9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Publishing your Next Blog Post
Stop. Hold on a second. Are you sure you want to hit publish on that post? Is there the tiniest chance that your recent blogs have felt a bit stale? That you’ve noticed readership stagnating, or even dropping?
If so, here are 9 questions you need to ask yourself before you click ‘publish.’ I’ll include concrete examples from some of the internet’s most successful bloggers so you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ll also discuss why these questions are important, and how your answer could make the difference between a great blog post and a flop.
Tweetable Blogging Takeaways:
(Click to tweet)
1. What’s my goal for this blog post?
The goal is, of course, something that will help your business. Your goal could be to get people to download an ebook, attend a conference, purchase a product, or view a webinar. Knowing your goal will define how many links you have, where they go and what material you quote.
If you’re promoting an ebook, you’re going to include at least one link to it, as well as several relevant quotes or excerpts from it. This will intrigue people and encourage them to find out more.
For instance, Unbounce recently wrote a great article, ‘25 Tweetable Conversion, Landing Page and A/B Testing Stats you Need to Know’. At the bottom of the blog post was a banner link, driving people to read their ‘Ultimate Guide to A/B Testing’ - the whole reason the article was written.
9 ways to make your blog better (based on your goal) right this minute:
Promoting a product?
Provide statistics as to when people have struggled without your product (without mentioning the product, of course)
Provide statistics of some of ways people have benefited from your product
Provide little selected jewels from the product’s specifications, ebook facts, or webinar insights
Becoming a trusted source of information?
Find new information on your subject. Has a law been passed effecting your sector? is there a new technology that could change the way you do business?
Find exclusive information nobody would have heard before. Even if it’s just a quote from your CEO, including exclusive information is a great way to increase your reputation as a source of information
Find an old piece of information and find a way to analyze it or present it in a new way
Building your readership?
Add 5 top-tips to your article. That’s it. Highlight them in bold and make them their own small sections
Throw in some optimized words like well-known brand names or ‘hack’
Stop what you’re doing and write a Guide, DIY, or EBook: One of the best ways to increase readership is to offer a free guide (make sure it has Calls to Action!)
2. Can my post be digested by skim readers?
The hard and true fact: Users will read about 1/5th of the texton the average page. Kinda depressing isn’t it? In order to increase that fraction you need to format your blog posts for skim readers. It’s all about catching their eye.
How to format your posts for skimmers:
Create numbered segments, making your information palatable in small doses
Use bulleted and numbered lists for easy consumption
Use links and statistics to get them interested in your copy
Offer sectioned off Top Tips (perhaps bits of wisdom from the eBook advertised below)
Edit for words, sentences, or even paragraphs that have no bearing on your message or the goal of your article.
Use short, snappy sentences to get your point across simply and successfully
Unbounce’s blog is often a great example of easily-digestible formatting. Each section includes a section header, a brief introductory sentence, a subheading, bulleted points describing findings from a study or suggestions, and an concluding sentence. Here’s a great example.
Take a quick look at your almost-published blog post (the one I stopped you from publishing at the beginning of this post):
Are your section headings clear and specific to their individual points?
Can your sections stand alone as their own articles?
Can you fast-forward to just before you conclusion and still see how you’re driving for your goal?
Are your sentences succinct or are there ephemeral words and phrases?
It can also be helpful to work off a template for your business’ blogs. Templates structure your articles, and skim readers appreciate the continuity. Skim readers like to know where the important information is, so make it easy for them by using the same format each time you post.
Here are some blogs I use as a reminder when I write:
3. Am I speaking to my target audience?
Speaking to your target audience is the difference between a chat with your best friend (in which you’re finishing each other’s sentences) and that crazy guy on the subway who’s talking about seahorses. Speaking to an audience requires you know their problems, interests and skill levels.
Ask yourself these questions before you publish:
What issues have I had in the past that my readers may be having?
Will my audience understand the jargon I use?
Is there a new development in my field my audience may not have heard of yet?
Will my readers have the necessary resources set up to take action on what I’m recommending (or do I need to write an intro article?)
Blogger Stephanie Grieser’s posts are great examples of targeted articles. In one post, she addresses her very specific reader personally. She writes in her introduction:
“Hey you! Ya, you. Take a break from your A/B test for a minute and check out some of these awesome stats.
So you’re a stats-driven marketer that lives and breathes CRO, LPO and A/B Testing? Well, you’re in for a treat. Here are 25 mind-blowing facts that will get your juices pumping.”
Stephanie knows her readership, both numbers and demographics, and her posts are designed to appeal to that readership.
Once you have a large readership pool, not all your blog posts have to apply to all of them. You’ll get more engagement if you don’t write in banal, ambiguous generalities. Making your topics specific proves your expertise.
How you can find your demographics:
Use programs like Google Analytics
Try out the upcoming Google Display Planner (part of Google AdWords).
Check your comments. Commenters are usually the most passionate of your audience, and will give you a good feel for who’s reading your blog.
4. Is my post built around relevant keywords?
Each blog you write should focus on and repeat keywords. This is vitally important for your blog’s reach, as half of all organic clicks go to the top 3 positions on Google.
Make sure, however, that you’re weaving SEO keywords into your content well, otherwise your articles will sound like random mishmashes of ‘Facebook’, ‘social media marketing’, and ‘hacks’ thrown together and set on broil.
As an example, take a look at Laura Fitton’s article, Social Selling: Five Twitter Tips for the Sales Pro. The article is optimized for search engines. She’s chosen a couple great keywords and smoothly based her article around them. She uses ‘Twitter’ 22 times and ‘sales’ 9 times within her article, as well as including them at least once in her title.
Optimizing your posts fluidly and confidently is a learned skill, and we don’t all have it right off the bat. If you’re still curious about the specifics of maximizing your blog’s SEO, here are a couple great articles that can help you out:
5. Is my title worth clicking on?
Recent studies show that while 80% of people will read a title, only 20% will read the rest. This is the importance of investing time and energy into optimizing your title.
So what makes a title worth clicking on?
Think about why a person would consider reading your blog at all: They want to solve a problem they have, improve something they’re doing, or learn about a new technology that’s just been released.
To make sure you’re optimizing your blog’s title:
See the top tested title words from 100 blogs.
Check out the article I wrotelast week with formulas you can use.
Using Blogspot? Learn how to optimize your post titles for Google in this article.
The example below has been retweeted 212 times since its publication. This kind of eye-catching title, with tested words, uses the ‘Are you making this mistake that’s [having a negative effect?]’ formula.
Some other example formulas are:
New! Never-before-seen Insights into [your Job]!
The Secret Trick to [Achieve a Goal]
Amazingly Awesome and Sexy things you Should Read About
10 Things you Need to Know in Order to Succeed
6. Do I backup my points with proof?
A great way to become a trusted source (in fact, the only way) is to provide reliable information. It doesn’t have to be exclusive (though insider tips are the bread and butter of a successful business blogger) but you do have to back it up.
How do you do this?
Backing up any fact or opinion with a source is one of the best ways to make your information trustworthy
Linking to your own blog articles identifies you as a well of information, as well as being great for SEO
Linking to similar articles supports any assertion you make. Readers like knowing there are other experts who agree with your statements. Don’t forget they’re making business decisions based on what you write.
In this article I have already provided 20 links to more information, how-to’s and every fact I’ve quoted I’ve backed up with a source. This is how you know I’m not just making this stuff up as I go along.
7. How will I promote my blog to reach my audience?
Like your title, unless you’ve promoted your blog well, nobody will ever see it.
At Wishpond, we spend about as much time writing our content as promoting it. And some, like Darren Halpern at SocialTriggers.com, spend as much as 80% of their time promoting their blog.
Jeff Bullas, below, promotes his own blogs and those blogs that are, in his professional opinion, worth promoting. This kind of cross-promotion is a great way to ensure that when you have a worthwhile post, your followers, colleagues, or partners (both the ones in real life and the ones on Twitter) will spread the word.
— Jeff Bullas (@jeffbullas)
10 Ways To Find Inspiration To Develop Content For Your Blog http://t.co/rZiylHMMe2
— Jeff Bullas (@jeffbullas)
How you can do it:
Hype your upcoming blog: ‘Wondering how to maximize your business’ lead generation? I’ll tell you in Friday’s blog #AcmeLeadGen #Socialmediamarketing’
Promote your recently published blog:'Here at last! 5 New CTA’s You’ve Never Heard of: bit.ly/389nfs #Landingpage’
Promote someone else’s blog:'I never knew SEO could be so effective! bit.ly/389nfs #learnsomethingneweveryday’
Once you’ve built a certain readership, it’s also important to syndicate your business’ blogs as much as you can. This will increase your readership and extend your social media reach. Be aware though, that the majority of websites which publish outside content require a certain standard to be met. Some websites include:
At Wishpond, we syndicate to over 15 websites that relate to social media marketing. It may be time-consuming, but the benefits are worth it.
8. How will I measure results?
Use an online tool like Google Analytics to calculate the success of your business’ blog.
Measuring your blog’s performance determines if blogging is a good use of your business’ time and resources. This is essential not just for small businesses with limited resources. It’s also vital for larger corporations, in which upper-management expects detailed reports of how resources are being spent, and why.
What to focus on when measuring your ROI:
Evaluate how much time you are spending on each post
Evaluate what kind of return, and how much of a return to expect
Determine how quickly you can expect that return. Is there a cut-off date?
Use analytics to identify website traffic as your blog becomes more popular
Because it’s very difficult to see the actual monetary return you’re getting from your blog, one of the ways we at Wishpondcalculate our ROI is by paying attention to website traffic that coincides with a successful blog post.
Blog analytics for July 26th - August 9th:
Site Analytics for the same time period:
We take a look at Google Analytics and we recognize that on the same day as one of our most successful blog posts (July 29th), our site visits also spiked. This is good.
A great way to follow up on this data is to identify the traffic our blog’s CTA’s drove, and compare that to our other lead generation channels such as email marketing, social media and search.
There are many ways to assess your blog’s ROI. Google Analytics is simply the most straightforward. Take a look at these great articles to find out more:
9. Have I had a (really) good look at the copy?
We’re all human. Typos happen. Failed links happen. Sometimes we have to accept it (if we can’t change it) and move on. But it’s never something we should embrace.
It’s not just about nit-picky content marketers either. This is business:
It is estimated that millions of dollars worth of business are being lost each week due to simple spelling mistakes
Many people associate typos with non-professionals, liars, and con artists
Taking those couple more minutes to read over your article or send it to a colleague for review makes the difference between an informative post which people enjoy and share, and this (which I, as a former copyeditor, find hilarious):
Blog posts for business can be casually written, even funny, but they’re still professional papers. When writing them you represent your business as much as you do at a conference. It’s your job (or part of it) to ensure you’re putting the best possible face on your company.
How you can do it:
Re-read your article. Then do it again. Then have your colleague do it.
If you’re writing in WordPress or Tumblr, drag and drop it into a word document and spell-check it for real
If you’re working with HTML, check for random carrots and spacing issues. There’s bound to be a couple
Make sure your format is consistent. Check spacing between paragraphs as well as font styles and sizes
Answering these 9 questions accurately before you post will make your blog better, seriously. It’s easy for blogging to become old-hat. Perhaps you’ve written the same kind of article a few times by now. Perhaps this is your 10th this week and you need another cup of coffee. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking nobody will notice that typo, or that because you can’t find that statistic you faintly remember from a month ago, you can just make it up. That way unemployment lies.
What do you think? Are there other questions you ask yourself before you blog that blog? Start the conversation below.
By James Scherer