There can be little worse than publishing a new post complete with mistakes that you hadn’t spotted.
Maybe there’s an embarrassing spelling mistake in the first paragraph of the article that instantly turns off your visitors.
Perhaps the affiliate link you’ve so lovingly placed in the article is wrong, meaning you don’t credited with any sales. And so on…
These things happen; but they’re never pleasant, especially if you get excitedly go to approve all your latest blog comments only to find that they’re bashing you for your silly mistakes.
While you might get away with the odd mistake here and there when your blog is new, over time as you build up more and more of a readership these mistakes can start to harm your reputation.
The last thing you want is to send an email alert to your list only for hundreds of hard-won subscribers to turn up and spot your mistake.
In the hope of minimizing these situations, over the years I have developed a pre-publication checklist.
The aim of this checklist is not only to spot any silly mistakes that I might have made, or any technological glitches that I hadn’t noticed, but also to ensure each post I publish stands the very best chance of being a success.
Because, let’s be honest, the more successful each and every post you publish is, the faster your blog audience will grow – and with it your bottom line.
In this article I’m going to give you my own checklist so you can quickly run through it before you publish your next post.
When to Edit Your Blog Post
Here’s an odd thing I’ve noticed; we’re often blind to many of the mistakes we make until some time later.
We can happily read through a post we’ve just written without noticing that glaring spelling mistake because we know what we meant to put there. Somehow our brain plays tricks on us and blinds us to the errors.
The best way to counteract this problem is to wait some time between writing a post and actually publishing.
In a perfect world aim to leave your post to mellow for a week or so; or at the very least a couple of days.
Why? Well I have found that by this point I have started to forget the post to a degree.
Due to all the other things I’ve experienced since writing the post I’m able to go back to my article before publication almost like it’s a brand-new post written by someone else.
When you’re able to look at your content with fresh eyes then you’re able to spot mistakes far more easily. As a result your checklist will be far more effective at this point.
Here’s what you should be checking…
The Pre-Publication Blog Post Checklist
Spelling & Grammar
The first and most obvious thing to check is the main body of your content.
While writing for the web is altogether more relaxed and informal than writing in print it is still important that your content if free from spelling issues or grammatical errors.
Sadly, as I have found time and again, many bloggers are unaware of what is “correct” and what isn’t.
In many cases posts get published with errors even after checking because the writer in question simply wasn’t aware that they meant “they’re” when they said “their” or suchlike.
As a result checking your own content for spelling and grammar issues can be problematic. There are solutions, however.
For one, you could get a friend or family member to read over your article looking for any issues. These fresh eyes can instantly isolate issues that you might otherwise have missed.
Alternatively there are a number of tools that you can use to shortcut the process…
Word Processor – The first and easiest strategy is to compose your blog posts in a word processing application like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. These tools are able to carefully check through your writing to ensure that it really is as clear as possible.
Jetpack – This free plugin is made by the same team who created WordPress itself; unsurprisingly therefore it’s a rather impressive set of tools. One of the things which it includes is an extensive spell-checking tool to keep your blog post squeaky-clean.
Hemingway – Simply paste your blog post into Hemingway and your work will instantly be checked for common spelling and grammar issues.
Remember that the goal of correct spelling, grammar and punctuation is to help your readers understand your writing.
Putting commas in the wrong place, for example, can make your posts hard to read, or give readers the wrong message.
Don’t be one of these people who feels grammar is unimportant; I’m not suggesting you become a “grammar Nazi” but take your time over producing the best possible content out of respect for your readers.
Your blog post is a series of ideas, concepts and points, all glued together in the form of a single piece of writing.
All too often when reading back through an article I find that the points can be rather “disjointed” and like a compare at a comedy club I need to “smooth” the links between the “acts” a little better.
In other words, before publishing your next blog post you will want to read through it from beginning to end to ensure it “flows” properly.
Edit where necessary, removing unnecessary text and expanding on points not properly covered. Be ruthless; it’s this editing process that turn an “OK” article into a “winner”. The harsher you are the better the end result will likely be.
There can be little more intimidating for a reader than arriving at an article only to be confronted with a veritable wall of text.
No, you need to break up your article with regular line-breaks so as to make your content look far more approachable and “digestible”.
Where necessary find ways to shorten paragraphs or break them into two or more paragraphs. As a general rule of thumb, wherever possible try to avoid paragraphs longer than five lines.
Three lines is even better but can be unrealistic.
Of course it’s not just paragraph length that we need to worry about. The length of your sentences can also have an effect on how readable your content is.
Unsurprisingly shorter sentences tend to work best.
Once again then consider your blog post from this perspective, looking for ways to break overly long sentences into two or more shorter ones.
Besides sentence and paragraph length there are other factors we can consider to make your post as clear as possible.
For example consider whether you could use subheads to further break down your article into more manageable chunks.
The use of colored boxes, quotes, horizontal lines, images and more can all help to make your content more appealing to the eye.
Remember that these aesthetics are important; they encourage more passers-by to dig into your content, and it helps to keep them reading once they’ve started.
Personally across my various sites I use either Thrive Content Builder or Visual Composer to help me add all sorts of attractive, eye-catching elements to my posts.
When you write a blog post there needs to be a point to your post; something in particular that you’re getting across.
The question to ask yourself is whether you have succeeded in your task?
Do you, for example, need to better explain a certain point? Or do you need to consider adding (or removing, or modifying) your conclusion?
In other words, by the time your readers have finished with your article, will they have derived the benefits that you intended?
It is normal to include an assortment of links within your blog posts.
For example you might reference a previous post that you wrote and then link to it, or you might mention a blog post on someone else’s blog and link to that. You might even include an affiliate link or two.
The problem is that I lose track of just how many links I see in blog posts that are “broken”; the bloggers has typed the link in wrongly, the article they’re linking to has moved or suchlike.
Not only is this annoying for your readers (and you, if it’s an affiliate link!) but there have also been suggestions that Google may punish sites displaying a large number of broken links, giving them a lower ranking than they otherwise would have.
In other words, another factor to check before you actually click “publish” on your next blog post is to check that every single link in your post works.
There are two ways to do this; firstly you can individually click each one and check that it goes to the destination you intended.
Alternatively, there are plugins that will help. For example, the free Broken Links Checker plugin carefully scans all the links included on your blog and highlights any that aren’t working.
You are given these in a neat list format, where you can simply go through the links with issues and either correct or remove them.
Category & Tags
If I had to admit to my most common mistake it would be this one; I regularly forget to choose a suitable category and tags for my posts before publication, then have to go back in and correct my mistake!
Of course, the process is simple enough. Before publication simply find the “category” and “tags” section in the right-hand margin of WordPress and ensure you select appropriately.
Doing so will not only help to make your site easier to navigate but it will also provide the search engines with more help on the exact topic of your post, helping them to display it for the most appropriate keyword phrases.
Lastly, a variety of plugins – such as many of the “related posts” plugins – use tags as an important part of their algorithm in choosing which articles to suggest to your readers.
Image ALT Tags
An ALT tag is the text which displays when your image doesn’t. Of course, your images always show, don’t they, so what’s the point in worrying about an ALT tag? Well, actually there are two very big reasons.
Firstly, Google takes the content of your ALT tags into consideration when deciding where to rank your blog post in their results pages. Including descriptive, useful ALT tags can therefore be beneficial for your SEO.
Even more importantly though is our old friend Pinterest. You see, when someone pins an image from your blog, the description that is added to that pin is actually the text you included in your ALT tag.
Look around Pinterest and you’ll find all sorts of images with terrible descriptions like “picture 1” and so on. This is because the site owner chose a poor ALT tag.
Instead, try to write an interesting ALT tag that fully describes the purpose of your article. Include keywords where appropriate and you’ll ensure that far more people see your images on Pinterest – and that you get far more traffic as a result.
The final point worth bearing in mind is how well optimized your post is for the search engines.
You see, very rarely is getting a high ranking in the search engines something that happens by accident.
Far from it; more often than not it takes considerable time and effort in order to rank highly in the search engines. Competition is fierce these days and so if you want to receive as much traffic as possible then you need to ensure that you have done everything in your power to succeed.
Having tested out a range of SEO plugins and services over the years my favorite tool is Yoast for SEO. This (free) SEO plugin reads through your post and offers assistance and guidance on what you need to improve in order to stand the very best chance possible of ranking in the search engines.
All you do is follow the advice that the plugin gives you, making the suggested changes it provides, and watch your score going up.
Once you get a “green” SEO score then you know your post is properly optimized and stands the very best chance of ranking highly in Google.
As an add-on, if you really want to take your SEO to the next level try consulting one of my favorite keyword research tools to ensure that you are targeting the right keywords to begin with.
Phew! That was quite a list of factors to check before publishing your post wasn’t it? For simplicity’s sake I think it makes sense to boil all these factors down into one simple “checklist” that you can use for your posts.
Now you understand the what, why and how, hopefully a quick checklist will enable you to rapidly check the key factors of your next blog post before publication.
Have you ever made a silly mistake when publishing a blog post? What do you do now to try and avoid such situations? Please leave your experiences in the comments section below…