Success in content marketing depends on your ability to zig when everyone else is zagging. Content quality means more than ensuring your piece isn’t thin or doesn’t contain grammatical errors. It means the piece is able to hold people’s attention, delivers unique value, and leaves an impression. The goal of SaaS content is to lead prospects further along their journey toward booking a demo with you, after all.

Lookalike content may rank in search, but to get the conversion, your content must stand out. If your piece is simply a lengthy combination of ranking posts, you’re failing to sell prospects on your value — or even capture genuine interest. And anyway, now that everyone is creating massively long content, length is no longer the golden ticket to rankings.

average length for quality contentSource: Orbit Media

Formula for quality content: differentiation usefulness expertise artistry = success

So what does content quality look like? There’s no one right answer. Quality content can take many forms, like an Animagus, and it’s just as magical in the results it generates. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a science to creating it. Here’s a formula for quality content that will engage prospects and encourage them to read more of what you have to say.

1. Choose a differentiator

First and foremost, your content must be different in order to capture a prospect. If your piece simply adds components of several existing pieces together, or sounds like all the other articles that show up alongside it in a Google search, it won’t accomplish much. A relevant differentiator will help your readers understand that your brand is intelligent and brings real value to the table. Here are five solid differentiators.

  • Unique point of view — What view does your company hold that’s different from the rest of your industry? Or what point of view comes out of your product’s unique value proposition? For example, Sigma, a powerful self-service analytics software, uses a series of points of view centering on their position that even non-technical users should be empowered to deep-dive into data sets to find insights on their own, even semi-structured JSON data.
  • Contrarian opinion — A contrarian opinion based on facts and backed up with intelligence is a powerful differentiator. Consider how you could share a completely different take on a popular topic. Drift is a master of the contrarian opinion.
  • Personality — Personality can be its own differentiator. Consider Slack. Slack’s brand is consistently down-to-earth and slightly quirky. And their content stands out. It’s always useful and typically brings a smile along the way.
  • Original data — Original data isn’t only a link magnet. It also shows your brand is a leader in the industry. This research can be based on your customer data, on original survey data, or on partnership research (collaborating with a research organization or another brand that shares a similar user base). HubSpot’s State of reports are a prime example.
  • Personal experience — An often-overlooked differentiator is simply sharing personal experience. Because most brands produce “faceless” content, their pieces rarely include personal experience. For this reason, personal experience is an ideal zig. Personal experience stories are also engaging, inherently able to hold interest.

2. Make it uniquely useful

Quality content has a reason for existing. It’s not simply a regurgitation of what’s already out there. When you’re developing a content concept, search your key phrase in Google and see what appears. If what you had in mind is already all over the search results, it’s time to think deeper.

  • What angle could you take that would provide new insight?
  • Is there new research you could source from that sheds new light on the topic?
  • What’s missing from the content already published?
  • If your piece is a how-to, what would make the process simpler or more fail-proof?
  • What unique lessons have you learned on the subject as a result of your own experiments or personal experience?

Coming up with a uniquely useful angle may take a bit of thinking, but it will dramatically increase the value of your content.

3. Back it up with expertise

Google isn’t the only one that’s looking for authoritative content. Prospects value content rooted in expertise as well. If you’re writing on a subject that your brand is known for, or if your topic is one that you have personal expertise in, you can write authoritatively on your own. If not, you’ll want to include quotes and insights from subject matter experts to lend credibility.

4. Add artistry

Good writing delights people. Everyone loves a well-placed metaphor or an anecdote that perfectly illustrates a point. Using words that involve the senses can raise your content quality because you’re enabling your prospects to truly “get a sense” of what you’re saying. And adding artistry will ensure readers are better able to remember what you’ve communicated.

It’s rare for a piece of content to include even two of these elements, so content that includes all of them is sure to stand out as a high-quality piece.

Ranking in search is still important: content quality checklist

All of this said, ranking in search is still an important goal for many content pieces, especially top-of-funnel content. Here’s a checklist of things to run through after you’ve finished a piece to be sure you’re making Google happy as well as your readers:

  • Is the headline attention-grabbing while featuring your target key phrase?
  • Do you make the topic of the piece clear in the first paragraph, and have you included your key phrase in the first paragraph?
  • Is the content organized in a logical way?
  • Have you used easy-to-read sentence structure and avoided passive voice and jargon unfamiliar to your audience?
  • Does the format make the content easily-digestible, using headings, short paragraphs, bulleted lists, and white space?
  • Have you included relevant images, video, or other media, and have you optimized the media’s alt tags?
  • Have you used synonyms for your key phrase naturally throughout the piece?

While there are other factors that weigh into your ability to rank content (namely the site’s technical elements, how many high-value links are pointing to the site, including internal links, and your keyword strategy), these on-page elements will ensure your content has the necessary foundation for ranking well.

Quality content requires creativity

Creating quality content isn’t easy — which is why you don’t see a lot of it. The silver lining is that standing out is fairly simple if you introduce some creativity. Follow this formula, and you’ll catapult your content quality to new heights.