By now you know that any content you publish on the web should be of high quality. With all the great content out there, you certainly don’t want anything boring or mediocre to be traced back to your company. But what exactly does ‘quality’ look like on paper? Everybody has a different definition for what constitutes a good read, but there are certain characteristics that are proven to be part of a smart content marketing strategy. Let’s check them out.

Understand User Intent

When a person goes online, they have an intention in mind. Generally, it falls into one of three categories: they want to know something, do something or go somewhere. Think about some of the things that your audience might be searching for and the words and phrases they would use.

Organize the data, choose keywords wisely and use matching synonyms and related terms and phrases. Designing content based on user intent leads your clients to the next step quickly and efficiently. Google’s algorithms will also be proud, landing your content better rankings in the SERPs.

Write a Strong Title

It’s okay to be creative with your title, but some writers get so creative, they fail to describe what the content is about. With so much content on the web, people don’t have time to decode your title. They want something that is straightforward and concise, so keep your title simple yet promising.

Have a Purpose

What is the purpose of the content? Is it intended to inspire? Educate? Entertain? The content should aim to fill at least one of these goals. By asking yourself this early on, you set the stage for the tone of the article, its title and how you will share it.

Write for Your Audience

Until you start gaining a strong following, it can be scary to put content out there. When writers aren’t confident, they tend to limit their creativity and uniqueness. They also end up writing for the wrong people: their peers, related industries and even people in their social circle. This can be particularly hard in niche areas.

The best content is written for a particular audience. Think about who your typical customer is and write to them. Relate to them with small jokes, insights and takeaways. This is what makes people feel familiar and trusting of your content. If you try to impress your peers with fancy language, you’ll lose the people who are counting on you to keep it fun and simple.

Aim for Good Visuals

Images or videos should be added to your content to seamlessly incorporate color and visual interest. The visuals can be used to capture your audience’s attention or break up the content. But it’s not just pictures and videos that make the difference; messy looking text can send your readers away. Content should be broken up into small paragraphs that are easy to read. Use headers consistently, add bullet points for lists, etc.

Count Your Words

It used to be that shorter posts were favored, but now, longer posts are ideal (around 1,000+ words). But, this isn’t a clear cut rule. It’s fine to test out different lengths with your audience, as you might find that shorter posts receive more engagement. There’s no reason to aim for more words if the content isn’t there to back it up, after all. Still, be mindful of short vs long posts and how your readers respond.

Is it Shareable

Always ask yourself this one question before you hit the post button: Would I share this? It’s not always easy to be objective about content you’ve written or reviewed, but you’re not doing yourself any favors if you don’t take an unbiased stand. The content may be great, but it also has to have share value. If you feel that it lacks this, edit the content until it’s shareable. Changing the tone, adding images, incorporating links, etc., can make the difference.

Be a Good Proofreader

Content should go through several sets of eyes before being posted. We all make mistakes sometimes, or miss them in this case. But to readers, it can look like you were too lazy to go back and correct the problem.

In addition to proofreading for spelling and grammar errors, also do some fact checking. Some writers have a tendency to use ‘facts’ that they’ve picked up on the internet, but they can’t remember where they came from. Don’t add anything to your content unless you can verify the source. Also, try to keep stats from 2008 or later. Anything else is considered old. Sorry.

No one expects each piece of content to be perfect, but the more you strive for high-quality pieces that contain most, if not all, of the above characteristics, the better you’ll be.