Plan it out.

Acting as a 24/7 reflection of you, your brand, business, offer or service, your content can make or break an opportunity. Your success largely depends on how effective your work is.

This brief piece defines what we mean when we say “effective content”, using a 3-step checklist to help you reflect on your work.

What is “effective content”?

Is your content making an impact or merely filling up an otherwise empty space? How can you ensure you get the most out of your creative efforts? The answer is: just a little extra effort goes a long way.

There are many aspects of content creation (and marketing) that contribute to its success, but the key is very simple: good content works.

Here are 3 ways to check if your content is poised for success.

#1 – Does your content drive desired actions and outcomes?

In essence, content is successful when both the reader and writer achieve their goals.

This means that the reader finds information they were seeking and the writer achieves an intended goal, such as: awareness and traffic, a subscription or a sale, an academic score or whatever it is your piece aims to drive.

How will you know?

Content performance metrics will let you know whether your content works as intended. If it isn’t working out, remember: underperforming content can always be rewritten and improved. The trick is to ask the questions and be willing to search for answers.

Effective content answers the right questions and drives the right outcomes.

Are you answering your readers’ questions and addressing their needs? Are you in touch with what your audience is looking to find and what for? What is already available on your topic and are there any gaps you could fill? Are you driving required actions via your content?

#2 – Is your content clear, practical and valuable?

  • It is well defined, presented clearly and in an easy to follow manner.
  • It is practical if it is relevant and actionable.
  • It is valuable if it helps the reader win or achieve something they previously could not.

“Never before has ensuring your audience obtains true value from your brand meant so much”

Kelly Hendrickson, Social Media Marketing Manager at HubSpot
Quoted in : The State of Content Marketing in 2021 [Stats & Trends to Watch]

In other words, content must meet or exceed readers’ expectations, answer their query, or addresses a concern adequately.

In content writing (and marketing) steps skipped are opportunities missed. Don't skip research.

Where do you start?

In content writing and marketing (as in most other areas), steps skipped are opportunities missed.

Don’t skip research. It is the difference between “I think” and “I know”.

When in doubt, simplify: Focus on a key point or a selection of the most important or valuable points.

Aim to build content up in stages, enriching it with valuable detail as you go along and discover more about what really drives your audience (and your desired outcomes).

#3 – Is your content well supported and authoritative?

All content, especially formal content, performs best if it is well supported or evidenced by means of data, examples, references or illustrations.

Consider this finding from an analysis of evergreen content (using a sample of 3.6 billion articles):

“Readers are hungry for content that curates the best, collects information in a single place and includes plenty of data”

Brian Dean – Backlinko
Taken from the Evergreen Content Study

Authority in content tends to be subjective, but can be mainly attributed to valuable insights, carefully chosen wording and angle to effectively showcase your expertise and command of the subject.

Go the extra step to enrich content, including referencing and illustrating your work.

To build authority, focus your topics around areas that best showcase your strengths, wherever possible. Delve into these areas more deeply.

#4 – Bonus points for authenticity: Does your content offer a unique twist?

At some point, the term “unique content” lost its meaning, becoming an SEO technical term. Yet, with so much content around, it is probably unwise to ignore the opportunity to infuse a healthy dose of authenticity and fresh perspective into your content. With a twist.

Your ideas matter. Write them down.

You know what to do – add a dose of you to your work. Great content is not louder than the rest – just better prepared.

There is always more to consider, such as what type of content, media and platform optimal for sharing your message, trends and innovations that can help you better align with your readers etc. There is a wealth of material on the web addressing how to improve your content’s chance for success. Explore and read widely.

Build your content on firm structures – it is worth the extra effort.

Taking steps to research, plan and structure your content strategy saves you time in the long run, but also helps you maintain flow.

About the author

Sandra H. is a content writer and editor, specializing in online web content, copy and on-page SEO.  She has 15+ years in Market Research, Marketing & Communications and is a certified Digital Marketing Professional.

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