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The WordPress Blogger Checklist: 10 Things You Need to Do Before Hitting Publish

So you’ve created a blog post. It’s well-written, makes use of 2018’s best blogging tips, and will provide plenty of value to your readers. Well done!

But move your finger away from that Publish button. There are still some things you should do to make sure all of your hard work writing the post wasn’t in vain.

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While writing is obviously an essential part of blogging, it’s not the only aspect. In fact, there are a number of tasks you should perform each time you’re about to publish a new post. These will ensure that the end product is fine-tuned and optimized to produce the results you want — whether that’s increasing conversions or bringing in more traffic.

In this article, we’ll take you through our WordPress blogger checklist. It consists of 10 tasks you should always take care of before publishing any blog post. There’s a lot we need to cover, so let’s get started right away!

1. Perform Keyword Research

If you have some blogging experience under your belt already, you’ve probably come across the term Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Put simply, this refers to the process of making sure that your site and its contents are more likely to appear earlier in search results on sites like Google.

Don’t worry if this sounds fairly technical. SEO is actually a broad term that refers to several smaller tasks for creating more clear and engaging content, most of which are quite simple. In fact, many of the tips we’ll cover in this checklist will be centered around SEO in some way.

The first thing you need to do is to know which keywords you want to use to optimize your content. In other words, what search terms do you want each post to show up as a result for? You can determine this by performing keyword research, which helps you find phrases that are relevant to your content, and see how many times users search for them every month.

It’s actually a good idea to do this before you even start planning a new blog post. That way, you can tailor your content towards the keyword, rather than trying to make the keyword fit in afterward. By finding out what keywords your target audience is looking for, you can design content that drives them to your site.

To do this, you can use a tool like Google Analytics to see what keywords your audience is looking for when accessing your site. Log in to your Analytics account and open up the Search Console, where you’ll see your queries.

You can then use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to search for related keywords.

For instance, let’s say users find your site based on the keyword “sneakers reviews.” You can plug this term into the tool. In turn, it will offer a list of related keywords you can use, along with data about how often they’re searched for and how high the competition is for each one.

Once you’ve done that, you can create posts that are organically centered around the keywords your users are interested in.

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2. Optimize the Post for Your Keyword(s)

Once you have one or more keywords, you can start to create content that’s optimized for them. One smart way to do this is by using a dedicated WordPress plugin. There are several available solutions, such as Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack, both of which help you craft content based around a given keyword.

Yoast SEO makes this particularly easy, since you can simply enter your keyword to get real-time information about your post.

The plugin will show you how you can improve your post to make it more applicable for the chosen keyword. For example, you may not have included the phrase enough times in your text, or placed it in the right locations.

However, while it’s important to optimize your posts, be careful not to overdo it. Otherwise, you may accidentally hurt your SEO rankings by ‘over-optimization’. This means that if go too far in your attempts to make your content primed for search engines, they’ll actually penalize you for it.

It’s easy to see why, when you consider that it would otherwise be possible to cheat the system. Fortunately, all this means is that you need to be vigilant. For example, don’t use the same keyword too many times, and don’t use irrelevant keywords to ‘trick’ the search engine into indexing your page. Ultimately, SEO is a major concern, but it should be in service to your content (not the other way around).

3. Perfect Your Headline

Your headline is not just the first thing visitors will see when they open up your post. It might well be the first (and only) thing they see if they discover it in a search engine or find it shared on social media. It’s therefore vitally important that your headline is both informative and interesting, to ensure that people click through to your article.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to writing a strong headline, there are some common tricks that tend to work. For example, headlines featuring numbers and how-to guides tend to get the most clicks.

For example, let’s say your initial headline is “Make Your Site Faster.” While this accurately reflects the content of the post, it’s also vague and doesn’t exactly your attention. A solid alternative would be “10 Ways to Optimize Your WordPress Website for Speed.” Not only does this describe the post’s content, but it also it does so in a way that tells you something about its format as well.

There are many other ways you can create a snappy, attention-grabbing headline. You could pose a question that the article itself answers or include specific brand names that are mentioned in the content. Consider your target audience and their needs as well and try to create a name that addresses those needs.

However, it’s crucial that you do not use ‘clickbait’ to promote your articles. Your headlines should always honestly reflect each post’s content and not promise too much. They should also not trick people into clicking through as this will ultimately frustrate visitors. Compelling but accurate headlines are always your best bet.

4. Write a Meta Description

A meta description is the snippet of text you see underneath a page’s title in search results. This is usually used to summarize the contents of the page.

You can think of this as the elevator pitch for your post. The goal of the meta description is ultimately to get users to click through to the actual article. It gives you an opportunity to sell the post to a prospective reader, so it should match the content and feature the post’s keyword.

Since a meta description can only be between about 100 to 300 characters, you don’t have much space to work with. You’ll therefore need to consider the key points of the post, and ask yourself exactly why somebody would want to read it. Then, engage your reader with that information right away. The benefit of reading your post should be clear to the reader from just the headline and description.

WordPress doesn’t enable you to add meta descriptions by default, but plenty of plugins include the option. For example, we’ve already mentioned Yoast SEO, which also lets you create meta descriptions for your posts when you edit them.

We should also note that if you do not supply a meta description, search engines will randomly generate one. They usually do that by simply pulling out a snippet of your content that they think is relevant. They aren’t always good at making that call, however, so you’re better off creating dedicated meta descriptions.

5. Proofread Your Post Thoroughly

Everybody makes mistakes. It doesn’t matter how excellent your grasp on the written word is, you will almost certainly have made at least one or two errors in your post. This could be anything from a simple typo to a miscalculation or a broken link. If you’re unlucky, it might be something much more time-consuming to fix.

Either way, you’ll never know if you don’t proofread your post. Proofreading is an integral part of writing, as it helps you catch mistakes before publishing. This is essential, as even minor errors can make you come across as sloppy and unprofessional. It also gives you an opportunity to revisit your post from a more analytical perspective, enabling you to improve it before it goes live.

Proofreading is a skill that you can improve over time, just like writing. However, here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Don’t rely on spell checkers. Grammar and spell check software can be a great resource, but they can also be unreliable.
  • Proofread early in the day. This is when you’re most alert and can give the most attention to the details.
  • Read your post aloud. This will help you spot errors and clunky sentences.
  • Take a break to separate yourself from the text. By doing this, you make it easier to spot mistakes that you might otherwise overlook if you proofread immediately after writing.

If possible, it’s also a good idea to show the post to someone else. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to read through it and provide feedback. This also helps you gauge how well the purpose and point of the text come across to your intended audience.

6. Format Your Content

While the content of your text is obviously important, so is how you present it. As such, we recommend you take a moment to check the formatting on your post before publishing it.

A good place to start is with your paragraphs. There are plenty of considerations when it comes to structuring paragraphs well, but the most significant aspect is length. Make sure your paragraphs are brief and have a good rhythm to them, so each one logically leads into the next. You should also aim to vary longer and shorter paragraphs to create a good flow when reading.

Another vital consideration is separating your content with subheadings. A useful rule of thumb when using subheadings is to have no more than about 300 words per section. So unless your post is very short, you should always have some subheadings.

You’ll also want to make sure that you use the right heading levels. H1 should be used exclusively for the page’s title, followed by H2 and H3. We recommend using H4 only on longer posts or for topics that require a lot of complexity.

This will make it much easier to read your post and for users to find the information they need quickly. It also makes your text more ‘skimmable,’ which is necessary since many internet users only skim through articles rather than reading every single word.

Finally, we recommend that you use a consistent formatting style across all your posts. One way to ensure this is to create a style guide for your blog. A style guide defines your blog’s format, which is especially useful if you share it with other writers. Make sure that the formatting and tone you use always matches that of your style guide to create a coherent voice that speaks to your target audience.

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7. Add and Optimize Images

As the idiom goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. This may never be truer than it is online, as there are plenty of benefits to using images in your posts.

Naturally, they complement your written content in a visually appealing way. They also help your post feel more substantial and can be used to add extra value through including infographics or other visual aids. Images can even be used to improve your SEO. However, to get any of these benefits, you’ll need to use images thoughtfully.

For example, it’s critical that you optimize your images for size. Large, high-quality images in particular demand a lot of storage space, which makes your site slower and can have significant negative effects on your site. By optimizing your images, you can reduce their size without affecting their actual quality.

There are several image optimization solutions out there, but we recommend the ShortPixel plugin.

This free plugin enables you to optimize every image you upload on your site automatically. It can even bulk-optimize your entire gallery to significantly cut down on loading times.

Another key task is to add a featured image to each post. This is crucial because the featured image essentially acts as a visual complement to your post’s headline. Not only is this the image that will appear above your post’s content, it’s also used on your blog’s homepage and when the content is shared on social media.

Finally, it’s key that you add all required attributes and formatting to your images. One of the most important elements is the alt text, which is a text snippet that describes the contents of an image. This text is used when the image cannot be loaded, and by screen reader software to help visually impaired users. As such, alt text also makes your site more accessible, which is always beneficial.

8. Link to Internal Content

When someone first finds their way to your blog, you’ll probably want them to stick around for a while. One way of doing this is by linking to other content on your own site. This makes it easier for your readers to find other related posts they might be interested in. However, that’s not all it does.

Internal linking is also key for SEO. This is because it helps search engines find all of your content faster and gives them a better understanding of your site’s structure. It also increases your post’s link equity, which is a metric that search engines use to determine the quality and value of a post.

There are several things you should consider when adding internal links. One important point is to avoid linking to your homepage or contact form too much. It’s also crucial that you consider the end user and don’t sprinkle in links just for the sake of doing so. Aim to only add links where they’re relevant and to always use clear anchor text.

9. Include Links to External Content

While it might seem counterintuitive (“Why should I send my precious users to other sites?”), external links are almost as crucial as internal ones. This is due to a few different factors.

First of all, external links make your post more valuable to readers. It shows that you can support the ideas you’re sharing and provides resources so readers can explore the topic further. A blog that only links to itself can quickly come across as untrustworthy and insular.

As you might expect by this point, external links also help improve your SEO, since search engines use them to calculate relevancy. This means that if you link to high-quality sites similar to yours, search engines may raise your own site’s ranking as a result. It also makes it easier for search engines to understand your site’s purpose and subject matter.

The key here is to use your links well. You should avoid linking to ‘bad’ sites, and stick to trusted, authoritative sites instead. Otherwise, Google may penalize you. You should also never resort to link farming, as this is considered a type of spam and can hurt your site.

In the end, it all comes back around to considering the user. How can you improve the content for them? The answer is to find quality links from trusted resources and don’t cram in links that add no value or aren’t relevant.

10. Add a Clear Call-To-Action (CTA)

Most blog posts have an express purpose, whether that’s to draw traffic to your site or to generate leads and conversions. As such, you need to consider how you’re going to get your readers to do what you want.

While writing a quality blog post that meets their needs is the most important step, you also want something that pushes them over the line to complete the desired action. This is simply known as a Call to Action (CTA).

The importance of CTAs cannot be overstated. A CTA is a message — usually in the form of a button, a highlighted link, or a signup form — which encourages the reader to complete an action. This can be as basic as “Buy now!” or “Sign up for our newsletter.”

For example, here’s a CTA from the DreamHost homepage.

If you want your readers to buy a product, click a link, or sign up for a list or service, you need to create a strong CTA. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Use the right colors. Different colors have varying connotations, and using a color that stands out from the rest of your site will make your CTA more clickable. For example, red tends to work better for CTAs when compared to green.
  • Make the benefit obvious. It should be clear to your reader why they’d benefit from taking this action. You could offer them a free gift, for example, or provide a limited-time offer.
  • Place the CTA in the right location. Perhaps the most important consideration is adding your CTA to the right place. For example, you could place it in-line with your content at a critical moment or at the end right after the reader has finished the post.

For best results, you’ll want to experiment with different CTAs throughout your posts. Try out different placements, colors, and messages, to find the combination that gets the most clicks!

Hit That Publish Button

It’s easy to imagine that a blogger’s job begins and ends with the writing. However, if you want your posts to be of the highest quality and ensure that they’re primed to bring in plenty of readers, you’ll need to optimize them properly. Our checklist will give you an excellent foundation for making sure you always deliver top-notch quality on your blog.

About the author

Megan Hendrickson

Megan started her career in women's magazines, but after authoring waaaay too many "Walk Off the Weight" columns, she merged into the tech lane. She writes and edits for DreamHost and shares an inordinate amount of WordPress content on Twitter.