Putting the time and effort into maintaining a blog for your business is worth it — rattling off a low-quality post just to meet a deadline or quantity quota is not. It can be hard to keep track of all the pieces of your blog post while you’re writing, so here’s a list of things to check on before you publish.
Start With The Headline
Your headline needs to grab your reader’s attention, making them want to click and learn more. Internet users have notoriously short attention spans — 60% of them don’t read past the headline of a given article — and it’s your job to be the exception.
That doesn’t mean you should go full clickbait with titles like “You’ll Never Believe What The Most Popular Social Network Is In 2018” — savvy internet users know that trick and they’re more likely to be annoyed by it than intrigued. Instead, your title should show them that you have information that they don’t already know — something like “Facebook Is Still The Most Popular Social Network Ten Years Later — Here’s How.”
It’s a good idea to start with a working title. Pick a title that’s a simple reflection of what you want to write about, but don’t worry too much about the exact wording at first. Once you’ve written the content of the post, you can come up with a catchy title that better encapsulates the direction your post took. (This is also a useful tip for writing the subject line on your emails.)
Once you’ve figured out the exact direction of your blog post, do some keyword research to determine the best title. Google’s Keyword Planner is a great place to start, but there are several other similar resources to help you find out exactly what people are searching for that’s related to your business and blog.
Remember, the old days — loading your blog up with as many keywords as possible to appear in front of a bigger audience — are over. Your best bet isn’t to get in front of a lot of people, it’s to get in front of the right people. To that end, long-tail keywords like “blogging for SEO” or “business blogging best practices” are going to get you in front of a much more relevant and interested audience than just “blogging.”
Some nuts and bolts: the ideal blog title is no more than 60 characters long — anything more than that and your title will be curtailed on most search engine results pages (SERPs). Titles should be somewhere between eight and 12 words long for optimum sharing on social media without cropping.
Your Meta Description Is Just As Important
The meta description for your blog post doesn’t live on your blog. It refers to the HTML snippet that explains what’s on a given web page, and it lives in SERPs to show web visitors what’s on a page before they click.
Every one of your blog posts needs one — it works with the headline to help users decide what to read (and helps search engines decide which results are relevant), so it should be thought out as much as the title.
Put Some Thought Into Your Imagery
The featured image sits at the top of your post and probably in the post’s thumbnail on your website and on social media, so it deserves some attention. It should be relevant to what the story is about, without being too literal.
It’s also a good idea to put images, graphics, videos, or even screenshots in the middle of the text to break up long strings of text. You don’t want your reader to get bored or overwhelmed, so inserting an image will hold their attention while simultaneously adding value to the post that you just can’t get across in text.
Don’t just throw in stock photos, either — everyone’s so sick of the classic stock photo look that they’ll glaze right over them and they’ll probably do more harm than good. Instead, look for more interesting photos, preferably ones with a Creative Commons 0 (also called CC0) license, which you can edit and alter to fit the theme of your brand and your blog.
Use HTML Subheaders, Not Just Formatting
Unless it’s truly bite-sized, your blog post should be broken up with sub-headers — they provide a break in the action, act as sort of a table of contents for readers skimming for a particular piece of information, and help with SEO.
Don’t just make your sub-headers bold or a larger font, though. Use the HTML tags for headers, which signify to search engines that that particular piece of text is more relevant than the body copy for SEO. Don’t use the H1 tag for sub-headers, that’s for titles. Use H2 or smaller, and feel free to make a hierarchy of sub-headers on longer posts, from H2 to H6.
As far as formatting, do whatever seems right for your brand! The actual appearance of your sub-headers is just for your readers — it won’t affect your SEO results — but it stands to reason that text with the H3 tag should be smaller and less obvious than text with the H2 tag. Beyond that, it’s up to you.
Body Content Is King
In the end, all of the advice above is window dressing — it’s important, but if you don’t have the content to back it up, it can only go so far.
Your blog posts should be attempting to answer a question that you think your potential customers are likely to have — branch out a little bit by writing about news stories relevant to your business if you want, but try to stay focused on what it is you do.
The goal is to be as helpful, informative, and relevant to your current and potential customers as possible. There was a time when, in order to get on search result pages, you could just cram your post, title, and metadata with as many keywords as possible. Those days are long gone now.
Google’s recent algorithm changes have prioritized much more natural search habits, not just keyword optimization. It’s not enough for your post to simply contain the keywords that your visitors were searching for — they have to click on it, spend time on the page, read it, share it, and so on for your page to move up the rankings.
What this means is that your number one priority is creating good content — the kind of thing that people find useful and share links to. It also means that relevance is crucial. Getting your content in front of a large audience won’t help you if they don’t find it useful.
The ideal length for a blog post will vary, depending on how specific the topic is. Ideally, a post will take between five and ten minutes to read, so somewhere between 800 and 1500 words is a good length. Don’t put too much effort into cutting or padding your posts, though. Say what you need to say.
Blogging Well Can Be A Huge Boost
If you incorporate all this advice into a mistake-free, regularly-updated blog post, the results will speak for themselves. It’s hard to make sure that nothing slips through the cracks, and that your post is both well-built and useful to your readers, which is why this checklist should help. Add it to your bookmarks or print it out! Use it to create top-shelf blog posts every time — your business will thank you.