13 Quality Standards for Blogging: A Pre-Publish Checklist
The best practices listed here are the 13 Quality Standards we use in Content Conquered’s review process before articles go to our clients.
Make sure every box is checked before publishing your next article to ensure it helps meet your content marketing goals.
In the hierarchy of digital marketing communications, blogs often get the short end of the stick. They’re not as flashy as infographics, not as in-depth as white papers, and not as easily digestible as social media posts.
But blogging still serves an important role in a company’s content marketing program, supporting everything from SEO performance to sales process optimization. To ensure you’re getting the greatest possible value out of every post you produce, take the time to make sure every article you publish is top quality.
- Quality Standard #1: Does your blog have any spelling, grammar, or factual errors?
- Quality Standard #2: Are your voice, styling, and formatting consistent throughout your blog?
- Quality Standard #3: Are your data points, statistics, quotes, or recommendations timely and backed up by reputable sources?
- Quality Standard #4: Does your blog deliver on any promises made in its title and internal headings?
- Quality Standard #5: Does your blog use more words than necessary to convey information?
- Quality Standard #6: Does the tone, style, and language of your blog reflect your brand’s positioning?
- Quality Standard #7: Does your blog accurately reflect the experience level of your target readers?
- Quality Standard #8: Does your blog position your brand as a thought leader or industry expert?
- Quality Standard #9: Does your blog offer a unique take or a new perspective on a topic?
- Quality Standard #10: Is your blog enjoyable to read?
- Quality Standard #11: Does your blog leave your reader with unanswered questions?
- Quality Standard #12: Is there any plagiarism—accidental or otherwise—in your blog?
- Quality Standard #13: Have you incorporated any special instructions or requirements?
Quality Standard #1: Does your blog have any spelling, grammar, or factual errors?
This first standard is pretty straightforward. But basically, if you’re publishing content—especially to a business blog—it needs to be free from spelling issues, grammar issues, and factual errors.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools available today that make this easy to accomplish. Our team uses Grammarly Premium, but there are enough spell-check and grammar check tools out there that there’s really no excuse for publishing content with errors.
That said, since tools don’t always catch everything, it can also be helpful to have multiple people review a piece of content before it’s published (especially pillar content pieces or other high-priority topics). In particular, automated tools don’t always pick up things like sentences that are missing words or the incorrect use of homonyms or homographs. They also have weaknesses if your writers speak a different native language (even US English, Canadian English, UK English, and AU/NZ English variants have differences that need to be caught).
If you have others on your marketing team—or anyone else in your office with a decent sense of spelling and grammar—ask them to give your content a read-through before publishing.
At Content Conquered, the way we handle this is by making sure we have at least two people review every piece of content before it goes out to a client. Whether that’s the writer and one of our Project Managers, or whether that’s the writer, a separate editor, and a Project Manager—or even one of our Content Strategists—there are always at least two people catching mistakes that automated tools might miss.
Quality Standard #2: Are your voice, styling, and formatting consistent throughout your blog?
These types of issues manifest in a couple of different ways within a blog. The first is the Point of View (POV). Is the article consistently written as ‘I’ versus ‘We’ throughout the piece? Does it change part way through the article? Or does it use different POVs interchangeably? Ideally, we want that to be consistent—if there’s a reason for the change, it should be either obvious or explained.
Next, does the article use a consistent verb tense throughout? Does it start in present tense and then end in past tense? Is there any other kind of tense-switching throughout the piece that creates a feeling of inconsistency?
Does the content use consistent capitalization throughout? For example, does it have one H2 sub-heading in title case, while the next one is written in sentence case? If so, that kind of inconsistency can make the article feel unprofessional.
Finally, is the subject consistent throughout the article? Ideally, content should be geared towards a particular target customer persona, and it should be as specific as possible to their needs and their interests. Given this, the subject shouldn’t change throughout the article—though it’s something we see happen from time to time in article drafts.
As an example, imagine that you’re writing an article on best practices for sales managers. As readers, sales managers have a very different set of needs than sales representatives. So if your article starts off with tips for managing the performance of sales reps and then veers into cold-calling guidance, you’ve effectively changed subjects and likely alienated your readers.
Quality Standard #3: Are your data points, statistics, quotes, or recommendations timely and backed up by reputable sources?
This standard is especially important for business content right now, as many brands are making an effort to include data points and statistics in their articles to make them appear more authoritative.
Issues with this best practice manifest in a number of different ways. The first is timeliness. While there’s no blanket recommendation on ‘how old is too old’ when it comes to things like data points, you need to consider the value of an individual statistic in context.
As an example, anything written on remote work from 2019 or before is practically irrelevant at this point, given the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even a data point published in January 2020 isn’t likely to be relevant anymore—despite it being only a few years old.
At the same time, where you’re getting your information from matters. First, consider the source’s general validity. Citing a statistic from the Harvard Business Review is generally a better choice than from a site that’s brand new, unknown, or that lacks appropriate credentials for the subject matter.
But also, make sure you can actually find the data point in the cited source. We’ve seen plenty of instances where a statistic will be included in an article, but when we actually dig into its source, we either can’t find it or the original source is 10-20+ years old.
Two ways to avoid issues here are to be especially careful of data points that sound too good to be true or that come from ‘data point round-up articles’ (for instance, ‘25 Digital Marketing Statistics You Won’t Believe in 2022’).
In these cases—or any other times you’re suspicious of data points or statistics—dig in to make sure the original source can be found, and that it validates the statistic or data point. Remember, 70% of survey participants saying something doesn’t necessarily mean that the finding holds true for 70% of an entire market!
Quality Standard #4: Does your blog deliver on any promises made in its title and internal headings?
This is an interesting issue that we see come up from time to time, and it’s one that requires content teams to really think about the content they’re publishing.
As an example, imagine you’re writing on the topic, ‘The Ultimate Guide to the Keto Diet,’ because ‘keto diet’ is an SEO keyword you want to target.
Although a title structure using ‘The Ultimate Guide’ might get you a lot of clicks—after all, everyone wants to get answers to their questions with as little effort as possible—how will your readers feel when your post is only 800 words long? How will their trust in your brand change if all you put out is surface-level information they could find on any site?
There’s no arguing with the fact that SEO matters, and that getting more eyes on your article contributes to positive search performance. But look at the bigger picture as well. Regularly under-delivering isn’t going to do your brand any long-term favors.
Quality Standard #5: Does your blog use more words than necessary to convey information?
What this basically comes down to is: does the content feel substantive? Or does it feel fluffy?
If you’re working with freelance writers on your blog posts, there can be a few different challenges here. One is trying to hit a specific word count to increase your odds of out-competing existing content from an SEO standpoint. If you’re running into this issue, it’s generally better to increase the scope of the topic so that any additional word count still provides value to the reader, rather than adding filler text to meet your target word count without changing the topic.
Another challenge can occur if you’re working with freelance writers who aren’t hands-on experts in your industry or who don’t have the personal experience within your space to be able to produce expert-level content. If writers are limited to drawing on existing resources and recapping what they’ve learned from their research, you may get a lot of words but the content is likely to feel more fluffy than knowledgeable.
One way we work around this at Content Conquered is to interview internal subject matter experts (SMEs) within the client’s company as often as possible. But that’s something that anyone writing or working within your content marketing program can do.
If you feel like your writing isn’t as substantive as you’d like, find someone who can be interviewed—inside or outside of your company—to add more first-hand experience to the piece.
Quality Standard #6: Does the tone, style, and language of your blog reflect your brand’s positioning?
This standard is pretty easily understood. The language being used in your blog post should reflect how you want your brand to be perceived, and it should feel natural to your target readers.
Do you want to be seen as thoughtful? Authoritative? Bubbly? Friendly? As an example, imagine the content produced by a law firm or bank compared to articles published by a health and fitness brand. They’re probably going to sound different—and that’s ok.
This issue is easily controlled with a good brand tone of voice (TOV) guide, which should provide clear editorial and style guidelines to anyone creating content on your company’s behalf. Download Content Conquered’s free brand tone of voice guide template if you don’t have one already.
Whether you’re a solo writer or you’re managing a larger content creation team—either in-house or freelance—putting these guardrails in place makes it easy to create a more consistent brand experience for anyone who comes to your site and reads your content.
Quality Standard #7: Does your blog accurately reflect the experience level of your target readers?
On a similar note, it’s always a good idea to check your finished content against the needs of your target customer.
As mentioned above, individual content pieces should always be geared towards specific subjects—typically, your target customers. When you know who you’re writing for, you can determine when and where it’s appropriate to use language elements like jargon, acronyms, and phrases that are unique to your industry.
But you’ll also want to think about your readers’ level of expertise and understanding. Are they new to your subject matter? Do they have some experience, or can they be considered experts?
As an example, take a topic like estate tax planning. There’s a lot that can be written on the subject, but there’s a very big difference between writing a beginner-level piece (something like, “What is the Estate Tax?”) and writing for a tax professional who wants to learn expert-level strategies for minimizing estate tax.
Quality Standard #8: Does your blog position your brand as a thought leader or industry expert?
To be clear, the ‘you’ here might be your company or an individual within your company who’s being positioned as a thought leader or industry expert. This also isn’t necessarily required for every piece of content that’s published—there’s a time and a place for more beginner-level content and for SEO-driven content that prioritizes keywords over thought leadership.
But we’re seeing more and more clients who want to use their content to develop thought leadership—and we definitely recommend pursuing that, due to our philosophy of no single-use content. If you’re going to take the time to create a piece of content, why not have it meet multiple goals, such as SEO plus thought leadership development?
In any case, assuming that thought leadership development is a priority, this particular quality standard is worth a double check before you hit the ‘Publish’ button. Do you really feel like your blog is helping to position your leader or company as an expert?
If it’s not, either make further changes or invite internal SMEs to contribute their knowledge to the article. Doing so will help the content feel more substantive and make it more reflective of the thought leadership that’s held within the organization.
Quality Standard #9: Does your blog offer a unique take or a new perspective on a topic?
No one wants to read boring content or articles that rehash existing knowledge. But while it’s always best to offer a fresh look at a topic, this can be challenging if you’re writing on well-worn subjects or if you’re working with writers who aren’t hands-on experts in your industry.
As noted above, however, there are different ways you can bring this expertise into your content so that what’s being written actually does provide some unique value to your larger audience.
There are several ways we do this at Content Conquered. For instance, we might send an email to a client’s internal SME with a couple of questions for them to respond to. If they don’t have time to write out their responses, we can interview them directly or ask them to record voice notes where they’re just talking through the questions we’ve asked.
Depending on our clients’ preferences and availability, we might also produce an outline first and then ask them to leave notes—via text or audio recordings—sharing the specific advice they want to be added to the piece.
If you can’t get in front of an internal SME, you can always go outside of your company. Sources like Help a Report Out may be able to connect you with people you can interview, or you can reach out to experts quoted in other articles on the same general subject.
Keep in mind that these SMEs may want to be quoted directly—typically with a link back to their website for attribution. If not, they may still be willing to provide background information that’ll increase the depth of your article and help you go beyond what’s already been published.
Quality Standard #10: Is your blog enjoyable to read?
This should be a no-brainer for every content piece, but it can be a challenge—especially if you’re trying to produce content around a target SEO keyword or to a specific word count.
And, to be clear, “enjoyable” doesn’t mean that it needs to be fun, or casual, or conversational. Enjoyable content might still be highly technical or highly detailed, as long as the person reading it feels like they’re getting something valuable and worthwhile out of that experience.
So before you take your blog post live, ask a simple question: does reading this feel worthwhile? If you can’t confidently say yes, keep revising until you feel you’ve created something you’re confident your audience will enjoy.
Quality Standard #11: Does your blog leave your reader with unanswered questions?
After reading through the content you’ve written, you might find that your article naturally causes other questions to arise.
As an example, our team recently worked on an article about what consumers should do if their credit card loyalty rewards points are stolen. The writer involved had produced a good draft, covering how the rise of cybersecurity has contributed to an increase in loyalty points theft, as well as how people can protect themselves by using stronger passwords or password managers.
The blog read well, but as we ran through the content, we realized it didn’t actually address the question that would likely be top-of-mind for readers: if my credit card points have been stolen, can I get them back?
We were able to go back and add this information, but that isn’t your only option if you find that your blog doesn’t answer all of your readers’ questions. For example, you might use these open questions as inspiration for other pieces of content in the future. Maybe you decide to address them in a separate lead magnet, a white paper, or another high-value asset. You might also use them in your CTA by encouraging readers to reach out if they have follow-up questions.
You might also decide not to answer them at all. No single blog post can answer every possible question on a topic, and there can be value to leaving questions open if doing so persuades them to buy your products or services to find the answers.
Whatever you decide, do so deliberately. Don’t just leave readers hanging—if what you’ve written leads to obvious questions, addressing them can validate your expertise and give your readers confidence in your guidance.
Quality Standard #12: Is there any plagiarism—accidental or otherwise—in your blog?
This best practice should be obvious—and the truth is, it’s not the obvious, outright plagiarism that’s usually the problem.
Instead, what can happen—especially if you work with outside writers who aren’t experts in your industry—is that, in doing their background research, writers can absorb others’ main points and then simply reword them into new articles.
So yes, make sure that you’ve provided proper attribution for data points, statistics, and quotes (Copyscape and similar tools are great for catching issues with attribution). But it’s also not a bad idea to do a manual check on your own.
For example, if you’re targeting a particular keyword, go to Google and open up the top 5-10 organic search results for the same topic. If your writer has included the same key points using slightly different language, you’ll want to go back and ensure you’re adding something new to the conversation.
Quality Standard #13: Have you incorporated any special instructions or requirements?
Finally, before hitting the ‘Publish’ button, make sure you’ve addressed any special requirements needed.
In our case at Content Conquered, that means going back to check and see if a client has given specific instructions—such as the number of images to be included, any specific sources to mention, or any keywords that should be prioritized (and at what frequency).
But even if you’re producing content in-house, there may still be special instructions you need to ensure are met. That might be things like adding images, sources, and keywords, or it might mean getting sign-off from specific internal stakeholders, checking your content against your brand’s TOV, or including promotions for specific products or services. Maybe you need to ensure a specific CTA is included, or that any lead magnets referenced in the article can be properly downloaded.
Assuming your content has cleared the other 12 standards on this list, doing one final check to make sure any specific instructions have been addressed increases the odds that your article will be successful once you launch it into the world.
Check them all off, and you’re ready to hit ‘Publish’ on your newest blog!
Reach out with questions about Content Conquered’s 13 Quality Standards or get a custom proposal for your next content project.