On November 9th, 2011, an Indian client hired me on Elance, now Upwork, to write 5 articles, 500-word each, for him …

The articles were in the niche of business and finance—my favorite—so I accepted the offer, and the client immediately escrowed the funds—$17.5. I was a newbie freelancer then so I was excited, and was OK with the meager $17.5 pay.

The deadline was 48 hours, though the client demanded that I send the content as I finished writing them. The weather was hot in that memorable afternoon, but my excitement, the enthusiasm of having a client hired me, consumed the hot temperature as chill orange drink quench the thirst of a factory blue-collar laborer in a summer season.

The feelings energized me to, without any delay, begin snappy research, typed fast, and edited the first article within the blink of an eye.

I didn’t cross check the article for quality and clarity.

I didn’t re-read it to check for consistency.

I didn’t even proofread it.

I just pushed send to email the article to the client in a shot, snappy moment of carelessness and unprofessionalism. After I submitted the article, the client emailed me. It was bad news:

“The article is wordy and lacks substance,” he says. “I can’t use it. I needed high-quality articles that’ll promote my brand.”

That was the first time I heard of the term “high-quality article.” I thought article writing was all about getting words on paper. Though the client didn’t drop negative feedback on my profile, I felt very bad because I knew he’d never hire me again.

It was right then and there, on that very unpleasant day, that I realized that I have a long way to go. And I immediately started Googling “What is a quality article?” “How to write a high-quality article?” I needed answers to these questions in order to avoid a further flop.

The results of my searches were sketchy. So I retired for the day, curious and angry, thinking about how I should get answers to my questions. I slept uncomfortably, but when I woke up the following morning, I was full of energy:

I had to solve this uncomfortable mood once and for all.

And that was how I was inspired to dig deep into further research. Again, only a handful of articles came up, so I decided to compare them with my rejected article. I did that for a number of articles. Sometimes I’d just go straight to my favorite blogs and see how influential bloggers are writing, the likes of Brian Clark, Jon Morrow, and Neil Patel, and learn from them.

It was not a day job actually, but after much reading and repeated assessments, I came to an agreement: My work was low quality.

Some small business owners and online startups, especially the newbies, do not really know what a quality article entails. They don’t know the ingredients or the features of a quality article. They can’t differentiate between a wordy and a highly informative and educational content…super rich articles that will expose their brand to millions of their prospects and customers.

This blog series will clear your mind. In this article and the ones to follow, you’ll learn the nuts and bolts of quality articles. You’ll learn the ingredients that makeup quality articles, content that will sell your products or services like magic and take your startup to new heights.

So, let’s get started by answering this crucial question:

What’s a quality article?

Type this question on Google or any of the search engines, and what you’ll find will shock you.

There are almost no answers to this question.

 As you can see, most of the articles that pop up are totally irrelevant. Even when you get in-depth information on the subject, you’ll find out that they’re focusing on academic articles, not on online-based articles.

That’s why I think this subject needs to be discussed in-depth. Because like me (in 2011), a lot of people do want to know what a quality article is all about. Since the vast information about the subject is vague, I’ll attempt to propose a new definition on the subject.

Thus, I defined a quality article as follows:

A high-quality article informs or entertains, convinces or converts, and conveys compelling message in a clear, concise, and coherent manner.

Looking at the definition more closely, you can find three building blocks that make any article super quality. Let’s explore these features more closely.

1. Information-rich.

So many clients prioritize quantity over quality; word count over substance.

Recently, a client hired me to write web content copies for him. The client insists that the word count must be 1000-words or more. When I finished the writing, the entire copy stood at 748-words, and I told him that anything less than that would be a mere fluff—because the 748-words covered everything that needed to be covered.  

But the client was clearly not happy. Shortly after reading my email, he replied, saying, “I needed a thousand words for better search engine ranking.” What this client and a lot of clients don’t know, is that the goal of an article is not to appeal to SEO robots and bots. The goal of every article is to serve a reader with rich information.

Quantity doesn’t matter. Quality does.

If you can educate your reader in a 100-word content, that’s fine. If you can provide them with information that will solve their problems in the 1000-words article, that’s also fine. But it’s not fine to stretch word count to 1000 if 500-words are enough to express whatever it is you want to express.   

You can’t write for the sake of word count, for it will reveal your self-centered interest if you write for word count sake. You write to provide value for your readers. The information, of course, must not only be relevant to what your reader is looking for. It must be deep and full of value to educate them, to transform them, to change their behavior.

To write an information-rich article, therefore, you need to back it with enough evidence to convince your readers, support it with examples, statistics, and case studies to drive your point home.

As a reader, you’ll never read a piece that’s full of irrelevant stories and anecdotes that don’t make sense. That’s why you only read a few blogs that focus more on serving you with actionable tips that make your world a better place.

So the information is one of the major ingredients of quality articles. Always garnish it in your article, in your blog posts, in your web copies. The other ingredients include convince or convert and clarity of message.

Let’s discuss them next.

2. Convince or converts.

What’s the ultimate goal of an article? What is it that every article sets to accomplish?

It’s unfortunate that some companies think that the aim of an article is to promote their brand. In other words, the quality of an article is determined by how well it sells a product or service. Well, that’s not the case.

The truth of the matter is that people don’t read articles, nor act upon it, if it’s “salesy,” if it sounds promotional. People read and react to an article if the article really informs, educate, or entertains them. It is value—not marketing—that determines the quality of an article.  

Your job as a digital startup founder is to prioritize value over everything. If you hire a freelance writer, emphasize value over keywords or any other SEO tricks. Let your writer knows exactly what he will write: information-driven, rich content that satisfies your reader’s curiosity, solves their pain points and meets their goals or desires.

Let your reader write valuable words, for it is the value that convinces readers to act upon your call to action. That’s how influential bloggers built their companies from zero to million-dollars in no time. For example, my favorite blogger Jon Morrow publishes one to two articles per month on his blog—SmartBlogger.

But the articles are always super quality and of highest value. His post entitled “How to Be Unforgettable” totally changed my life. As a writer, “you’re not just here to inform. It means you’re not just here to entertain. It means you’re not just here to persuade,” the SmartBlogger founder writes. “Those little pixels on the computer screen can change somebody’s life.”

His writings transformed my approach to writing forever—and in a good way. But, as you know, none of these will matter; none of these will increase the quality of your writing if your message is dim, blurred, and unclear.

And that brings me to my final point.

3. Clear message.

Some brands care less about the clarity of their message.

They just want to see their keywords stuffed in the article. “Make sure that ‘blogger outreach service’ appears at least 20 times in the copy,” an outreach agency manager told me when he hired me to write a web content copy for his company.

But I was more focused on the message because I know that nothing will happen if the message is not clear. Imagine writing an article on growing an e-commerce company. As you write concisely on the topic, your next few paragraphs then delve into politics and sport.

The deviation will break the flow of the article, distorts your message, and confuses your reader and potential buyer. Clarity equals quality. You have to keep your message simple and clear if you must write quality content that your readers will love.   

To do that, identify what message you want to convey to your readers in a single, simple sentence. Using our earlier example, if you want to write on how to grow an e-commerce company, you’ll first start by writing your core message in one sentence—in the top page of your word processor.

And then tailor the entire body of your article around that one single message.

Also, keep the language simple. Use short sentences because clarity breeds interest.

The bottom line:

Writing a high-quality article is not about word count.

It’s not about inserting a few keywords in every section and body of your blog post.

It’s not about using your article as marketing bait.

It’s about value. The value—the education, the life-changing information, and the compelling stories and case studies conveyed—is what determines the quality of any writing.  

When analyzing any content for your business—whether it’s a guest post, a web copy, or an article writing—make sure it contains these three elements:

  • Education. Does the article convey fresh, thought-provoking information that teaches your readers new things? And help them grow?
  • Actionable enough to convince and convert. Is the article so practical…does it garner enough data and examples that it convinces the reader to act upon its call to action?
  • Crystal-clear message. Is the core message of the article clear enough?

Of course, cultivating these three core ingredients into one delicious article is not easy.

Eight years later, after that fiasco with the Indian client, I’m still learning the craft. Yes, I may learn one or two things about writing quality articles but I’m still a learner. 

The last time a publication rejected my piece, I quickly recalled Ernest Hemingway’s words:  “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” And I moved on, quickly, eager to sharpen my craft and increase my chances of getting a yes.

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