By Mike Murray published July 9, 2014

The Great Content Checklist: Tips, Tools, and Examples

fortune cookie-rewarded for effortsIf you want to produce great content, it’s time to leave ordinary in the dust.

By the time you’re ready to promote your latest creation, you may distribute it in a popular medium like a PDF or a deck that makes its way to SlideShare. But the content itself also needs to be so exceptional that it commands attention — even in a crowded and competitive environment.

Does that mean you need to spend four months and $1 million on video everyone will talk about for the next year?

Not at all.

Great content is about what you say, how it works to express who you are as a company, and how well it functions as a means for connecting with your audience. Great content means you can captivate readers just as well with a 1,500-word blog post as you can with a 140-character tweet, or a 5-minute video because your audience members value your perspective, feel you have an original voice, and consider your messages to always be relevant to their lives and needs.

Enjoy your past successes and don’t fret over content that fell way short. It’s time to gear up for the future. Use the following checklist to affirm your current best practices for producing great content and try out some new ideas you can use to increase your content marketing success right away.

Launching points for great content

Take time to size up your content and put it to the test. Be a tough critic and decide whether it’s really ready by answering questions like:

  • Is it informative?
  • How likely is it that someone will share it?
  • Is it well organized (i.e., will it be easy for readers to follow the logic and make their way through the conversation)?
  • Do you avoid industry jargon?
  • Does the content reflect your brand voice?
  • Is it well written (i.e., free of typos and in a format that will appeal to your audience)?
  • Do your visuals help the content pop?

In the midst of all of those questions, you should weigh whether the content is authoritative. Does it repeatedly convey that you know what you are talking about and are sharing insight that should be valued and trusted?

For example: The Other C Word: What Makes Great Content Marketing Great from the Velocity Partners agency succeeds on multiple levels. After an effective buildup, the presentation focuses on a central theme: confidence.

confidence-white word-red background

confidence says-white words-red splashAs an expert, you should be producing content that allows you to freely share your knowledge. It’s not difficult to be candid and helpful without resorting to sales pitches that won’t resonate with your target audience. However, you can still shape the content so it speaks to where your viewer might be in the buying cycle. B2B and B2C consumers are more likely to warm up to your great content — and stay engaged — if you speak their language.

Here are some critical questions to ask when tailoring your content to a particular stage in the purchasing process:

  • Which buyer persona are you referencing for this particular piece of content?
  • Are you using a clear call-to-action that moves readers down the funnel?
  • How will your visuals and text win over readers or viewers and keep them coming back to you for more?

For example: Paolo Mottola, Manager of Content Planning for REI, details a funny example in CMI and TopRank’s eBook, 36 Content Marketers Who Rock:

For supporting an urban cycling campaign, we didn’t just create an infographic, we created one that depicted the proper etiquette for releasing a snot rocket. We know we can rise above the noise when our content makes our brand relatable to the customer. In the case of clearing your nose while riding, snot rockets were our disruptive, relatable angle and it worked!

The form and function of great content

Whether it’s print or digital content, the format you choose will be just as critical to success as the message itself. For example, a single graphic accented by a statistic or quote can get an important point across in a few seconds — perfect for on-the-go audiences who are likely to view your content on a mobile device.

What format will work best for members of your audience and the ways they prefer to engage with your messages? Options include:

  • Text (e.g., articles, blog posts)
  • Comic-style presentations
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Audio
  • Photos
  • Webinars

Here are some examples of great content created in various formats:

For more ideas, be sure to look through CMI’s Ultimate eBook: 100 Content Marketing Examples.

Measuring and marketing great content for optimal performance

How will you know whether the content you create is worth the development resources spent if you don’t have a way to track and measure its performance? Who will monitor and analyze the data? Are you going to track social shares, time spent on your website, a spike in subscriptions, downloads, or another primary indicator to measure the value of the content you are producing? These are just some of the metrics questions you will need to answer as you strive to create great content. (You’ll find some more useful guidance in CMI’s eBook, A Field Guide to the Four Types of Content Marketing Metrics.)

Similarly, you can’t expect great content to provide optimal value if you aren’t doing everything you can to ensure that it reaches the widest — and most relevant —audience possible. For this reason, you need to consider what your marketing strategy will be for each piece of content you develop. Some marketers say you should amplify your content everywhere possible — including repurposing it or linking to it on all your owned media channels — while others feel a more targeted, precise distribution plan is a more effective use of your content marketing resources. But regardless of which strategy you prefer, the important thing is that you know, in advance, what the purpose is for developing that content, and how you can deliver it to best serve that purpose.

In his blog post, These are the 6 Steps I Use for Great Content Marketing, Jay Baer cautions businesses about how they approach content:

Far too many companies are creating content just to be able to check that box on their marketing tactics chart. ‘Let’s do content marketing’ is replacing ‘let’s do social media’ and ‘let’s try to go viral’ as the most commonly heard — yet utterly rudderless — corporate mandate. Content can serve different purposes within a company, and the best content marketing programs define the role of content beforehand, not after the fact.

Tools to support great content ideas

Sometimes your best content ideas can stem from what you’re discovering elsewhere. Several tools can help you get a pulse on a specific topic or industry:

  • Reference Reddit to find precise topics that your audience cares about.
  • Subscribe to the Daily Digg email to see the day’s top stories that have a strong viral potential or are likely to be a good conversation starter.
  • Buzzsumo will help you find the most shared content on relevant topics and discover which ones are gaining traction so you can decide whether or not it would be worthwhile to add your brand perspective to the conversation.
  • Pocket saves and organizes articles, and allows you to set up customized alerts for trending stories.

It takes time and the right resources to produce great content. Mostly, you must be creative and impress your audience with something fresh and compelling. You need them to trust you as they begin to invest part of their time to consume your content. Hopefully they will contact your business or at least share your content with others.

How do you ensure that you’re developing great content? We would like to hear from you.

Want to see more examples of stellar content marketing? Check out CMI’s eBook, 75 Examples to Spark Your Content Marketing Creativity.

Cover image via George GrimmHowell

Author: Mike Murray

Mike Murray has shaped online marketing strategies for hundreds of businesses since 1997, including Fortune 500 companies. A former journalist, he has led SEO studies and spoken at regional and national Internet conferences. Founder of Online Marketing Coach, Mike is passionate about helping clients identify their best opportunities for online marketing success based on their strengths, his advice and industry trends. You can find him at his blog, Online Marketing Matters or on Twitter @mikeonlinecoach.

Other posts by Mike Murray

Join Over 170,000 of your Peers!

Get daily articles and news delivered to your email inbox and get CMI’s exclusive e-book Get Inspired: 75 (More) Content Marketing Examples FREE!

  • Roger C. Parker

    This is an excellent “portal post” to recommend to friends who ask, “What’s a good starting point for learning more about content marketing?”

    Inspiring in many ways, especially the “Other C” SlideShare and the ebook links.
    Roger

    • http://www.onlinemarketingcoach.com/ Mike Murray

      Roger: Glad you liked the piece. I tried to provide as much variety as possible.
      Mike

  • http://netcurate.com/ Sujay Maheshwari

    What a list! Thanks for putting this together. Do you think “curation” should also be in consideration? For e.g. a brand having a dedicated effort besides creation where they curate but with value – which means leveraging a platform like Netcurate.com where you can bring in an external story but start a conversation like Poll, Quiz, Opinion and amplify the existing content and make it into your mainstream content marketing?

    • http://www.onlinemarketingcoach.com/ Mike Murray

      Sujay: Great content depends on how it entices and engages. Leveraging external stories might make sense, but they would still need to serve your target audience for the piece and support your brand. Make it a supplement to what you create and measure it against your other content.

      • http://netcurate.com/ Sujay Maheshwari

        Every work makes sense and right on the target! Totally agree with you.

        Thanks for putting it down here.

  • Darren Leffler

    Great article, but did you spot the typo in the ‘tough critic’ list that advises that your content should be free from typos?

  • NancyEllenB

    GREAT article. I think my favorite part is the statement: “… the best content marketing programs define the role of content beforehand, not after the fact.” I think too many content professionals are pressed to “develop content” by colleagues before the definition of content has been established and realized and before critical groundwork (i.e., personas or buyer’s journeys) have even been created.

    • http://www.onlinemarketingcoach.com/ Mike Murray

      I’m glad you liked it. Fortunately marketers do produce great content a little out of order — even before everything is considered. The whole checklist is a guide so marketers can adapt the ideas to their own planning process. At the end of the day, it still comes down to measurement.

  • Jitendra Padmashali

    Content marketing is a broad term for social media, customer engagement, webpage optimization, info-sharing, blogging, and other tools on the modern marketer’s tool belt.

  • http://brassborn.com Kyle McCord

    Great article. My firm’s checklist’s are going to going to get updated today. Thanks Mike Murray!

  • http://www.blog.ihr-text-coach.de/ Günter Heini

    Great article and great list!

  • http://www.thedsmgroup.com/ Jason Diller

    this. is. awesome.

    cheers

  • http://dreamjoblab.com/ Matt Langan

    Mike, it’s no surprise why this article has received so many likes, comments and shares. If your readers would like to continue to explore this topic further, I would invite them to view this 42 point content marketing checklist: http://heineventures.com/content-marketing-checklist-42-questions-to-ask-before-publishing-your-next-article/