When I first started up this website, I wanted to write better articles. So I wrote down a mini-manifesto that defined the way I wanted to work.
The resulting 10-point philosophy is my commitment to quality content writing.
But it can also act as an in-depth checklist to determine the quality and potential impact of any new article you create.
Want to learn how to write better articles? Try asking yourself some of the following questions when you bolt together any new content. If you can be brutally honest with yourself, you can often rate your next post for its overall ‘goodness’, fix any problems and give it an improved chance of success.
Discover hidden problems in your articles…
The first point you should address is this: is your latest post worth writing? If you find yourself saying ‘no’ more than you’re saying ‘yes’ to the questions below, you might want to rethink your approach.
Q. Is what you’ve written UNIQUE?
- Have you cut-and-pasted the content (i.e. from a press release) or is it all-new?
- If you have cut-and-pasted some content, have you credited your sources?
- Have you added your own perspective/commentary/analysis to add extra value?
Q. Is what you’ve written ORIGINAL?
- Is the content NEW enough?
- Is your approach DIFFERENT enough? (Sometimes presenting existing information in a new way is all it takes to get noticed – check out the brilliant Information is beautiful…)
- Has it been done before?
- If it has been done before, are you doing it better than the competition? Is your content bigger or better (extra info)? Is it snazzier (video/audio)?
Take a look at your post’s overall VALUE proposition
Take an honest look at how useful your content is, both for you and for your readers. You won’t write better articles if the content they contain is thin or shallow. Start by asking yourself some key questions:
Q. What does your post actually DO for readers
- Does it solve a problem? Inform? Educate? Entertain? Inspire?
Q. Is what you’ve written RELEVANT?
- Is the content a good fit for your blog?
- Does it contribute to your overall editorial goals/strategy?
- According to your reader profiles, is the content what your readers really want?
- Have you stayed focused on the main point and covered it clearly?
Q. Is what you’ve written COMPREHENSIVE?
- Have you included as much detail as possible?
- Have you give people links to follow if they want more information?
- Have you boosted the authority of your content with examples, quotes, stories, case studies, infographics or related stats?
Q. Is what you’ve written ‘TIME-dependent’?
- If yes, are you too late with your post to get noticed?
- If no, will it stand the test of time and be just as relevant or valuable a year from now?
Write better articles for an online audience
If you’ve got more ‘yes’ answers than ‘no’ answers so far, then your content looks solid and hopefully delivers some value that will resonate with your audience. Don’t ruin it by skipping the ‘optimisation’ phase. For example:
Q. Is what you’ve written ACCESSIBLE?
- Are you using the most efficient content format?
- Do you get to the point of the article quickly enough?
- Do the opening lines make people want to read on?
- Is there anything that your reader might not understand (and that you haven’t explained)?
- Is it easy on the eye? (i.e. short sentences and compact paragraphs)
- Have you added extra entry points (bullets, subheadings, bold or capitalised words, a strong image) to re-capture the attention of skim-readers?
- Have you chosen the right keywords?
Q. Have you checked your post for ACCURACY?
- Have you checked your spelling by eye? Don’t just rely on a spell-checker
- Does it make sense? Check your grammar carefully
- Have you adhered to your blog or website’s style guidelines?
- Have you double-checked your facts?
- Are names of people, places, events and products correct?
- Are there any rogue spaces or ugly paragraph breaks?
- If you’ve used any links, have you checked that they work?
Give your content the best chance of getting noticed
In this final part of the content-checking process, it’s all about conversion (persuading people to read it) and next actions (encouraging them to do something else).
Q. Does your content STAND OUT?
- Does it have a great title/headline that will attract people’s attention?
- Will your content provoke a response?
- Have you targeted the right keyword for your audience?
- Have you used your keywords (and any related key phrases) in the most effective places within your content?
- Have you promoted your post so that people know about it?
Q. Have you included a CALL TO ACTION?
- Have you given your reader something to do after they’ve finished reading your article?
- Have you directly asked for comments?
- Have you included an newsletter opt-in box?
- Is there a recommendation for a product or another post?
- Do you give people the option of sharing your content with their friends?
So there you have it. Our Good Content Company philosophy re-imagined as a publishing checklist. I hope you find it useful and it will ultimately help you write better articles.