At my recent advanced blogging course, my students picked up on the fact that I kept telling them things they should do before they hit publish on a new blog post. And one particularly wise one (the lovely writer Louise Allan) suggested I write a blog post on all of this. Smart move (that’s why these people were in advanced blogging, I guess!).
|A scary sight: A blank blog post waiting for inspiring words
The thing is, writing a blog post is certainly not just as simple as writing it and hitting publish. It can be, but if you want to get readers to find and interact with your blog post (surely a key goal for nearly all of us), then there are a bunch of other things to do that can help make that happen. So here’s my list of the seven things you should do before you hit publish on your new blog post:
- Reconsider your title. Have you fallen prey to Ballerina Syndrome in which your title is fantastically clever but lacking in searchable keywords? As another clever course participant (Rachel) suggested: Google is smart, but not clever. The internet, and especially your blog post title, is not the place for cryptically clever word arrangements. Google needs to figure out what your post is actually about so that it can send readers to it. What I’m saying is: use keywords in your title.
- Check for other SEO (search engine optimisation) musts – like using the keywords for your post in the first sentence or two. Gone are the days when it was necessary to stack your entire post with so many repetitions of your keywords that it barely made sense (and in fact this is now frowned upon, yay!), but as in point 1, you want Google to be able to quickly figure out what your post is actually about.
- Focus. I know about this problem, because it happens to me all the time. You start your blog post with a particular idea in mind. You get to the end and it is kind of about another idea. You probably couldn’t explain what your post is about in one sentence or less. Maybe it’s really two posts, or even three. Go back and structure your post properly (taking out bits that don’t fit any more – you could save them for another post) and be sure your post has a focus. Blogging can be casual, should be casual, but it should still be focused.
- Finish with a question or an invitation to comment about something. At least most of the time (there’s nothing worse than reading a great post which then ends with a question for readers which is a real stretch away from the actual content of a post – don’t force it), end with something that will inspire your readers to leave a comment. After all, you not only want to see your blog statistics ticking over, you actually want to connect with people and have them feel compelled to spend another minute leaving a comment on your post.
- Make your permalink sensible. Your permalink is the URL (website address) for your individual blog post. If you’re using WordPress you can usually edit your permalink directly under the spot where you type your blog title in; in Blogger it’s over on the right hand side by clicking on Custom Permalink. It should have keywords (and if your title is long these sometimes get cut off, so delete some of the others), rather than reflect the actual word-for-word title.
- Include at least one reasonably decent image. The internet is a visual place and even if the emphasis in your blog is very definitely on the words, the image will help it be shared, will help break up the text and will make your blog post look that bit prettier. Consider using Creative Commons licensed photos from Flickr or going through a stock photo site if you really can’t take your own (my preference).
- Proofread. Or, if you know that your grammar is a bit on the imperfect side, find someone who will proofread for you. You may not be one of those people that think grammar and spelling is important but there are plenty of people who do, and I’m one of them. Figure out the difference between its and it’s and don’t use a grocers’ apostrophe. Please?