You’ve spent the last hour and a half crafting the perfect blog post. You’ve managed to write something informative while entertaining, witty but with a serious point, and its sure to resonate with your readers. Getting that post online is just a click away but…
Before you press publish and push that post to your readers, it’s useful to stop, reflect, and work through a series of questions, the answers to which determine whether your post will be simply good or genuinely great.
We’ve gathered ten of the most important questions into the following checklist. They won’t take you long to work through, and experienced bloggers might only spend a few seconds making sure the current post is in line. It’s a matter of habit more than anything, and once you are in the habit of writing effective blog posts, it only gets easier to get going.
Here’s our list of ten questions you have to ask yourself before you hit publish on that blog post – and we’ve even added a checklist for you to mark off and export at the bottom of the post!
Have I pressed save?
A great habit to get into before doing any editing of a blog post in your CMS is hitting save. Why? Because things happen. The internet might drop out, you could lose electric power, or you could accidentally delete your entire post. Trust me: all three have happened to every serious blogger and its infuriating to imagine you might have to write the whole post again from scratch. Get in the habit of pressing save before you start to edit, and pressing it again at every step of the editing process. You can’t save enough times and it should be the first step in every editing sequence.
Have I got an effective headline?
The title of your post – what passes for a headline in journalistic parlance – is the most important element of your post. For many people, particularly those finding your work via social media, it might be the only thing about your post that gets shared at all. This makes it essential to get right. Luckily, help is at hand. Co-Schedule has a great Headline Analyzer that will quickly provide a score out of 100 when you enter a headline. Not a good result? Check the analysis and tweak the wording a little. The stronger and more ‘clickable’ your headline, the more likely you’ll find the readers who will appreciate your post.
Have I included an image?
Readers love images. A well chosen photo or image will help lift your post in the eyes of your readers, plus it will give them another reason to share on social media – including on networks that value images over text like Pinterest and Instagram. Most blogs offer the ability to set a feature image that will also be the focus of the Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ posts that emerge automatically or through the social sharing and ‘cards’. In addition to sharing, an image makes your post appear less like a ‘wall of text’, and anything you can do to make the post easier to read and nicer to share is a big bonus in the blogging world.
Have I checked spelling and grammar?
Nothing makes your great post look less professional than typos, spelling errors, and grammatical errors. To a certain extent these are inevitable. Publish enough words and post regularly enough and something is bound to make its way through, but this is no excuse not to check and double check spelling and grammar before pressing publish. Most CMS’s have a built in spellchecker and often your browser will have one, too. But be aware that this is limited to the correct spelling of words, and won’t catch misplaced or poorly chosen phrases. A read over your post – even reading out loud – is a must before hitting the blue button.
Is my formatting consistent?
There are two senses to the word consistent here. The first is with regards to your post. For example, if you started off writing in the first person, did you keep this up the entire post? If you justified the first three paragraphs, are the fourth and fifth similarly styled? This is important for readability and your readers will thank you for keeping things consistent. The other sense in which you are aiming for consistency is with the previous posts that you have published. Keeping a consistent approach (stylistically, typographically, artistically, and perhaps even politically) makes for a better reading experience for fans who click around or visit your blog regularly.
Have I tagged and categorized?
Tagging and categorizing posts helps to keep things organized on your blog. If everything widget-related is categorized under widgets and everything service-related under service, things will be easier to find. For posts that cross categories or that can or should be found via other keywords, tags help to make that easy, too. But tags and categories are also important for your visitors, too. When you make these visible to your readers it gives them an opportunity to click through to related posts, keeping them on your site and making sure that they read more of your work. Don’t over use these tools, but don’t neglect them, either.
Have I used <h> tags correctly?
When crawling your site the robots from Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines not only scan your text, they look for text that you’ve tagged as a heading. By default, most blogging platforms tag the title of your post with the <h1> tag. Headings and subheadings in your post should therefore use the <h2> and <h3> tags. One important note is that you should not ‘jump’ from the <h1> tag to the <h3> tag without also including a <h2> tag; they should always be at least one <h2> tag before you go to the <h3> tag. Helping the robots crawling your site means helping your rank on the major search engines, and that’s the way to organic growth through search.
Have I included a meta-description?
Getting found on major search engines is the way to growth. A lot of people have declared SEO dead, but it continues to be the greatest source of new traffic for most blogs, and that means caring about what the search engines care about. A meta-description of your post appears on major search engines like Google under the link to the post. by default, most blogging platforms include the first 160 characters of your post. While this might work for some posts, it won’t work for all and it is usually better to craft your own meta-descriptions. Remember to include the keyword you are targeting in your meta-description, too, to help the SEO and give casual searchers another reason to click.
Have I got a social sharing plan?
Social media and social networks are here to stay, and getting your work out and shared by others on social networks is a key plank in winning readers and keeping fans informed. But social media needs more than just a shotgun blast approach – you need a strategy. Will you push every post to Facebook or only some? Will you tweet your post only once, or repeat it for readers in different time zones? How will you take advantage or Instagram and Pinterest? And will Google+ be a big part of your strategy? All of this should be mapped out in advance and can even be automated so that pressing publish sets in motion the sharing that fits with your goals.
Do I have a content re-use plan?
Finally your blog post is ready to go – but will you simply publish and forget it? Much of what you publish will be useful to readers who only get to know you in the weeks and months long after your’ve hit publish. To avoid your work going unnoticed and to avoid readers never finding the older (but no less-relevant) posts in your archive, you should consider re-using your content in the future. A series of related blog posts can become an ebook with a little editing. A dated post can be updated for changes since publication and pushed to followers and fans again. Perhaps you can transform old content into audio or video format – whatever you choose to do, don’t imagine that hitting publish needs to be the end of your post when it comes to adding value for your readers.
We’ve pulled those 10 questions into a handy checklist for you. Download it here and keep it close by so that every good blog post that you type can be a great post when you hit publish.
Got more tips for blogging? Share them with us in comments below or on Twitter!