The Key to Producing Quality Content
Every writer has a unique style of writing. Writer’s should a level of freedom to create awesome content. However, without clear guidelines, consistency in voice and quality can vary. No one likes micromanagement, but managing a team of copywriters effectively requires clearly communicating set standards and committing to enforcing them. Whether you market for social media, blogs, press releases, or any web content, you’ll want to create a thorough checklist for writers to review before submission of any work. Remember: you want to simplify editing and reviews as much as possible by making writers accountable for their work.
Have a look at the Direction Writer’s Checklist! While you might want to add an item specific to your niche, we believe this guide offers a strong foundation to ensure consistent voice from across all writers!
Here’s a quick overview of the different categories we’ve created:
An editor’s job should not be focused on fixing simple spelling and grammar mistakes. Make writers responsible for creating readable content. Readers will face confusion over misplaced commas, dangling modifiers, and other errors. Moreover, poor grammar makes content look unprofessional on company websites. Simply put, if readers cannot make sense of the information, what good is it?
We would hope career writers mastered basic English grammar in high school, but everyone makes honest mistakes, especially under pressure. If you’re an established SEO company, you probably manage a team of dozens of writers who submit hundreds of content pieces a month. Manually reviewing all their content would consume an enormous amount of time.
So, Is there a better solution?
Yes! Direction INC uses Grammarly, a sophisticated software that scans text for grammar and spelling mistakes and suggests stylistic changes. The pro version also crawls the web for any possible instances of plagiarism. You can install it as either a Google Chrome / Microsoft Word plugin or as a standalone application. You’ll want to use some common sense as the program does not understand context, slang, and brand lingo. Grammarly will automatically grade content a percentage score. Direction INC sets the bar high and only approves content with a 90%. Keep in mind, It’s fairly difficult for anyone to get a 100% since it is just a computer program scanning text and not a perfect system. As an editor, you should direct writers to use the program themselves before any submissions.
Writers should generally write directly to the point, but this strategy should not imply avoiding pertinent details and necessary information. The more relevant and useful content you can provide on a subject, the more likely Google will crawl the site and give it a higher ranking in SERPs. The research concludes that the average top results for queries have well over 2000 words. You can set your own guidelines that vary per project. You’ll want to provide clear and consistent word count requirements. Although you should be reasonable in what you expect within a timeframe. For instance, writing over 7000 words on “How to Tie Your Shoes” might prove difficult for any writer.
Whether you set a goal of 500, 1000, or 2500 words, make writers accountable themselves for matching content length with valuable information. Writing shouldn’t ramble on on tangents just for the purpose of meeting word counts.
SEO Best Practices
Writers for digital marketing agencies can come from a variety of backgrounds. Strong writers might have experience from the fields of public education, print journalism, broadcasting, or in library science. A strong writing team should have a range of talent, yet apply the same SEO strategies. Everyone should be on the same page for creating optimized headers and incorporating keywords.
For example, you want to carefully train your writing staff on how to properly construct a logical outline using H tags. Writers shouldn’t feel pressured to overload content with target keyword phrases. Instead, they should let the content speak for itself by addressing as many trending questions and related terms surrounding it. As writers become more acquainted with the content niche, they’ll develop a strong grasp of how to utilize search terms you give them. The ideal content writer starts themselves by researching trends, using programs like answerthepublic.com, and evaluates the structure of a similar competitor’s page. Google favors pages with highly specialized, user-friendly outlined content.
You can dominate some market niches just by having strong content with logical H tags that include relevant keywords! Editors shouldn’t have to go through and change every title and subtitle.
Okay, so let’s say the writers have solid grammar, match word counts, and include optimized headings and keywords. In reality, a robot could do all those things. Creativity makes writing come alive and connect with the reader! Word choice deals more with the art of writing, rather than strict methodology and structure. Writing should speak to the target audience in a personal way by using the right voice and wording. For example, writing that addresses teens should sound different than if you were to target corporate giants. Make clear to your writers that they are fully representing the client company and should, therefore, implement an appropriate style and tone. Be mindful of the connotation some words carry in a client’s industry and remain positive in the overall mood. Writers should try and present content in as clear and concise a way as possible, meaning they should avoid passive voice sentences and any awkward phrasings.
Professional online copy should involve more than just opinions and witty marketing lines. In today’s day and age, fact checkers and public review listings can leave poor evaluations of the website’s content. These downvotes can substantially lower the SEO ratings and harm their credibility.
Instruct your writers to include quality research from verifiable authority sources to substantiate claims.You should advise your staff to follow a particular writing style guide for formatting citations and bibliographies, but which one you choose may depend on your niche. Academia and most organization involved in the liberal arts (literature, philosophy, mathematics, etc..) follow the Modern Language Association (MLA) guidelines. Then the science fields tend to use the American Psychological Association (APA) style. Historians and a few other social scientist write using the Chicago Manual Style (or simply Chicago Style).
If you’re not careful, you may end up in legal jeopardy for publishing plagiarized content! Every statistics, direct quotes, and even paraphrases should give proper credit to the original authors. This extra step will give you more credibility and make it easier for readers to continue research on their own. Since bibliographies are essentially giving someone free backlinks, you wouldn’t want to source a competitor’s page or another blog! Stick to sourcing material from subject authorities, like universities, government departments, and well-known NGOs.
I know what you’re thinking: formatting citations take forever! Fortunately, the internet is full of tools that automatically format links into correct citations. EasyBib and CitationMachine are popular programs, but the features are limited are limited unless you pay for their pro subscriptions. Instead, Direction INC prefers Zotero because it offers a free standalone program to store and organize references. It also has a Google Chrome and Firefox plugin extension that allows you to save bibliographic data with a click of a button! Whatever citation program your company decides to use, be sure manually check items the computer may miss, like author names and dates.
Formal citations are not always required in the digital world, but they never hurt!
Marketing Best Practices
Finally, set clear standards for “call to action” lines or copy that compels the reader to make a decision, such as buying the product, calling the business, or donating online. Even if you’re writing for a purely public information site, writers should open with a strong personalized hook and end in lines that invite the reader to “read more” on a related internal page.
You want to sandwich pages with critical company information presented in a beautiful and creative way. Don’t lecture or talk down to the readers! Rather, use snappy catchphrases that incorporate fun literary devices, like metaphors, alliteration, and onomatopoeia. You could say, “Call for sneaker deals!” or you might better say “Snazzy sneakers on sale today. Call Now!” After researching the product niche, you’ll find different ways to connect with the psychology of the target audience. Writers need original and clever sounding CTAs that represent the client’s goals and purpose.
You should also train writers to use the “inverted pyramid” style of front-loading all significant content in the first or second paragraph. Think of it like laying out the thesis in a college paper. Today, consumers hate reading and expect information immediately. Thus, give them broad points in the beginning and then elaborate all the minor details in the body sections.
You’re free to use our writer’s checklist as you see fit. All the criteria we’ve outlined will prove invaluable for staffing and training quality writers!
Having excellent blogs pieces and other copy forms an integral part of growing your online presence. Looking to dominate your market? Direction INC offers the full package of digital marketing services, including web design, PPC Adwords, social media management, and search engine optimization.
Contact us today for a free quote!