In a recent email, I said “publish good content and provide a good user experience.” A reader replied and suggested I explain what I meant by good content and a good user experience. It was a great suggestion.
Today I discuss good content in the form of my 17-point good content checklist.
What is good content?
There is no formulaic answer but below I set out my checklist of what I CONSIDER to be features of good content.
My Good Content Checklist
1. Ranks #1 in Google
I jest. Actually, this is a bit tongue-in-cheek but also tinged with seriousness.
Defining good content as content that ranks #1 in Google is a classic example of the tail wagging the dog.
But it should also be given some level of seriousness because most folks publishing SEO content do so primarily to rank #1. This means most folks merely want to publish content good enough to rank #1.
12 years ago #1 ranked content was often not the best content.
These days, #1 ranked content is often very good.
While not every #1 ranked article is the best on the topic, it’s often decent and needs to be decent to rank #1.
That said, don’t merely replicate what ranks. Create your own masterpiece.
2. It successfully entertains, informs, inspires, humors and/or educates
Every piece of content has a purpose FOR THE READER. The five purposes are entertain, inform, inspire, humor and/or educate.
They are not mutually exclusive. For example, a great piece of content will both inform and humor.
Most of my niche content informs. I’m not a humorist (wish I was). Fat Stacks content primarily educates and to a lesser extent, inspires… at least those are goals.
When you publish content, does it meet one or more of the 5 content purposes? If not, you have a problem.
3. Whatever you think is good
This is also partly in jest but also serious.
This feature only matters if you’re a good writer and know good writing. I know when I’ve penned an awesome article or email vs. something that’s merely decent vs. something that is not good.
The serious nature of this though is the fact that “good content” is highly contextual. A 600-word overview may be exactly what some searchers are looking for. While others may be looking for a 6,000 word highly detailed “everything and the kitchen sink” guide approach.
You never really know since you can’t please everyone all the time.
However, in my experience, these days you should err on longer and more detail.
A simple way to please more readers is putting a “Short Answer” version or “Overview” at the top for those looking for the basics and then expand into the tome version.
4. Is the introduction interesting?
I can spot a well-written article in seconds. Usually, the first sentence tells me whether it’s decent. While this might seem like judging a book by its cover, I do it anyway. If the first sentence is bad, I won’t immediately reject it but let’s just say the rest better really impress me.
Bad introductions are boring and written in the passive form. Most low-cost SEO writing is done this way. That’s why I don’t like it.
I like some zip or something that gets my attention while simultaneously telling me what the article is about.
Let me illustrate with an example of a good and bad intro.
Topic: 5 Reasons You Should Keep All Your Money Under Your Mattress
Bad Intro: It’s common knowledge that many people are bad at investing. Many people lose money in the stock market. Losing money is not good and should be avoided. One simple way to avoid losing money is to keep all your money under your mattress.
Good Intro: Did you hear about the woman who tossed out her mother’s mattress stuffed with $1 million? True story. Daughter bought her elderly mom a new mattress. Seeing no reason to hang onto an old mattress, the daughter tossed it out with the garbage. While the new mattress gift was filled with good intentions, the old mattress was also filled with a cool mil of her mom’s retirement money.
Not only is the good intro one of those “truth is stranger than fiction” stories, you want to keep reading how such an intro could segue into arguments in favor of keeping your money in or under your mattress. With that good intro, you could have a lot of fun throughout the entire article.
The good intro took me about 2 minutes longer to write. IMO, that’s 2 minutes well-spent.
TIP: Read plenty of different news sites each day or week. You’d be amazed at all the interesting ideas and stories you can use for good intros and article content. I often incorporate current events into these newsletters.
5. Coin terms
I should be more explicit about having writers coin terms for articles. It’s easy to do. I do it with Fat Stacks. I’ve done it with niche sites. I don’t much care if it catches on or not. I do it because it makes for more interesting content.
6. Slang and emojis
One of my favorite things about my Pinterest pin creator is she has an amazing ability to write zippy, slang-filled, fun Pinterest descriptions. The excitement and emotions ooze from them. She writes pins like most folks text.
You’d think as someone trained in the law that I’d spurn such writing, but in fact, I love it. Some folks suggest the casualness of texting (no capitals or punctuation) is hurting our ability to write. I beg to differ. I think it’s more fun to read and in many cases, better writing than the boring formal stuff.
I guess that’s why I no longer practice law.
I’m not saying to use improper grammar throughout but injecting some casual, fun text for the right type of content is good. Examples include:
- Boo ya!
That said, always write for your audience. If you serve a more serious audience, they may not appreciate whimsy, slang and casual writing. You may alienate them. If they like formal, give them formal.
7. Be thorough
This is the easy part of writing a good article, but can be time-consuming.
You need to dig down deep to go the distance. It’s too easy to throw in the towel at the 70% or 80% mark.
It’s that extra 20% to 30% that’s going to make it great.
I use MarketMuse (lifetime deal) content optimization to help with thoroughness, but I don’t use that until I’ve applied my brain entirely.
I go over everything multiple times looking for content gaps.
I put myself in the shoes of someone who knows nothing about the topic. My aim is that my article answers all their questions succinctly but thoroughly.
8. Follows a logical sequence
Logical writing is a strength of mine. I can’t publish anything that doesn’t flow logically. Often there isn’t a right or wrong order, but often there is.
I wouldn’t get too fanatical about this but it’s worth ensuring your article is set out in good order.
One pet peeve of mine is I find hired writers often inject a ton of the complementary stuff before the heart of the matter.
For example, if my article is about the “best basketball shoes for wide feet” writers often include a history and other relevant but not crucial info before the list of the 10 best.
I just move the non-crucial stuff below the list.
9. No spelling mistakes or grammatical errors
I know you’re reading this and you’re about to hit reply and tell me “Yo Jon, you’re a big hypocrite for listing this. I see all kinds of mistakes in your emails and blog posts.”
You’re right. Guilty as charged. Fat Stacks is not my most polished work.
Do as I say, not as I do.
Actually, do whatever you want.
Your website, your rules.
I’m just saying if you want to know what good content entails, it includes no spelling mistakes or grammar errors.
I’ve put in a better effort over the last year on Fat Stacks and definitely on my niche sites.
Are they perfect?
Nope, but they’re not bad.
I have everyone on my team use Grammarly which definitely helps.
10. Large Text
I like websites with larger text. Not too big but I don’t want to strain to read it whether on my desktop computer or mobile phone.
Always check your website on your mobile phone to ensure it’s looking good on mobile. Many of us forget to do this as we bop along making changes thinking we’re making things better when we may be creating a disaster on mobile.
As for a specific font size – that’s impossible to give because fonts vary in size. Just play around until it’s the right size for you.
11. Include References
If you or a writer include any info pulled from another site, reference it. I prefer links to sites in the content but references at the end are fine too.
References and sourcing your info is professional and a marker of good content.
12. Point of View
I prefer articles written in the first person. It gives a personal touch to the article… there’s a real person behind it.
That said, not all content I publish is written in the first person. This is a decision you must make. If it’s your voice and personality you want convey throughout, go with first person.
13. Use Visuals that Enhance Your Content
I love using visuals in my content such as:
- Custom illustrations,
- Timelines, and/or
- Fancy affiliate showcases via Lasso (my preferred affiliate product tool these days).
These can be very powerful in communicating a great deal of information succinctly. They add credibility to content. As a marketing tool, they can attract links.
Relevant visuals are something to incorporate whenever possible/applicable.
14. Make it easy to read and understand
Handhold your readers with lots of headings, bullet points and other formatting that makes consuming your content easy.
Even if you serve an educated audience, nobody wants complicated. The easier it is for your readers to understand what your content is about, the better.
15. Serve Search Intent
This is huge.
Google is now fanatical about serving up content that meets search intent.
You want your article to directly address the search intent behind your title and keyword.
I cannot overstate this.
16. Write for the medium
For the most part, I write differently for emails than blog posts. Social media content is also different.
For emails my content is more conversational. For blog posts, they’re more formal (except for the emails I turn into blog posts).
When I write an email, I write it as if I’m writing directly to a person. When I write blog posts, my mindset is more toward writing for a large audience.
The end result is a big difference in tone and style.
While you can certainly use blog posts as emails and vice versa, when possible write what works best for the medium.
17. Write for your audience
This piggybacks on the all-important tip “write for search intent.”
But there’s a difference.
You can write for search intent but still not optimally serve your audience. Consider tone, language complexity, style and depth when writing. Do whatever you can so that your audience appreciates your content.
For example, if you publish a celebrity blog, it makes no sense to get all technical. Folks don’t read celebrity gossip to read technical writing. They want easy-to-read, fun writing.
Likewise, the business crowd is usually a serious crowd. They want the critical information fast. Deliver it to them. Don’t waste their time.
That said, you can certainly experiment with different approaches. If you can be funny, you’ll find a business crowd who appreciates some humor in the content. In fact, you’d quickly carve out a following just because for the most part business content, while informative, is often boring.
How do you become a better writer?
Write and read.
Beyond that, the biggest stride I ever made with my writing was to step outside of my comfort zone. I default to boring. When I decided to inject personality in my content, it made a huge difference. It’s as simple as that.
And beyond that, pay attention to the presentation of your content on your site. I’m not a stickler for much but I’m fanatical about content formatting on my niche sites.
My preferred content service that does a great job…
Currently, I’m getting most of my content from WriterAccess. It’s a service I’ve used for years. I’ve built up a terrific list of favorite writers.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.