How many times have you hit that publish button, not 100% sure about your content and if it’s really worthwhile? A feeling that becomes more definite as weeks pass and you get fed up with waiting for your post to pick up traffic and results?
Whatever the case, there are things you should be doing before you hit the publish button to make sure you’re putting great content out there. Some of these to-do’s are for SEO purposes, others for readability, and yet others for the sake of organization.
That’s why you need a checklist.
I’ve seen too many publishers brain dump into their blog platform of choice and hit “Publish” with absolutely no strategy in mind. Then they don’t get traffic. No tweets. No comments. No results.
A 15-Point Surefire Checklist to Make Sure You’re Publishing Worthwhile Content
So you avoid the above no-results content scenarios, here’s my 15-point checklist to make sure you’re publishing great content. Ready? Let’s dive in!
I’ll start with a key section: making sure your post is worth someone’s time. If it’s boring, who’s going to bother? Your posts need to have a reason for existing. Get more specific with the following questions.
1. Are People Looking for the Things You’re Writing About?
This is probably the most important question to consider when sitting down to write or handing over a content brief. It just takes a little keyword research with the likes of The Google Keyword Tool or even Google itself.
What you need to look out for when conducting your search is a decent monthly search volume along with sites you reckon you can outrank.
2. Will People Get a “Take-Away” From Your Post?
It’s great to post an opinion, make someone laugh or just give a little food for thought. But it’s a completely different story to really HELP someone. The best way to do this is to give them a “take away”.
Let the reader go away from your post with something to do. Give an action item. Teach them something. Create that “AHA” moment.
3. What’s Unique About Your Post?
It’s useless just paraphrasing what others have already said. Your post needs to stand out.
Perhaps it’s a little more in-depth than usual, or it has videos where people in your market wouldn’t normally use videos.
II. Search Optimization
Let’s get a little more specific about SEO.
4. Fine-Tune Your Headlines
If you want to work the main keyword phrase into your header, that’s great, but you also want to come up with a catchy headline that reels readers in. “How To” headlines tend to work really well, as do list posts.
Check out these tips from Hubspot for writing catchy headlines.
5. Clean Up The Slug
“Slug” is a strange little word. It’s the phrase that goes into a URL of a post.
For example, in WordPress, the slug goes right beneath the headline. By default, the platform dumps every word in your headline into the slug, but that can pretty cluttered.
Instead, you want the slug to just contain that important keyword phrase, which will help with your SEO.
6. Your Keyword Phrase Should be Within the Content
Once you have the keyword phrase in your header and slug, you need to put it in the body of your post. The key here is don’t over-use it; just use it naturally as you write.
7. Are You Using Sub-Headers?
Sub-headlines in a post are very important. They serve two main functions:
- They are important for SEO purposes. The post headline should be in H1 tags, and your sub-headers are normally H2 and H3 tags. Search spiders place importance on the text in those sub-headlines to help rank your post.
- Sub-headlines break up the flow of your post. You don’t want the reader to see one massive block of uninterrupted text, do you?
Just like your main headline, your sub-headlines should contain words that help spiders rank the keyword phrase and entice your readers to get stuck in.
III. Structure and Formatting
People don’t come along and read a post just because you decided to write one. Your posts need to promise some sort of pay-off for reading it and it needs to be formatted so that it’s not overwhelming.
8. Short Paragraphs
Not using long paragraphs is paramount – as is NEVER justifying text right or left.
Using long paragraphs and justified text can almost guarantee most of your readers will take one look at the post and back off without so much as reading the first sentence. This is because:
- It just looks like hard work to read
- They can’t scan sub-headers and short sentence to see if there is a pay-off for them.
9. Post Scans can Tell a Story
Let’s face it, readers either a) don’t have time to read your whole post content or b) have the attention span of a goldfish. (Those can tie into each other, too.) So you need to ensure they can scan your post to get an idea of what it’s about. Don’t ever be conceited enough to think they’re really going to care about reading every single word. Most won’t.
You can increase scan-friendliness like this:
- Use lists and bullet points where applicable
- Be strategic about putting certain phrase in bold or italics. Use this tactic to emphasize an idea or something attention-grabbing.
10. Using Imagery Strategically
The main reason we put images in posts is to get people to want to READ the post. It’s a good idea to use images that communicate an emotion and pique curiosity. You could also use images that communicate a promise.
There’s an SEO perspective to using images, too. Get your image to work for your rankings by:
- Renaming the image’s filename to the keyword phrase
- Setting the title of the image to the keyword phrase
- Setting the ALT text to your keyword phrase
It’s always a good idea to caption images. Sometimes, we pick images that don’t get our ideas across the way we want them to. So including a caption helps with SEO and ensures better clarity.
11. Internal Links to Relevant, Previous Posts
Take a quick look over your post and see if any phrases seem relevant to a past post you published. If so, hyperlink that phrase to that post. This also helps with your SEO and your internal visitor flow.
The post doesn’t need to be overrun with internal links, just 2 or 3 per post. If you really don’t have any phrases that fit the bill, don’t stress about it.
12. External Links to Relevant Posts or Sites
Linking outside of your post is a good idea, too. Be sure to link to authority sites and original sources.
13. Defining Meta-Data
You need to be able to define the meta tags of the content. While it’s still a contentious debate as to whether these things matter like the used to, the description is still relevant. That’s the description that’s going to appear in the Google search results, just beneath the headline.
So, you want to make sure the meta description is relevant from your keyword’s perspective and contains an enticing promise that will attract people to click and read the post if it comes up in their searches.
14. Defining the Excerpt
WordPress, for instance, will auto-fill the excerpt with text from the post by default. But it only has a certain character limit, so that excerpt may not make sense.
There’s a way around this. This you manually define the excerpt and put whatever you want into it. All you need to do is manually copy/paste part of the post into the excerpt – easy! Just make sure that excerpt is going to pull people into to read your post.
Maybe you could end it off with a cliff-hanger?
15. Where’s That “Call To Action?”
Every single post needs to leave readers with an action step. What do you want them to do next?
Each and every post is really a form of marketing, both for the blog and for your brand. Just like any good promotional piece, you need to give your readers something to do.
Common CTAs include:
- Ask them to subscribe to the list
- Ask them to comment on your post
- Tell them where they can find more information
- Ask them to share your post of their social media channels
CTAs are usually found at the tail-end of a post.
When are You Publishing Your Next Piece?
These 15 simple points can help ensure you have great content before hitting “Publish”.
By the way, you’re getting a fresh set of eyes to proofread your piece before it goes live, right?
And you’re using Copyscape to make sure every post is unique, right? If not—check it out here. It costs a measly 5 cents to run a premium search and make sure that piece you’re about to post doesn’t have any duplicate hits anywhere on the web. This is a huge part of my content team’s daily workload: our editors run every single piece of content we write through the 5-cent Copyscape search.
Did I miss anything? What do YOU do to make sure you publish good content? Feel free to share below!
Featured Image: Image by Julia McCoy