Content Quality: The Essential Checklist

What Is Content Quality? 17 Attributes Your Content Needs

Tiffany Blue Box2014 is the year of content quality.

Don’t take my word for it. Over a quarter of the marketing experts we surveyed noted that content quality was an important trend this year.

Face it–you’ve got less than 10 seconds to capture your visitor’s attention according to Nielsen Norman Group, the usability experts.

The 3 key reasons for creating quality content in 2014 are:

  1. To support search optimization post-hummingbird, panda, penguin and whatever animal Google chooses to use in 2014.
  2. To stand out in a sea of other messages from companies, media entities and social connections.
  3. To provide the basis for increased resources in the form of budget and personnel. (Subtext: marketers and content creators want more money.)

The essential content quality checklist

To help you create content that stands out and moves your target market to select and share it, here are 17 attributes of content quality. (Here’s the content quality definition given by 24 content experts.)

  1. Is customer-centric. Quality content requires that you know your customer including their interests and questions. To this end create a set of marketing personas targeted at building relationships.
  2. Helps and/or entertains people. At its core, quality content provides real value to your audience and the public in the form of giving them product information, answering their questions, showing them how to use your products, guiding them to style your products and showing them ratings and reviews.
  3. Provides useful and unique information. To this end, it fills gaps in the existing information. It establishes authority by showing relevant examples. It goes beyond blanket statements by including fact-checked data to verify your points.  These are supported with quotes from thought leaders.
  4. Is produced on a regular basis. Your content is timely. Like media entities, your content marketing is published on a consistent schedule to help build an audience that expects and wants your information. Understand that it requires time to build reputation as a go-to source.
  5. Speaks your customers’ language. Skip the corporate-speak and jargon. Instead use a conversational voice by speaking directly to your readers in the second person. Use their words and phrasing to sound like a real person that your audience might know. This relates to your content style and voice.
  6. Markets without promotion. Remember beauty is in the eye of your reader and they prefer information that doesn’t shout buy, buy, buy. The power of content marketing is to quietly attract potential shoppers without ever trying to promote your company, products or services. According to Disruptive Communications 25% of respondents think that brands’ social media updates are too salesy.
  7. Includes the keywords your audience searches on. Your goal is to make your content be the information Google determines is most worth sharing. Therefore use your audience’s words and questions. Analyze the words your audience uses to find your content as well as what they seek on your internal search.
  8. Adds an emotional component. Most corporate writing lacks a human touch. Give your audience a reason to care about your content by revealing some of your personal feelings on the subject. Stories are a great way to accomplish this.
  9. Incorporates your brand in a way that distinguishes your business. Think in terms of a 360° brand so that your brand stands out even if your logo or brand name isn’t present. Among the elements to include are your voice, colors, design and audio.
  10. Uses a mix of media. To reinforce your message, incorporate other content formats because people take in information differently. Bear in mind that people are programmed to take in visual information so add images to attract more attention.
  11.  Is contextually relevant. Given today’s multi-platform world, it’s critical that your audience can access the information they need where and when they want it.
  12. Implies trust.  Without reader trust your content will fail. This encompasses a wide range of factors. Your objective is to create information your audience believes and wants to share.
  13. Can appear across different social media platforms. Your content must be able to be distributed on a variety of different social media entities. At a minimum, enable visitors to share your information.
  14. Lacks grammatical and/or spelling mistakes.  Many people think that it’s acceptable to have misspelling and errors in their content. Research by Disruptive Communications found that over 40% of respondents thought that poor spelling and grammar reduced their impression of a brand.
  15. Facilitates consumption. Bear in mind that, if you’re lucky your audience will read about 20% of a page of content. Therefore, your content must be structured to make it easy for readers to extract what they need from your information quickly. To avoid THDR (Too Hard, Didn’t Read), make your content easy-to-scan through the use of bulleted lists and bolding.
  16. Is actionable. Don’t make your readers think. Your aim is to encourage them to take the next step. To accomplish this it’s critical to include a call-to-action as well as to provide different entry points to additional content.
  17. Involves resource investment. Content marketing doesn’t just happen. You need resources, both people and budget to create quality content. From a business perspective, content marketing is less expensive than other types of marketing such as advertising and can leverage existing budgets


The bottom line is that your information must be able to attract your audience and stand out from the pack. To accomplish this you need to produce quality content on a regular basis.

How do you define content quality and why?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen



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8 Responses to Content Quality: The Essential Checklist

  1. Sunil says:

    You said something about “customer-centric” content. I understand that’s a good point, but who the real audience and how to find and focus such an audience are key things that must be truly concentrated on. Once Stephen King said he wrote novels just because he envisioned his wife as the only audience to read the book. Was he mad? No! In fact, this thinking helped King being the king of ideas.

    I believe, even though you have five audiences to write something for, just focus on them as it will help you being totally focused. Addressing faceless audience is just a waste of time. Worse, it will kill your creative expression as well. Also, writing something that your audience already knows is an idea that must be avoided. Nobody likes to read something that they already know of.

    At last, thanks for the write-up!

  2. Emma Davis says:

    Thank you for this article – it has given me some ideas but is a great resource for me to direct my web client’s to as many still don’t get the importance of quality content and how it influences interaction with their website and business (let alone proper use of social media).

  3. TalineVertians says:

    Thanks for sharing your insights,
    Heidi. This is a fantastic checklist. I work at Sprocket Media and one
    of the
    common mistakes we see is that content is often produced and leveraged
    in silos, meaning that if a great article appeared in the company blog,
    it’s not being leveraged with other teams within the organization. It’s
    important to plan to repurpose content and
    maintain a central content marketing calendar so there is line-of-sight
    across all channels.

  4. Evan Ware says:

    #15 is a big one. I think that each item on the list is important, but if content
    is not easily consumable, a consumer isn’t going to feel a personal connection,
    and in the age of social media, that personal connection is so important. I
    work at engajer and we are seeing consumers becoming so much more savvy.
    Content really needs to work for the individual or it gets glazed over. Content
    should be easily consumed and feel personalized if we really want to capture a
    customer’s attention.

  5. Techinplain English says:

    In answer to your closing question: All the things you said, Heidi, especially 14, 15, 8, 3, 2, 6. But the telltale sign of superb content quality (at least IMHO) is when I think: “Wow, I wish *I* produced this.” Especially true if niche.

  6. Ann Bevans says:

    All great attributes, Heidi! The importance of 17 cannot be overstated. I design and build so many blogs that never get updated. Too many entrepreneurs think “I should blog!” but don’t consider the investment that’s required. The same holds true for social media and other content-sharing platforms. I wish more of my clients would invest in quality content, but mostly I wish they’d be honest with themselves about what they’re prepared to do!

  7. Erika Heald says:

    Great list, Heidi! I think one of the hardest tasks this year is around #6 — convincing marketers not to undermine great content by interrupting it mid-story with a promotional pitch.

    • heidicohen says:


      I agree that getting marketers not to include promotion is difficult. But the reality is that once they include their pitch, their content loses its value.

      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen