With content marketing, just showing up isn’t enough for success.
Sure, it’s an essential start, but unless you consistently create great content, you just won’t ever move the needle or see the results you want. And that’s when people quit.
Well, I can’t promise you overnight success, but I can tell you that by following this simple one page blog checklist you’ll create the strongest, most impactful content you possibly can, every time you sit at your keyboard.
And if you publish one piece of good content after another, you’re likely to start seeing results. Little by little, week by week, you’ll notice that you’re trending in the right direction. You’ll start to feel the momentum. And that’s when you’ll know it is worth continuing.
That’s why I use this one page blog checklist every time I start to write something new (which is a lot). I’m even using it now! It helps me get the results I want.
Ok, enough preamble, here’s how to fill it out:
Persona: Like most great marketing, your blog post should start its life knowing who it’s there to help. Who are you addressing this to? By noting down your persona right at the top, it will help you personalise the whole post, making it more specific – and compelling – for your target audience.
Not sure how to build a persona? Take a look at Hubspot’s great guide and download for some help.
Funnel Stage / Buyer Journey: At what point on the long, winding journey to purchase do you imagine your persona reading this post? Is it a pure awareness play, possibly the first time they’ve heard of your company (or even thought about the solution you’re offering). Or is this address specific, technical or price-concerns they may have, just one step removed from making their final decision?
Knowing this will give you a lot of guidance when you’re writing the actual post, and should make it more aligned with your readers intention, making it much more useful to them.
Keywords / phrase: You should (almost) never write anything for the web without giving search some consideration. What might someone be looking for just before finding your article? How can you include those keywords or phrase (and related topics) in this post so Google surfaces it at the top when your potential customer is looking for it?
Does it actually answer their question or match their intention?
Not sure how to find the right phrase or keywords? Check out this beginners guide.
Purpose / CTA: Your content marketing has to actually produce some tangible business results, so what action do you want someone to take after reading your post? Should they share it? Buy something? Comment? Sign up to your newsletter? Does the CTA you expect align with the stage in the funnel you’re writing for?
Make sure you’re not creating content for sake of it, give it a purpose and state it explicitly, so your work always helps produce the results you want to see.
The Post: Ok, time to get stuck into the meat of the post now! You know you you’re writing for, their stage in the buyer journey, what key topic you’re writing about and the ultimate goal of the content for your company. These elements should make every piece of content a winner.
But don’t forget to also make it entertaining, inspirational or educational. Connecting with your audience on a personal level; or helping make their lives that little bit easier – that’s the secret sauce that makes exceptional content, exceptional.
Time to pack yourself on the back for a job well done? Not so fast! You’re only half way there…
Post-writing: You’ve finished writing the best piece ever. It’s going to be a huge hit. Don’t let it down by not a) making it even better still; and b) ensuring you’ve done all the right things to get it in front of the people you want reading it.
5 x headlines: When discussing the rocket-ship growth trajectory of media site Upworthy, it’s often noted just how much time and effort they places on headlines. In fact, for every single piece of content, they would write 25. 25! That’s probably because they know that, according to Copyblogger, “on average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.”
While I don’t think writing 25 headlines is always going to be possible, I guarantee you’ll be pleased that you hammer out at least 5 iterations. Or, as another general rule of thumb, spend nearly as long on writing the perfect headline as you did writing the rest of the blog. Basically, don’t just quickly dash of any old headline, because you’re doing the rest of your writing a big disservice.
Rewrite opening + Excerpt: Second only to the headline is your first paragraph. If you’ve managed to get your reader enticed enough to actually click on your article, don’t let them (or yourself) down with a weak opening paragraph.
Unfortunately, because it’s often the first thing you’ll have written, tentatively, before you really found your flow, your first paragraph of writing can often be your worst!
So that’s why I encourage you to use this section to write another one, summarising the key takeaways (without given all the juicy stuff away), or asking your reader a question you know they’ll nod at (you know this because you have your persona in mind), or trying the problem-agitate-solve formula.
Once you’ve got a fantastic opener, either move this ahead of your original paragraph, or even better, delete the first paragraph completely and just replace.
Sign-off / CTA: Yep, you’ve guessed it. If you’ve managed to do what very, very few writers can, and you’ve kept the attention of your reader right the way to the end…don’t squander that opportunity with a wishy-washy conclusion.
Rewrite it now, make it so damned good they just cannot help but take the action you’ve asked. If they do, you’ve created a very special piece of content indeed.
5 x tweets: It still doesn’t end there! Now you need to ensure you’re going to get people to notice your post event exists. Start with the tweets, as short, snappy and compelling tweets can be the hardest to craft. For some help, take a peek back at your headlines. Chances are you’ll have some gold in there you can reuse in this section.
Another tip is to go back through your article and pull out a few choice quotes that work well as standalone tweets. You might even want to use the ‘Click to Tweet’ plugin to pull them out in the body of the article too.
SEO optimised? Now you need to check how your post looks in WordPress. Use the Yoast SEO plugin to check you’ve optimised all the key elements probably, and enjoy the satisfaction of getting the green light.
Short URL? I find short URLs do better than accepting the default WordPress titles which basically take the entire headline and make that the URL. I would typically use the keywords or phrase I want to rank for, and use only that, with no additional fluff around it.
Influencer targets / quotes? Who does your persona respect? Who are they likely to follow, or read their social updates? If you can think of a shortlist, now’s a great time to reach out to them and ask them if they could provide a quote for you (which is a double win, because it adds credibility and it makes it more likely they’ll share it). Failing that, you could just ask their opinion on it, so it gets on their radar.
Related content? Last, but certainly not least, are you making the most of this post to highlight your other great content? Have you including links out to your older posts? Not only does it help increase traffic to your older posts, and keep your readers interested, but it helps your search rankings too.
That’s it! Well, it covers the basics at least. And the effort will be worth it when you start getting 2x, 3x, 10x the number of readers for your content. Then you won’t quit. You’ll continue to delight your multiplying readers with valuable content, time and again.
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Ps. I’d love to hear about your success when you start using this. Drop me a comment below to tell me how you’re getting on!