gave him great reviews.
That’s why he couldn’t understand when his content didn’t perform as well as he’d expected. Because his team had all told him it was great.
This is the problem,
Especially if you’re a founder creating the content yourself, asking your staff what they think of it is counterproductive, they’re not following a framework, they’re being subjective and what’s more, they’re part of your company they probably admire you (or why would they be working there) and so they’re biased.
If you want your content marketing to flourish, you have got to get better at evaluating your own content. Granted, it’s easy to use metrics and reflect on content you’ve already published.
“Oh that content got 8000 shares, it must be good”
“We got 18 backlinks from that content it must have been good”
But if you don’t follow a framework to ensure that you can make these assumptions before you hit publish, you’re throwing darts in the dark, unsure whether your content will be good or not.
What tool or method do you currently use to evaluate the quality of your content? Leave a comment below!