But as you might already know, it’s often those details–the quality of those inputs–that determine the quality of your end result.
This is what I’m emphasizing lately to our newly formed content marketing team here at AutoGrow.
Our goal for 2015 is to grow our audience to 100,000 website visitors per month. To accomplish this, I knew we’d need to be putting out significantly more content than we are right now, which is why we started putting this team together in late 2014.
The idea is that based on the sales funnel we already have setup, this increase in traffic will trickle down and result in significantly business growth. For example, we know that each visit right now is worth about $1 in revenue. So even if this number is cut in half as our audience grows, we’ll still be exceeding our financial goal for the year ($40,000 per month).
However, the real linchpin to making this work is ensuring that every piece of content we produce is well-written and addresses an information need in our market.
The latter can be described as “content-market fit” (similar to the idea of product-market fit) because if there’s no fit with what our target audience actually wants then the content won’t be shared and we’ll erode the very relationship with our audience that we’re trying to grow.
“Above all, make sure you write something that engages people and that is valuable,” I said to one writer on a recent call.
How do we know that content quality matters?
Take a look at the stats below that I pulled from our Google Analytics account. Both pieces of content were published around the same time in 2014 and promoted in nearly identical ways. However, example B received almost 10 times the pageviews compared to example A, not to mention the increase in average time on the page.
Example A represents content from a new writer who, at this time, had just joined our team and had very little training. Example B is something I wrote.
From a past article we already know that content quantity increases traffic. But this data seems to show that quality does as well. As I’ll discuss below, it also impacts sales.
This begs the question though: how do you increase or guarantee that the content you’re publishing is high quality?
- Ensure content-market fit
- Avoid typos and grammar mistakes
- Pictures, videos, data, examples = increased perceived value
- Stories suck readers in and connect with people on a deeper level
- Fully answer the question you set out to answer.
- Put yourself int he shoes of the reader
- Have a checklist
Let’s go through each in greater detail.
Quality Tip #1 – Ensure “Content-Market Fit”
This is something that should be confirmed upfront before you start writing, not after the article is finished.
While this is easier to ensure the more experience you get through interaction with reader and by tracking the performance of past content, there are a few ways to confirm upfront that you’re on the right track.
First, look at a competitor’s blog and, assuming they publish regularly, review the 25 most recent posts. Pick out the top two highest performing articles in terms of shares and comments. The idea here is to take what topics already work well, and create new content that’s even better and more comprehensive. Neil Patel was able to show in a recent blog post that a similar strategy worked extremely well and increased traffic by 74%.
The next step to ensure content-market fit is to determine the top search keywords likely associated with this topic and plug them into Google Adwords’ search volume tool along with the Google Trends tool. This will show you exactly how many searches there are per month for those target keywords and whether the market of people searching for those terms is stable, growing, or shrinking.
This is also an opportunity to make sure that not only does the content topic you’re writing on match your audience’s need, but this also helps to ensure that the words you use are in alignment with how people think about and search for information on that topic.
And the better your alignment, the more likely your article will rank in search, be clicked on, and drive conversions and leads on your site.
Quality Tip #2 – Avoid Typos and Grammar Mistakes
I used to think that typos and related mistakes didn’t really matter or count for much in the minds of your audience. More than a few snuck by me in 2014 and I thought nothing of it at first. I figure, it was the ideas that mattered, the “content.”
Of course that’s true but the issue is also the presentation of that content.
For example, after fixing blatantly obvious typos on our sales page for the Sales Funnel Blueprint course, I noticed an immediate improvement in sales of about 20%. And since it’s a web-based product, that’s the kind of small change that will pay dividends far into the future.
In addition, I received a number of emails from loyal readers letting me know about several other typos on various posts and pages of the site.
The fact that people cared enough to let me know about something that I initially thought was minor was only further proof that it mattered. At worst, content errors only serve to detract from your credibility and make you look unprofessional, and distract your readers, at best.
When creating content, be sure to proof read everything you write. I’ve found that the most effective way to do this is to read what you’ve written out loud.
This is because when reading silently, your brain has a “weird” tendency to gloss over or “auto-correct” grammar errors so that they go undetected. However, when you’re reading aloud, you’re more actively engaged since your brain has to process each word and the order its in individually. As a result, far fewer errors will slip by you.
Quality Tip #3 – Provide examples, cite credible sources
The quality of your content is largely determined by how clearly your ideas are communicated to your audience. In order to ensure that this happens, you have to illustrate and prove your points with examples and/or by citing credible third-party sources.
For instance, to support the tips that I give in my sales funnel webinar on which colors convert best, I cite a scientific study from the Journal of Consumer Research.
Now, listeners might not be familiar with that magazine but, it is a third party resource and when I explain the exact study that I’m pulling the data from, it further lends the example (and the article, and our brand as a whole) credibility.
Quality Tip #4 – Tell stories to make your content more effective
There’s a reason why many of the best internet marketers choose to use stories as part of their marketing mix over simply listing their product’s benefits and features.
When people hear neutral words like “chair” or “key,” language-processing parts of the brain called Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas are activated exclusively. However, when people are being told a story, the language processing areas of the brain are activated along with other sensory areas being used to experience the story. In this case, it was the primary olfactory cortex that lit up when hearing words associated with odour, such as “perfume” and “coffee”.
In the same vein, Véronique Boulenger, a cognitive scientist at the Laboratory of Language Dynamics in France, concluded that sentences containing action caused activity in the motor cortex, which coordinates the body’s movements, after participants were scanned as they read sentences like “Pablo kicked the ball”.
It’s almost as if we’re living out the experience described by a story in our minds.
But stories in content marketing serve a higher purpose than simply to attract a reader’s attention. Well crafted stories embedded into your content articles can also work to highlight the problem that the content on the page promises to address. For example:
Tom went to the hardware store to buy a hammer. But he couldn’t find one that was the right shape or that was small enough to fit in the area he was building. Tom had recently hurt his hand trying to get the job done. He went to another store but still no result. Two hours later and frustrated, he felt like giving up…
A good story can work to not simply illustrate a problem, but it can also work to create an “open loop” that is only closed later on in the article. You can see another example in this article on building trust creates an open loop in the introduction that’s later closed in the body of the article.
Quality Tip #5 – Make sure you answer the question you set out to
Content marketing is “hot.” Look at this graph of searches for the term over the last few years.
Lots of businesses want to implement content marketing, but don’t take the time to do it right.
One of the most overlooked quality issues that results in readers labeling articles as not worth their time is the question their looking to answer, is simply not answered.
For instance, I occasionally to kill time on Twitter and Google+ by clicking on various links posted by different users.
I recently clicked on one that was talking about how to do Twitter marketing for real estate agents. The article was about 500 words in length, and any reader with two eyes could see it was complete garbage. It may or may not have been written by a native English speaker, but the information was so shallow and surface level that I don’t see how it could ever:
- Rank well in search
- Be seen as useful or as anything close to a “resource”
- Attract links or attract people to sign-up for their email list.
Making sure you fully answer the question or making sure you present a full solution to the stated problem is still only a key part of the bigger picture around content quality. That brings me to quality tip #6…
Quality Tip #6 – Put the needs of your reader first
This is one of those “obvious” tips that few people actually practice.
If a writer puts himself (or herself) in the shoes of his readers, not only is he going to make sure the primary question of the article is answered, he’s going to go the extra mile.
In other words, the content will be more indepth because he’s going to know that a basic answer is usually not enough to satisfy a reader’s curiosity. Readers want inspiration along with actionable, “little known” tips and tricks on how to get X result. Furthermore, the writer who cares is going to write in a way that sounds human, not corporate, and he’s going to engage the reader by repeatedly using “you” — because while it may seem at first like a one-way conversation, it’s still a conversation.
Quality Tip #7 – Use a checklist
There’s plenty to remember when it comes to doing a quality assurance check on your content. If fact, no one could blame you for forgetting to include many of the tips listed here.
This is exactly why you (and your content team) need to use a checklist. This helps ensure that each of your articles includes all the necessary elements and checks that will make it worth reading.
Furthermore, you should think of this checklist as a “living form.” In other words you might want to add or subtract items to it over time as you find out more about what works best for your online presence. Here’s an example of one of two checklist forms we’re currently using here at AutoGrow to help ensure quality in each article:
- A well-written, quality checked piece of content performs significantly better in terms of traffic and time-on-site metrics compared to a mediocre one just looking to fill space on a page.
- Make sure the topic you choose to create content on fits with a market need, preferably something your target audience is actively searching for.
- Typos and obvious grammar mistakes distract readers, make you look unprofessional, and hurt conversions
- Build your own credibility by citing credible third parties and providing examples
- Tell stories
- Put the needs of your reader first–predict what they want and write to them as if it’s a conversation
- Use a checklist and fill it out before you hit publish
What are some other tips to improve the quality of your blog content? Have you noticed a relationship between the quality of your content and traffic or conversions? Let me know in the comments below.
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