Blogging is synonymous with busy. Period. You wear lots of hats and have what seems like hundreds of details to remember. Keeping your to-do list straight is occasionally overwhelming. What’s a blogger to do?
Streamlining your posting process puts a lot of those ducks into their proverbial row…but to do that you need a process, or better yet, a checklist. That’s why I put one together for you on how to write a blog.
So print it out, make a cover sheet, do what you’ve gotta do to keep it handy cause here’s the 10 point blog post checklist you need to tick off before, during, and after each and every post. This is a must-read, especially for those just learning how to start a blog. Here’s everything you need to know about how to write a blog post:
1. Create A New Folder
Whether it’s digital or good old manila, you need to create a new file for every blog post. You may even want to staple this checklist to the cover if you’re using tangibles. Not only will this folder store the rewrites and drafts of your blog post, it will also house any research or sources you include.
There’s a good reason editors keep records of article sources-to cover their butts. Publishing a blog makes you the editor, writer, marketer, chief cook and bottle washer-obviously covering your hiney falls in your job description. And while you may never need to provide proof or defend your facts, if you are ever questioned on research ethic you’ll be able to pin-point your sources like a boss.
Things to include in your blog post folder include: transcripts of interviews, emails directly related to research, URLs of all research sources, drafts of your post and a copy of your final draft.
2. Define Your Audience And Use The Correct Tone
This seems silly if the only writing you do is on your own blog but having a distinct and consistent ‘voice’ is one of the biggest branding opportunities you have. It just might be the most important lesson in how to write a blog. If you haven’t yet, you need to get a clear picture of your reader because writing is a conversation and it helps to know who you’re talking to.
You don’t need to create an imaginary friend (unless you want one) but you do need to determine the relationship between you and your reader. Depending on your subject and the direction you want to take, your tone could range from drinking beer with your best friend to trading recipes with a close aunt, who won’t appreciate your cussing. Many technical sites are written to invoke the feeling of advice from a trusted colleague while others mimic a call to a help center.
Determine who you’re talking to before you start the conversation. It’s simple to do, just remember that you wouldn’t say something to your mother the same way you’d say it to your drinking buddy. Your blog’s tone is up to you but it should be consistent.
3. Implement Links And SEO Keywords
I’m not one to go overboard with this but there are a couple simple SEO tips to keep in mind when finalizing your blog post. One trick is that any linked text (the highlighted words) within your post used to navigate internally (within your site) or externally (to a different site) should consist of SEO keywords. Simply put, if you wrote “more information on SEO keywords” you would link to the “SEO keywords” text instead of “more information”. The same goes for business names and websites.
The reason is simple. Would you rather your site rank in Google for ‘more information’ or ‘SEO keywords’? You have a better chance of showing up in search results for the text you used as your link. If you’d like to go a step further, you can use SEO Chat’s Google Keyword Suggest Tool or sign up for a Google AdWords account to access their keyword tools. These resources will help you identify popular keywords to use as the text for your links.
Also, you’ll want to include internal links in your post that guide your reader to related topics and further information within your site. This isn’t an SEO thing; it’s to keep readers eyes and screens on your blog. For the same reason, all external links you include in your post should be formatted to open in a new window so readers don’t have to navigate back to your site.
4. Include At Least One Opt-In
The easiest way to make sure your readers are seeing your opt-in form is to build it into the template of the pages themselves. Whether you choose a sidebar, floating banner, pop-up or a form in the footer, you need to make sure your offer is prominent on all your blog posts. Inserting a small sign up form in the middle of your blog post (especially on posts over 2,000 words) is a smart way to convert casual readers into email subscribers.
If you don’t have an email subscription service yet (let alone a freebie download for subscribers) you need to get one…like yesterday. There are plenty of free email list-building services that easily integrate forms on your blog, the most common being Mailchimp.
Do a little research on the features and restrictions of different services, then take action and sign up for one. You’re better off having a free service now than waiting until you can afford a $40-a-month service later. Why? Your subscription count is the best indication of your blog’s earning potential. Important stuff, even if it’s foresight.
5. Write An Irresistible Headline
All that work means nothing if no one clicks on your blog post…and the best way to get clicks is to make your headline irresistible to readers. There are plenty of tools and resources available for crafting drool-worthy titles, including this article from Hubspot and this freebie from Jon Morrow.
6. Use Tags, Permalinks, Slugs and Summaries
Personally, I’m not fond of technicalities but there are a few worth noting, though they are optional….and there aren’t enough words in this blog post to cover these extensively but I’ll give you a quick summary of each.
Tags: Tags are like categories but more defined. Let’s say I write an article about making homemade pasta sauce that includes a recipe. While I might list the post under the recipe category on my blog, I can also tag the article. Tags might include sauce, tomato, pasta and recipe. Tags give you the ability to further categorize subjects, which in turn can make it easier for readers to find exactly what they’re looking for. If you’re a WordPress user, you can also search for popular tags.
Permalinks and Slugs: Post slugs are the user-friendly part of the post’s URL that comes after your blog’s web address. WordPress automatically generates a slug for each post using the post’s title. A permalink is the URL where your post will be located permanently. The important thing to remember is that if you change the post slug after you’ve published your post, it will create a new URL (page) for your updated post. This will result in multiple pages and any links to your original slug will now be broken.
To avoid all this you can create a permalink for your post’s URL. In WordPress you would go to Settings > Permalinks from your dashboard to select from common formats or create your own custom permalink. Using permalinks keeps your URLs clean and easily identifiable and can help shorten long post titles that have resulted in long post slugs.
Summaries: Summaries, known in WordPress as excerpts or snippets, replace the full content of your posts in RSS feeds, search results, tag archives, related post widgets and social media posts. Unless you utilize these summaries, the full content of your post (or first chunk) will show when posting in these places, which may or may not be the best teaser to entice readers to click further.
7. Shorten Your URL
I know we just made your permalink all pretty and concise but if you want to share your articles on Twitter and keep them from taking over your Facebook posts, you’re going to need to shorten your URL. There are a number of places that will do this for you including bit.ly, any social media scheduling services you use and good old WordPress.
When deciding which platform you will use, determine where you want to monitor clicks and stats for your shortened URL. For instance, if I use Hootsuite (a scheduling service) to create my shortened URL (they call it an ow.ly) I will have access to Hootsuite’s stats, graphs and tracking services to monitor the reach and effectiveness of my ow.ly. Do some experimenting to determine which service reports these stats in a format that works for you.
8. Share To Social Media
Whether you use a marketing automation service or share your posts manually, you need to get your blog in front of prospective readers if you want it to grow…and there are a few tricks that can transform ho-hum social media sharing to branded-and-visual-BAM!
The first is to use your images to their full potential. On your blog, the original untouched version of your featured image might work perfectly but you can seriously step it up for sharing by editing your pic to include the article title and your blog’s URL. The title helps your image stand out and including the blog’s logo or URL brands your images. The best service I’ve found for this is Canva and it’s free if you use your own image.
Successful social media sharing also involves creating multiple posts for each platform (including Facebook and any FB groups that allow content sharing, Pins for Pinterest, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.) and posting them at peak times, or when the most people are logged in, as well as creating a dedicated page or account on these platforms for your blog. You may even want to create a hashtag to promote your blog or a series of posts.
9. Share To Article Directories
Another strategy to get readers in front of your content is to share to article directories. Popular social bookmarking sites include Reddit, Digg, StumbleUpon and Delicious. There are many more so do some digging and list the ones you’d like to share on, then check off your list every time you hit publish.
10. Send A Newsletter
Again with the email subscribers! Yup, if you’re curating a list of email subscribers you can and should include your new posts in a newsletter or email, typically once a week. Formats can range from a quick note with a link to a magazine-cover spread with regular weekly features. The key is consistency and utilizing your newsletter to create relationships with your readers.
Bonus: The Eleventh Step – You!
Whew! You’ve finally finished writing, editing, formatting, publishing and marketing your blog post…what could possibly be left to do? The answer is participate! Keep an eye on any incoming comments on the blog post itself as well as any social media posts…and interact with your readers. Ask and answer questions, like comments and start conversations. Many times you’ll find they have something to teach you as well. And as a final tip, when writing your post, you can encourage feedback by doing this:
So how about you? Are there any points on your personal blog post checklist that I missed? What other platforms do you use to get your content in front of readers? Have any other questions about how to write a blog post? I’d love to hear about it!