Whether you’re first starting out and you’re trying to get a little extra boost or you’ve been in the game for years and can’t quite break through that recent plateau, anyone in the content marketing or SEO game could use an improvement to their content. As the gap between “good” content and non-useful content continues to grow, this importance only escalates — but the problem isn’t recognizing the need for better content. It’s finding a way to produce better content.
Instead of taking dramatic measures like doing a full-scale overhaul of your content strategy or hiring a new content director, try some of these simple fixes to give your content quality a boost:
1. Do more original research. The keyword here is “original.” It doesn’t count as original research if you’re just quoting someone who did it before you — in that scenario, you’re just making that person’s content better. Instead, make your content more unique and more compelling by conducting research of your own. If you don’t have the time or resources to launch a full-scale experiment or research initiative, start with something small — even a simple A/B test or customer survey counts as original research. Your goals here are to learn something new and present something to your readers that they can’t get anywhere else. Accomplish those, and your content will instantly be better.
2. Call out to more outside authorities. This is the place for secondary research. In the course of your work, make references to more outside authorities. Link to other strong voices in your industry, even competitors, if they’ve already written about something tangentially related to your topic. Try to get at least one dissenting voice in the mix — acknowledging and rebutting an opposition to your point of view goes a long way in making your content more persuasive. Plus, the more outside authorities you cite, the more you’ll prove (to readers and search engine crawlers) that you’ve done your research.
3. Include more images and video. Vision is the strongest human sense, so we’re naturally inclined to favor visual content over written content. Including more images and videos in your content lineup can help you cater to this natural predisposition. If you have the time or resources, create original pieces like infographics and short, informational videos. If you don’t, get creative with the materials you have by doing short whiteboard-based monologues or taking photos of things around your office. You can include these as standalone posts or embed them as supplementary forms of content for your primary written forms. Either way will improve your visibility and perceived authority.
4. Tie everything to one point. Take a look at some of your past posts and try to sum them up in a single point. My guess is you won’t be able to. You might have written a 10,000 word piece about the state of your industry — but what was the key point? What was the insight or conclusion you wanted your users to walk away with? It’s good to elaborate, and it’s even better to include lots of details, but those elaborations and details have to mean something. They have to tie back to an important conclusion, or else the significance of your content can be lost. Try to write more pieces with single, easily identifiable points.
5. Speak from the heart. After a while, most content marketers drift into one of two camps when it comes to voice. The first camp loses sight of all voice, and keeps pumping out content like a robot. The second loses its personal voice in favor of a purely corporate brand voice. Neither of these result in entertaining or approachable content. Instead, speak more from the heart. Inject your own personal voice and preferences into your material, and let your readers know there really is a person behind those words.
6. Use more stories and illustrations. Stories, metaphors, examples, and illustrations add color to your piece and make big concepts easier to comprehend. If you make up examples and metaphors of your own, you can guarantee they’ll be original — and if you do it consistently, people will expect it out of you as part of your personality. Experiment with different characters and amusing setups — your users will thank you.
7. Delete before publishing. This is the easiest tweak to start using, and it’s also one of the most effective. Before you post anything, delete from it. Read through your piece and delete every sentence and every word that doesn’t have to be there. Forget about minimum word counts or taking up a certain amount of space — only give your readers what they actually need to read. This will make your content exceedingly concise, and give you greater perspective on what your readers need from your material.
These fixes are non-intensive and inexpensive to apply, but that doesn’t make them ineffective. If implemented properly, they can theoretically increase the value of any piece, in any industry. Practice these tweaks regularly for a period of weeks to months and compare your new results to your old metrics. If you notice a jump, then congratulations — you just increased the quality of your content with no exhaustive investment. If not, your campaign may require a bigger, more comprehensive facelift — take a look at your fundamental objectives and tactics, and rebuild from the ground up.