The Nuts and Bolts of Crafting Quality Content by@oap

The Nuts and Bolts of Crafting Quality Content

A great article is made up of words pieced together artfully to appeal to a specific audience. It’s vital to know the process that goes into crafting a quality article. Else, your content will sit forever on your blog, and never reach it's full potential in terms of the leads and conversions it can generate.
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Akachukwu Obialor/akachukwuobialor@gmail.com HackerNoon profile picture

Akachukwu Obialor/[email protected]

Helps SaaS startups drive traffic with unique content, filled with actionable insights.

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90.63% of content on Google gains no traffic.


Shocking! Right? But that’s the reality. This is for many reasons, chief of them being quality.


Just take a moment to visit search engines. For every search, you’d find numerous articles arranged into several result pages.


Some are great.


Others? Not so good.


This is even though 74% of marketers agree that valuable, quality content translates into marketing success, greater leads, and higher conversion rates, based on a report by CMI.


So, what makes for a great article?


In this article, you’ll discover the building blocks of a great article, from the headline to the conclusion, followed by actionable tips to make your content the quality that your readers expect and respond to.


But before going forward, it’s vital to answer one crucial question...

What’s the Definition of a Great Article?

A great article is one that gets the response you desire from the readers.


If your readers are engaged. If they’re sharing it with their friends. If they’re buying through it. Or promoting it on their socials. Then, it’s surely a great article.


What this means is that your readers come first—that is if you’re aiming for a great article. Leads and conversions all happen when your audience confirms that your content is of high quality.

So, it’s vital to know the process that goes into crafting a quality article.

The Nuts and Bolts of Crafting a Great Article


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Just like a machine, a great article is made up of words pieced together artfully to appeal to a specific audience.


So, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of what quality content looks like, shall we?

Written with a specific audience in mind.

Writing for everyone means writing for nobody.


Before you start writing, specify your audience and know them better than your favorite recipe, because specificity creates a personal connection between your article and readers. When they connect with your article on a personal level, all other objectives, such as conversions, are fulfilled by default.


So…How can you make your articles ultra-targeted?


By developing a research-based content strategy: that’s it. Research must form the bulk of your writing process.


But…

How do you do audience research for an article? This visual summarizes the entire process of audience research.


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Customer surveys also work if you know the right questions to ask. Avoid questions that are leading or have a yes-or-no answer. You want customers to express themselves in their own words, giving you a front seat to their pain points exactly as they are.


Another nifty way to get information on your readers is through review mining. When you visit review sites, you’ll discover many questions your audience has concerning the topic you’re writing about.


Now that you’re done with your research, it’s time to crunch your data into audience personas.

Developing audience personas

Don’t confuse this with the generic marketing personas such as “he’s an executive-level

professional”. These give simple, generic details that lead nowhere. Your persona must be more detailed and result from deep research into your readers.


Once you research deeply, you’ll unearth data on your readers that will determine the angle, nuances, and unique language you’ll use to write.


Below is an awesome starting document developed by CMI, that you can use to build your own audience persona.

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Audience persona by CMI

It has an attention-grabbing headline.


If writing an article were a war, then the headline would be "Waterloo": once you lose here, you’ve lost the war for the attention of your reader.


So, how can you craft the perfect headline?

Write a headline. Then Rewrite it later.

To write a quality article, you must have some idea of where it’s headed from the start.


So, It’s better to have the objective of the article nailed down, write a tentative headline, write the body of the article, and come back later to rewrite a better headline.


But don’t write just one. Write many (at least 10) then choose the best from them. Besides, the more you do it, the better you get at it

Include odd numbers in your headline

Odd numbers trigger a psychological reaction in us because our brains attach authenticity to odd numbers more than even numbers due to millions of years of evolution. It’s why blogs with odd numbers have 20% higher click-through rates.


Finally, use numerals instead of spelling out the numbers. Fastcompany does this very well in the article below:


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You can see that the writer uses an odd number and numerals. The combination of these two is what makes the headline catch attention of readers.

It starts with a short, enticing opening.


From the time your readers land on your article, they’re asking themselves: Is there something in here for me?


If you can't convince them that the answer is yes in less than 8 seconds or with your first 100 letters, they'll move on to another article that will.


So, to draw them into the article, your opening must do four things:


  • Notify the readers that they’re about to read a story that’s different and original.
  • Prove that it’s written just for them
  • Show that it contains a solution to a problem they’re facing
  • Convince them to move to the next line. Then the line after that. And the line after that. Until they reach the last full stop.

These four points are must-dos for every introduction.


So, how do you write a short and enticing introduction that sucks your readers in?

Quote an interesting stat (like I did at the beginning of this article)

This is especially perfect for articles that are based on a thesis that is a bit contrarian. It’s great to start right off the bat with proving your thesis.


Quoting relevant data is a great way to support your idea.

Ask a question

Starting an article with curiosity-piquing, socrates-esque questions activates the brain’s limbic reward system, which spurs the reader to read on to get the answer.


However, the question must be three things: thought-provoking, related to the thesis of the whole article, and not generic. If it’s generic, you’d annoy them and lose their attention.


This article by Unbounce, does a great job of hooking attention with a question.


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Tell a relatable story.

Our brains love stories.


They trigger certain areas our brain and make us paint a mental picture of what’s happening in the story unconsciously. Additionally, since our brain always wants to get to the conclusion of the story, it always piques our attention. That’s why story-based introductions are such a success.


Your story could be fictional, non-fictional, or personal. But there must be a thread connecting your story with the information you wish to convey in the article. Otherwise, you’ll lose your

readers halfway through.


Jessica Lunk does a great job, weaving a story into the introduction of an article on personas, for Benchmarkone.

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The story is relatable to her audience (public speakers), covers a pain that they can relate to, and ends with the promise of a solution. That alone is enough reason for them to want to read the article.

Resolve skepticism straight away.

When writing on controversial topics or thought-leadership-esque pieces, it’s vital to combat reader skepticism from the get-go.


If you don’t and instead bury proof of your idea in the article’s body alone, no one will read it, because they disagree with the idea you’re trying to put forward in the first place.


Rather, prove your point using either facts, data, testimonials, or a combination of all or any two of them.

Share a controversial stat

Now, be careful here: Let your controversiality align with the ideas of your readers.

You can’t quote a controversial stat that annoys 90% of your audience and expect them to read on.

End the introduction with a thesis that captures what the article is essentially about.

Now that you’ve captured your audience’s attention in the opening, it’s now your job to make them read the rest of the body.


To do this, state your thesis to set the stage for what they’ll be getting in the article. Doing so activates a curiosity that our brains always crave to satisfy.


If you wish to get more into a good structure for an introduction, check out the Hook, Line, and Sinker framework generated by Animalz.

It’s simplified for your audience.

When you’re writing an article, leave your ego at the door.


It’s not the time to display your broad knowledge of the English language and writing prowess, by shoving complex words down the throats of your readers. It’s not just right.


Don’t make readers have to read each sentence twice to grasp what you’re saying because every extra second they spend trying to understand, increases the possibility of them going to another website.


So, use words that align with the awareness level of your audience.


If they’re knowledgeable about the topic, using some complex-speak will suffice. But if they have little or no knowledge, stick to plain language.


In summary, write as your audience speaks.

It Has a Clear Takeaway.

The goal of every article is not just to rank. The fundamental goal is to offer a solution to a problem facing your reader. So stick to that. Hammer home the takeaways from the headline, to the conclusion.


Also, don’t try to solve many problems in the same article (unless it’s a pillar page). If not, your readers would finish reading, get no value, and avoid your website like the plague.


To avoid this, have a main topic. Then discover supporting ideas that prop up the main topic using LSI keywords you find during SEO research.


Also, start all articles with an outline.


An outline is a map, that guides you to from the start of the race (your headline) to the finish line (your conclusion). If you’re finding it difficult to come up with an outline, this article by Animalz would help you.


Finally, include actionable insights and step-by-step instructions.


Don’t just drop theoretical knowledge that is useless to your readers because they clicked on your article to find a solution, not more information.

It’s devoid of word fluff

These days, it’s easy to spot word fluff. It’s as clear as a rainbow on a sunny day, when a writer is writing to reach a specific word count or crams in more information than necessary.


It shows when you use unnecessary words, or veer off the thesis of your article. And even those that try to read it, would never bother to come back.


So, if two words are enough to pass on the information, stick to it. If it takes three words, then that’s okay too. Each word must earn its place.


But…

How can you weed out fluff?

Remove adjectives and adverbs.

Most of the time, adjectives and adverbs add no meaning to a sentence, except to increase your word count.

Before you decide to leave them in your final piece, remove them briefly from the sentence. If the meaning of the sentence remains unchanged, then cut them out.

Know the topic

Research your topic and get to know it well. Well enough to write in-depth about it, without surrendering to the temptation of padding each paragraph with unnecessary words. Or repeating the same thing over and over again.

Use strong verbs.

To convey the severity of what you’re trying to say, use strong verbs rather than adverbs or adjectives.

Strong verbs give your readers a vivid description of what you’re trying to say.

Stay on topic.

It’s okay to use stories here and there, to better pass across your information and engage readers. But always remain on topic.


Don’t pull on so many threads, and leave your readers confused at the end of the day.

It empathizes with the reader.

I’m sure that you have that friend that always gives you a listening ear. They don’t mind listening to your complaints for hours on end.


It’s like they get it. They understand your struggles and are ready to offer help in any way they can.


Whenever you write, be that friend.


Why?


Because from the headline to the introduction and the body, your readers are constantly asking: Can I get a solution to my problem here? The moment they sens the answer is no, they will leave immediately.


The best way to make them know from the get-go that you’re here to help is to employ empathy.


Acknowledge their challenge. Reassure them that you understand and want to help.

Take this article by the Lucid content team for instance:


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The writer connected with the challenges of the reader, showed that they understand them, and presented a solution.


So, make a promise in your headline—directly or indirectly. Hone in on the promise and empathise with the problem in the short, straight-to-the-point introduction. And deliver on the promise in the body. Yea, it’s that simple.


But showing empathy doesn’t just stop there. Writing with empathy also means you must give readers the solution they’re searching for. Moreover, your readers landed on your page to find a solution, which in most cases, is not more information.


Here’s an example by Lily Ugbaja in an article for Literal Humans.


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Instead of just giving a tip and stopping there, she goes on to show how. So, readers don’t leave with half-baked knowledge, but actionable tips. That’s empathy for readers in action.

It’s Authoritative

Your readers know when you’re writing a topic you know little about, without sufficient knowledge. And once they discover that, you’ll lose their trust.


So, your fingers should not feel the keyboard, until you’ve become immersive in the topic, gotten fluent with the nuances, and discovered the knowledge gaps. You can’t do all these if you rely solely on Google for research.


So…


Take a short course that’s relevant. Read a book that relates to the topic. Or watch Youtube videos.

Just do whatever you can to understand the topic before you write.

It employs good formatting

Whether a rap song is great or not doesn't just come down to the lyrics. The delivery also plays a key role. Writing is no different.


Good content is more than just how the words are put together. It's also about how it’s delivered to your readers on the screen of their PC or mobile device. And if they don’t have a great experience when reading the article, they’ll be disappointed.


To aid readability:

Use short sentences and paragraphs.

Remember reading those 1000-page novels with long, winded sentences and sleeping off after reading the first paragraph a million times?


Well, that’s what you do to your readers when you write articles with 20-word sentences and 6-line paragraphs.


Short sentences and paragraphs gives your readers time to breathe and understand what you just wrote before moving on. Don’t make them work to understand what you’re saying.

Replace long-winded lists with bullet points.

Use bullet points, rather than a huge block of text to write a list.

Aside from enhancing readability, readers can easily grasp what you’re trying to convey with bullet points.

Use reader-friendly fonts.

Using font types and sizes that are difficult to read, is the same as a doctor scribbling a prescription in cursive that only the pharmacist can understand. Even if they squint, they just can’t understand.


So, before you choose the typeface to use for your blog, use these guidelines:

  • Use fonts that align with your brand.

  • Keep the number of fonts you use to the barest minimum. If you must use more than one, ensure that they are complementary.

  • Before your article goes live, try to get a second opinion on what it looks like.

  • Use h-tags for sections. This creates a hierarchy and gives your readers an idea of what to expect in each section.


A great example of a combination of great formatting practices is an article I wrote on Hackernoon. Here’s a screenshot:

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One thing you’ll notice is the use of:

  • short sentences and paragraphs punctuated by 4-sentence-long paragraphs
  • optimal use of whitespace
  • a reader-friendly font that’s legible to unaided eyes.

Use a hyperlinked table of contents and a progress bar.

A table of contents lets your readers know what to expect in the article and jump right into the section they’re interested in. This increases CTR and benefits SEO.


Also, a progress bar tells readers how much progress they’ve made. It gives your readers feedback and encourages them to read the entire article, which is especially vital for long-form posts.


But if you’re using a table of content, optimize it for readability.


Leave some white space between the items and around them, so that your readers can take notice of the table of contents, even when scanning through the article.


Hubspot combines a progress bar and a table of contents to great effect in all their blog posts.


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It maximizes the use of visual elements.

Our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text-based information.


I mean, it's way easier to read an article with images than one with a giant wall of text. That’s because each visual slowly sucks you into the article, keeping your attention along the way.


Also, for most of us, our brains process and retain visual information faster than text. Words tell the story, but visuals show the story.


So, how many images should a good article have?


While there’s no definite answer to that, research by Buzzsumo shows that articles with an image after every 75-100 words have a higher likelihood of getting shared. While Andy Crestodina suggests using visuals per scroll depth. That means when a reader scrolls to a new page, they’re supposed to see a visual.


In either case, the more visuals, the merrier.


But you shouldn’t include visuals without a focus. They must relate to the topic and the text around them.


Additionally, the quality of the visual really matters. An image that’s smudged and difficult to understand would do no good to your article.


So:

  • Use high-quality images: JPGs are usually better than PNGs for the web.
  • Keep the size of the visuals below 1MB: Remember, the larger the picture, the slower your website loads. And slow load times mean lower rankings on Google.

It’s original

More often than not, you’d write on a topic that has already been written on.


You may be tempted to take the easy route and rewrite an article from the first page of Google SERP. Never fall for it.


Why?


You’ll produce low-quality articles that offer nothing unique and increase bounce rates. And since there are already billions of articles out there on Google echoing the same thing, you can’t get leads and conversions with an article that looks like every other one.


Instead, you should:

  • Engage in in-depth research before you write. Then write with a unique voice, give a unique spin to the topic, and offer a solution that’s not in the other articles.
  • Interview SMEs. You’ll get insights you can’t find anywhere on the SERPs.
  • Carry out research and write about the result.


As attention spans decrease and the amount of content increases, only unique articles will win you customers.

All facts have supporting data.

It’s normal human intuition to only trust information that’s accompanied by proof. If there’s no proof, then poof: your efforts to write the perfect article go into thin air.


So, take your time to get all the data you need. Don’t just make assertions and leave it to your reader to decide if they're true or not. It creates scepticism.


Also, use only data from trusted sources.


Sites such as Statista have recent data in a broad range of industries.


Additionally, you can use Google search to mine data to use. Peak Freelance gives search strings you can use to get more research data. They include:

  • “State of [topic]”
  • “[Topic] report”
  • “[Topic] survey”
  • “[Topic] statistics”
  • “[Topic] case study”
  • “[Topic] examples”


Now that you’ve found data, how do you decide the one to use or discard?


Firstly, discard any data that’s older than 2 years, unless you're in an industry where things change slowly.


Secondly, only use accurate statistics.


The higher the authority of a website, the higher probability of its data being accurate.


But, how do you know if a website is authoritative?


The easiest way is through the domain authority or domain name. You can use keyword research tools like Keywords Everywhere to find the domain authority of any website, and stick to websites with URLs ending in dot Edu, and dot gov.


However, you can’t blindly trust statistics from authoritative sites.


So, before you use the statistics, compare them with others. Find out how the research was conducted (e.g peer-reviewed, sample sizes, info on how the data was obtained, etc).


Thirdly, discard any statistic that does not help you prove the point you’re making.


Finally, link back to the original source. Spare your reader the rigors of going through five articles to find the original source of the data, and click away until you find the original source of the data. If you don’t find the original source of the data, leave it out.

It closes with a bang!

The conclusion is not merely an opportunity to restate what you’ve written in the article. It’s your chance to decide what your readers will remember after reading your article.


According to the peak-end rule, your readers judge the entire article by the conclusion. If the conclusion is anything less than perfect, they will feel the same way about your entire article. So, take your time to craft the perfect conclusion.


How to craft the perfect conclusion

Set the stage.

Paint the possibilities they will unlock after they apply the tip/s you shared.


For instance, if you showed them how to optimize their eCommerce store for mobile, then the conclusion should include the problems they’ve solved by doing so: reduced bounce rates, increased customer retention, more sales, and higher rankings on SERPs.

Make it short and sweet.

The moment readers reach the conclusion, they don’t expect another 5 huge paragraphs.

They expect to find one thing: the conclusion.

Reiterate the points covered in the article.

This reminds them of all you covered in the article.

Outline the next steps.

What should they do with the information you’ve just given them? How can they implement it?

Make it as practical, and as simple as you can.

Ask a question

Asking a question is a great way to trigger responses and generate engagement. But the question must be related to the article itself.

Conclusion

Writing a high-quality article takes time and effort. But the rewards, such as increased engagement, rankings on SERP, conversions, and reader trust, justify every effort and time put in.


So, focus on creating quality content.


Optimize your headlines, introduction, body, and conclusion to serve your audience. Write with empathy, obey readability guidelines, back up your facts, and write with a deep knowledge of your audience.


Photo by Dan Cristian Pădureț on Unsplash

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