Blog Post Checklist: 20+ Steps to Extraordinary Blog Posts
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Every blogger has been there. You’ve published a post that you thought was great, but no one seems to even notice it.
With all of the content being published online every day (every hour for that matter) it is harder than it has ever been to get your post noticed.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. It just means that you need to take the right approach.
The right approach involves doing certain things to before, during, and after writing and publishing the post.
It’s really easy to miss one of these important steps, so I decided to put together this blog post checklist. The checklist lays out 20 things you should be doing with your blog posts. There are some things that can help to get your thoughts organized before you even write the post. There are other things you’ll need to do when you’re writing the post and getting ready to publish it. And there are also a few things that you should be doing after you publish the post.
If you’ve ever wondered how to write a blog post, follow the steps laid out by this checklist. You’ll find that your blog posts will be better, they’ll be appreciated by your readers, and ultimately they will reach more people.
Let’s get started.
Things to Do Before Writing the Blog Post
How do you begin the process of writing a blog post? If you jump straight into writing you’re probably missing out on some critical steps. There are a few things you need to do before you even begin writing the post, and these steps can literally make or break the post.
These steps before you even begin to write the post may be the most important part of the whole process. Be sure you’re not overlooking them.
1. Know Your Audience
Before you can write an effective article you must know who you want to reach with your post. You may hear this referred to as your target audience or your avatar. While the target audience is general (for example, 40 – 65 year old men who enjoy woodworking), the avatar is a specific person. The purpose of an avatar is to have a very precise idea of who you want to reach. You should decide on a lot of personal details for your avatar, like name, age, income, occupation, marital and family status, likes, dislikes, etc.
Identifying your target audience or creating your avatar isn’t something you’ll need to do before each blog post. You’ll do it once, and then you’ll keep that audience or avatar in mind each time you’re planning or writing an article. That way you’ll be sure to write content that will be appreciated by the readers that you want to target.
If you’ve been running your blog for a while but you can’t clearly identify your target audience, you should take some time to think about specifically who you want to reach with your blog, and put it down on paper. In the future you’ll be able to refer back to this as you’re brainstorming post ideas.
For more details on how to go about this, please see How to Create a Reader Avatar for Your Blog.
2. Decide on a Clear Message or Main Point
What is your post really about? What do you want readers to take away from your post?
If you have a personal blog you may be writing about whatever is on your mind, and your posts may be scattered or have multiple ideas or messages in one post. However, if you are trying to grow an audience or make money with your blog, you’ll need to be sure that your posts have one message, main point, or central idea.
Be sure that you identify the purpose of the post and the main point before you actually begin writing the post. If you want readers to be able to walk away with some valuable insight or even to take some specific action after reading your article, you must be clear on the central idea.
3. Choose a Primary Keyword
Although there are a lot of different ways to get traffic to your blog, free traffic from organic search rankings is ideal. Traffic from search is typically more consistent than social media traffic, and the visitors are all arriving on your site because they are looking for something specific. The quality of search traffic is generally very high, so you’ll often get better conversion rates, higher number of pageviews per visitor, and a lower bounce rate than from other sources.
To have the best chance of getting traffic from search engines you should be creating blog content with specific keywords or phrases in mind. You’ll want to use this keyword or phrase in the title, and also include it and some various synonyms and related keywords within the article body.
There are a number of tools that can help you to find and analyze possible keywords. One of my favorites is KWFinder. KWFinder will give you valuable information like the average number of searches per month for that keyword, and the keyword difficulty score. The higher the keyword difficulty, the harder it will be to rank on the first page of Google.
The keyword diffulcty score that you want to look for will depend on a few factors. If you have a niche blog you may be able to find some good keywords with decent search volume and a keyword difficulty below 30. If you are building an authority blog you may be comfortable targeting those with a score of 40 or under.
KWFinder will give you a big list of related keywords, so hopefully you can find one that has a combination of decent search volume and a low difficulty score. If you create a free account you can get up to 5 searches per day on KWFinder.com. That may be enough for you, or you may need to upgrade to one of the paid plans, which will give you many more searches per day and more related keyword suggestions.
4. Create a Post Outline
Before you begin writing the article, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes and draft an outline that you will follow. Writing an outline helps you to come up with an effective structure that will make the article clear and useful, rather than a scattered approach where you may ramble or miss key points. The outline also helps you to make sure that the post is readable and easy to follow.
Things to Do When Writing the Blog Post
The previous points gave you a good foundation for your post. Next, pay attention to these things when you are actually writing the post.
5. Give it an Effective Title
The title is the most important part of your blog post. In today’s society we’re bombarded with headlines all day on our phones, in emails, and as we browse the internet. The effectiveness of the title will impact how many people actually visit your blog and read your post.
The title will typically be used when the post is shared on social media, and if the title does not grab attention or entice people to click, your post won’t get the attention it deserves.
Your post titles will also influence visitors who arrive at your home page or blog index page to click through and actually read the article.
For these reasons, it’s critical that your post title is appealing and creates interest from the audience that you’re targeting.
But it’s also equally important that your title includes your main keywords so it has the best chance to rank in Google searches.
Learning to write good titles is something that takes practice, but fortunately there are a few really helpful resources for those of us who tend to struggle with it:
- The Headline Analyzer from CoSchedule is a great free tool that will help you to improve your headlines. Simply enter your headline and it will give you a score from 1 – 100. It will also give you some tips for improving the score, if needed.
- You can also refer to my list of post title templates as a great starting point. I put this list together because I often use these templates myself, and they can be extremely helpful when you’re stuck.
- I have also published a list of powerful words that you can include in your headlines and titles to make them more effective.
Use those 3 resources and you’ll always be able to create quality titles.
Sometimes you may find that you have a title that does a great job of capturing attention, but it does not include your keyword or is not optimized for search engines. In this case you can use the free Yoast SEO WordPress plugin to set the SEO title of the post. To do this you would give the post the attention-grabbing title, and then in the Yoast settings enter the keyword-rich title that you want to be used by search engines.
6. Edit the Permalink / URL
The URL or permalink of the post can also influence search engine rankings. In general, you want the permalink to include your main keywords, to be readable by humans, and to be short and concise. What I mean by “readable to humans” is that a reader should be able to look at the URL and have an idea of what to expect on the page.
For example, the permalink for this post is vitaldollar.com/blog-post-checklist/. Instead of including the entire title in the permalink I only included the most important words so that a visitor knows what to expect.
You want to keep it short, but not too short that it isn’t clear what the post will be about. For example, I didn’t use the permalink vitaldollar.com/checklist/. That would be shorter, but it could be any type of checklist. By using “blog-post-checklist” I give search engines and human visitors a better idea of what to expect to find on the page.
7. Write an Attention-Grabbing Intro
While the title is the most important part of your post, the intro or the first few paragraphs are not too far behind. Most visitors will start to quickly scan your post, and if they lose interest they’ll leave immediately. Most of us have very short attention spans and the decision to stay or leave is usually made in a matter of just a few seconds.
Be sure that the opening to your post grabs the attention of readers and leads them on to read the body of the article.
I’ll be honest, this is an area where I really struggle. I’m working to get better because I know the importance of the intro.
If you also struggle with writing captivating intros I suggest taking a look at 10 Ways to Write an Irresistible Intro to Your Blog Post.
8. Write with Readability in Mind
Quality blog posts will be written and formatted in a way that makes them easy to read on the screen. If your post is just a big, long wall of text, readers will not want to read it and they will leave the page as quickly as they arrived.
There are several ways you can improve your posts in this area:
- Write in short paragraphs
- Use a large font size
- Use subheaders to break up the text and to make the outline of your post obvious
- Use bulled lists and numbered lists
- Use bold and italic text
- Include images and graphics
Even long, detailed articles can be fairly easy to read and scan when they use these elements effectively. I try to consider these things when I am writing a post, but after I’m done writing I always preview the post and evaluate the readability. I almost always need to break up some long paragraphs or add some bold text, at the very least.
Make it as easy as possible for visitors to read and consume your content, and you’ll find that the average time on your site increases and the bounce rate (percentage of visitors who leave your site without clicking through to other pages on the site) will decrease.
9. Include at Least One Strong Image
The internet seems to become increasingly visual every day. It doesn’t matter what topic you’re writing about, your posts can benefit from some quality photos or images. Many blogs, this one included, use a main featured image at the top of the post. You can also include other images as needed throughout the post.
This is no set number of images that you should use in the post, but you want to be sure that the post is easy on the eyes for visitors. Images often help to break up the text, and of course, they can also help to visualize the point of the article.
You have several different options for the images that you use in your posts:
- Take your own photos
- Design your own graphics
- Hire a photographer or designer
- Buy stock photos or graphics
- Use free stock photos or graphics
Probably the most popular option is to use free stock photos or graphics. Obviously, this helps to keep costs down. Fortunately for bloggers there is a growing number of sites out there that make it easy to find quality free photos. My favorites are Pixabay, Pexels, and Unsplash. In general, photos that you find on these sites can be used for commercial purposes and without linking back to the photographer. Of course, you should always check the license of any photo before using it.
When you enter an image into your post it’s important that you assign alt text for the image. The alt text is used by screen readers to help blind visitors with a description of the image, but the alt text also can carry a little bit of weight for SEO if you use keywords in the alt text. When you are inserting an image into WordPress there is a field for the alt text.
10. Make the Important Text Stand Out
Making the important text stand out will make your posts easier to read and scan, but it can also help you to get your main point across and to tell readers what they should do next. You can make text stand out by using bold text, italics, or a few other methods.
On this blog I occasionally use highlighted text when I want something to stand out. I’ll also use a block with a different background color to set it off. If you’re comfortable with CSS coding this can be done pretty easily with most WordPress themes. If you don’t want to touch the code yourself you can use a plugin like Shortcodes Ultimate that will give you some different ways to create boxes and other elements to make your text stand out.
11. Add Internal Links to Your Other Blog Posts
When you’re writing a blog post it can be easy to overlook the need to link to some of your other pages/posts within the article content. Links to your other posts can help readers to find other related content that will interest them, will help to increase the average time a visitor spends on your site, will increase the average number of pageviews per visit, and will decrease the bounce rate.
You can add links as you are writing the article, but be sure to also go back and look for these opportunities after the post is written and before it is published. If you’re like me, you’ll always find some places for good internal links that you overlooked when you were writing the post.
Internal links can be added within the text of your paragraphs. You can also add “related reading” links at random points throughout the article. Or, you can add related links at the beginning or end or the post.
One strategy I’ve been using recently is a “read next” link at the end of blog posts. If a visitor reaches the end of your post, chances are that visitor is pretty interested in the topic. If you have another post that would be a good follow up read on the topic, include a link at the end of the post telling them which article they should read next.
Internal links also send signals to tell search engines which pages on your site/blog are important. Be sure that you are occasionally linking to your most important pages/posts when you are writing new articles.
12. Add External Links to Other Quality Sites
It’s also a good idea to include some links in your posts that point to other sites. Studies have indicated that linking to authority websites on the topic can help to improve the search engine ranking of your post.
You don’t need to go overboard here, but adding 2-3 links to authoritative websites or articles can help.
These external links can also help to validate your point if you are linking to sources.
13. Create a Call to Action
Every blog post should have some sort of call to action (CTA). What is it that you want the reader to do? With the call to action you could try to get readers to buy one of your products, buy an affiliate product that you are recommending, subscribe to your email, fill out a form, or something else.
It’s also important that your call to action stands out. You can use the methods in point number 10 to be sure that your call to action gets the attention of your visitors.
14. Include an Email Opt In Form
One of your main goals as a blogger should be to build and grow your email list. An email list gives you the ability to communicate with your audience at any time and help to turn your blog into an income-producing asset. Your email list will make you less dependent on sites like Google, Pinterest, and Facebook for traffic.
Whenever visitors arrive at your blog they should have the opportunity to subscribe to your email list. There are a number of different ways you can do this including popups, header bars, sidebar option forms, optin forms at the end of your posts, optin forms within your post content, and more.
I like to add optin forms to relevant spots in the blog post.
Plugins like OptinMonster and Thrive Leads make it easy to create these types of forms and to insert them in your posts with shortcodes.
You can also use this approach for content upgrades, where the reader will get something extra that is specifically related to that post.
15. Proofread Before Publishing
After you’re done writing your post, be sure to proofread it and check for spelling and grammatical mistakes before publishing.
Also, read through the post to be sure that it makes sense, is clearly written, and effectively communicates your message. When I am write posts I tend to move through the article quickly, and then I like to go back and clean everything up later.
If you’re looking for some additional help, be sure to check out resources like Grammarly, Hemingway, and After the Deadline.
16. Check the SEO Rating
The Yoast SEO plugin can help your search engine optimization in a few different ways. It will give your posts a rating for readability and SEO based on a focus keyword that you enter. The ratings will show as red (bad), orange (ok), or green (good).
If you’ve installed and activated the plugin, below your post you’ll see the Yoast settings and data. Every post will have a readability rating, and if you click on the down arrow it will also show you what you are doing right and what you can improve.
If you make changes to the things listed as problems and improvements you can increase the rating and the readability of your post.
If you enter a focus keyword, Yoast SEO will also give your post a rating based on how well it is optimized for that keyword. All you need to do is type your primary keyword and give it a second to calculate the score.
Address the problems and improvements and you’ll have a post that is better optimized to rank for your focus keyword.
Don’t feel like you have to get the readability and focus keyword ratings perfect. If you can get it to be green overall, you’ll be in pretty good shape.
17. Preview the Post
Before publishing, always take a few minutes to preview the post. Content looks different live on the site as opposed to in the content editor. When you preview it on the front end of the site you may see things that need to be formatted differently to make the post more readable.
Things to Do After Publishing the Post
Once you’ve hit the “publish” button you may think the your work is done. But there are still a few important things you should do.
18. Share on Social Media
Take a few minutes to share the post through your social media profiles. There are also some tools you can use to automate this process, like the Jetpack plugin.
You don’t need to be extremely active at a lot of different social networks, in fact, I recommending starting by simply focusing your efforts on a single social network. But you can still have a profile at other sites and at least share a link to your new posts.
19. Send it to Your Email List
Earlier I mentioned the importance of growing your email list. Of course, you’ll need to also focus on cultivating a relationship with your readers, and sharing a link to your latest blog post is a great way to do that.
Depending on how frequently you publish, you may or may not want to email your list every time you publish a new post. If you publish a post 5 days a week and you only want to email your list twice a week, you could either only mention your key posts, or include a weekly roundup in one of the emails.
20. Contact Other Bloggers Mentioned in the Post
If your post includes external links to other bloggers, it can be worth your time to send the other blogger a quick email to let them know that they’ve been included in your latest post. Of course, include a link to the post in your email so they can check it out.
There are two reasons why it is worth your time to contact the people mentioned in your post:
- They may share it through their social profiles, or possibly even link to it from their blog.
- It’s a great networking opportunity to get in touch with other bloggers.
The social shares help your posts to reach more eyeballs, and you may find it’s a great way to get your blog in front of your target audience.
Networking is a very important part of blogging, and this is an easy way to start to get some contact with other bloggers in your niche. Sometimes you’ll get a response, and sometimes you won’t. But it’s possible that you’ll make some good contacts from reaching out to other bloggers in this way.
21. Add Links from a Few Old Posts
Earlier I mentioned that internal links can be important for SEO. They can also help to funnel visitors from one page/post on your site to another.
Whenever you publish an important post, especially if it is one that you hope to rank for a specific search phrase, take a few minutes to link to it from a few older posts in your archives. Most bloggers will add internal links when they write posts, but very few will take the time to go back and add internal links to their older posts. This is a great, and relatively easy, way to give your new blog post a little boost.
22. Reply to Comments
Every blogger loves to get comments from readers. One of the best things you can do to encourage more comments is to reply to each and every comment that is left.
If readers see that you’re not replying to comments it looks like you don’t care about their comments, and visitors aren’t likely to take the time to do it.
But when you reply you can show the commenter that you appreciate the time and effort they made to leave the comment. Readers also see that you are engaged and responsive to other readers, and it makes more people want to get involved and start participating.
23. Update the Post When Needed
One of the best things you can do to improve the value of your archives is to go back and update old posts every now and then. Depending on the content of the article, there may be outdated information that should be replaced or improved. You can also add more length and depth to a post. Or maybe you want to update a post to include some affiliate links.
Also, it’s very common for bloggers to look at their old posts and be surprised at how bad they are (I know I’ve been there many times). If this is the case, updating old posts may be as beneficial, or even more beneficial, than writing new posts.
If you have old posts that are getting traffic, you may be able to get even more traffic by improving them. And not only can those posts get more traffic, but they will also be more useful and relevant to visitors.
When you make significant updates to a post you can change the date of publication to the current date and it will show up at the top of your feed.
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