Let me preface this by saying we (and I) here at SaberWP are not experts by any means in content marketing and blogging. Though we’ve helped many clients do custom development to improve their blogs and other content presentation, in terms of writing content, optimizing it, and generating leads from our content marketing, we’re relatively beginners in this area. Nonetheless I thought seeing as I’m writing a checklist or some form of guide for myself to follow in this area, and for anyone I hire to help in this area, I might as well write in the familiar Gutenberg editor and actually publish it as a post. I hope it helps you form a similar checklist if that’s your goal.
What is a Content Quality Checklist?
The general idea is for us to be able to look at one piece of content and then glance over at a checklist and ask ourselves does this content pass or fail on each checklist item? Simple enough right? Exactly, it’s designed to be super simple. A content quality checklist could be as simple as:
- Does the title pass RankMath checks?
- Is the length over our minimum bar for word count for this type of article.
- Are there any spelling errors?
- Does the author box look professional?
Although the goal here to keep things really simple and make it easy to do the checks, there are complications that can arise. For example look at the second item on the list, minimum bar for word count… how many words is that exactly? Let’s say my goal is to make full-length articles over 1,200 words most of the time. Does this mean every short post announcing something or commenting on a topic is going to fail the content quality checklist? Or do we skip doing the content quality checklist for those smaller posts? Or, do we adapt the checklist to the type of content?
Adapting your content quality checklist to match the “goal and intent” of the content item is the preferred method (in our view). This is because there are important checklist items that we do want to enforce on every content item, so it won’t work to skip the entire list when some items don’t apply. It’s also not great if the person testing has to make on-the-fly decisions about which checklist items apply, when it appears the checklist doesn’t make sense for the given content item. This is where content planning and strategy comes into play. On the topic of content length, instead of just writing without any guidelines and then being surprised (pleasantly or otherwise) by the results, instead you should have some ranges for different types of content before content is produced. You can also implement content length goals retroactively, then go back and apply the checklist to previous content and begin to order changes to content to make each content item conform to the checklist process.
How to apply and use the content quality checklists?
We use RankMath for SEO here and this provides a sort of checklist and analysis of the posts we write in the sidebar directly next to the article. Yoast was I believe the first WordPress plugin to do this, but we prefer the interface RankMath provides as well as other benefits. It would be nice perhaps (someday) to have a content quality checklist positioned in the same place as a sidebar item. However, that kind of integration would probably come at some costs too in the sense that you would likely have less versatility to tailor the checklist to your business and your goals. Unlike SEO checklists, content quality checklists are not all about hitting some external standard. Some items on the checklist like “Is the content free of grammar errors” might be fairly universal, but other decisions like “Is this article tagged with 3-5 relevant tags” might be more specific to what you’re trying to achieve with your content marketing.
A spreadsheet is the simplest way to organize and apply checklist items. We initially tried using a single sheet and making each blog post a row and then each column was a checklist item. This didn’t work very well because we had too many checklist items and it become a cumbersome task to scroll and find each checklist. The vision for a checklist is more like what you would use in the physical world like a single sheet of paper on a clipboard. In other words one sheet per use of the checklist. This works better than a single sheet, but now we have a different problem because in a single workbook we would end up with over 100 sheets. That is a bit easier to solve however because we can just make a manageable amount of sheets like maximum 10 per workbook, and then copy the workbook to make another set. It’s not ideal, but this is the sort of work-around that you can do in place of having specific software for the task, it’s sort of like inventing your own software but with a relatively limited UX.
How long does it take to implement a content quality checklist program?
The actual time spent running the content quality checklist, as in testing your content and recording whether it passes or fails each checklist item, this is actually quite fast. It can be a matter of 5-10 minutes per content item. However, the much larger investment here is in fixing content when you find it does not pass content quality checklist items.
There is also the broader issue to consider in estimating the time to implement a content quality checklist. This is how if you’re blog or other content presentation isn’t fully developed yet, you might need to order changes to the structure of the layout or the presentation. For example let’s say you want to have the author bio boxes as one of the checklist items, making sure each content item has an author set, and that the author bio box has a photo, and a good bio. What if your blog template doesn’t even have a bio box yet? Well you can’t have a checklist item for something that doesn’t even exist, but instead of removing it from your checklist that should become a development ticket and a priority to solve at the dev level using the dev budget.