How many articles have you read about creating great content? Every time you write an article, you should make sure that you apply as many of the items on the list as possible. Open your article again and time how long it takes you to read and understand the introduction (from your target reader’s point of view). They’re still important, but they either don’t have time or interest to read every post and every part of that post. If your formatting is good, your subheadings will stand out: At the same time, remember that the first point in this entire checklist was about your main title. For your content, create a list of all your subheadings. You can also come up with this list after you write your post. What should the reader get out of this? You can look at any of my posts for an example. Conclusion Creating great content isn’t easy.
How many articles have you read about creating great content? Quite a few, hopefully…
Creating valuable to your readers content is one of the key components of effective content marketing.
But here’s the problem:
How do you combine the lessons from all those articles?
They all teach you something valuable, but consolidating all those useful techniques and tactics isn’t always easy. For example, you might read an article about simple but effective copywriting techniques.
You get excited, and then you focus on practicing those in the next few articles you publish. But writing a few articles isn’t enough to establish a habit.
Even if you truly understand how to apply the things you learned, you might not remember to do them in the future. That is, unless, you have a way that forces you to remember them. A list of them.
Every time you write an article, you should make sure that you apply as many of the items on the list as possible.
You should make your own list.
However, I thought I’d create this post to get you a solid start. I’ve put together a list of 11 points that your content should meet if you want it to be effective.
It doesn’t matter if your content is text, audio, or video—most of these points will still apply.
It also doesn’t matter what the content will be used for.
Great content is necessary not only for your blog and any guest posts you make but also for other channels such as social media.
Finally, before we get started, I know that checklists aren’t really fun, but they’re effective and efficient.
Create the list once (or take mine), and it will raise the quality of your content for years to come.
Since 70% of marketers create more content each year, small improvements based on a checklist in a single article can result in a big difference overall.
1. The headline hooks my target reader
Think about where you spread your content after you publish it.
Social media is probably one of the first stops.
You also probably email your list.
Then forums, groups, and other communities.
All of those have one major thing in common:
Success depends on your headline.
Your headline isn’t the only factor, but it’s usually one of the main things that causes people to click or not click through to your post:
We already know that most social shares come from people who don’t even read past the headline.
Even if you have a great article, it won’t matter if no one sees it in the first place.
It starts with the headline. Obviously, it doesn’t end with the headline. If your content sucks, no one’s going to share it after they click through.
Back to the headline…
Writing a great headline isn’t easy. It takes knowledge and practice. I’ve written many posts about how you can write great headlines for different situations:
But remember what we’re doing here.
This isn’t the time to come up with a headline—you should have done that already.
This is a point in a checklist. It’s asking you to evaluate a headline, which is much easier.
I can tell you if a painting is good or not (for the most part), but I sure as heck can’t paint a great one myself. Judging is almost always easier than doing.
Here, you want to consider two main factors…
Factor #1 is always relevance: The first question you should ask yourself when judging a headline is: “Is this relevant from my audience’s point of view?”
Basically, this means that your headline should contain keywords related to your niche.
And not just any keywords, but one’s that your actual target audience will recognize and probably care about.
Obviously, I write a lot about marketing on Quick Sprout. If you look at my headlines, you’ll see a lot of the following words:
These are common keywords contained in keyword phrases that I might target with my content.
But they are also widely used terms that almost all of my readers recognize.
So, when they see one of my headlines, they see at least one of the concepts they are interested in, which gets them to read the entire headline.
A common mistake: It’s easy to forget the perspective of your readers. Just because you might know an advanced term for something doesn’t mean your readers will. If they see a headline but are not sure if it relates to their interests, most will pass on it.
Factor #2 is curiosity: Once they see a keyword that is related to their interests, most readers will take a look at the whole headline.
Afterwards, they decide if it’s worth reading or not.
Basically, it comes down to this question: “Does it look interesting?”
If the reader is curious enough, they have no choice but to click through. That’s when you know you have a good headline.
Here’s an exercise you can do…
Go to a major news site or blog in your niche. In my case, for the sake of an example, I went to Search Engine Land, a major SEO news site.
Ideally, you want to find a list of their current most popular content or at least their most recent content somewhere on the homepage.
To do this, right-click on one of the titles while in Chrome, and choose “inspect element.” This will create a little pop-up.
In the left side of the pop-up, double click the title text (among the HTML code), and type in your headline instead:
The change that you made (to the highlighted part in the picture above) will now show up on your screen:
Ask yourself in which order you would click on these titles (if at all).
If you choose your own article last, you have a big problem.
If you choose it first, you likely have a great title.
Obviously, it’s hard to be unbiased. If possible, get a second opinion from a friend or any of your fans who’d be willing to help you in this way.
2. Introductions have one main purpose…
Can you guess it? The purpose of an introduction?
This is actually from copywriting.
To get to the purpose of your introduction, let’s start with your headline.
A headline has one goal: to get someone to read the first sentence.
The first sentence is to get them to read the second sentence, and so on.
The introduction, as a whole, has one main purpose:
To get your reader to read the rest of the article (specifically the first subheading/section).
So, how do you do this?
Again, there are many ways, but here we’re just judging what you already have.
The key factor is whether your introduction is easy to read.
Readers should be able to feel like they are flying through it, understanding it, and moving down the page. It helps them feel like they are making progress.
Imagine reading a dense introduction that takes you five minutes to understand. Then, you look at the rest of the article and see that it’s 2,000 words long.
Chances are you won’t read the rest.
That’s why you want yours to be simple: to give the reader some momentum and to help them commit to reading the rest of the article.
You can look at the introductions written by any of your favorite bloggers to see this in action.
For example, here’s one from Brian Dean:
I can read those seven lines in about 10 seconds and move down to the first section.
Brian writes in short sentences and paragraphs and uses simple words. You should do the same.
Open your article again and time how long it takes you to read and understand the introduction (from your target reader’s point of view).
It shouldn’t be longer than 1-2 seconds per line. If it is, that means your introduction contains too much complex information and/or is formatted poorly.
3. Content is optimized for “skimmers”
Your most loyal readers read your every post.
They examine every sentence and every word because they love what you produce.
This makes up about a whopping 1-5% of your readers.
Be thankful for them; they are amazing.
But what about the other 95-99%?
They’re still important, but they either don’t have time or interest to read every post and every part of that post.
The average reader of a post only reads 20-28% of it.
In other words, they skim it.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. We all have a limited amount of time in a day to learn, and everyone needs to prioritize their own time.
I’d rather have someone skim my posts than not read them at all.
Element #1 – Clear and intriguing subheadlines: There’re a few things that skimmers look for as they skim a post.
Think about why they’re skimming in the first place. It’s to save time.
They’re not sure if reading the entire post is worth their time. If you’re producing longer content, like I obviously do, then this is even more of an issue.
A typical reader, as you can probably imagine, looks to see whether any of your sections contain useful to them information.
It makes sense.
Say, I published a post “8 Content Marketing Tactics to Do X.”
If someone already knows quite a bit about content marketing, not all of those eight tactics will be new to them.
So, what do they look at?
First, ask yourself, “Are my subheadlines easy to find while skimming?”
Just skim your post, and see which parts jump out at you. If your formatting is good, your subheadings will stand out: