When I sit down to write a blog post, I’ve got the hardest part out of the way — the idea. The rest of the process — the writing and finding the best images comes pretty easy to me. So easy that sometimes I’m tempted to click the Publish button a little prematurely. This post is a checklist of things to do before releasing your new blog post to the world.
Don’t Write a Blog Post in the WordPress Interface
This is a personal preference and a bit of paranoia on my part. I do my writing in a separate app rather than in the WordPress interface. I use an app call Bear to write the post. Bear keeps up with my word count and supports Markdown, so I can format the post in the app, copy/paste it into WordPress and it’s ready to go once I add the images.
I wrote a post a while ago about Bear, so if you want to see more about this great app, you can read it here.
Why do I write my blog posts in a separate app? Has your browser ever crashed? Yes, WordPress will autosave, but I’ve lost work when my browser crashed between autosaves. Writing in Bear means I have a backup copy close at hand if I ever want to update the post. Bear has a handy archive feature that keeps notes out of sight until you go looking for them, so I just archive my posts and forget about them until I need them.
Here’s my blog post checklist, in no particular order.
Your Blog Post Checklist
1. Featured Image.
Make sure you’ve got a good featured image. If you leave this out, you’ll have no image when readers share your post on social media sites. Since we know posts with images bring more clicks and more interest, this is crucial.
Add an alt tag for your featured image (and for all images you use) and make it applicable so it’s actually helpful. This is something the Yoast SEO plugin will prompt you on if you don’t. You should also name the image something meaningful — preferably a keyword — rather than a random collection of numbers and letters.
Whatever you do, don’t forget the featured image.
If your categories are truly representative of your content, which they should be, this will be easy. I have one parent category and the rest are child categories. That means all my posts are in the Marketing Blog category and at least one subcategory. That’s the way it works best for my blog, but you may choose to have all of your categories at the same level.
Always check to be sure that your post is in the category you want it to be. Get rid of Uncategorized if you still have it as a category.
Categories matter because, depending on how you have set up your permalinks, it may be part of the URL. If you use the category/postname for your permalinks, you won’t be able to change the category without causing an error.
Tags help your reader find the content they are interested in reading on your site. According to WPBeginner.com, tags are your site’s index words. As you can see from the above screenshot, WordPress will autofill your most frequently-used tags and you can click to select them.
4. Permalink (URL Slug)
This is the last part of the blog post’s URL (see top right). It’s important for SEO, so pay attention to the words you use in your permalink. You can change it, but WordPress will automatically generate it based on your post title (H1).
As you write your blog post, keep in mind your keyword or phrase and incorporate it into the permalink for best SEO results.
Read More About WordPress
5. Status & Visibility
Set your post format, whether it needs to be set as pending review, whether it’s public, private or password protected.
Post formats, depending on your theme, may be styled differently for differing kinds of content, so the post format will be important to set correctly if that’s the case.
The excerpt is what will show on archive pages — those that display a group of posts, such as any of the category pages or a search results page. Be sure your excerpt is one that creates interest and makes the reader want to read the post. If you leave this empty, WordPress will simply pull the first characters — you probably have a setting in your theme that defines how many. This can look messy, so fill out your excerpt.
Choose whether or not you want to allow comments on this post. This setting will override your global preferences, so if you’ve got a particularly controversial or inflammatory post or one you just don’t want comments on, you can disable it here.
Use alt tags on all of your images. If you didn’t add the alt tag when you uploaded the image, you get a second chance here on the right. Also be sure your images are aligned as you prefer, right, left, or center.
It’s best for site speed if you save the image as close to the actual desired display size as possible. Don’t add a 2500-pixel wide image that you want to display at 300px. It’s better to resize it in a photo editing app. If you don’t have access to Photoshop, you can use Canva or a multitude of other apps.
You should also be using a plugin such as Smush, which optimizes image in your Media Library for faster site loading. Be careful with .png images, as they can get large and slow your page down. Only use them when you have a transparent background; otherwise use a .jpg.
It should go without saying, but I’ve come close to forgetting to proofread blog posts. After you’ve looked at it for some time, walk away and come back. Always proof in the Preview so you see what the actual words look like on screen. It’s also a different view which makes errors easier to catch. Be sure to preview your post in mobile formats as well.
Check the images and their placement, and take note of how fast they load.
10. Use Online Tools to Check For Grammatical Errors
Hemingway Hemingway Editor is a web app that analyzes your post for grammatical errors and rates its readability. It tells you which sentences may be hard to read, flags passive voice and will alert you if you use too many adverbs.
Grammarly is Grammarly another online tool that focuses more on proper grammar. It flags incorrectly spelled or used words and shows you how to correct them. Unless you’re very confident in your command of grammar and word use, I highly recommend running your copy through Grammarly after your write a blog post.
11. SEO Your Post
I use the Yoast SEO plugin, which prompts me to do what is needed to optimize my blog post. It assigns red or green icon that lets you know whether or not your post is search engine friendly. Hint: You want the green icon.
Yoast will identify missing alt tags on images, prompt you to include your keyword or key phrase in headings, and add inbound links to other posts and outbound links to external sources.
After you write a blog post, check your Yoast suggestions to be sure that you are as visible as possible to search engines.
12. Have You Included a Call to Action?
What do you want your reader to do now that they’ve read your post? Is there a downloadable resource that gives them more information about the topic? This is sometimes called a content upgrade, and offers an added benefit in exchange for an email address.
Whether it’s an email list signup, extra engagement, or product purchase, give the reader something to do after they read.
Get This Post as a PDF
I’m offering this post as a free PDF, so you can print it and use it to check the next post you write. Here’s a download link.