The Checklist You’ve Always Been Missing
It’s easy to think that the only thing you need to do is write some blog posts.
Sit down. Write some words. Press Publish.
Rinse and repeat.
You can definitely tackle blogging that way but it won’t get you very far.
Super bloggers (I just made that up) understand that they need to do a number of things for each blog post to ensure it’s success.
What happens when someone writes a blog post they don’t put themselves in the shoes of the people that will read it.
Why is this important? Because if you don’t see things from their perspective then how do you know you are writing something that appeals to them?
I used to just write blog posts whenever I had the feeling to do so. I could knock out 1500 words in less than 30 minutes and call it a day. Pressing publish felt like the biggest accomplishment in the world, but the problem was that my blog wasn’t growing.
You could have 100 blog posts on your site and if none of them are reaching the people they are trying to reach then what good have you done?
You know the question if a tree falls in the woods does it make a sound? Well, your blog certainly doesn’t make a noise if nobody is visiting.
To ensure that people come to your blog you need to knock out a couple of things for each blog post that you publish.
They aren’t crazy things so don’t sweat them but most of them are pretty essential.
Things to do before writing
Let’s talk about things you should consider before you even think about writing your blog post.
1. Is it for them or is it for you?
Straight up you need to ask yourself this question every single time you want to write something. Too often, bloggers get caught up in writing for themselves. It’s their blog so why shouldn’t they write for themselves?
The reason why is because people don’t come to your blog to hear about you. They come to your blog because they are looking for help with something. They are trying to figure out how to accomplish a goal and you talking about yourself for 27 paragraphs probably isn’t going to do it for them.
If you aren’t writing for your audience, then your audience won’t care about what you write.
2. Can you get enough substance out of it?
The length of your blog post can determine its success for a number of reasons:
- Google prefers longer content. Research has shown that blog posts that rank #1 for a given search query usually fall between the 1500-2500 word range.
- Most topics require a bit of depth to make sure you fully cover them. It can be hard not seeing what other things you can cover in a post, but there is always something more. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a post is too long. If it’s helpful, the people that need it, will read it.
If your post is going to be 400 words of filler then don’t bother. Pick another post topic and work with that.
3. Does it fit your blog’s narrative?
I am interested in a lot of different things. This is a big problem because it means that I want to write about a lot of different things.
You have to be careful of allowing your blog to go all over the place if it isn’t set up to be that way. Looking at Obstacle.co you know it’s a blog about turning your blog into a business. I can’t just start talking about gardening because I feel like it without doing some damage.
Everything I’ve written so far targets a specific audience.
If your blog started off talking about 50 different things then you might not really have an audience at all, but let’s pretend that you do. What do you do then?
You can decide to continue to write about those 50 different things or you can narrow the list down and focus on certain topics that check off certain criteria:
- Is this the topic that is going to help you make money?
- Is this the topic that gives you the opportunity to help the most people?
- Is this the topic the majority of your audience is interested in?
- Is this the topic you can see yourself writing about in the long term?
I’m not saying the topics you pick all have to check off these items, but these are things you should be thinking about.
Things to Do While Writing
Okay, if your blog post idea has passed the test of the 3 questions above then it’s time to sit down and start writing.
The main thing you want to consider when writing the post is the user experience. What does this mean? You’ll see with some of the points below.
4. Did you just put up a wall of text?
A majority of your readers will quickly scan the page when they arrive. It gives them a sense of what they are in for.
For this reason, it is important that you make sure your post is scannable.
What exactly does that mean?
- Are your paragraphs giant walls of text or are they broken up in a way that would make your English teacher cringe?
- Does your post have images?
- Does it have headings?
- Does it have bullet points?
- Does it have quotes?
These are all things that cause your reader to pause because they see a clear break in the content. That makes it much easier for them to read.
Some bloggers get worried about writing long pieces of content because they don’t like to read them. However, most of the blog posts that you read are for trivial things and the writing might be poor.
If you find a good blogger that can keep you engaged then it doesn’t matter how long the blog post is and Google loves longer blog posts.
5. Link to Past Blog Posts and Vice Versa
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a very deep topic. Too deep for this blog post but one of the best things that you can do for your SEO is to create, what I like to call, a link breadcrumb trail around your blog.
Once you get to a certain number of blog posts you’ll find that every time you write a new one there is going to be some way to link to past posts.
Besides being great for SEO this is also good for your audience because it helps them find even more information related to a topic without having to go anywhere.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of time going back through your archives then I suggest setting up a spreadsheet that tracks all of your blog posts. That way you can simply open it up to look at a list of the posts that you’ve written in the past along with their URLs. This makes it easy to reference and link to posts that you’ve already written.
6. Add Contextual Images
You’ve already read about the benefits of adding images to your post to making them more scannable, but images can also play a huge role in SEO.
If you’re trying to target specific keywords in your post then images give you another opportunity to use those keywords by inserting them into the alt property of your image tags.
What does all of this jibber jabber mean? Here, take a look at some code:
<img src="/img/example.gif" alt="Things you should do before publishing a blog post.">
The alt property is also important because it ensures that your images are accessible to people that use screenreaders.
With all of that being said don’t feel like you are forced to use images. If you can’t think of or find any images that fit within the context of your blog post then simply leave them out. It wouldn’t make sense for me to have a pic of two flamingos kissing in this post so I won’t put it in there.
7. Ask a Question For Your Audience to Answer
You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
Sometimes you can write blog posts that get people to write comments without you even asking. However, it’s usually a better practice to ask a question at the end of your posts to encourage discussion.
To be honest with you I only do this when I’m geniuinely interested to hear other solutions to the topic that I’m writing about.
This is what I suck at.
I can read a post 10x and still miss some of the errors. You might’ve encountered some already in this post. My sincerest apologies.
One thing that I’ve been able to do that has helped me greatly is install Grammarly. It is both a desktop app and browser extension that does a wonderful job of picking up the most common grammatical errors that people do.
It hasn’t turned me into a Pulitzer Prize writing blogger, but it certainly has made it seem like I passed the 5th grade (I did).
9. Create a Clickworthy Title
This might be the most important aspect of your blog post. If you can’t even attract people to your post then you are in trouble.
Your blog post title has to entice, excite, scare, and puzzle the reader. You want them to think that they must click on your link to read the post.
Writing good post is an artform.
Hubspot has a great post on how to write awesome post and headlines for your blog.
One of my favorite techniques to help me with blog post titles is to search Pinterest for what other bloggers have done. Pinterest is a testing ground for post titles. Look at the pins with 1000s of repins vs those with very little. The difference is usually that one has a great title and the other is nonsense ramblings.
10. Make Sure You’ve Exhausted the Topic
When writing your post you need to consider the different questions that your audience will ask while reading it. Then you need to figure out how you are going to handle those questions.
For example, in the previous section I talk about writing good post titles and you might’ve asked how do you write good post titles. I have two options to help you with this question:
- Write about it in this post
- Link you to a resource (could be my own) that will help you out further
I chose #2.
Many bloggers write 500 word posts and they think that they’ve exhausted a topic or that they are done writing. In contrast, other blogs in their niche are writing 1500+ word posts that go into extreme detail about a topic and their audience loves it.
Thinking about the questions also gives you an opportunity to plan your next 20 posts. One blog posts can easily lead to 20 more simply because you consider new questions that need to be answered and warrant a blog post of their own.
11. Create a Clean URL
It’s probably just me but I cringe whenever I come across a blog post with a crazy URL. You want your blog posts URLs to remain clean for a couple of reasons:
- Helps you out a bit with SEO
- Allows you to future-proof your posts
Looking at the first point, let’s say you are trying to rank well for the keyword how to build a birdhouse.
Which post url do you think will do better (yes, we are ignoring all content and other SEO factors)?
The correct answer is the second one but you already knew that.
If you want some help with your URLs and you use WordPress then you’ll want to install the Yoast SEO plugin.
Future-Proof Your Posts
Odds are you will go back and update your older blog posts. In fact, it’s what I recommend you do every couple of months.
Instead, when I write list posts or any type of posts that have the potential to change in the future I create URLs that always fit the post.
Now I can add or subtract as many ways to lose weight as I want without having to worry about the URL not matching the post title.
12. Create 3 Awesome Pinterest Images
I love Pinterest. It’s the sole reason that this blog even has an audience.
Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but Pinterest has done wonders for this blog and my other ones.
It’s simply one of the best free marketing platforms on the web.