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Stop. Don’t post that post! 7 questions to ask before you hit publish

This is a guest contribution by Kate Toon, an award-winning SEO and advertising copywriter.

You have a blog post.

Who cares whether you wrote it yourself or paid someone to create it? It’s the right length.

You’ve shoe-horned your chosen keyword phrase ‘Pink llama-wool pyjamas’ into it five times. You’ve downloaded a cool image and even managed to code it into WordPress.

It’s time to press upload, right? Wrong.

Before you do anything, stop and ask yourself these seven critical questions.

Does your blog post target your audience?

Have you written a generic ‘appeals to everyone’ (read ‘no one’) vanilla article? Or are you targeting a particular niche? Try to get inside the mind of your audience, then read your blog post again. Does it address a particular need or concern? Or is it all blah yawn blah?

Is the blog post credible?

An especially important question to ask if the blog post has been written by a third party. Even more so if you used a $5-a-post copy shop. Very few writers will care about your business as much as you do, or write with true passion about your subject matter. True heart in writing shines through.

So be sure not only that the facts are checked but also that the blog rings true and doesn’t sound like marketing fluff.

Is the blog post unique?

This sounds impossible, right? With so many articles being posted in your niche, how can you write something unique? But even the most well-trodden ground can be given new life. Your tone of voice. Your viewpoint. Your inside knowledge can add a certain something to your blog.

It’s very important to write with a strong voice if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Is the blog post useful? (Or at least entertaining?)

A great place to start with useful content is by addressing the customer enquiries and questions you’ve received. Each one is potential post. But when these are all covered it’s important to keep your finger on your audience’s collective pulse. What are the market trends? What’s in the news? What are they talking about on Twitter?

If all else fails, at least try to be entertaining, interesting and funny. 

Is the blog post easy to understand?

Now I could direct you to some snazzy readability tool, but how about we just use common sense? Check your writing for:

  • Long rambling sentences.
  • Long complicated words.
  • Poorly phrased sentences.

Pay extra attention to those first 100 words. If a reader can’t get through those as easily as a knife through warm butter, your post is in trouble.

Would you share this blog post?

If the blog didn’t have your name on it, would you forward it to a friend? What would you say in the email that accompanied it?  ‘Check out this awesome history of llama wool production in Peru’?

If you wouldn’t share it, why would others?

Does the post address a your goals?

All the other points have been about your readers and rightly so. But this one is all about you. Why are you posting the article? Is it just to add some fresh content? To give you a boost for a certain keyword? To cover off a reader enquiry? To launch a new product or idea? To attract a new audience? To give your opinion on a news event? Or all of the above?

Don’t blog for the sake of blogging. Be clear what your blogging objectives are.

If you can’t answer each question with a confident ‘YES’, then you need to go back to the drawing board. This might seem like tough love, but it can just take one crappy post to put a potential customer off your blog.

When it comes to blogging, ask yourself the tough questions and don’t settle for second best.

Kate Toon is an award-winning SEO and advertising copywriter with over 18 years’ experience. She’s also a well-respected SEO consultant, information architect, strategist, hula hooper and CremeEgg-lover based in Sydney, Australia.

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Comments

  1. I really like the point – Would you share this blog post, I mean, yeah this is something we all should focus on before writing/publishing any post in our blog that whether we or not share it. Once we are absolutely sure with the content that yeah this is something people gonna make viral on social network. Then I think is the right time to publish any article.

    • Kate Toon says:

      Yep agreed Irfan going viral is always the goal, but it’s also important not to set the goals too high. Even if it just pleases your small existing readership, that’s a good.
      I think it’s best to write first – from the heart- then go back through the next day and ask yourself the questions before. Otherwise they could stifle your creativity completely!

      Thanks for commenting

  2. Zack says:

    Would you share this blog post? I love that one! If you I don’t believe in it, I sure as heck am not going to publish it hoping that others will!

    • Kate Toon says:

      Yep Zack, it’s a toughie, I look back at some of my old posts and think, ‘um no I wouldn’t’
      Another good question to ask, is if you didn’t care about SEO would you still write and publish the article?
      Thanks for commenting.
      Kate

  3. Sam Woods says:

    A good post, thanks,

    It certainly got me thinking about it more, as if you publish a post without these it could harm your reputation.

    I try to proofread posts a few hours after writing them, to get most of the errors out, for some reason if I do this straight after I miss lots :).

    If someone else writes posts for me I tend to re-write bits so it is keeping to the points you discussed.

    Sam

    • Kate Toon says:

      Hi Sam

      EVERYONE finds errors. I use a professional proof reader and still find mistakes. I think there is a some law of averages that says only 98% of mistakes can be spotted before you press ‘publish’.

      Thanks for commenting.
      Kate

  4. sandi says:

    Really interesting reading.

    None of my article is not yet fit to all seven questions at a time.

    I will certainly consider this for my next articles.

    Thanks

  5. Suhaib says:

    Amazing! This is the most incredible content I have ever read on the Internet!

    Wow! This Kate’s very brave. Award-winning copy writer indeed!

    Hhheww!!

  6. Eric says:

    You’ve nailed it on the head with this one, Kate!

    More often than not, many people don’t actually realize what all should go into a good blog post to make it worth your blog and visitor’s while. It’s not just writing content for the sake of it (keep back-up posts for this) but providing useful content to your particular market that actually helps them move forward in some way.

    In whatever way you can.

    So many things go into one blog post that it’s certainly important to make sure you’ve checked off, read, reread, and finalized every idea you have before you hit publish.

    I do believe though that as you write more and more your audience wouldn’t be too upset with a not-so-great post here and there but you should definitely have a focus and plan, not just write to make sure you have a post up.

    • Kate Toon says:

      Aw thanks Eric!
      I totally agree, once you have a loyal following or audience, the odd duff post won’t offend. But I see so many people shoving up a quick 300 word post that has no real value or is just a regurgitated version of someone elses thinking. Don’t you?
      I rather bloggers posted one considered, researched article a week. Than 3 fluffy ones.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

  7. Sarah Bauer says:

    Gauging a post by social shareability is an excellent gauge. If you can summarize the posts’ relevance to a specific audience in under 140 characters, you’re on the right track.

    Cheers
    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  8. Guy Hogan says:

    My first priority is always to post something useful or entertaining for my target audience; but I have to admit the other things are difficult to always achieve. Still, it’s always good to keep them in mind.

    • Kate Toon says:

      Yep I’m the same Guy. Useful is number one priority, although I also post blogs about my business, new wins etc.
      Interesting and engaging is my next goal. The rest come after!

      Thanks for commenting
      Kate

  9. Arif Gangji says:

    Does the length matter? Whenever I write a quality post it ends up being very long. Almost too long. Is it just a matter of filtering it down or do you not worry about it?

    • Kate Toon says:

      Hi Arif
      I’d say it has to be over 400 words to get any kind of argument or thought process developed. But as to maximum length I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule. If the post is engaging and well written, people will read and read.

      However my aim when I finish a first draft is always to try and edit it down by 10% in the second draft.
      It’s often good to get a second pair of eyes to help you eliminate the waffle.

      Thanks
      Kate

    • The longer, The merrier.

      If it’s not boring. you break it with images and videos. statistics You’ve got yourself a winner post.
      it’ll get more shares and links

  10. Fabulous post Kate. I liked your question: “Would YOU share this post?” So true, and I’ll have to remember to ask myself that every time I sit down at a blank screen. I think this will help to ensure direction and relevance throughout the entire writing process. Thanks!

    • Kate Toon says:

      Hey MIchelle, thanks for commenting. Yes even thought often what we post is for a select audience, it’s important to ask yourself if you read this post would you think it was awesome enough to share with your chums? Obviously not everything you write is going to be bum clenchingly amazing, but we can try!

  11. Segun says:

    Kate, thanks for the insight. I barely started blogging (1 month) and I’m seriously struggling to find a niche. I think I need to pause and thoughtfully answer these questions before I continue posting. Thanks a lot, you are really appreciated!

    • Kate Toon says:

      Find a niche is tough. I’m not sure I’ve found mine yet :-) I’d go for finding your VOICE. If you have a strong voice, clear opinions and a strong writing style, you can write on very well trodden topics and give them new life.
      Also be real. Be honest and to a degree blog as if you’re talking to a good friend or business colleague.
      Good luck!

      Kate

  12. zolar says:

    Yup. we need to clear our objective

  13. Delia says:

    All great tips, Kate! However, there has to be a balance between checking and re-checking all these points and actually publishing the post.

    What I find lots of times is that people spend too much time writing, rewriting, and in the end NOT publishing a post that could have been “good enough” and had useful information for their readers.

    What is your take on “overdoing” it as opposed to just “shipping it”? Would love to hear!

    • Kate Toon says:

      Ah well yes of course. Too much soul searching (or blog checking) and you’d never publish anything.

      I work in four stages
      1) Write it (often quite quickly when the idea hits me)
      2) Check it the next day and tweak it
      3) Get it proof read and edited
      4) Publish it – then frantically edit it to get rid of all the mistakes I suddenly spot

      I think as you go on writing you find your voice, work out which posts your visitors prefer and it all starts happening naturally. Do you agree?

      • Delia says:

        Great process! I sometimes find typos after a month or so and look at them in amazement, reading 3 times to make sure I’m not hallucinating, LOL!

        Thanks so much for the reply, I really appreciate it.

        • kate Toon says:

          Even after I’ve had things proofed professionally, had my Dad read it, had my dog read it. I STILL find mistakes. That’s why I try not to be too hard on others. We are only human!

  14. Clare Greig says:

    Love it Kate. Especially the heart and soul bit. I think it’s also really important to have one message in mind and conclude with that. Maybe even write the end first so you are sure to keep to the point. Great advice, have bookmarked :)

    • Kate Toon says:

      Thanks Clare

      My English Teacher always told me that an essay (or blog posts, if blog post had been around back then) is like a sandwich.
      Intro – Bread
      Content – Cheese
      Conclusion – Bread

      I always re visit my intro and conclusion after I’ve written the middle bit to make sure I’ve started by posing a question and finished by answering it.

      I also recommend you try adding your own personal pickle (or cucumber) to the sandwich give it a certain something. There are far to many cheesy posts out there in the blogiverse.

  15. marty says:

    For me I have always had a hard time in the beginning identifying who my audience but I realized if I didn’t find out quick I would be losing an uphill battle and end up talk to myself .I think the trap I feel into later is posting just for sake of keeping up with the schedule and not having my attention in what was being written which is deadly.I had to learn the hard way that its quality not quantity that matters

    • Kate Toon says:

      Yep totally Marty. If you’ve got nothing to post, post nothing.

      Unless you’re Darren Rowse, Seth Godin or Bethany Frankle (!?) no one is sitting there rocking gently by their computer screen WAITING for your next post.
      Some times my brain is as much use as a bag of socks when it comes to thinking of a blog idea, then all of a sudden three appear all demanding to be written.

      I try to post once a week, and fail miserably!

      Thanks for commenting.

  16. Hi Kate,

    I think your last point it the most important. Early in my blogging career I wrote a post about CSR (corporate social responsibility). It was a meaty post with a lot of research. It received decent traffic, especially for a new blog. I was thrilled, at least for awhile. The problem is while I am interested in the topic and have strong views about it, it has nothing to do with my business. I couldn’t convert the interest in the post to anything because I don’t provide CSR services. In the end, all I did was confuse a burgeoning audience and disappoint a few new hopefuls who hoped I was joining ranks.

    • Kate Toon says:

      Ah yes, that’s a shame isn’t it?
      That’s why early on I split my copywriting site from my writing site. I didn’t think my corporate clients would want to hear about my poetry books, and my play audience couldn’t give two hoots about how to create link bait.

      While I think the odd off topic blog post is fine, it’s usually better to write once you’ve built up some rapport with your audience. And also balance it out. 90% interesting useful, relevant posts to 10% random nonsense. (It works for me!)

      Thanks for commenting and tweeting!

  17. All great points. My favorite is in your comment, though, where you describe your four work stages. The fourth is me to a T: 4) Publish it – then frantically edit it to get rid of all the mistakes I suddenly spot

    How come all those mistakes turn up after you’ve hit the Publish button???

    Thanks for a great post.

    • Kate Toon says:

      Salut Emily,

      I don’t know, but probably the same reason why toast always lands butter side down on the carpet.
      Maybe there’s a bug in WordPress that makes them appear!?!

      Thanks for commenting.
      Kate

  18. kamal yadav says:

    thanks for the nice post its too helpful

  19. Every time i write post on my blog i think to get good traffic for that.so i share it in social networking sites and follow some of the points what you mention in the post.From now i’ll try to implement whole 7 points to get better results.

  20. Janet Huey says:

    This was such a good post that I wanted
    to join Kate’s solo community,but its closed to non Aussies. I had never seen that before. Sure killed my excitement pretty fast.

    • Kate Toon says:

      Hey Janet, do you mean the Flying Solo community? Sadly I’m not in charge, just a contributor, but yes I think it is Aussie only :-( BUt thanks for reading the post and commenting.

    • carolm says:

      Hi Janet, I’ve never heard of an Aussies-only barrier either!

      I’m an Aussie and would be extremely happy to welcome you into my G+ Circles, my Email Subscriber List, my website’s Facebook Friends, Fans, Likes, or any other group or website that I have anything to do with online – I can’t think of any more right now, but you will be very welcome anywhere – we also have a spare room….although I’d have to check with the family first….:).

  21. carolm says:

    What no Keyword Research? If you have the Yoast SEO plugin installed, you can check your page for SEO assessment of keyword placement and frequency before publishing.

    And I always go to Feedburner to do the Email Branding before Publishing.

    • Kate Toon says:

      Hey Carol

      Definitely not advocating that you ignore keyword research or don’t think about SEO when you write a blog, but that’s a blog in itself I think.

      Focusing more here on content and the quality of what you write.

      Thanks for commenting.

  22. I know all of my personal blog posts are relevant to the subject matter of my site, but i do find myself publishing, then spending the next 10 minutes reviewing it and amending bits and miss-spellings etc. Preview, check, then live would be a much better process to follow from experience.

    • Kate Toon says:

      Hey Mathew,
      Yes but even when I preview I STILL Find errors when I actually publish. It’s one of those strange universal rules, that no blog can ever go live with out a least one typo!

      Thanks for commenting.

  23. Edson Hale says:

    check list is really great; all the questions literally relevant but a few can also be added like:
    Does its image related to contents
    Does it have fresh subject or the stereotyped old ones
    Does it carry balanced headlines and sub headlines
    Anyway, overall the seven points really covered all the important points to note before hitting your post publish; thanks

  24. denis says:

    My main problems are mistakes..I never check the posts I am writing and i am too lazy to do it =(

    • kate Toon says:

      Ah change that ‘lazy’ into a ‘busy’ and you’ll be much happier!
      It’s great to use a professional proof reader, but it’s also expensive which is hard to justify unless you’re a big business and get a lot of value from your blog.

      You are not alone!!

  25. Greg says:

    Great article. The points you address are right on target. Authors should also consider using photos in their posts to draw more attention to the subject matter being discussed. Everyone loves looking at photos. Again, thanks for sharing.

    • Yep photos are fab, ideally ones you’ve taken yourself or purchased. It’s important to check the copyright of all image and not ‘borrow’ from other sites without their permission. Images are a great way to draw the reader in and support your blog.

      Thanks for commenting Greg.

  26. Mic Johns says:

    Great post and amazing comments too….it gives so much useful information. Information shared in comments is too good, because having so many concepts, questions, answers and thoughts on one topic at one place is just amazing…..got great ideas and it will surely help me publish things in websites in future…keep up the good work guys.

  27. Bhavna Singh says:

    Interesting Post!!! and all the comments are too amazing.

  28. Good points. Reminds me of a blog post I wrote about two years ago on “How to overcome fears of sharing your blog contents – in 6minutes”. It may not seem related to this but it does in the sense that if you are not so confident about the content you are about to share, how the heck are you going to be confident sharing it with your face on it?
    A clear goal, quality and targeted content are vital components of a worthy blog post.

    Just incase you want to check out the article I mentioned, my name links to it.

  29. Tamsin says:

    Great tips, thank you! I’m a beginner and learning all the time :)

    Got to remember to make it relevant!

  30. nagababu says:

    Every time i write new posts on my blogs i leave it after publishing but don’t think about traffic.Now i’m realize that’s not right way.These 7 steps are give a boost to my blog traffic in coming days.Thank you

  31. Sara Domini says:

    Nice posting Kate, specifically I prefer to go through so that as my every single article has many links I ensure that each individual url is linking to correct reference.