Top 10 Content Rules

Search engines, your audience, the industry, and competitors are all listening and watching.

These ten rules are the basic tenets of quality content. You may not check all these off your list every time, but you’ll want to apply a majority of these rules to your content.

Rule #1 – Originality

Original Written Content

Copying someone else’s work is unethical, but it does happen all the time. Plagiarism is almost always discovered eventually, particularly online content. Plus, copycat writing just doesn’t get attention. So why bother?

You have your own distinct point of view, and it’s best to use what you know. Industry information is simply the collective knowledge over time by people contributing their own perspectives, experiences, and discoveries.

You might be surprised just how much original content you already have in your head. The years of experience, the lessons you’ve learned – these serve to provide you with a wellspring of original content.

Writing about your own experiences to help others shows leadership and is a great way to get noticed.

Rule #2 – Value

Valuable Content is EngagingPeople trust what is useful to them. If you provide something helpful or interesting, they’ll pay attention next time. This is the hard work of building your audience.

Providing value opens up interaction opportunities with your customers or targets. They may comment or follow up directly with you. Suddenly, you have a prospect for your business.

People like being helped and like to help others, so by creating something “shareworthy,” you’re enabling them to been seen as “a person in the know.”

Rule #3 – On-Brand

Stay On BrandWhatever your company’s brand personality, tattoo it into your content.

It’s common to write more formally than what is authentic for your brand, but it’s also a common mistake. Unless your brand is stuffy, and your customers relate to that, nix it.

Pretend your content is a person, talking one-on-one with your ideal audience member. Will they relate or tune out? Does your content suddenly sound like a different personality than the brand? Consistency builds trust. Be relentlessly consistent with your brand voice to build equity in your brand.

Rule #4 – Actionable

Make Content ActionableIf you’re providing value, you must tell them “how.” It seems simple, but it’s often overlooked: give directions. It’s easy to forget people need them, because you’re on the inside. Remember to clue your audience in.

By keeping on point, providing simple directions, and paring down the extra chatter, you’re shaping a great, supportive content experience.

Rule #5 – Focused

Keep Content FocusedStay focused, and your audience will, too. Check that your copy stays on topic. If it doesn’t closely serve the subject, it’s better left on the editing floor.

Editing is tough but extremely important. Errors in spelling, grammar, and structure can draw your reader’s attention away from what you are saying. The fewer distractions, the greater likelihood your audience will click that button.

Rule #6 – Recyclable

Recycle Your ContentIf you’ve written something useful, reformat it. From email to social media, videos to articles, and everything in between, exhaust all avenues where your audience is active.

If they’re on social media, look at the content you’ve written and create teaser tweets that lead back to the main content. You worked hard writing that content, so go the extra step and give it all reasonable chances for exposure.

Rule #7 – Citations & Links

Give Sources and CitationsCredibility is important. If you can support your point of view with quotes or links from other industry leaders, do it!

Citations bolster statistics, opinions, and industry facts. If you refer to a data source, be sure to give the original author credit. This is a great way to build rapport with others who may notice and cite your content.

There’s an authentic ring to content when you’re able to support the data with original source material. And of course, it goes without saying, that your links and sources should all bubble up to support your focal point. Verify what you’re linking out to—it might be a savvy SEO move. Use citations and links sparingly – you want visitors to stick around, not dash off to another site!

Rule #8 – Entertain & Educate

Entertain or EducateIs your content entertaining or educating? If it isn’t, you’re missing a key factor – delight.

People are consuming more content at different levels from multiple devices and sources.

Entertainment and education are important ways to stand out from the crowd. It doesn’t have to be sensational, but review your content from the angles of education and entertainment. If you can stay on point, but add an element of fun or make the information bite-sized, you’re opening up viral exposure opportunities.

Rule # 9 – Grammar & Spellcheck

Grammar and Spellcheck

Attention!

Toilet ONLY for

DISABLED

ELDERLY

PREGNANT

CHILDREN

Thank you for shopping with us!!!!

Wait, what? Now that’s one specific toilet. Grammar provides proper context. That message was posted at a major brand store. Now, it’s an internet favorite, but not for the intended reason. There’s “good” viral and “bad” viral.

Grammar rules won’t always apply and here’s why: most in-person conversations naturally deviate from the rigid grammar we were taught for the situation and culture. There may be intentional grammatically incorrect content that your audience can relate to. If that fits with your brand, keep it.

This doesn’t eliminate the basic rules, however. Hubspot wrote a great piece about common grammar mistakes which should definitely be followed, no matter how relaxed or casual the tone.

Make sure your content sends the right message about your brand.

Rule # 10 – Right Target

Design Content for Your AudienceWho is your audience? Why should they care about what you’re sharing?

Where are they likely to consume your content? Do they take their time, or are they distracted? Would they rather see pictures or a video? If they’re on their phones, you’ll be developing content that’s easiest to consume on a small screen. If they’re on their laptops, they’ll have a larger screen and a keyboard. Designing everything from the written word to button sizes can make the difference in both sales and the user experience.

Imagine being on a phone, in a hurry, and wanting to purchase the product you see. You try, but the form fields are so small you can’t complete the purchase process.

Right target means more than just knowing who’s buying from you. It also means knowing enough about their habits that you can design your content for both who they are and how they’re most likely to access it.

Use these yard sticks before you publish, and make your content the best it can be!

About The Author

Jeanie Walker
Longtime brand and marketing professional with a special fondness for delivering the best customer experience design and a zest for helping local companies build strong communities.