Do you follow a blog post checklist before putting pen to paper on your next masterpiece?
If not, it’s something you should consider implementing as part of your writing process.
Following a checklist will:
- Increase organic traffic to your site
- Improve your SEO
- Tighten your copy
- Keep content relevant to your target audience
- Ensure no important steps are missed
While it may look (and sound) like a lot for those new to several of these concepts, after a while you’ll soon find yourself whizzing through these on autopilot.
And after all, if you’re going to dedicate so much time and effort into putting a post together, surely a few extra minutes tidying it up won’t hurt, right?
Table of Content
#1 Identify Your Niche
Arguably the biggest mistake brands make when blogging is trying to talk about (and cover) every single topic within their industry.
Unfortunately, despite what we might think of our brand, company, and product… there’s always someone more knowledgeable and better positioned to talk about certain topics than we are.
So, instead of fighting that fact, just let it go.
Leave others to write about their areas of expertise while you focus on your “sweet spot”.
As Joe Pulizzi (founder of the Content Marketing Institute) puts it:
“The sweet spot is where your particular fields of knowledge and your skill sets intersect with a passion point — something you feel is of great value to you personally, or to society at large.”
Every topic that falls within that intersection you’re going to want to own.
These are subjects you understand better than anyone else and that when mentioned, people automatically associate them with your brand.
In our case at ThePowerMBA, we focus on digital marketing and entrepreneurship. We feel these areas of expertise intersect both our passions, expertise, and student’s needs.
Your niche, target audience, and buyer personas are typically detailed at a higher level within your digital content strategy.
#2 SEO Keyword Research
You might have an idea about which topics you’re audience is interested in. However, you’ll want to confirm your suspicions by conducting some keyword research.
This will ensure your blog post is targeted at a specific query that your audience is actively searching for in Google – replacing guesswork with actual data.
To do so, you’re going to need to call on the help of some dedicated keyword tools.
As you can see from the screenshot above (Ahrefs) for the keyword “ceramic plates,” the tool gives you:
- Keyword difficulty ranking
- Global Volume
As well as:
- Related keywords
- SERP history
- SERP overview
This information is incredibly useful for helping you target low difficulty (in terms of ranking), and high volume keywords.
However, both Ahrefs and SEMRush are paid tools. If you’re running your blog on a tighter budget, then you might want to consider some free alternatives:
While they all have their limitations in both scope and depth, they provide a great platform for which to start your keyword research.
#3 Keyword Search Intent
Search intent (or commonly referred to as user intent) is the reason behind a specific online search.
For example, when someone types in “ceramic plates” into Google, what do you think they are looking for? A specific website? A shop that sells ceramic plates? Local ceramic plate classes, perhaps?
Google is continuously improving its algorithm to better understand search intent. To that end, the algorithm ranks pages it thinks best fit a given search term.
So what does this have to do with writing a blog post?
Well, going back to our example of “ceramic plates”, if we type the search term into Google, we can see that all the results link to eCommerce pages:
This means that writing a blog post targeted at the keyword “ceramic plates” probably isn’t a good idea.
Google perceives the search intent to be transactional, not informational, meaning it will try to serve readers websites where they can buy products.
However, if you were to find focus on the keyword “how to make ceramic plates” it’s likely you’d have much more success.
The search intent behind this keyword is informational – a great fit for a blog post.
#4 Ranking Difficulty
The next step to tick off the blog post checklist is checking your target keyword’s ranking difficulty.
A keyword’s difficulty is determined by several factors, including domain authority (of the website hosting the article), number of referring links, page authority, and content quality.
The higher the score is, the more difficult it is to rank for that keyword.
As a copywriter, you’re going to be looking for keywords with a relatively low keyword difficulty yet high volume of traffic.
Some of the paid tools such as Ahrefs package this information neatly together for you.
As you can see, some of the factors determining keyword difficulty included are:
- AR (Ahrefs Rank): Strength of a website’s backlink profile.
- DR (Domain Rating): A similar backlink profile score on a scale of 0-100.
- UR (URL Rating): Backlink profile for a specific page on a scale of 0-100.
- Domains: Number of referring domains.
And if we analyze the data carefully for the top 8 SERP results for the keyword “ceramic plates” we can see that while some of the ranking pages boast high DR scores, two of them have 0 backlinks (and consequently 0 referring domains) as well as low UR scores.
Had the search intent been suited to a blog post (unfortunately it isn’t) this would have been a good keyword to target.
A great free alternative to Ahrefs and SEMRush for assessing keyword difficulty is the MozBar.
Once installed, the MozBar plug-in will show you a page’s:
- PA (Page Authority).
- DA (Domain Authority)
- The number of referring links.
- Spam Score.
Again, you’re going to want to identify keyword search terms that throw out low-PA pages. These are articles just waiting to be knocked off their perch by your new, finely detailed blog post.
Once you’ve decided on a keyword and worked out search intent (and consequent direction of the article) it’s time to get researching.
Because you should always be writing about topics falling within your niche, you’ll often have ample in-house resources to help you.
This could be:
- Speaking or interviewing colleagues.
- Internal documents.
- Sales presentations.
- Data (CRM, ERP, internal platforms, etc.).
- C-Suite team (if accessible).
If you can get your hands on some unique, internal data to support your post, it can be particularly helpful.
Not only does it add weight to what you’re saying, but it’s also great for link building – and I’ll explain why.
When copywriters are tasked with putting an article together on a subject they’re unfamiliar with, they’re going to want to back their points with data. This way they can establish credibility within their articles.
Now, typically they’ll link back to the original source (where they extracted the data from) as both a reference point to readers and as proof they haven’t made the numbers up.
If you can be that source you’ll find a lot of high-quality, organic links leading back to your site – one of the most important SEO ranking factors.
Some other useful resources for gathering material for your post include:
- Related books.
- Google Scholar.
- Interviewing industry experts.
- HARO (You can submit a request to their database as a publication).
The next step to tick off your blog post checklist is structure.
Every blog post should follow one that’s both logical for readers and the Google bots crawling your site.
Let’s whizz through some of the important technical structurings your blog post should follow.
It’s imperative that your on-page blog post title be formatted using the HTML H1 header tag.
Not only does it clearly show readers what the post is about (and entices them to read further) but SEO studies show a positive correlation between higher rankings and the use of headings on a page.
Now, in most cases (and by cases I mean most CMS) your blog will already have this hard-coded into the theme:
WordPress posts automatically format your title with the appropriate H1 tag
However, if you’re unsure, there’s a quick-fire way to check.
I’ll use a recent blog post we put together on the benefits of social media marketing as an example.
As you can see, the title is clearly seen at the top of the blog post.
To check that it contains the appropriate H1 tag, you can:
Right-click – View Page Source – Command or CTRL+F (H1)
If formatted correctly, your title should be wrapped in an H1 header and appear in the code like so:
p.s. your page should only contain a single H1 tag and always include your target keyword.
Subcategories (H2s, H3s, H4s)
After your opening couple of paragraphs, it’s time to break down the content body into different subcategories – much like chapters in a novel.
This helps readers better navigate to areas of particular interest within the post. Also, it helps Google bots understand what your blog post is about (and help rank it accordingly).
If you’re unsure what areas to break your key topic into, try typing in the keyword into Google search:
The search tool will throw out suggestions for related queries. This is great news as it:
- a) Shows you what questions people want answering with this query.
- b) Gives you an idea of what Google sees as relevant.
From a technical standpoint, the first header used after your intro should be wrapped in an H2 tag. Then, if you’re breaking that topic down into subcategories, you should use an H3 tag, then an H4, etc.
I’ll show you an example from our SEO audit checklist post.
As the post follows a checklist format (much like the one you’re currently reading) it makes sense to break down and look at each step in greater detail.
In this particular case, readers are going to need certain tools to carry out the SEO audit effectively. Therefore, we wrapped that subcategory in an H2 meta tag.
However, they’re probably going to want more information about those specific tools, so we added an H3 tag to signal another subtopic:
To readers and Google bots the web architecture follows a sensical structure like so:
It’s important to remember that all headers should be broken up by at least a couple of paragraphs of text 😉.
The grand finale!
Now all the hard work’s been done, it’s time to wrap things up. The type of conclusion you write is going to largely depend on the goal of the blog post.
Is it to increase brand awareness? Highlight the launch of a new related product or service? Encourage readers to download a lead magnet?
It would make sense, therefore, to link this information to readers and give them a taste of what the program looks like:
Remember, keeping your readers engaged after reading the post is critical, and the conclusion is the chance to get some ROI from your post.
This might seem a little backward, but I actually prefer writing the introduction after the article has begun to take shape.
Of course, this is completely up to the writer’s preference, as long as you’re nailing the key concepts of an introduction:
- Build anticipation
- Clearly identify what the article’s about
- Make a promise to the reader
- Sell the read
p.s. a quick SEO tip: try to include your target keyword in the first paragraph of the intro.
#7 Copy length
Currently, high-quality, long-form content is king – particularly for informational keywords typically targeted by a blog post.
Google is in love with articles that dive into a topic in-depth (over 2000+ words) and is overly kind to them in rankings:
This doesn’t mean adding irrelevant content to beef out your post to hit a certain word count. That’s just bad practice and makes for a terrible reading experience…
Rather you should aim to address relevant sub-topics, in detail, supported by examples.
A picture paints a thousand words, or so they say…
Sometimes it’s true, supporting your points with relevant graphics such as:
Helps your readers gain a better understanding of the topic at hand – especially if you’re talking about something extremely complex in nature.
What’s more, images help break up the monotony of an endless sea of text.
Some recommended tools for creating images are:
Adding an attention-grabbing cover photo to your blog post can add an extra dimension to your carefully edited text.
Not only that, but it also stands out to readers when your article is shared on social media:
Blog post shared on LinkedIn
Hootsuite put together a fantastic resource of all the different image dimensions for social media posts – so your cover photos sit flush within the feed.
Also, when writing copy for your cover photo, you have two options:
- a) Simply repeat the H1
- b) Add some original copy
Personally, I’d opt for option B.
Adding an additional (and original) image text serves as another way to attract visitors to click through to your post.
Effectively, our blog has 3 opportunities to draw readers in:
- The headline, essentially the post’s H1.
- The image text, an additional header about the post.
- Short description, going into slightly more detail.
This gives visitors not one, not two, but three opportunities to click through and engage with our posts.
Another important thing to remember when uploading images is to ensure they’re accompanied by alt text.
Google can’t visualize an image like you or me. So instead, it relies on alt texts to be able to understand what an image is about. This is how you can rank certain images in organic search.
For example, the image below from the Ansoff Growth Matrix post:
Contains the following alt text keyword:
The text should always describe exactly what the image shows. Don’t stuff your images with your target keyword unless relevant.
Reducing Image Size
The last item to tick off your blog post checklist (regarding images) is weight reduction.
Essentially, you’re going to want to send your images on a diet before uploading them to your post.
Big, fat, heavy image files seriously hinder a page’s loading speed – an important SEO ranking signal.
Therefore, before uploading images to your CMS, pass them through an image compressor. Personally, I’m a fan of TinyPNG.
While it’s impossible to get some images below 100 KB, you really should try to get them down under 400 KB if possible.
Google will thank you for it!
#9 Internal and External Links
You’ve probably heard about the importance of both internal and external linking for SEO purposes.
In fact, according to the SEMRush SEO ranking factors study 2.0, direct visits were #1, the total number of backlinks #6, and referring domains #7.
This is because Google considers backlinks a “digital thumbs up” to a page. If there are a lot of links to a URL, then the content must be good. Why else would so many people be linking to it?
However, external linking might seem counter-intuitive. Isn’t the idea to keep people on-page for as long as possible? Not sending them elsewhere and ceding authority to other sites…
Well, yes, but linking to high-quality material on authoritative sites also helps you appear to be an authority on certain topics yourself (in Google’s eyes).
Google also analyzes internal link structure the same as it does external link structure, so the more internal links, the better!
It also keeps readers on your website, for longer.
#10 CTA (Call-to-action)
Once people are done reading your blog post, you don’t want them scratching their heads wondering…
“What on earth do I now”
No! You want them to hang around, show them around the place, and entice them to view more related content or take a specific action.
That’s where a CTA comes in.
CTAs are essentially invitations for readers to continue interacting with your site (normally in the form of a vibrantly colored button).
The most common example of a call to action is of course “BUY NOW“.
However, you’re unlikely to be asking people to purchase your product after reading an informational blog post…
So instead, what could you ask readers to do?
What about subscribing to your blog or newsletter? Or initiating a debate in the comments section? You could even ask them to download a related eBook on the topic they’re reading about.
Here’s an example from our in-depth guide on blue ocean strategy:
The blog post covers a core topic of our online business program. Therefore, at the end of the post, it makes sense to invite readers to view a free class on the subject (CTA: WATCH FREE CLASSES) to see if the program’s a good fit for them.
#11 Yoast plug-in (WordPress)
I’m going to add this in here as a “step” to your blog post checklist (even though technically, it isn’t) because it’s going to save you a lot of time and hassle.
For those of you who already have it installed (or aren’t running WordPress) you can skip to the next section.
But for those of you who are using WordPress, read on!
The Yoast SEO plug-in helps ensure your post contains all the important SEO concepts (SEO title, meta description, headers, images, pages, URL slug, post categories, etc).
It also shows you a Google snippet preview of your post:
So you can see exactly how your content will appear on Google’s SERP (search engine results page).
#12 SEO Title Tag
The SEO title tag is an HTML element that tells Google what the “official” title of your post is:
Here’s an example from our post on the biggest barriers to digital transformation and how it appears in code:
But perhaps more importantly an SEO title tag is what users will see when your page appears in a SERP (as you can see from the Yoast plug-in screenshot above).
Therefore, it’s crucial your title encourages users to click-through and engage with your post and stands out from the rest of the SERP pack.
With the Yoast plug-in, it’s extremely easy to add in:
p.s. an SEO title tag element should always include the target keyword, ideally at the beginning of the sentence.
#13 URL (Slug)
The “slug” is essentially the end section of the URL that details what the page’s content is about.
For example, the URL for this article is:
The slug is the changeable bit at the end. In this case, “blog-post-checklist” informs readers (and of course, Google) of what to expect.
Now, again it’s important to include your target keyword within the slug. If you can, it’s best to simply make your target keyword the slug.
In WordPress it can be added right underneath the H1 title tag:
A couple of quick suggestions for when creating your URL slug:
- Try to avoid listing numbers. For example, www.thepowermba.com/en/marketing/24-ways-to-boost-your-ctr. If you want to go in and add more (say 30 ways to…) the URL can not be changed after being published.
- Always make sure the text is written in lowercase.
- Keep them short.
- Use a hyphen (-) to indicate breaks between words.
Hopefully, this one goes without saying! But once you’ve written your blog post, it’s important you re-read through it before publishing.
This way you can pick up on any grammatical errors, strange word choices, or overly long sentences that your brain raced through during a first draft.
Personally, I find it helpful to walk away, take a break, or perhaps get on with something else before coming back later and skimming through it again.
Also, if you’ve got someone else on the team willing to take a read through your work, even better! A fresh set of eyes can help you get a new perspective or suggest new angles you perhaps hadn’t considered.
Now, there’s one tool I would highly recommend downloading when it comes to proofing, and that’s Grammarly.
The free desktop app scans through your text looking for common grammatical mistakes (like misused commas) and complex ones (like misplaced modifiers). There’s also a premium feature for helping you with active voice, word choice, tone, style, and a whole host of other features…
#15 Author (EAT)
The final step to check off your blog post checklist (before publishing) is ensuring your post is “officially” signed off by you, the author.
Many blog posts I read are simply signed off by “The (INSERT COMPANY) Team” or occasionally by nobody at all.
Not only are authors missing out on a chance of boosting their personal brand, but it also impacts the post from an SEO standpoint.
The more SEO savvy among you might remember that back in 2011, Google began showing author pictures with a link to Google Plus profiles for articles containing the “author” schema markup.
While that practice effectively disappeared from Google in 2016, author authority didn’t.
Author authority is essentially the perceived authority an author has on a given topic. This is determined by their credentials, education, other sites they have been published on the web, etc.
Google refers to it as EAT (expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.)
There are three ways to communicate an author’s authority to Google:
- Create and include links to an About page.
- Add links to their social media accounts.
- Include a short bio at the end of each article.
This is especially important to do if you’re writing about YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) topics – so medicine, law, banking, finance, etc.
The potential impact of misinformation on these topics could be extremely harmful to readers, which is why Google’s actively trying to position “authoritative” content.
Once the above 14 steps have been ticked off, it’s time to finally hit publish.
Now there are just a couple more things to take care of before you can sit back, relax, and watch the traffic come flooding to your post 😅.
#17 Index list (Google Search Console)
This is a little-known trick that many marketers and bloggers are unaware of, but there is in fact a way to indicate to Google you’ve submitted “fresh” content to your site.
And Google’s algorithm just loves fresh new content.
Now, the search engines will eventually crawl your site (and if your post is correctly linked within your site architecture) index it.
However, this process could take days, even weeks before the bots re-visit your site.
So how do you indicate to Google this post’s fresh off the press?
By using Google Search Console.
This tool enables you to bump up a new URL on a site’s priority indexing queue, getting the Google bots to swing by your site ASAP.
Here’s how you do it:
- #1 Open up Google Search Console.
- #2 Copy and paste the URL into the search tab.
- #3 Click “REQUEST INDEXING”
You might have to wait a few minutes before the URL can be added to the queue, so whatever you do, don’t close the tab before the “indexing requested” response appears.
#18 Link Back from Previous Posts
The penultimate step to tick off your blog post checklist is adding relevant links to your new post.
As I mentioned earlier in the post, internal links are extremely important not only for users (guiding them to other relevant resources) but also for SEO.
However, any newly published post will, for the time being, be devoid of internal backlinks.
So you’ll have to find other pages on your site where it makes sense to link to your new post. Ideally, from any page directly mentioning your target keyword.
But how are you supposed to know which pages mention (or are related to) your target keyword? Especially on a website with thousands upon thousands of individual URLs.
Well, there’s a quick and easy remedy.
Head over to Google search and type in the following:
site:(YOUR WEBSITE) + “YOUR KEYWORD”
What this advanced search does is locate every indexed URL on your site containing the specified keyword.
I’ll show you an example from one of our recent posts on lean startup methodology:
site:www.thepowermba.com/en/ + “lean startup”
You then simply scroll through these pages, find the mentioned keyword, and add an internal link to your new post.
I recommend you also search for related terms to your keyword (for example, here I use “lean start-up” even though the keyword is “lean start-up methodology”) to find additional opportunities for internal linking.
The final action item on your blog post checklist is to get sharing. To spread the word about this fantastic new read uploaded to the blog.
Of course, the idea is that the majority of people find your new post organically through Google search. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t leverage other tools to increase your post’s reach.
By far the best way to do so is through your social media channels.
Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and particularly LinkedIn are great for sharing new blog posts.
In our case, LinkedIn proves extremely popular with our audience:
You’ll have to trial and error different social media platforms to see which one works best for you.
Blog Post Checklist Done
Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far you must be extremely determined to turn your next blog post into a Dickens-esque success 📚.
All jokes aside, I’m confident that after following this step-by-step blog post checklist you’ll see a huge difference in the quality (and hopefully, traffic) to your blog.
And of course, if you have any questions at all, jot them down below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.