My blog post is done and I’ve clicked “publish.” But then I have a nagging feeling in the back of my head. Did I leave out my contact information? Did I use the right photo? Are there any typos?
When doubts sneak in, a checklist can help determine if everything is fine or if something needs fixing. For new bloggers especially, a checklist like the one below can help you plan and develop articles that are attractive to both readers and search engines.
Are you ready to nail down your blog articles from start to finish? If so, here is your 11-point blog post checklist…
ITEM 1: Descriptive Title
Although a title may seem like a small thing, it’s extremely important for both users and search engines. Here are some tips about what makes a title work:
- Relevancy: The title should convey the essence of what the page is about so Google will know how relevant it is to the user’s search.
- Truthfulness: Your title should clearly and truthfully express the nature of the content. If there’s hype or if the title is misleading, you’ll likely lose that reader and diminish their trust in you.
- Searchable: Your title is prime real estate for using your keyword or keyphrase. While experts say that keywords don’t have the importance they used to for search, it’s still a factor in Google’s search algorithm.
- Captivating: A title should capture the attention of your target audience so they won’t pass right by it. It a good idea for the title to reflect an important benefit or “take-away” that the reader can expect.
- The Right Length: Research shows that titles with 6-13 words attract the highest and the most consistent amount of traffic.
ITEM 2: Clear, Compelling Lead
You’ve got a great title, and you’re convinced it will draw users to the article. But will the first few sentences keep their interest? With so many articles at the user’s fingertips, it’s easy enough just to leave and find another. The introduction of your blog post, or the lead, is usually visible before scrolling is needed (“above the fold”), so it’s prime real estate for welcoming readers and telling them why they should keep on reading.
Here are several key components your lead should have:
- The Hook: The first sentence or two must immediately “hook” the reader with a question, interesting phrase, quote, a short anecdote, or interesting fact.
- Transitional Component: Going from the hook into the main body of the paragraph is an easy place to lose the reader. It has to be clear, focused, and give the reader a good reason to keep moving through the body of the article.
- Thesis Statement: This element firms up what the article will be about, further solidifying what the reader will learn and why they should care.
ITEM 3: Keywords & Long-Tail Keyphrases
Keywords help with search ranking, albeit less so than in the past. Most experts agree that the Googlebot (Google’s internet crawler) now relies more on the context and relevancy of the article but that keywords are still part of the search algorithm.
After identifying your keyword phrase or phrases (which is a big topic in itself), you can strategically plan where and how to include it, such as in your subheadings, or you can wait until the end to find a few places where the keyword phrase naturally fits in. As a word of caution, don’t overuse your keywords, or Google will penalize you.
While many digital companies and bloggers use special keyword tools, the basics of keyword research can be fairly simple. You can put in your proposed search term into the search bar and get information on it in three ways: (1) see what appears in the organic search results, (2) see the terms that appear in the “People also ask” box, and (3) look at the “Searches related to…” ideas at the bottom of the search results page.
Another tip is to use “long tail” key phrases so that your article doesn’t have to compete against major corporations that “own” the big keywords about the main topic. For example, instead of using a high-level keyword like “dessert,” you could choose a long-tail keyword phrase on a related subtopic, such as “tricks for making a flaky pie crust.”
ITEM 4: Logical Subheads
Studies show that many readers scan articles to see if they want to dive deeper into the topic. Need proof? Studies show that 43 percent of people scan posts to get the gist of an article, determine if they want to spend more time with it, and find relevant information within the article. When creating subheads, make sure the order makes sense and guides the viewer through the article.
Another important function of subheads is to optimize your article for search engines. Giving your article subheads with “h2 tags” helps searchbots better understand the article’s content and structure. This can affect where the article appears in search results. Also, f you’re looking for a place to use long-tail keyword phrases, subheads are often a good choice.
ITEM 5: Interesting Bullets or Ordered Lists
Bullet Points and numbered lists make your content stronger in several ways. First, they can increase readability by breaking up a block of text (the same is true of subheads). Second, they draw the eyes and are often the first thing that a reader focuses on. Third, they signal important and interesting details. Lastly, they can be used to illustrate a point or concept by presenting discrete facts or statistics. Except in the case of “listicles,” a good rule of thumb is to make your list no longer than five items, each of a similar length.
ITEM 6: Substantiated Evidence
One way to make your article more authoritative, especially for a technology-oriented blog post, is to provide evidence that proves your point. Evidence can be interesting statistics, a quote from an authority, a chart, or another device. I often make these proof points stand out with bullet points, block indents, or other special formatting. When using evidence from other sources, make sure to provide the name of the publication, article, and/or author and/or provide a hyperlink to that source.
ITEM 7: Eye-Attracting Images
There are many reasons to include images in your blog posts. The obvious reason is their high impact. Also, like subheads and bullet points, they help break up dense text. Some things to keep in mind in selecting or manipulating images are:
- File Format: The photo’s format will affect the way your images display and how long they take to load. A JPEG will load quickly but will lose quality when reduced in size. They are most often used for photos and screenshots. PNG files can be easily resized, so you can reuse them for various purposes. GIFs are typically used for animation. They have a large file size and take longer to load, so they must be used sparingly. In all cases, the quality of the image is a key factor.
- File Dimensions: Use the photo size (given in pixels) that each social media channel recommends. There will be different sizes for profile photos, main images, and function-specific uses.
- Devices: Check that your image will display well on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices. Many platforms, such as WordPress, provide previews to see how your blog will look on different types of devices.
- Usage Fee: The image may require a usage fee; if you fail to pay this fee you are subject to litigation for copyright infringement. If the image is listed as “royalty-free” or in the “public domain” you do not have to provide a credit.
When in doubt, you can ask a graphic designer for assistance in determining the best type and size image for your use in your articles.
ITEM 8: Conclusive Summary
The summary should reiterate the main point of the article, list key take-aways, and remind the reader why the content is valuable. Another purpose of the summary is to encourage the reader to take the next action step, such as make a purchase, fill out a form, or subscribe.
I generally make the summary a few easy-to-read sentences. While I don’t think blogs are the place to promote your products, the summary is the one place where it’s fine to mention your name or product–but only in a contextual way that relates to the article’s content.
ITEM 9: Clear Call-to-Action
The call-to-action (CTA) is closely related to the summary and can be included in that section. The CTA is where you tell the reader what you want them to do, as specifically as possible.
Some CTAs provide several options for what you want the reader to do, but too many choices may confuse them. Many platforms, such as HubSpot, make it easy to create clickable, highly visible call-to-action buttons that go to a landing page with a contact form. These are especially useful for content marketing campaigns where you offer something of value (such as a free whitepaper) in exchange for the user’s email address and possibly other information. Subscribe buttons are another popular call-to-action technique. However, a CTA can simply be text that encourages the reader to call or email you. As long as you get the reader to take that next step, your CTA is a success.
ITEM 10: Share on Social Media
To get the most from your blog articles, make it easy for your readers to share them on social media. Shared articles convey that someone thinks the information is valuable, so they automatically have high credibility. This type of promotion is critical for compounding the article’s impact.
You’ll also want to post your articles directly on the social media channels that are most popular with your customers. For example, a small B2B company may do well choosing a few channels, such as LinkedIn and a company Facebook page. A larger consumer-oriented business may, on the other hand, choose many more channels, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Tik Tok, and Pinterest.
Content marketing systems such as HubSpot provide built-in social media automation tools. WordPress has some social media sharing tools and optional plug-ins. If you don’t have access to an automated system, you can also post your article manually on the different channels, although it takes a bit more time.
ITEM 11: Quality Check
Poor quality is a big problem that can sink your blogging ship. Since many small business bloggers and solopreneurs have highly limited resources, it’s extra easy for them to make mistakes such as typos, sentence fragments, incorrect verb tenses, or awkward sentences. Luckily, you can easily go back into your blog to correct errors, but it’s best to not publish anything with errors in the first place.
Unfortunately, most of us have probably relied on Microsoft Word’s built-in spell-check and grammar-checking functions—only to realize that this tool often misses critical errors. There are several ways to give your article a closer look to identify quality issues.
- Automated checkers, such as Grammarly, can be more reliable than Word’s built-in tool.
- Reading the article aloud can help you identify awkward sentences and phrases that might be missed by quickly reading it silently.
- If it’s possible, having someone else proofread your article is one of the most sure-fire ways to find quality issues.
- Finally, if you have sufficient time, let your article sit for a few hours so your can look at it again with a refreshed mind.
It’s time to put your checklist to work.
Now that you have your 11-point checklist, it’s time to sit down and write! Whether you use this info to help plan your article, keep you on track while writing, or review your article before publishing, a checklist is great tool for creating a high-quality blog post that builds readership, supports SEO efforts, and drives leads to your website.
If your organization is too stretched to create quality blog articles, reach out to an agency or experienced freelancer who can deliver the highest quality content. Boston-based Westebbe Marketing can provide personalized services that deliver great results. Contact us at (617) 699-4462 or firstname.lastname@example.org for blogging that works for you.