Definition of Done for Content

David Ho   |   November 14, 2020

In the software development industry and specifically in agile software development teams agree with the Product Owner on the definition of done. This is to be sure that everyone is aligned when software is released to the public after a sprint is completed. If this checklist is not met a feature might be pulled and not released.

With my editorial team, we have aligned on a definition of done for the content we are publishing on our Shenzhen website. We wanted to make sure that it was clear in everyone’s minds what has to happen before an article can be published.

It is always good to have a checklist as documented in the Checklist Manifesto as it is proven to reduce the number of errors. Each time before hitting the publish button my team goes through the checklist to ensure maximum quality in the post.

Categories covered in this checklist include proofreading, SEO, image selection and more.

The goal is to publish articles that bring the most leads to the subject of the article through traction channels such as SEO. Leads are inquires to an organization which they can try to convert to customers. This means that the article needs to appeal to a large audience and be interesting enough to get that audience to act.

Checklist for the Definition of Done

Below is the Definition of Done that we have come up with so far based on the software development agile model of DOD. We use WordPress for publishing our content so our definition of done is a bit specific to our Content Management System (CMS).

Metadata — for SEO and Social

Metadata is all the content supporting the article. This content usually displays when it is shared on social or viewed in Google search results. It is normally forgotten and results in underperforming content that the user is not inclined to click on. Below is the checklist for metadata that should be run through for each article.

  • Feature Image — Key image that is used on social and represents the post throughout WordPress including featured at the top of the post.
  • Write an excerpt — a good excerpt gets the user to click on the post when it is featured on other pages within the WordPress Site.
  • Categories — In general set only one primary category which will also be used in the link to the content.
  • Yoast SEO Premium — this plugin is actually a checklist for SEO and therefore should be followed before publishing and most of the metadata is covered here. This checklist actually helps improve the content as well.1
 Yoast SEO content blocks / Photo courtesy of  Beck
  • Alt text (alternative text): Even though this flagged by Yoast SEO it is still worth a mention that images need to have a description attached to them helping the disabled read the site as well as signal to search engines what the image is about.
  • URL Slug — Guidance for this is also given within Yoast SEO but this is so important to get right the first publish it must be stressed.


  • Headline — This has to grab attention, we have another checklist for writing good headlines2
  • Set a Subtitle for the Article — subtitles help keep the user engaged after reading the headline encouraging them to read the article.
  • Images – Each image has its own metadata.
    • Captions on images help users to understand what the image is about and are put before the image credit.
    • Image credit is required to clarify the source of the image.
    • Alt-text is mentioned above for images.
  • Tags — Create pages that aggregate content with similar tags so tags should be more specific than categories and should still be shared across multiple posts. (They should not compete with other pages that are targeting keywords.)
  • Link to other articles about similar topics at the within the article and at the bottom of the article to keep the reader reading.
  • Grammar and spellcheck completed
  • Preview shared with article stakeholders for feedback and changes made if reasonable
  • Article has been reviewed and edited by editor


Once the above is executed as a checklist we can publish and promote the article. Using this definition of done for content, our content quality goes up, and we match more readers with advertisers using the above checklist. More readers will find the content and it will be more cost-effective to capture them.

Examples of Quality Articles

Below are some of the most popular content that meets our definition of done for content:

  1. Picking the proper keyword to target is out of scope for this checklist and this should be done before writing the article.
  2. This checklist is not published yet.