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The Post-Hummingbird Checklist to Audit Your Content’s Quality

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You need good content for two main reasons: to make your readers happy, and to make Google happy. Since Google is only happy when your readers are happy, you can usually kill two birds with one stone.

Google’s Panda update gets a lot of attention for the algorithm changes it introduced dealing with the quality of content posted on external sites. After Panda, it became virtually impossible to achieve a high rank in Google if you had duplicated, poorly written, or mass-produced content. But it’s actually the Hummingbird update, released a couple years later, that carried the more meticulous changes. Hummingbird introduced an algorithm change that favors conversational searches, identifying semantic clues in a user’s input that lead to more relevant content. What this means for the content writer is that Hummingbird can detect when your content is clearly written, as well as how much relevant information is in your posts.

When you pair these sophisticated algorithmic changes with the fact that reader demands are becoming more selective, it’s no wonder why so many content marketers are concerned about the value and quality of their written material.

That’s why I’ve come up with this six-point content quality checklist you can use to audit your site’s current content, and take steps to improve any fault points.

Are Your Ideas Original?

articleimage479Are-Your-Ideas-Original

If you’re going to catch a potential reader’s attention, you need to make sure your idea is unique. For example, if you write an article titled “5 ways to lose weight,” you’re going to face a massive amount of competition. The idea is general, and has already been covered to death, so you won’t be getting any new attention even if you somehow make it to the top of the SERP.

How to Check

The easiest way to see if your ideas are unique or variations of work that already exists is to search for your titles. See how many results appear, and how different your idea is from theirs. If you notice several of your pieces appearing in various alternative incarnations, it’s a sign that you should work on generating more unique topic ideas.

Steps for Improvement

It’s hard to come up with ideas that nobody has thought of before, but what you can do is provide a unique “twist” in the content of each article. For example, instead of going with the general, overdone “5 ways to lose weight,” you could do something more specific and unusual like “5 ways to lose weight you can do upside-down.” That’s an extreme and impractical example, but it’s certainly not something other people have already written about.

Is Your Content Valuable to Your Target Audience?

articleimage479s Your Content Valuable to Your Target Audience

Obviously, the key to making your content marketing strategy effective is writing content that your users view as valuable. If your readers find your content informative, they’ll see your brand as an authority, and they’ll be far more likely to return when they need more information or your products or services.

How to Check

Unfortunately, this is a subjective question, and the only way to determine whether or not you’re writing valuable content for your target demographics is to investigate with your target demographics. One way to do this is to look at social signals, such as likes, comments, and shares of your articles—if you notice people aren’t sharing your material, it could be an indication of invaluable or uninteresting content.

Steps for Improvement

Ask your readers directly. Conduct a survey or a poll on your social media channels, and ask your readers what they’d like to see in your blog. Alternatively, you can see what types of content are trending on your competitors’ blogs, and use them as inspiration to generate your own unique topics.

Is Your Content Visually Structured for Web?

articleimage479Is Your Content Visually Structured for Web

Writing a journalistic article for a magazine is much different than writing an article for an online content marketing strategy. On the web, articles must be visually optimized—a fancy way of saying that they should be structured in a way that makes them easy to read, and easy to scan for important information. Not every reader will read your entire article, so you need to make adjustments so that the most important information stands out.

How to Check

You should be able to spot this from a distance. Check out the average structure of your articles. Do you use heading and sub-headings for your sections? Do you break down your lists with numbers or bullet points? Do you call out important pieces of in-text information with bold or italic fonts? All of these are important.

Steps for Improvement

Pay closer attention to the visual impact of your articles. Zoom out, or step back from your article and see if different sections of information appear to stand out. If not, break your information up more with bold text, new headings, and list segmentation.

Does Your Content Tell a Story?

The best and most engaging content on the web is the content that tells a story. No matter what your topic is, you can use storytelling as a medium to convey the necessary information. For example, if you’re writing about best practices for a company, include a case study to verify their effectiveness. If you’re posting original research, tell the story of how you arrived to your conclusion.

How to Check

Look for narrative elements in your pieces. Not every single post can tell a story, but if you neglect the prospect of storytelling entirely, you could be missing out on engaging with a key section of your audience.

Steps for Improvement

Include more potential posts in your editorial calendar that lend themselves to storytelling. Rather than transforming your current topics to suit your needs, come up with new topics that have a narrative element, and incorporate them into your campaign.

Is Your Content Free of Errors?

The Panda update started a serious crackdown on grammatical and syntactical errors, and the Hummingbird update only intensified that crackdown. If you want to avoid a possible ranking hit, make sure all of your posts are free of elementary errors.

How to Check

There are many ways to check your articles for basic grammar, spelling, and syntax errors. Most CMS systems have an automated ability to check for such mistakes, as do content programs like Microsoft Word. Unfortunately, this sometimes isn’t enough, as some human mistakes are not detectable to a computer program.

Steps for Improvement

Proofread every post before it goes out. If you don’t have the time or ability to do it yourself, get another pair of eyes on your document before posting. Otherwise, the little mistakes could add up and jeopardize your reputation with Google as well as your readership.

Does Your Content Lend Itself to Sharing?

Viral content is content that is conducive to social sharing. The more shares a piece of content receives, the more eyes will be on it, and the more backlinks and digital visibility you’ll have to boost your online authority. Writing content that lends itself to sharing is essential for any content marketing strategy. Without it, your traffic and audience growth will be limited.

How to Check

Unfortunately, there’s no sure formula for virality. However, you can maximize your content’s tendency for viral circulation by checking for the following qualities: humor, new information, unique visuals, and a “surprise” element. If your content is regularly lacking these components, you’ll have a harder time getting your users to circulate your content for you.

Steps for Improvement

Experiment with different types of posts that have qualities lending themselves to social sharing. Monitor the read rates and social shares of each of these articles to measure the impact and relative propensity to “go viral” for each. Then, analyze the information and determine which qualities are the most important for your audience, and write more pieces that contain those qualities.

Writing great content is an iterative process, so don’t be concerned if you find mistakes or imperfections in your content marketing strategy. View these errors as opportunities for improvement, and continue refining your processes until you have a winning strategy in your control.

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Kathrina Tiangco

Kathrina is AudienceBloom's project manager. She works closely with our writers, editors, and publishers to make sure client work is completed on time.

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