11 Dec Blog Post Checklist: 25 Points to Better Content Marketing
Do you have a tried and tested blog post checklist? Do you make use of one when you blog? If you don’t, your content marketing isn’t as effective as it could be.
Studies show that the average B2B marketer now allocates up to 33% of their marketing budget to blogging and off-page SEO.
Not optimizing that content for maximum engagement, visibility, and exposure is downright silly, yet this is often overlooked.
It’s a wasted opportunity!
Imagine how many more sales leads you could be generating if your posts were effectively optimized. Consider how many more prospects you could be converting. Think about the time and money you save when your content is working harder.
To help you out, I’ve compiled a 25-point blog post checklist based on the latest SEO and content marketing guidelines and best practices. I have also included links to a number of relevant resources on the web.
Bookmark, share, and enjoy! Do let me know if I missed anything.
1. Your blog post title grabs attention and appeals to targeted readers.
The title, or headline, is the most important part of your article. Why? Because people use it to determine whether or not they are going to read your content! If your headline isn’t appealing, catchy, and relevant to your target audience, prospects simply will not click on it. Make your headline clickable.
2. The title of your blog post is around 55 characters in length.
In line with Google’s recent SERP redesign, keeping titles under 55 characters is a good idea. If your post title is too long, it may be truncated in search results, lowering click-through rate. If it is too short, it may not be descriptive enough to entice the reader. Around 70 characters used to be the limit, but it’s lower now.
3. The title of your blog post contains your main keyword (at the beginning).
The title of your post (H1 tag) tells search engines what your page/content is about. In fact, it is considered quite an important on-page search engine optimization factor. It makes sense then to include your primary keyword in the title. Another best practice is to include it (unmodified) as close to the beginning as possible.
4. The meta description tag is around 140-160 characters in length.
The meta description is the text snippet that appears in search results below your page title. According to Moz, the optimal length is about 155 characters. If it contains more than 160 characters, there’s a good chance it will be truncated. Not terribly important for rankings (not directly), but it does affect click-through rate.
5. The meta description contains your primary keyword (at the beginning).
As mentioned, the meta description doesn’t affect your rankings – Google announced this in 2009. However, if you include your main keyword and it matches user queries closely, Google highlights the term in the description. This makes your listing more attractive, which makes it more likely that users will click through.
6. The lead paragraph is engaging, inspiring, and thought-provoking.
The lead (or lede – opening paragraph) is the second most important part of your post. Open with a bang and readers will continue reading, but give them a weak intro and they will surely hit the back button. Ask an engaging question, share a powerful quote, cite a shocking statistic… many effective ways to open a post.
7. The lead sentence/paragraph contains your primary keyword (at the beginning).
Keyword prominence appears to be a relevancy signal for Google, so including your primary keyword in the first sentence of your post could help it rank. Additionally, if the search engine doesn’t display your meta tag and pulls the first few lines of copy from your web page instead, your keyword stands out if a user query matches.
8. The body of your article lives up to and delivers on the blog post title.
If you manage to get readers to the body, there’s a good chance they will read to the end – if you keep them engaged. The goal of each sentence/paragraph should be to get the next one read. That means write content that is useful, interesting, and relevant. N.B., the body should deliver what is promised in the title and lead.
9. The voice and tone used in your article suits the blog and brand.
Your voice and tone expresses your company’s unique personality, setting it apart from other blogs and brands. While most bloggers understand that “writing as you speak” makes it easier to connect with readers, specific word choice is what makes content appeal to an audience. It’s also important to maintain the same voice.
10. The blog post is written and optimized for specific buyer personas.
“A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers,” says Sam Kusinitz at HubSpot. If your post doesn’t appeal to the ideal customer, revise it. Aspects to consider include word/tone choice, level of sophistication, and pain points.
11. The body of your blog post contains your main keyword.
The body of your blog article should include your primary keyword for search engine optimization purposes. Google recommends it. So do most SEOs. However, too many instances of a phrase could be interpreted as “keyword stuffing.” For best results, use keywords naturally and try to keep them at least 100 words apart.
12. The body of your post contains synonyms for the main keyword.
Google uses latent semantic indexing (LSI), which interprets the relationships between words. By using variations of your keyword and terms related to it, you help the search engine understand the context of your page. Type “dog food” in Google. Scroll down to “Searches related to” – these are LSI keywords.
13. The body contains links to appropriate pages on your website.
Linking to inner pages (2-3) on your site is considered a good practice. Internal links are important for search engines and visitors because they improve navigation and help pass link juice (authority/ranking power) to other web pages. However, your article should link to relevant webpages. Also, have an internal linking strategy.
14. The body links out to trusted authority websites in the industry.
Outbound links are equally important. They provide value for the reader, drive valuable traffic, and it is thought that they act as a trust/relevancy signal for Google. The key is to link to (a few) reputable, high-traffic websites (in new tabs) that are relevant to your topic and theme. Too many links can have a negative effect, though.
15. The body contains supporting data that is accurate and relevant.
Data, facts, and statistics strengthen arguments in your post and make your article more credible. They also make it more engaging and sharable. Bear in mind that when you correctly cite a study, statistic, etc., it is always best to link to the original source. The source should be trustworthy and the information should be current.
16. The body contains suitable, correctly referenced, high-quality images.
Images make content more appealing to people and search engines. In fact, there are several reasons to add images to every blog post. Hi-res stock images, custom pics, and screenshots are best, but there are tons of free professional images that are licensed for commercial use. Just be sure to credit your sources correctly.
17. The images used in the body (and elsewhere) suit the design and theme of the website.
Not all high-resolution images are appropriate, even if they do look cool. Any visuals used in your blog article should suit the design and overall feel of the site where it will be published, matching both your (or your client’s) branding standards and the purpose of the content. Maintaining a consistent look and feel is important.
18. The images used in the body of the post (and elsewhere) are search engine optimized.
Google can’t read pictures – you need to tell them what your images are about. You can do this by adding alt text and using captions, and optimizing file size and name. This helps the search engine index your visual content and bring it up in image search. Optimizing your images also improves user experience in several ways.
19. The body is broken up into readable sections using H2 and H3 tags (subheadings).
Subheadings (header tags) break up big chunks of text and outline the body of your article, improving readability – consider that readers ‘scan’ pages on the web. They also help search engines understand and prioritize your content, so writing descriptive subheads that incorporate your best keywords is smart.
20. The sentences in each paragraph are short, grammatically correct, and free of jargon.
Readers generally digest shorter sentences more easily, so use punctuation. Just be sure to use it correctly. While there are bloggers who argue that grammar doesn’t matter, mistakes can hurt (and even kill) your credibility. Speaking of credibility, you may want to avoid unnecessary fluff and jargon.
21. The same letter case is used correctly in all subheads (and your headline).
Sentence case or title case – which one should you use? There are many opinions on the subject, as well as numerous different style guides. It really comes down to what you, your audience, or your client prefers. What’s important is that you pick one style and use it correctly. If appropriate, use it consistently.
22. The article body contains bullet points that break up lengthy paragraphs for easy reading.
Bullet points improve readability and make your blog post more appealing to the average reader. As mentioned, surfers tend to scan content on the web, rather than read from start to finish. They skim through pages and absorb relevant information in bite-sized chunks. Long paragraphs and blocks of text are generally ignored.
23. The closing paragraph is engaging, thought-provoking, and delivers your key message.
Your closing paragraph is your closing argument – your last chance to make a point or leave an impression. A strong ending ties up with your headline, summarizes key points, and delivers your intended message. It is essentially what keeps readers coming back to your blog for more awesome content.
24. The blog post contains a suitable and compelling call to action.
As a blogger/business/marketer, you want readers to continue engaging with your website and brand after they have read your content. Invite them to do that by ending off every post with a tempting call to action. A sentence or two is all it takes to attract blog comments, improve conversion rates, and increase crawling.
25. The blog post serves its purpose.
Lastly, a very important question to ask yourself once you have checked all points: does this article serve its intended purpose? Ask it again. By the way, if achieving that purpose means skipping points, skip them. These are just guidelines and best practices. It comes down to what will benefit your user, client, and business!