Your content writer should already be using these tools. But if you’re on a budget, and you’ve decided to sacrifice on quality for low prices, arm yourself against low quality content with a few free online resources and my list of screening questions.
We’ll start with the questions you should ask every content writer before they start a project. Then we’ll get to the tools.
Starting with these questions helps with quality control and saves time. You’ll be doing yourself a double service by weeding out potential hires, and getting your writers focused.
Questions for your Content Writer
1. What’s our strategy?
Writing successful content is much more than putting words on a page and stuffing a few keywords here and there.
Is your writer responsible for finding appropriate keywords? If your writer is directing strategy—what is it? Why is the writer choosing certain keywords and not others?
2. Who is the target audience? What language do they speak?
If you’re targeting a specific niche with specialized knowledge, make sure your writer knows it.
Suggest publications with the desired tone for them to read. Also, make sure your writer is considering what questions your customers would ask, and in what stage of their buying process they'd ask those questions.
Tailor each post to reach a specific audience at a specific time.
You know your customers, including what questions they ask and what their struggles are. Tailor your content to those interactions.
3. What do you provide in terms of on-page SEO?
Some writers will provide content that’s already optimized and formatted for on-page SEO. This can be a huge time saver for you.
Ask your writer what they know about on-page SEO and how they can help you with it. If they don't know anything, start reading.
4. How do you handle revisions?
Find out how many revisions you can request, and how fast they can be turned around. Revisions can be a source of tension between writers and clients unless the expectation is set early.
Content Writer Toolbox
Ask your writer what tools they’re using.
There are so many free resources out there, there’s no excuse for a content writer not to have a few bookmarked. If they don’t have any tools, here’s a few you might suggest.
You can copy and paste text into the app and it will give you a readability score based on a grade. Nine or below is considered good. It also highlights overly complex words, adverbs, and complicated sentences.
Since I publish in WordPress with the Yoast plugin, I also use the Flesch reading ease score. It’s the same idea as the Hemmingway app, but not as user friendly.
If you publish on WordPress, Yoast is a necessity. It gives you a readability and SEO score for each article as you write, in your dashboard. If there’s an issue, the plugin breaks it down in a real time analysis that tells you what to fix.
For grammar and spelling I use the free Grammarly plugin. It catches lots of things that spell check does not. I haven’t tried any other proofreading apps, but there are a ton out there that I’ve heard good things about.
For a quick way to evaluate the quality of your writer’s research, install the Moz bar.
It’s a free tool that Moz provides that evaluates domain and page authority for every page you visit. Click on your writer’s outbound links and look at the domain authority. You should stick to resources that have a domain authority of at least 30.
Audit Your Content Writer
The idea isn’t to trap your writer, but if you’re working with someone who needs to be supervised it helps to have the tools to do so.
This way, you ensure you’re not spending money for low-quality content. Bad content, even if it’s never seen, harms your marketing efforts.
"Bad content, even if it’s never seen, harms your marketing efforts."
On-page SEO Analyzer
Neil Patel’s free SEO analyzer provides users a breakdown of their on-page SEO. The report checks to make sure all the formatting best practices for SEO are followed.
The last tool is a plagiarism checker. Besides being dishonest, plagiarism is bad for search. Google has plagiarism tests and you will be penalized if your content doesn’t pass them.
A small disclaimer...
These tools, especially the grammar, spelling, and readability tools are not meant to do the thinking for you or your writer.
They direct you to possible problem areas and you decide what fixes to make. So get familiar with each tool, even if you're not using it yourself on a regular basis. By ensuring readability and optimizing you content, you'll be producing better content than the majority of the web.
Toolbox Image By Elegant Themes [GPL (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons