Ever publish a blog post only to discover some glaring mistake you made, some thing you completely missed?
But for everyone else, I’ve put together this absolutely foolproof blog post checklist. This post might be worth bookmarking or printing out to keep nearby.
Grammar & spelling
No shit, right? And yet so many people just hit Publish immediately after they’ve typed the last sentence of their post. If you don’t see a red squiggly line, you’re golden, right?
If you’ve been using a single word processor for a long time, it has learned and can autocorrect all your common spelling and typographical mistakes. This makes it a good idea to write your post in your word processor and then copy/pasta into WordPress. There’s even a special button for this on your WordPress toolbar. Just click the “kitchen sink” button to show the full two-row toolbar (last button of the default toolbar on the Visual tab).
A word of warning: you’ll probably have to spend some time reformatting your post.
Another way to make sure your spelling and grammar are as good as they can be is to install a grammar-checking WordPress plugin, such as After the Deadline.
Writing your posts in advance and using an editorial calendar gives you the breathing room needed to make sure everything’s correct. After all, preventing mistakes in the first place is better than correcting them, yes?
You may have an SEO plugin or an SEO-capable theme. If so, did you check all the fields and settings for your post? Most of these tools let you edit the meta title and description. It’s easy to forget these things if you’re in a hurry. But forgetting them can hurt the very reason you created the content in the first place. If you don’t have an SEO plugin, follow these two must-do tips:
- If you want to rank for a particular keyword, make sure that keyword is in the post title (the headline) and the earlier in the word order, the better.
- Make sure your keyword is also in the first sentence of your post. Again, the earlier the better.
In the years I’ve been coaching business owners on their blogging, one thing I always try to impress on them is to have a strong opening to a post. Your tendency is to write the first thing that comes to mind and then “warm up” to what you really wanted to say. In fact, we call these “warm up” paragraphs. And chances are your post would have a much stronger beginning if you deleted your warm up paragraphs.
One of the strongest ways to begin your posts is to just straight up tell readers what they’re going to get out of reading it.
Readability has two parts to it: easy, coherent wording and sentence & paragraph structure.
The best way to make sure your post is easy to read is to read it out loud to yourself. You’ll catch all kinds of awkward phrasing that seemed fine in your head as you wrote.
The way to make your posts more readable at the sentence and paragraph level is to:
- Use the shortest words possible unless the precise meaning you need comes from larger words
- Write the shortest sentences possible. I’m forever breaking up multi-clause sentences into multiple sentences. This is one area in which I deliberately break the rules of grammar because I often start sentences with conjunctions (and, but, so, and others). I do this in order to have shorter sentences and for personal style.
- Write the shortest paragraphs possible. A paragraph technically should consist of more than one sentence. But on the web, you’ll find that one-sentence paragraphs are the rule.
- Use bullet points for lists of three items or more.
- Use subheadings (heading 2 or heading 3) break up the text and provide white space. The style dropdown menu (first control on the second row of the WordPress toolbar) lets you change a paragraph into a subheading. Tip: type your heading text and then on your keyboard press Ctrl+2 or 3 for heading 2 or heading 3.
For a more objective way to test your blog post’s readability, use a readability test. Keep in mind that industry jargon can often make it seem your writing isn’t easy enough to read. Don’t worry about this because everyone in your industry/niche already knows the jargon, so it won’t seem complicated to them at all.
Call to action or question
Did you include some sort of call to action or question at the end of your post?
If you had a goal in mind for the post in the first place, this is much easier. If you didn’t, you’ll need to think of something. A call to action is when you want the reader to do something and you simply recommend to them they do it.
Asking the right question at the end of your blog post is a great way to drive engagement through comments.
Always try to have a strong ending to your post. You don’t want readers reaching the end and feeling they had missed something along the way.
Did you remember to add an image to your post for visual interest? If you choose to add pictures to your blog posts, these tips will help:
- Make sure you have the legal right to use the image and that you’re following the requirements of any licencing such as Creative Commons.
- Make sure the image is appealing and discernable as a thumbnail.
- If there’s anything in the image that makes people look in a certain direction, such as people looking or pointing or an arrow, that you align the image to direct the reader’s eye back to the text.
- Include “alt text” in the image settings for the benefit of search engines and those with visual impairments who use a text-to-speech web browser.
- Include a caption, if you can. People’s eyes are drawn to image captions.
- Don’t forget to set a “featured image” so your post has an image thumbnail. These are used for post excerpts and for sharing your content on social media.
Save time by using a broken link checker plugin. Of course, the link could be valid but still be the wrong URL, so it’s a good idea to preview your post and click on the links to make sure they go to the right places.
The other link issue you want to check for is cross-linking. In most blog posts you write, there’s probably a good chance you could link to some previous blog post. This is helpful for your readers and it’s also good for SEO. This can also be partially automated with a cross-linker plugin.
You always want to edit your post’s permalink. This will help your SEO (provided you put your keyword in the permalink) and also make your blog post URLs easier to read. I usually try to shorten mine as much as possible because long URLs are just a pain in the ass for people. Long URLs cause problems on social media and in emails. Sure, there are link shortener services, but it’s also cool if you don’t absolutely require one to get your link to fit within Twitter’s 140 character limit.
The checklist in a nutshell
- Grammar & spelling
- Strong lead
- Call to action or question
But wait, that’s a lot of work!
What… did you think this stuff was going to be easy?
This is why writing content in advance when you can is such a good idea. Writing blog posts take up a lot less time than you’d think compared to following this checklist and promoting it after publication.
You tell me: which of these do you do religiously? Any? None? Which of these are you going to start using?