So you have an idea. You've written an outline. You've crafted your Ugly First Draft (thanks to Ann Handley for that one). You've rewritten and edited and you have a draft ready for publication. But, don't hit that publish button yet! Whether you are a hobby blogger or you use your blog to drive your business, you want to craft posts that add value, solve a problem, offer insight and/or surprise and delight. And you put a lot of time and energy into each post. Let's take your blog post to the next level.
In this post, I am sharing the checklist I use before I publish new post. I have included a free, downloadable checklist which lists each checkpoint you can refer to when writing your content. You can print this out, and pin it to your real life Pinterest board (aka bulletin board).
Check your title
The title is the first thing your audience will see about your post. According to this post on Quick Sprout, headlines are 90% of your advertising dollar. This is what pulls your audience in and compels them to read your post.
You want to make sure your title provides a concise summary of the information, contains your keyword and targets your audience effectively. It should be specific, urgent, emotive, useful and unique (Quick Sprout).
Aim to keep your title between 40-69 characters. Anything shorter might not convey enough information. Anything longer and your title will be cut off in search results.
Check your format
Your audience will likely scan your post before they decide that it's valuable and read it, so you want your post to be easily readable.
When you check your format, check your headings. Do you have them? If not, can you include one or two?
Do you have long stretches of text? Break it up into smaller sections. Use bullet points to set apart important points.
Check your content
Read over your content a few times. Make sure you have included your keyword a couple times. But don't go overboard. Keyword stuffing is a no-no. Don't worry too much about keyword density. Focus on including your keyword when and where it makes sense and adds value to your post.
If you have referenced information or quoted another article, be sure you credit the original source. Make sure the links you include are credible. This helps search engines define your niche and build your credibility. If you have a previously-written post that will provide extra value for your audience, link to it. This provides your audience with more valuable information, and again, builds your credibly within your niche.
Lastly, ensure your post is free of grammar and spelling errors.
Check your images
When I see a blog post that is all text and contains no images, I bounce. Images are incredible important to a good blog post. Don't believe me? This HubSpot article by Neil Patel (a must-follow in content marketing) cites that articles with images get 94% more total views than those without images. So that's kind of a big deal. Make sure you have at least one image.
Make your images SEO friendly by adding your keyword to the alt-text behind your images. If you use Wordpress, there is a section to include this.
Finally, make sure your images are branded. This gives your content a consistent look and feel. I use Canva, a free, super simple design program to create branded images. If you want to invest a little more in your images, upgrade to the Pro version, where you can set your brand colors and templates, making design even easier. WIN!
Check your SEO
If I can be honest for a moment, SEO (search engine optimization) is overwhelming. From the algorithms to technical language to best practices, SEO is fairly involved. However, it is not to be overlooked. Optimizing your content for search engines gives you the opportunity to grow your blog abundantly.
Make sure that you have a keyword. This word defines the topic of your post. For example, the keyword for this post is "blog post checklist". It clearly defines what the blog post is about, and it's something that you would likely search Google for. To complete the SEO optimization, make sure you include your keyword in your meta description. This is what will appear in the description in the search engines. Make sure your keyword is also included in your title, headings, content, alt-text in images.
If you use Wordpress, I recommend installing the Yoast plug-in. This application lays out the SEO process and gives you a green, amber or red light to show you whether your post is optimized or not.
Check your CTA
When your audience gets to the end of your post, what do you want them to do? Download something? Follow you on social media? Comment? If you are using your blog for lead generation, including a call-to-action (CTA) is a critical step in that process. I usually end my posts with a question or direction to my social media profiles; however, there are different calls to action for different pieces of content and audiences. If you need some inspiration, read this post on HubSpot.
If you've made it to this point, here is your freebie! I have condensed all this information into a simple checklist, which you can download here. Alternatively, you can download the PDF here.