When you first sign up to blog, you may think that all you do is type up your thoughts and hit publish…but in reality, writing a post is only half the battle. Before you hit publish, there are a ton of changes you should need to make to ensure your posts are as successful as possible.
To help make the editing process a little less daunting for you, here’s a step-by-step guide of the blog post editing process:
1. Take a break between writing and editing.
If you’re in writing mode, it’s really hard to switch to editing mode right away. Before you tackle the rest of this checklist, you should take at least a 10-minute break. Grab a cup of coffee, catch up on your favorite TV show or even head to bed for the night.
If you take a solid break between writing and editing, your editing skills will be sharper, catching the little mistakes that could normally slip through the cracks.
2. Does the post help you accomplish your goals?
In last weeks’ post on understanding your blog’s analytics, we talked a bit about creating and measuring blogging goals. Besides helping you figure out which metrics to track, blogging goals are crucial to guiding your writing and editing processes.
After your break, read through your post once without trying to edit for grammar, spelling and formatting to see if it addresses your blog’s goals. Be ruthless—if you’re not sure whether the post matches your blog’s goals after the read-through, put it on the back burner until another day.
3. Write an awesome title.
We’ve talked a lot about writing great headlines, so we won’t waste much time here going into the nitty-gritty. Essentially, headlines should be catchy, interesting and relevant to what’s being written. If it popped up on my Twitter feed, I would want to click it. It’s also important to deliver on your headline’s promise in the body of your post. If someone clicks on your blog post, they want to get what they came for.
4. Cut your copy in half.
When editing your copy, you need to be ruthless as well. Cut out anything that doesn’t need to be there. While many people appreciate detailed posts (like this one), readers aren’t looking for long posts that drone on needlessly.
If you need help with cutting down your copy, you can try a trick that I learned in one of my favorite classes in college: pick someone else’s blog post and cut the word count in half. Once you’ve done that, cut it in half again and again until you’re down to a few sentences. Then, try it on your own posts!
5. Format your post.
Formatting is key to helping your readers quickly scan and understand your posts. Here are some tips you should always follow:
- Use headings and bullets. By breaking up your text and making it easy to scan, you’ve made it much easier for your readers to get clear takeaways from your posts.
- Make your text pop. Use bolded, underlined and italic text to emphasize your main points, but make sure you’re consistent. If you’re underlining the first sentence in each bullet, do it that way throughout your post.
- Size your images accordingly. Make sure your images align properly in your text and that they are an easy-to-download size. No need to upload a 1,400 x 1,400 pixel image if you’re going to resize it to appear it on a 500 x 800 pixel blog post. Smaller images help tremendously with your page load time, which is crucial to keeping new visitors on your blog.
6. Read the post out loud to correct spelling and grammar.
When you’re editing by just reading the words on your screen, you may gloss over misspelled and missing words just because your mind is processing the words in one way. If you read your post aloud, your brain has to process the words visually and aurally, allowing you to catch little mistakes.
7. Link to other posts—your own and other bloggers.
Linking to other blog posts in the body of your post is a great practice. On your own site, you can link to evergreen content to get more engagement from your readers. To easily find and link to old posts, try keeping a spreadsheet of all of your posts and URLs so you don’t have to spend forever finding the post you want.
You can also link to outside content to develop relationships with other bloggers. After you’ve linked to other bloggers, they may be more receptive to sharing your posts, leaving a comment or even swapping guest posts.
8. Get your multimedia in line.
Even if you aren’t vlogging or podcasting, you need to be concerned with adding multimedia into your posts. Here are a few tips for creating and using multimedia:
- Always include “pinnable” branded images. If you’re creating images or taking photos for your blog, always be sure to have your blog’s logo or URL at the bottom so people will know it came from your blog, no matter where it ends up. Here are a few tools to help create awesome images for your blog.
- Properly attribute Creative Commons images. If you’re using an image from someone else’s site, be sure to properly attribute it according to the Creative Commons license. A great place to find images to use is Compfight.
- Set your featured images. Like I said in the bullet above, having visuals across the web is crucial to getting more traffic. These featured images will be used in your related posts tool and across social media when your post is shared. If you need some help getting started with featured images, check out this post.
9. Optimize for search engines.
Having traffic from search engines is crucial to the success of your blog, so you need to make sure it’s easy for people to find you through them. Here are some must-follow SEO basics:
- Place keywords strategically. Don’t litter your posts with every keyword under the sun—choose keywords that sound natural in your writing but still help you get found by search engines. Here’s a great infographic by SEOmoz to help you with keyword placement.
- Include a meta description. When your article pops up in search engines, there is a summary of the article available underneath the main link. This is called a meta description. They are also pulled into social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter with the link of your article, so this tidbit is more important than ever to help your blog be discovered.
- Include alt tags on your images. An alt tag is what shows up when an image cannot be displayed on your blog. They also allow your images to be found more easily by search engines because there is text associated with the image.
- Optimize your URL. Some blogging platforms make your URL look like this: http://www.mysite.com/?page_id=6976 – .UNfm1a6dkRw. These random numbers and letters don’t help out your SEO at all. Change the end of your URL to be something short and searchable with relevant keywords.
10. Organize your content with categories and tags.
You also want to make sure readers can discover more content through your own blog structure. Categories and tags both help arrange your posts, but here’s the difference between the two:
- Categories: These are broad topic buckets to throw your content into. For example, on our own blog, our categories are Community, Data Reports, How-to & Tips, Sharing the Tech, Company, Digital Culture and Product Updates. Think of each category as a section of a newspaper—articles generally don’t appear in all the categories, though they can appear in one or two.
- Tags: You assign these to the individual posts to help your readers find specific topics on your website. For example, we’ve used tags like Facebook, WordPress, social sharing buttons, and team lunch. These tags could all fit under different categories, but they can help readers find more specific posts on your site.
11. Include a call to action.
Though calls to action are generally thought to be marketing-speak, there is a reason marketing folk like myself use them: they work. A call to action is a prompt in your post to urge your readers to take action. Whether you’re asking them to leave a comment, share your article on social media or subscribe to your blog via email and RSS, you should always include one on your blog to engage with your readers.
12. Preview EVERYTHING.
Last but not least, preview all of your changes before you hit publish. This is an easy one to let slip through the cracks, especially if you’re just trying to get a post out the door.
In a preview, you’ll catch alignment and formatting errors or see that one of your paragraphs is a little bit too long. Even if you’ve done all of the previous steps perfectly, there still is chance that something could be amiss, and this is your chance to catch it.
After completing this checklist, you’ll be ready to hit publish! On your blog, is there anything you always do before publishing? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!