A guide to writing original, high-quality content

Reading Time: 6 minutes

When you are asked to create content, you are being asked to provide valuable information to your readers. If you are new to writing in general, and to writing for the internet specifically, you might be puzzled by terms like SEO, search engines, ranking, and hits. Let’s see if we can take some of the mystery out of how to write original, high-quality content.

A definition from Captain Obvious

“Original” means that you are going to write the piece from scratch. You’ll use references, of course, but the idea, development, and execution are all yours. A quick search reveals hundreds of sites offering advice on how to do this, so let’s look at some tips that seem to be sensible and easy for someone just starting out to understand.

Decide who you’re writing for

This one seems to be tied with “write a compelling headline” for first place, but before you even start thinking up that exciting opening (“Dog Robs Bank, Flees in UFO”), think about your potential readers. Who are they, and how do you find them?

A company employee

If you’re working for a company, your potential readers are most likely your customers. You, as an employee, should already be intimately familiar with the products and services your organization provides. If you are in any doubt, go ahead and read the sales literature, talk to the people who manufacture the product, or to those who are already providing the service, until you are comfortable talking about the company’s offerings. If someone were to ask you how to operate a company device, you should be able to give them accurate, step-by-step instructions. In fact, instruction manuals must be high-quality writing because of their nature. If you are describing medical equipment, mistakes can have severe consequences if your instructions are unclear.

Your customer service department can also provide clues as to what issues are most common; that is, what are customers complaining about? These are the issues you can address in your social media posts or the company newsletter you write for your customers.

A freelancer

If you’re a freelancer and are writing a blog because you are fascinated by a particular subject, the best way to figure out who might read your work is to use a platform like SEMRush, BuzzSumo, or one of dozens of others. Their web crawlers reveal what topics are most often researched and by whom, as well as when and what others are writing. With this information, you can decide on the subject that will be most attractive to people looking for a particular subject, and when you should publish your article.

What’s next?

In short, you’re going to use a platform to find out what’s popular right now, and time your work to coincide with those results. You’re also going to become an expert on your organization if you write on its behalf. So, how do you make sure your content is high quality?

The first thing you should do is ensure you have your facts straight. Anything you write must be backed up with unbiased, accurate information, based on impeccable research. How do you do that? Search engines? Yes and no.

As the great astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says, search engines are the epitome of confirmation bias. Nobody, except the people who design them truly knows how search engines work; they seem almost magical as they return millions of hits in seconds. They are proprietary to their company (Google, Yahoo, etc.), and the internet giants aren’t giving up their secrets.

However, what we do know is the results of a search you perform are likely to bring back results that align with your attitudes and beliefs. This is because the engine looks at your past searches, and brings back results that are similar to those. You may also see results depending on where you are located geographically, and what the search engine deems to be the attitude of people who live in that area.

Can you guard against this? Yes. You can look at who owns the site, or if that is not immediately apparent—you may be referred to a site you’ve never heard of—check to see which companies or organizations are sponsoring or advertising on it. You might be able to detect a liberal or conservative slant from what you’re seeing.

One of your best weapons in the fight for objective results is to form your queries to avoid asking questions that imply the answer. For instance, putting in a query such as “Where the moon landings real?” suggests they were not, and you are likely to get a lot of references to conspiracy theory websites that deny reality. However, if you look for the neutral term “moon landings,” you should get factual returns that not only discuss the subject, but provide references, including books, articles, films, and photos, that document the event.

In addition to not asking questions that answer themselves, avoid using terms that imply the answer, or words and phrases that are culturally or racially charged, and instead opt for terms used by professional sociologists. The online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica has an extensive entry on sociology that is a good starting point. You could even pick up a used sociology textbook to have as a reference. Once a new edition comes out, an older version is discarded and can be found for a few dollars.

What if the searches are garbage?

If you find you are getting returns that strike you as biased, or uninformed, or unsatisfactory in general, reformulate your search. You are looking for facts backed up by research and evidence, not wild conspiracy theories or opinions.

One of the best platforms for finding facts is JSTOR. You may have to go to a library to log into this resource, unfortunately, but it is available on most college campuses. JSTOR is a database of journals consisting of peer-reviewed publications written by experts, for experts. For instance, the Journal of the American Medical Association can be found on JSTOR. Articles in these publications are likely to have titles like “Exome sequencing identified novel variants in three Chinese patients with 5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolate synthetase deficiency,” but they have been reviewed and checked for accuracy by others in the field.

I think I need a break!

I hear you, but hang in there! You’ve found a subject you like and that a lot of people are searching for, or you’ve been given an assignment. You’ve done the necessary research, using your best efforts to find unbiased sources, and are now ready to write.

High-quality writing is accurate writing. That means you know the rules of grammar, and will create a product that is paragraphed correctly, punctuated correctly, spelled correctly, and is easy to read. You may start with a summary if that works for you, or jump right in, but whichever route you choose, you want to structure the article so that it flows easily, making a point and then building on that observation to the next logical point.

There are several apps that will help with the mechanics of the task, such as Grammarly and Reverso, plus every word processing program offers a built-in spellcheck. You should take advantage of these aids, but also remember that they are programmed by humans, so errors creep in. The best way to double check your work is to proofread it yourself. Ideally, you should finish the article so that you have some time to let it sit before publication.

When you are coming up against your deadline, pull out the article again and read it. Then read it again, aloud. If you want to use an old screenwriter’s trick, walk and read at the same time. You will find yourself slowing down or speeding up automatically, which will give you a feel for the pacing of your writing, pardon the pun. You could even, if you are unsure of your work, read it sentence by sentence, starting from the end. This will force you to consider each sentence separately, out of order, and should enable you to spot errors you might not otherwise notice.

Are you done yet?

You have somewhere to be? Okay, one more tip, and it’s a biggie – do not plagiarize anything, ever. That means, as I’m sure you know, copying someone else’s work and claiming it as your own. Plagiarism is not only a terrible practice that denies someone credit for their efforts, in some cases it is illegal, and it’s a killer as far as SEO is concerned. Fortunately, there are plagiarism checkers that will help you avoid this cardinal sin.

These checkers include Turnitin, Copyscape, Grammarly, and Quetext. All four look for plagiarism and other problems with the writing, but Quetext can help the writer create citations, while Turnitin also looks for AI-created content. Using any one of these apps will help you find difficulties with your article before you submit it. However, nothing really takes the place of a sharp author double-checking their work carefully.

If you want to write great content, we invite you to consider joining our team at Words of Worth.