A Checklist for the perfect Blog Post

“The Perfect Blog post” – what the hell does that mean?

Well, everyone is going to have their own spin on it but to most, it’s a post which acts as a pillar for your website.

It has so much substance and quality that people subscribe for more, they share it because they want more people to see it, it uplifts your image online and makes you an authority.

That behavior makes it travel. It spreads virally and also gets ranked well in search engines – leading to more traffic for years to come.

Now I know I could have just said ‘it generates traffic’ but it’s just not the same!

There are some basic characteristics that are common to these posts.  Obviously quality is important as people are more likely to share it if it knocks their socks off.  But it also has to be ‘technically’ valuable making it easier to rank in search engines and convenient for a user to take action from.

So what are these characteristics and how should you include in your posts?

At the end of this blog post, you’ll find a printable pdf with a checklist you can use when writing your own posts.  You can stick it on the wall next to your computer for future use or print one out for every post you work on! Before that though, we’ll take a deeper look.

Impress your Audience

Impress your audience with what you’re saying.

As I mentioned above – knock their socks off and they’ll share the post, blah, blah, blah. You’ve heard it to death. It’s true though – quality is the first key factor of a good blog post.

Get into the mind of your reader and give them what they want but something else must come first.

Do you want to know what must be mastered before writing a good blog post?

A Catchy Headline

A powerful headline is what the reader must see before engaging in this ‘perfect post’ because it’s the one line of text which changes the mind of the reader. It’s the difference between them clicking to read or simply moving on to somewhere else.

A good Headline can come in many forms, but here are a few quick ideas on how to get there :

  • Identify a problem and tease them with an easy solution “How I effortlessly stopped my website from being hacked”
  • Offer a benefit that is scarce with yet again an easy solution “3 easy tricks to triple your website traffic”
  • Talk about something specific – “How I signed up 613 Subscribers in a day using Facebook Ads”
  • Using Numbers, top lists or  ‘How to’ in your headline also works wonders – “How to get more Twitter Followers with these top 15 techniques”
  • Get Personal, identify a time or situation and how people should handle it. – “About to hit publish?  Don’t! Do this first.
  • Try being negative. – “12 mistakes I made starting my blog, and why I’m still paying for them”
  • Keep them curious! Sorry, no sample headline, keep reading below…

Look at the headlines above and you’ll notice the problem being identified and the solution is only mentioned. That’s because you want to attract people looking for a solution.  The blog post is what offers the solution, so don’t give away too much before people read your article.

If you can’t catch their attention with your headline, readers won’t read your content. But if you give away too much (which should be difficult in a headline anyway), they’ll have no reason to read more!

Keep your headline under 70 characters.  This is perfect for SEO and also assures that it simply isn’t too long.

Deliver your solution or value. 

First of all, don’t recycle garbage which has already been posted everywhere on the internet. Chances are your blog post idea may already exist but that’s fine – as long as it’s not everywhere.

So start writing up your content and be sure to communicate very clearly.  This means no big confusing words.  You may think big words make you sound smart – but they don’t. They can confuse people and make you look like a bit of a ‘try hard’. Stick to a simple, conversational tone.

If you are going through a process step by step, then break it all down to every tiny step.  

Not everyone knows what you assume they do and they may also be beginners. Those with a bit of experience will feel more confident knowing every tiny step of the process is being explained.

Back up your solution by talking about your experience or using statistics from studies.  Show numbers or direct results.

If you’re using a study or statistic, quote the source and link to it.  This makes your writing more credible but also adds to the quality of your SEO via The Hilltop Algorithm – which adds page rank by identifying the outgoing links as being reputable and accurate.  This also passes that credibility onto your page.

Try to link out to Authority websites (popular websites with big followings) or .edu or .gov sites for the best results.

Use Popular Content Types

Certain types of content perform better than others.  People like easy solutions and they also like ultimate resources but hate reading the same old garbage.  Try the following

  • Top Lists or Ultimate resources are terrific.  They provide multiple easy solutions for the reader. Eg “Top 18 ways to drive traffic via Facebook
  • Unique approaches and Game Changers.  If your solution is unheard of and unique, this gives you an edge and will impress your readers.
  • Inspirational or result based posts give your readers a chance to see how other people achieve what they want to achieve.  People love success stories.
  • Be Controversial. Go against the grain if you think it’s relevant.  Eg. “Why Social Media is a waste of time for bloggers
  • Stories.  People love stories especially if there’s a lesson or point.
Corbett Barr

Corbett Barr sums it up with this quote from Think Traffic / Fizzle:

Write things that make people think. Inspire people. Change lives. Create value. Blow people away with your usefulness.” – from the post Write Epic Shit.

So as long as you offer information which isn’t recycled crap, and it serves a purpose and helps people solve their problems – then you’ve won half of the battle already.

Your introduction should go into some brief detail on the problem or topic, identifying why it’s such a problem.  Then talk about what you’re going to cover (the solution or value).

Try your best to cover the problem in detail and mention that you’ll explain the solution within your intro.  The bulk or ‘middle act’ of your post should deliver the solution (or solutions).  After that, don’t make the mistake of simply ‘wrapping up’ the article in your conclusion…

…Add a call to action.

If you want your post to serve as a page which generates traffic, leads or sales then you need to instruct your readers on what to do next. When people finish reading something their natural reaction is to go somewhere afterward.  Tell them what you want them to do:

  • Subscribe to your email list
  • Follow on Social Media
  • Check out or buy your product.
  • Whatever you want them to do!

Speaking of action – if you like this post so far (there’s more below), please feel free to subscribe to my Email Newsletter for more tips in the future! Click here for more info.

Now that you’ve written your content, make sure it’s more visually accessible. How do you do that?

Focus on Visuals

Focus on Visuals

Would you read an article on a website if you arrived and saw this? (below).

Block of Text

Didn’t think so.  What about this?

Broken Up Text

Yeah?  Well, that’s because it’s easier on the eye than the first example. But how exactly do we go from the first layout to the second?  First, we think about the reader.

It’s been proven over and over again (and noted in this study) and you only need to pay attention to your own reading patterns to realize this one big thing: people don’t read posts from start to finish, they scan for the information they’re after.

This means you’ve got to break things up.  If I displayed some big blocks of text and you were looking for something specific, you’d never find it! Not without spending 10 minutes reading. How do you make that happen?

  • Use single lines and shorter paragraphs that are 2-4 sentences long. This will break up the bodies of text and create points within the post that people can focus on.
  • Break up the post with sub-headings that clearly identify ‘sections’ within the content that people can scan to. Make sure these sub headings stand out.  Use your H2 and H3 tags to do this (Heading 2 & Heading 3 in the format drop-down in WordPress.)
  • Optimize your line length by adjusting font size and/or content width.  Studies show that people prefer 45 – 55 characters per line but will read 100 or so character lines faster.  Mix these up by using right aligned images that are half the width of a 100 character line width (like during your post introduction).  This is why 600-pixel content width is popular with most standard font sizes on the web – it fits this guideline and is more inviting to read.
  • Break things up further with bullet points so people can clearly see different ideas and grouped items within your post.  Bullet points also clearly identify as a separate but content-rich section for finding specific information.
  • Use Bold, Italics and Underline formatting to highlight pieces of text that you think will catch readers attention and help them identify what is being discussed in that small area of your blog post.

Straight away you’ll notice that I use all of these on my blog posts, including this one.  It helps to separate different areas of information and make the post easier to scan.

The side benefit of breaking things up is that if your readers are interrupted whilst reading, it’s easier for them to pick up from where they left off. “Where was I? Oh, that’s right – ‘focus on visuals’!”

Oh, and by the way – use a font that is dead easy to read!  High contrast is best – black text on a white background is the perfect example.

Throw in some Images!

A picture says a thousand words!

If people can identify straight away what you’re article is about with reading a single word (assuming it’s what they’re after), they’ll be more likely to investigate by reading the words you’ve typed.  Images are obviously the best way to do this.

I like to add a right aligned image to the top of the post.  It breaks up the character width as mentioned above but also acts as an identifier to anyone who lands on that page.

If I’m talking about increasing my Likes on Facebook, then having a picture of a high Facebook Like count and the Facebook Logo on a popular page tells the story pretty quick – or if I’m talking about a person, a picture of that person will straight away cut out any confusion.

You also should add a few descriptive images where necessary to back up your writing or simplify what you’re trying to explain.  If you’re writing a tutorial or covering a process in general, show photos (or screenshots) as the process unfolds.  This helps people to follow along and visually identify where they are.

You can also add images to break up different sections of a post. I did it again with this post!  You’ll notice I used images to highlight each main area of this post – writing the content, focusing on the visual, and more below.  Use your imagination and insert some relevant images to make your posts more visually appealing.

You can find images online at:

  • www.freeimages.com – Simply sign up and you can search through their stock images and download them instantly.
  • www.google.com – Use their image search, but click ‘Search Tools’ and then ‘Usage Rights’, then simply filter by ‘Labeled for reuse‘ (and/or ‘with modification’).
  • flickr.com – Similar to Google – search for an image and then click ‘License’ and pick ‘Creative Commons Only’
  • For the Best Quality – get some premium images at Shutterstock.

Make sure you read the terms of use for the photos on these websites to completely understand how they may legally be used.

Make a Few Technical Tweaks

Make Some Technical Tweaks

So now you’ve written some awesome content with a catchy headline.  All of the text is visually easy to read and scan because it’s broken up with sub headings, paragraphs and everything else mentioned above.  Now you can focus on the technical side of things to boost your Search Engine Optimization.

Here are a few pointers:

  • Make your post 1500 – 2500 words (minimum) – Neil Patel of Quicksprout covered a few studies (here) on the length of post content, it shows that posts over 1500 words perform the best and that most posts on the first page of Google have over 2000 words. They also get more shares on social media!  Take advantage of those numbers and averages and you’ll be more likely to land in a top position.
    This one is more of a guide as you shouldn’t just add bulk to pad out an article.  Write the amount that fits but if it’s only coming up at 400 words, you need a deeper subject to write about.
  • Keep your URL short and keyword dense.  This means you should remove the useless words in your permalink and keep it simple. For example ‘website.com/perfect-blog-post-checklist‘ is better than ‘website.com/how-to-write-the-perfect-blog-post-checklist-for-growth-and-traffic
  • Link out to other websites. This works hand in hand with linking to studies or articles from authority sites (mentioned earlier). This takes advantage of the Hilltop Algorithm and boosts your credibility.  Set up these links to open in a new window or tab
  • Link Internally.  When you refer to something you’ve already written about, link off to another page on your site which can expand on that topic.  This will also do wonders for your overall website structure and improve your site through the eyes of search engines. It may also help the pages you link to gain some more authority also.
  • Make sure you aren’t keyword stuffing. Check and make sure certain words and phrases aren’t mentioned more than 3% or 4% of the time in your post.  Go any higher and you’re page has a higher chance of being penalized for ‘keyword stuffing’.
  • Fill in your Meta Tags.  Using a tool like ‘All in One SEO’ :
  1. Put your headline into your ‘Title‘ field using 70 characters or less.
  2. Write into the ‘Description‘ a  couple of sentences that explain what a reader can expect from the blog post.  Include your keywords and keep it under 150 characters
  3.  insert your keywords into the ‘Keywords‘ field

Ready to Publish?

Stop, go back and proofread your article.  Does it read well, are there spelling or grammar errors?  Did you cover everything you intended to?  If not, fix those things. Otherwise, go ahead and hit publish!  

Once you’ve hit publish, pat yourself on the back, grab a cup of tea and chill.  Your work is done…  for the next 5 seconds or so. Because it doesn’t just end there!

Your design should have share buttons easily accessible at the bottom of your post and also an Email subscription form (assuming you have an Email Newsletter) so your ‘Perfect Post’ and can get up and spread itself out into interwebs and land in front of people eyes, ready for reading.

Get people to read your post by promoting it! Everyone is already posting to Facebook and Twitter, you do it too but don’t just stop there.

If you think you’ve written something useful, post it on Reddit for people see, share it on Mix, email a list of bloggers in your industry telling them about it, send an email out to your subscribers, just spread the word and tell as many people as you can.

You need to get people to read and share what you’ve put together!

So what now?

If you want to take advantage of everything I mentioned above, below is the simplified and printable version of the checklist in PDF format.

The PDF contains a printable poster you can put on your wall or on a board near a computer, ready for reference whenever you write a blog post.

Note: I wrote this post back when this blog was on the Design Web Identity website (which I have discontinued), hence the logo!

I have a request though before you downloadplease share this article on Facebook / Twitter or subscribe to my Email Newsletter (below this article!). That would mean the world to me and help others who may find this useful!

Also let me know what you think!  I know this doesn’t suit every post, but it does with most.  Obviously, videos or info-graphics have their own characteristics.  Leave a comment below or on Facebook.  I’d love to connect and hear what you have to say.  Thanks for reading!

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