Two million blog posts will be published today.
How will your post stand out? It’s worth taking 10 minutes to insure that your post has the best chances of getting noticed.
We’ve compiled a list of 25 questions you should answer before clicking the publish button. We also have a checklist that you can download for easy reference below.
Know Your Reader
#1: What is the goal of the post?
Each post is a salesperson tasked with getting new readers to your blog. Establishing a goal for the post will guide and focus the content. I recommend writing the goal for the post above the headline on your draft for easy reference.
#2: Who is the ideal reader?
You don’t want another reader you want reader that is looking for an answer to a specific question. Spend time defining your ideal reader’s needs demographics, media habits, and goals. Review your post to make sure it’s aligned with your idea reader.
#3: What problem will your post solve?
Every reader has a goal. For most, they are searching for specific information that will solve an urgent or persistent problem. Look at the headline and first paragraph of your blog post, does it promise to solve your reader’s problem? Rewrite it until it does.
#4: How have you answered the reader’s logical questions?
“People buy with their emotions and justify with logic.”
I believe that every blog post should sell 1) A Product or 2) Your approach to solving customer problems. In both cases you should demonstrate your ability to logically express your point of view.
For example, right now mosquitoes are regularly spoiling my time lounging in the backyard. Emotionally, I want every mosquito burned in hell fire.
Logically, I want a convenient, safe, and inexpensive way to rid my backyard from these bloodthirsty party-crashers. It’s simple and fun for a company like MosquitoSquad.com to write about my emotional needs. However, they need to convince me that purchasing their mosquito repellent treatment makes sense financially. They do a great job of satisfying my left brain point-of-view in their posts here.
#5: How have you appealed to the reader’s emotional needs?
Don’t forget to push your reader’s emotional buttons. Remind them of the emotions that drove them to search the web for an answer. The lead paragraph is the perfect spot to aggravate their mental burr in their saddle. Remember that there is always an emotional reason behind every purchase. Find this reason and describe it vividly in your posts.
#6: Have you found a way to make a connection or identify common ground with your reader?
Your lead paragraph needs to communicate that you understand your reader. Successful posts use stories to make a connection and demonstrate that the author understands the reader’s perspective.
Making an immediate connection helps your post talk to the reader instead of at them.
Create An Appealing Presentation
#7: Can you use your post’s content in other mediums?
Review your post and jot down a few ideas for how its subject can work in different forms. Sometimes, text is the best way to communicate information but your post will come to life if you use other media.
Embedding a short video presentation, an animated gif, or a SoundCloud audio file can grab and hold your reader’s attention. The longer your reader stays on your blog the more chances you have to convert them into a subscriber/lead.
#8: Did you follow an outline?
Your blog visitors would prefer to NOT read your post. They really want to skim the content, pull out the key points and be on their way. A poorly structured post will confuse and irritate your readers triggering a quick back-button click. Prevent back-button purgatory by reviewing your outline (you have one don’t you?) and using the key points as subheadlines in your post. Also use your outline to trim any fluff that may have snuck into the post. Your post doesn’t need to be short but it does need to be concise.
#9: What is your post’s hook?
Right now, I can’t get Taylor Swift’s song – “Shake it Off” out of my mind. Why? It has an “hook”, “Shake it Off” that has burrowed its way into my subconscious like an earthworm in a compost pile. I can’t – well… “Shake it off”. Your blog post needs a hook, a compelling, irrefutable, reason for reading too.
At inbound.org, a review of the top posts include winners with irresistible hooks:
We’re Ignoring Google and it’s working. Here’s Why
The Hook: Google is a black box that I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to figure out. Can I ignore it and still succeed? Yes? Sign me up!
The Hook: Am I wasting my money on a failing strategy?
The Hook: The experts stress building a great product. You are saying the opposite – Why?
Identify the hook for your post. Refine your headline lead paragraph until it is crystal clear to the reader.
#10: Which keywords are you targeting?
Keywords are still important. They help Google understand who would want to read your post. You should target at least two keywords for your post. You don’t need to go overboard here. Just make sure that you are tackling one subject per post that aligns with your keyword choice.
Read Chapter 3 of Neils Patel’s blog audience building guide for excellent advice on how to use keywords.
#11: Have you written at least 3 headlines?
Writing better headlines is the easiest, cheapest, and most effective way to get more readers. I recommend testing headlines like it were your sole profession.
Use Optimizely or KingSumo Headlines to add a headline testing capability to your site or wordpress blog. Write three headlines, one to use, and two to A/B test. Test headlines in every post. Continue to test the winning headlines in subsequent posts.
This will work. You just have to do it.
#12: Have you used compelling subheadlines?
Earlier I mentioned that readers would rather skim than read your post. But, as content creators, we prefer if visitors spend quality time reading our posts. Interesting, eye-catching subheadlines will do the trick.
Subheadlines are bold and set in a larger font. They are mini-headlines that entice the visitor to slow down and read your post closely. Ideally, your post’s headlines should read like a cliffsnotes version of your post.
#13: Are you linking to related posts on your blog?
“Sticky” is an old-fashioned term that describes your site’s ability to keep visitors on the site. The term is old but the concept is still important. Every moment spent on your site gives you another chance to convert a reader into a lead. Linking to other related blog posts shows the depth of information on your blog while keeping readers stuck to your content like glue.
#14: Have you written in a conversational but professional style?
In B2B we labor under the notion that we should sound like Washington D.C. bureaucrats. The opposite is true. Your readers want a professional and personable prose. They want to feel as if they are sharing a drink having an easy conversation. You can do this without being too forward, flippant, or loose with the facts.
#15: Have you selected a photo that reinforces the mood of the post?
We call it Visual Content which is a $20 phrase that means compelling photos and graphics. Take time to find them. Photos have the magical power of setting a mood and subliminally anchoring an emotion. Try to avoid abstract photos devoid of people situations, or real-life objects. I prefer showing people, the more natural the better.
#16: Have you added a content upgrade to encourage opt-ins?
Content Upgrades, a tactic popularized by Brian Dean, are free information downloads that enhance a post. The reader needs to give their email information before they can download.
The “Before You Publish Checklist” included with this post is an example of a content upgrade. You can download it and use it to train your virtual assistant or refresh your memory when you publish your next post. Content Upgrades, for the time being, are effective ways to adding new subscribers with each post.
#17: Have you set a relevant category for your post?
Setting a post category is helpful to readers. Visitors can click the category name and see all of the posts assigned to the category.
There’s another more important reason to categorize each post – evaluation. Which category gets the most shares? Which category attracts the most viewers from Google? This type of analysis will help you make better blog topic choices. It starts with consistently setting your post category.
#18: Have you formatted the post to make it easy to skim or read?
Subheadlines will break up your post into easy to read chunks. Go a step further by dividing paragraphs into 2-3 sentence chunks. The shorter paragraphs will speed readers through the post.
Use Blockquotes: Look for opportunities to use blockquotes to emphasize important points. Blockquotes (or pull quotes) work like subheadlines to quickly convey a reason to slow down and read the post more closely.
Promote Your Post
#19: Have you made your post easy to share?
Look at the top of this post.
Now look at the bottom of the screen.
What do you see? Yep, social icons. You want to keep your icons a short scroll away from the click.
#20: Have you created a customized promotional email for your list?
Have you written a customized update email about your blog post?
Did you share why your blog post is worth 5 minutes of your reader’s time? A simple automatic email won’t cut it, you need to take the extra time to tell your list why they need pay attention.
#21: Have you created two days worth of promotional updates for your social platforms?
The obligatory single social media post won’t cut it. Your message will get lost in the noise-storm of unrelated updates that clutter most social media streams. It will take you an extra 10 minutes but creating multiple promotional updates scheduled over two days will help your post break through. The CoSchedule WordPress plugin makes scheduling multiple posts push-button easy.
#22: Have you customized your social updates for each network?
Each social platform has its own character and etiquette. Customizing your social media updates for the nuances of each platform is a smart way to cut through the clutter. In general:
- Facebook is entertainment-driven. Find the unusual, provocative, angle for your update. Photos and videos do well as well.
- Google+ users prefer longer posts with additional information not contained in the blog post. These folks want to know the back-story for your post.
- LinkedIn is the home of the professional speed-reader. They don’t have time to read lengthy posts. Give them the benefit-focused headline and a quick summary of your post.
- Twitter: You only have 140 characters so pay attention to your headline. Photos, animated gifs, and video snippets are reliable attention getters too.
#23: Should you offer your article as a guest post to another, more popular site?
Time to put on the big-girl pants and swim out to the deep water. If you’ve written a truly exceptional post, you’ll feel it in your gut if you have, then consider submitting it as a guest post on a larger more popular site. Content creators are always looking for exceptional material and your post may fit the bill.
I know it’s tough to put your post on someone else’s site but it will do more work for you there than hiding in the shadows on your blog. Try it. Publish it if it gets rejected. You have nothing to lose.
#24: Have you included several tweetables within each post using click to tweet?
Michael Hyatt introduced me to this gem. He sprinkled ready to tweet phrases and quotes through out his posts. Just click them and they pre-populate Twitter with the quote. Just click your heels and bam Hyatt is introduced to the reader’s network. It is genius. You can do it too with services like Click to Tweet.
#25: Have you scheduled social media updates at the best times for your visitors
One of the last things I do before signing off is scroll through my Twitter feed and check LinkedIn Updates. According to the scheduling tool included in the Buffer App many Pushing Social followers do the same. As I’ve said, social media is a noisy medium. Smart scheduling of your updates will increase the chance that your update is seen
Focus on What Works
By now, you’re thinking that I want you to spend an hour prepping each blog post. You would be partly right. Over time, you will be able to write high-visibility posts in less time. You can also delegate many of these post-prepping duties to your team or a freelancer. The goal is to use as many of these recommendations as possible. The competition for attention is too intense to ignore any of these tactics.