The Great Blog Checklist: What To Do BEFORE You Click Publish
I’ve written before about the importance of blogging and how engaging, helpful content will benefit your website. My take is this: if you’re going to spend time writing, you may as well do it thoroughly. Lord knows there are enough thin, unoriginal articles out there. Make yours rich, make it worthwhile and make it count. You don’t have to be Hilary Mantel to write a top-tier blog post, you just have to be thorough.
To hit that sweet spot, it’s important to have a clear checklist that guarantees your work is unique, eye-catching and genuinely useful.
Article written? Bring in the checklist!
Before you click publish, pore through this list and ensure your content ticks the relevant boxes. Don’t punish yourself completing every last item, just do what will reasonably improve the piece for your readers. They are your goal; please the user and the rest will follow.
- Step 1: Technical onpage bits
- Step 2: Cosmetic tweaks
- Step 3: Make it read better
- Step 4: Connect your piece to others
Section 1: Technical Onpage Bits
These behind the scenes tweaks give search engines a vital understanding of what your blog post is about. They have a big influence on what shows up in search results and how users could be persuaded to click your link. Sadly, they are often ignored or misinterpreted.
1.1 Meta Titles Are Optimised & Enticing
~50-60 characters (source) isn’t a lot, but it’s enough that you can write a descriptive title that’s enticing, entertaining and prompts the user to click your page. See some examples below:
- Lisa’s “Tried & Tested” Doughnut Recipe (+ Video Tutorial)
- Supermarket Coupons: 5 (Very Easy!) Ways To Save Money
- Titchmarsh Gardening Ltd: Hampshire’s Best (5 Star Rated)
1.2 Meta descriptions are relevant and persuasive
The meta description is an opportunity to hail searchers and excite them into visiting your search result. With that in mind, make your meta descriptions something a human being will want to click.
Remember, meta descriptions are not a dealbreaker to your SEO. In fact, Google may pick a different excerpt entirely and use that on the results page. So write for the people, not for the robots.
1.3 Page URL is descriptive (and to the point)
The page permalink (or URL, or slug) should be concise and descriptive.
Avoid superfluous ‘stop’ words:
Instead, go for something punchy that looks good in a tight space:
For my money, a shorter URL looks neat and makes me happier to share the link. The address is legible on more devices, search engines and makes future organising a lot easier! If only I picked a shorter domain name all those years ago…
1.4 Image sizes are reasonable
Large file sizes are unwelcome in 2021. A free and very effective tool for compressing photos can be found at tinypng.com. Use it on your article’s images and your website will be grateful.
1.5 Images have ‘alt’ tags
This is easily overlooked. Every image has an “alt” tag buried somewhere in your website builder or CMS. Alt tags help search engines and screen readers understand what the photo is. They’re great for image search SEO as well as context and accessibility.
Go through every image in your article and make sure it has properly written “alt” tags that accurately describe it.
1.6 Social sharing images
When you share your piece across social media, the link preview may display a photo thumbnail. Have you made sure that yours is properly cropped and displays the right information? Do so, now! I believe in you.
Section 2: Make your post LOOK better
Whether you’re writing about garden furniture or quantum mechanics, it’s important that your article engages its readers. Varied layouts and a splash of colour add interest and avoid the tedium of a wall of text.
2.1 Add images
Images are a great way to illustrate your point and break up long blocks of text. It’s not hard to find free photos that complement your writing, so have a look online and sprinkle some in where appropriate. Don’t forget to resize or compress the photos before you upload them; nobody likes a slow page.
2.2 Embed a video
Can YouTube explain your topic further? It doesn’t have to be your video; embed something relevant and useful, giving the reader a variety of ways to absorb what you’ve put forward. What’s more, you can reach out to the owner of the video and alert them of the shoutout.
2.3 Add a list or comparison table
Not everything has to be laid forth in chunky paragraphs. Consider splitting content into digestible bullet lists. This adds an ebb and flow of the piece, don’t you think?
2.4 Add an infographic
Some like to read, others are visual learners. If your post is a “how to” guide, consider adding an infographic that summarises the whole piece. This makes great material for Instagram, Pinterest and Google Image searches. It also allows people to print your resource and pin it to their notice board – like this!
Section 3: Make your post READ better
So you have a beautiful blog post armed with meta tags and descriptive images. At this point I like to scan through it with a fresh perspective, looking specifically at the quality of writing.
3.1 Answer the question at the top (TL:DR)
Blog posts can get so lofty they fail to quickly answer the question. However detailed your article, you should include a short, succinct summary at the top of the page. This is especially important if you’re writing a “how to” guide and readers just want a quick answer. Recipe websites take note!
3.2 Compare your article with the leaders
Whatever your article is about, there are plenty of similar pieces online.
Google terms about your article and examine the top 10 results. Ask yourself:
- Have they mentioned anything I didn’t?
- Where can I improve on their argument?
So, go back and tweak your piece until it exceeds the very best of your competition. This isn’t rocket science —tally what you like about your competitors’ articles, and use that to jet-propel your work to that high standard.
3.3 Hoover up relevant search terms
Hopefully you did some keyword research before you began writing. If not, no sweat…
Scan through your article and identify its most prominent phrases and keywords. What problems is it solving, and what kind of language would people use to query it?
Open several tabs and type those phrases into Google. Now scroll to the bottom of the search results…
Do you see those phrases in bold? People are looking for these too! See if your piece can contain natural variations of these keywords.
3.4 Emote your piece
Does the article speak with authority and convinction? If it’s an opinion piece, stoke the emotions that fuel what you’ve written about: joy, passion, fear, pride. Just a sprinkle of choice words can transform a vanilla article into something that excites its readers. My modus operandi? The calm, collected enthusiast, mostly formal with a dash of mischief.
3.5 Reach out + get an expert’s quote
Who doesn’t love an expert? It would be ludicrous not to trust them, don’t you think? If you have contacts in the field whose input would add value to your blog, reach out for a quote! Their contribution will add authority to the piece, and it will give that person the incentive to share.
Stage 4: Connect your post to others
4.1 Add internal links
There should be a natural flow between sections in your website. Where it feels relevant, include a link to other pages on your website. These will nudge readers to articles they’ll like, which gets them better acquainted with your content and encourages repeat visits.
Internal linking also helps search engines understand your site structure and give pages their due relevance.
4.2 Add at least one external link
No blog is an island. In writing your piece you’ll have drawn from previous posts and other writers’ work. Consider adding external links to sources that readers will appreciate.
Don’t be precious about linking to other websites. If you help the user and link to genuinely useful resources, you’ve done your bit in the great ecosystem of internet.
Personally, I like linking to a range of websites: from the big hitters to the smaller-scale bloggers and hobbyists. The latter are particularly grateful for the shout out and often come back with a response.
4.3 Add anchor links
Longer pieces such as this can benefit from anchor links aka the table of contents you saw above. This makes it much easier for your readers, and they’ll be inclined to bookmark/share specific areas of your post.
What about word count?
Some might say there’s a sweet spot to hit with word count, keyword density or other vague metrics like text to HTML ratio. Me, I think you should stick to pleasing the reader. If your post helpfully and conclusively fulfils its purpose, it has the right word count.
It’s easy to get stuck in and view your article through a narrow lens. Ask friends and colleagues to read it from a fresh perspective. They might have suggestions and ideas that you’ve overlooked.
You can also run your article through tools like Yoast SEO or Grammarly. While not always accurate, they’re good at spotting grammatical flaws, overused words or keyword opportunities.
Finally, make sure the headings make sense and the text is free from unnecessary html, div tags and accessible. Not sure how to do this? Here’s a guide to keeping content neat and tidy.
This demonstrates how to take a near-finished blog post and push it to top-tier territory. It’ll be larger, juicier and much more helpful to your readership. In turn, this makes it a better asset for your website.
To ignore these steps and blog for the sake of filling space is a waste of time. There are enough shallow, 300 word articles on the internet without further contributions. Take a little time to make yours stand out – it’s worth it!
What’s your pre-publish routine? If you think this list is missing anything let me know. Happy writing!