Sep 24, 2013
David Dunlap
Content is a Four Letter Word

Content is one generic word. And yet, there is not a day that goes by where I don’t read about how you need “quality content,” but in all cases the blog, article, etc. never says how this is achieved or what quality content is.

I am of the mind that if you write or design long enough, you will eventually create content that becomes must read/ must share (my definition of quality content). The trick is to make quality a process so that instead of coming up with something great once in a while, you will come up with something great every time you publish.

This is going to be a rather long series and to kick it off right we are going to talk about the tools you need to create quality content.

First, the Hardware

You need two tools to create quality content: your primary editing software and analytical tools.

It goes without saying that you need some sort of software to create your piece in the first place. Word processing software, design software, photo editing, etc. whatever it is – you need something. And that’s pretty much all I have for this one. I use Notepad for writing, Photoshop for design and photo editing, InDesign for page layout, and Textpad for programming and html code. Please, don’t spend a lot of time trying to find the perfect tool, they don’t exist. Instead, find a tool you are comfortable with and master it.

Analytical tools are absolutely necessary for creating a process of quality. Google Analytics is a good place to start as any because it is free and very powerful. Analytical tools tell you what content is popular, what topics people really want to read, and what content no one cares about. As you start rolling out content, it’s imperative you keep tabs on what is popular and what isn’t. Also, if you are using content to generate actions (such as leads or sales), you can use the data from your analytical tool to find which forms of content are converting and which are not. I can write for pages on this, so we will come back to using analytics in a future blog. For now just know, it is necessary.

Now, the Software

When it comes to the softer side of things you require two key ingredients: people and material.

More than any other tool you can have the best one is a group of people you can bounce ideas off of. Brainstorming with friends, colleagues, coworkers, peers, what have you gives you a wealth of benefits. They can give you a variety of perspectives and angles you probably didn’t think of. People are not just good for bouncing ideas off of; having an editor is paramount for high level creation.

If you want to produce quality every time you need to cultivate a group of people willing to help you from planning to finish. If you don’t have any peers, friends, family, etc. that can help, I would suggest finding a Jelly or a writing (or fill the blank with whatever content you are creating) group.  You should also look for an editor. Editors not only check grammar, but also check for content. They can see if you present a weak argument, lose focus, and a lot more. Again if you can’t find someone who can do this from the groups of people you normally associate with, find yourself a work group.

Great writers read a lot. Great designers analyze and deconstruct the designs of others. Directors and camera crew look at the work of others and try to incorporate new techniques. To create anything you need material to draw from. Personally, I read trade magazines, blogs, technical papers, and also play with product demos for two hours each day. If you are going to write on a topic you need to do your research. However, if you already thoroughly understand the topic you can research deeper and can therefore create a more meaningful piece.

Level Definition
Level 1 Regurgitated from a handful of sources.
Level 2 Regurgitated from numerous sources across different mediums.
Level 3 Well researched from primary sources.
Level 4 Well researched from primary sources, unique quotes from experts.
Level 5 Well researched from primary sources, unique quotes from experts, unique research conducted, analysis of data included.

With the nature of the Internet being what it is, anyone can write at a certain level. For comparison purposes we will call this level 1 writing. With level 1 content, you see regurgitated information based on a few key articles. You probably also have noticed that the vast majority of content on the Internet is level 1. In the table to the right, quality content begins around Level 3. As you can see, the material you use GREATLY affects the quality of what you create.

In order to create pieces from primary sources it is essential that you read and consume information. However, you must be active in what you consume. One of the things I do is I jot down favorite authors, experts that are quoted in pieces, and then find them on social networks and try to interact with them. By increasing your network you create a well of material for your own writing and, as a bonus, you can possibly collaborate with others.

So you now have quality material to draw from and a group of people you can use to help fine tune your content. Next blog I will discuss my process and how to create your own.

Comments

    Thank you for a great post! As a relatively new blogger, I’m always looking for suggestions and tips that will help me grow an audience for my blog. It’s still very very new as I just re-launched my website, so I am looking for ways to attract the right audience. Based on the different levels of quality content you outlined in this post, I’m obviously in the very first level. I understand that writing a successful blog takes time and patience.

    In the meantime, I plan to come back to your blog page and glean some other nuggets of information that will set me on a path to blog awesomeness!

    Posted by Debbie on November 7, 2013 Reply

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