You’re running behind on your newly acquired content schedule.
You dash out the last few lines of your next post in a flurry of activity, half an hour after you should have been in bed.
Then you hit Publish.
*yawn* Time for bed.
Okay, you know there are a few things you probably should’ve done first, but you can do it later right?
What just happened here? This hypothetical blogger (ok, ok… it was me), just put an arbitrary schedule before producing quality content.
There’s a lot that you need to do before you hit Publish on a blog post.
I always get really excited when I finish writing and I forget that I still have a long way to go before I’m ready to hit that magical button…
Since I have hardly any time (momming can be hectic), I like short and actionable lists that give me the most bang for my buck.
I reckon you might feel the same so…
Here’s my short list of what you need to do before publishing a blog post:
Did you know that most people will only read your headline?
Your headline is your one and only chance to entice people into reading your post.
It has to be compelling. Interesting. Exciting.
I’m going to admit that, quite frankly, I SUCK AT HEADLINES. And that’s ok.
Because there are a lot of people who don’t suck at headlines who have kindly given us 100’s of templates ready for cuttin’ and pastin’. My favorites are from Blog By Numbers (Suzi from Start a Mom Blog’s eBook) and Headline Hacks by Jon Morrow.
If you think you’re a superstar when it comes to headlines, CoSchedule has a cool headline analyzer tool. It does what it says – analyzes your headline. And then it ranks your headline for effectiveness and a few other metrics.
Download this: Headline Hacks
Refer to it when choosing a headline.
2. Create Your Images
Are you a design junkie? Oh, I SO am.
I could spend hours tinkering away, designing the perfect pin. Matching colors together. Trying new things…
But when you’re feeling the pressure to get a blog post out asap, you don’t have time to mess around.
I always create three images:
- A vertical image, optimized for Pinterest (want my guide to creating pin-worthy pins? Click here to sign up and I’ll send it to you.)
- A landscape image, optimized for Twitter and Facebook.
- A square image, which I use as my featured image on WordPress and may eventually use for Instagram.
My pro tip – save yourself some time by creating templates for your different types of images so that all you need to do is update the photo and headline. Extra benefit – your pins will be cohesive and on-brand. Nice!
For a while there, I experimented with using a plain colored background – no images, so a lot quicker. There are lots of amazing bloggers and designers making this work for them, but it didn’t work for me.
Create simple templates in Canva for your images.
3. Do Your On Page Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Do you want organic traffic from Google?
If you do, this step is not really optional.
While SEO is becoming increasingly complex at its core it’s this:
How can you tell Google what your post is about?
The first step is to do a little keyword research and decide what keywords you want to use.
A keyword is the search term that someone is using in Google, that you’d like them to find your site under.
There’s a lot I could say about Keyword research (in fact I’ve said it here and here), but you need to find a keyword that:
- Is relevant to your post;
- Makes sense;
- Has some traffic; and,
- Not too much competition.
Once you’ve found your keyword, you need to use it on your page to feed the Google spiders so they’ll know where to place your page.
Here’s where you should use your keywords:
- In your title, if you can. Don’t sacrifice your catchy headline though.
- In a subheading.
- In the file name of your images.
- In the alt text of your images (with one exception… hop down to point 4)
All in all, this step might take you about half an hour. But that half an hour will pay dividends when, six months down the road, you are getting organic traffic without even having to promote.
If this step seems too difficult, here’s a strategic alternative:
Don’t do this on every post.
Do it for your pillar posts, posts that you’ve set up to build your list and posts that you’ve monetized.
Another quick tip – get Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress. It uses a system of red and green lights to show you how well you’ve done your on-page SEO. It doesn’t actually do your SEO for you, but it sure makes it easier.
Download Yoast SEO Plug in for WordPress
4. Add alt text to images – Pinterest pin description
Did you know that when someone uses one of your social media buttons on your blog to pin to Pinterest, the description of your pin is pulled from the alt text of your pin image?
Interesting stuff, yeah?
So, what does this mean for us?
Well, quite simply, you should be putting the description you want on Pinterest into the alt text of the pin image.
You shouldn’t rely on your readers to write a meaningful, memorable and keyword rich description. That’s not their job. They’re busy peeps after all.
A cool plugin that makes this super easy is Social Warfare. It’s not free, but it makes this so much easier.
Ever tried to pin from a website using the side bar social buttons and haven’t been sure which image you’re supposed to pin?
Social Warfare takes away the uncertainty. You upload your pin image to the Social Warfare plugin and add a description. Now, when someone clicks to pin, the window opens to Pinterest with your pin image and description ready to go.
Write your Pinterest description (or copy the first few lines of your post) into the alt text of your Pinterest pin image.
Or, download Social Warfare.
5. Create a content upgrade and associated images and Opt ins
A content upgrade is a freebie that is designed to augment or upgrade the content of a blog post.
The thinking is that you will get more opt ins because your freebie is super targeted.
And they do work like crackers.
What you might not know about content upgrades (if you haven’t started using them on your blog yet) is that they take a bit of work to set up.
You need to:
- Create your content upgade.
- Create a mockup of upgrade to entice readers to want to download it.
- Create the opt in form.
- Set up delivery of the upgrade and tagging in your email service.
I wrote about how to deliver content upgrades without being annoying the other day.
I read an interesting article about reverse opt-ins by Nathalie Lussier – basically you give away the thing for free and then you ask for an email if the person enjoyed your material.
What I like about this is that it is 100% pro-reader, and, if you give away something valuable enough, people will want to join your list just so they can get your next awesome freebie!
Content upgrades can be simple – like a checklist
Try the reverse-opt-in.
6. Proof, edit and format
Proofread your post. I know, I know.
But you’d be surprized what crazy errors can creep in.
This is also a good time to edit and tidy up your writing. It also has the side effect of helping you learn to write better.
While you’re proofing, make sure you split up your text so there’s good amounts of white space.
Internet readers are scared of wall-of-text. Also. Internet readers tend to skim. So make it easy for them with:
- White space
- Bullet points
- Numbered lists
- Bold important points
- Break up the space with images, click-to-tweets or information boxes.
Try Grammarly to help you in your proof/edit.
Install a click-to-tweet plug in.
7. Add links to past content.
Have you ever read a blog post and LOVED it, wanted more, but couldn’t easily find it?
Don’t let this happen on your site.
You should do this step while you proof, but it’s so important I gave it its own number.
Link to your past content whenever it seems relevant. (And you should also be going back to your older content and linking to your newer stuff).
This is good for SEO, your bounce rate user experience and creating a ‘sticky’ site.
You don’t want your reader to leave do you? Adding links to your other content helps your reader to read more of your content.
Install YARPP (related posts plug in) and Uprev (pop up that recommends another post).
Use a widget of popular or recent posts in your sidebar.
8. Add a question at the end
Is blog commenting dead?
Some bloggers seem to think so and I know quite a few off the top of my head that have disabled comments on their blog entirely.
I’m not convinced blog commenting is dead, but it’s not quite as popular as it once was.
I blame the rise of social media – when you can reach out directly to someone and tell them in real time that you loved their post, why would you bother commenting where you have to ‘prove your humanity’ and jump through hoops?
All that aside – comments are good for your blog.
There’s a couple of reasons:
- It makes you look good, like you have an engaging blog and an active readership.
- It’s good for SEO because:
- Your content is being updated.
- Comments count as content, so it can help with keywords and rankings for related terms.
- Comments are good for blogger outreach. Not sure what I mean? If you’re reaching out to bloggers in your niche and making their day by commenting on their blogs – they are likely to reciprocate.
Asking questions is a great way to guide the conversation.
I, and many other bloggers, like to format this question a bit differently so it stands out. So use bold text or a larger font size.
Install Comment Luv plug in to give bloggers an incentive to comment
So. Guess what you get to do now?
Yep. It’s time to hit the publish button. Phew, about time right?
But we’re not quite done yet. Want to know what you need to do next?
You guessed it. It’s time to promote, promote and promote some more. That post will be arriving in the next few days. In the mean time, why not sign up and get a neat checklist version of this post that you can print (maybe even laminate) and use every time you go to publish a post?