Blogging, Make Money Online

25 Things Every Blog Post MUST Have Before I’ll Hit Publish

Now that I’m blogging full time, I’m scrupulous about what goes into each post, because I want to make sure every single thing I publish is not only high-quality but also valuable to my readers.

But even with three years of blogging experience under my belt, there always seem to be one or two things I inevitably forget to add, which I then have to go back and amend after it has already gone live.

Not the end of the world, but a nuisance nonetheless.

What I needed was my very own blog post checklist that I could run through before I hit that publish button to make absolutely sure I wasn’t overlooking any details.

So that’s exactly what I decided to create.

But before we get to that, let me be clear here: I’m NOT the type of blogger who’s able to bang out a new post in a couple of hours.

Completing everything on this blog post checklist takes significant time–often 8 hours or more–but it’s worth it to me to make sure I’m putting out a quality product that will not only help readers but perform well in Google searches and be primed and ready for social media shares, among other things.

Ready to start your own blog? Get professional web hosting.

To save this list for quick reference, here’s a nice pinnable graphic I created for you to come back to whenever you need a refresher.

Save this blog post checklist to Pinterest:Blog post checklist: 25 Things Every Post MUST Have Before I'll Hit Publish

Of course, if there are things on this list that are new to you or you want a full explanation of why each one is important to my blog posts, read on for more detailed information.

Related post: 10 Blogging Income Reports That Prove Blogging Isn’t “Just a Hobby”

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you on any purchases you make through this post. Thank you for supporting The Sweetest Way!

Every blog post should contain these 25 things BEFORE you hit publish #blogging Click To Tweet

My Blog Post Checklist: 25 Things Every Post Must Have

1. A long-tail keyword with low competition

As soon as I have an idea for a new blog post topic, I head over to Google’s Keyword Planner Tool* to begin researching various long-tail keywords.

A long-tail keyword consists of a few words or a short phrase that someone might search for in Google to help them answer a question.

You never want to choose a single word or a common phrase as your target keyword, because you’ll be competing against huge authoritative sites for that first page of Google results, and that’s a battle most blogs can’t win.

Long-tail keywords have lower competition, meaning you’re more likely to rank well for that particular phrase, even if your site is new or doesn’t have a great DA (domain authority).

Keyword Planner can tell you which phrases have the lowest competition and also give you a rough idea of how many queries are performed each month for each phrase.

What you want is a long-tail keyword with a reasonably high monthly search volume (100-1,000 is decent) and low competition.Finding a long-tail keyword using Google Adwords' Keyword Planner Tool

Make sure this exact long-tail keyword appears in your post a handful of times, and in a few other key places which I’ll get to down below.

*Be absolutely sure to choose ‘Skip Guided Setup’ if you’ve never set up a Google Adwords account before.

2. Variations of your keyword and related terms

Having a good keyword is just one small piece of the puzzle.  You can’t then just throw it into your blog post over and over again and call it a day.

Keyword stuffing is a thing of the past–Google can see right through you, and your readers will be left thinking WTF IS THIS NONSENSE.  It sounds unnatural and it looks tacky.  Just don’t do it.

What you should do instead is make sure your post contains variations of that same keyword or phrase, as well as other related words one would expect to find in a post on that topic.

As an example, let’s say my long-tail keyword is ‘how to blog for money.’  I’d also want to include phrases like ‘profitable blog’ or ‘blogging as a business’ or ‘make money blogging’ and so forth.My Blog Post Checklist: 25 Things Every Blog Post MUST Have Before I'll Even THINK About Hitting Publish

Additionally, I’d make sure the post contained a few other relevant words like blogger, Internet, online, etc.

You don’t need to overthink this; writing in a way that sounds natural means related words will find their way into your post without you really trying.

That said, it’s always good to read over the post once it’s finished to see if you might be able to add a few more.

3. Short paragraphs

As we all know, people have short attention spans these days.

Not only that, but when most people “read” online, they are actually just scanning for the good stuff.

True story.

Short paragraphs will keep people entertained and give them a reason to keep scrolling.

So remember…

Short paragraphs.

Lots of line breaks.

Got it?


4. Simple language and a conversational tone

Now that I’ve made sure none of you are blogging in monster run-on paragraphs, here’s another tip: Keep it simple.

What do I mean by that, exactly?  Basically, I want you to talk to me like I’m an old friend.  Make it breezy and conversational, and don’t use big words.

While some readers out there will appreciate fancy jargon and flowery prose, Google doesn’t seem to agree.

Yes, an easy reading level (Grade 7, roughly) is actually something Google takes into consideration. Furthermore, you’re more likely to appeal to the masses.

If I had it my way, this wouldn’t be the case.  I like to play wordsmith every now and again and flaunt my poetic prowess.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the best thing for my business.My Blog Post Checklist: 25 Things Every Blog Post MUST Have Before I'll Even THINK About Hitting Publish

5. H1, H2, and H3 headings

Having headings placed in relevant places throughout your post helps add structure, gives people’s eyes a break, and can increase your chances of ranking for your keyword.

So, headings are good places to plop that long-tail keyword we talked about earlier.

6. SEO title and meta description

Your SEO title (or meta title) and meta description are what show up in Google searches, and these are two more very important places to make sure your long-tail keyword appears.

I edit mine quickly and easily using the Yoast SEO Plugin.

7. A green light on the Yoast SEO Plugin

As you can see from what we’ve already discussed, there is a LOT to consider when it comes to your blog’s SEO, and the Yoast SEO Plugin really only scratches the surface.Blog Post Checklist: Get a green light on the Yoast SEO Plugin

That said, I still use the plugin regularly and make sure it gives me the green light for any post I’m optimizing. It reminds me of a few things I tend to forget about, like choosing a short slug that doesn’t contain stop words.Blog post checklist: Bad slug versus good slug

8. Featured image

My blog’s theme looks best with a featured image, so I always include one.

9. Categories & tags

This should be common sense, but don’t forget to add a category (or multiple, if applicable) and a handful of tags.

These help readers navigate your site more easily and help Google to know which posts are related (which is, naturally, good for SEO).

10. Several high-quality images

Images are good for a few things.  They keep readers engaged and interested, and as you might expect, they are also great for SEO.

The alt text of your images is yet another place where your long-tail keyword should appear.  Your photos may also show up in Google image searches, which gives people one more way to find your site.

The longer your post, the more images you should include.  I like to insert one image for every 200 words, more or less.Blog Post Checklist: Include several high-quality images

Just make sure you’ve optimized the file size so your images are not negatively affecting your page load time; 1024 pixels by 768 pixels is fairly standard and large enough to look good on most screens.

Monster images will make your site painfully slow, and this, in turn, will cause readers to click away.

My final piece of advice here is to use stock images if your photography skills are less than stellar or you need specific images. I get mine from Unsplash, Pixabay, and occasionally Shutterstock.

If you want to make pretty graphics, I like both PicMonkey and Canva.

11. Keyword in image alt text

As I just mentioned above, don’t forget to edit your images’ alt text to include your keyword.  You’ll be reminded of this when you’re going through your Yoast SEO checklist.

12. Length of 1000+ words

Google likes in-depth content that really digs into the meat of a subject.  The posts that rank the highest in searches have an average length of around 1,200 words, and some SEO experts expect that number to climb even higher.My Blog Post Checklist: 25 Things Every Blog Post MUST Have Before I'll Even THINK About Hitting Publish

A longer post will also keep visitors on your site longer, and time on site is another ranking factor because it indicates engaging, high-quality content.

I rarely publish posts that are less than 1,000 words, especially if I want them to rank in searches.

13. Internal links with good anchor text

Another good way to keep people on your site longer is to interlink your posts; including a relevant link to a different post on your site does just that.

Since you’re here reading a post on blogging, you might also be interested in this post I wrote on blogging for beginners.

Another benefit of an internal link is that you’re telling Google which post you want to rank for a particular keyword.

I’ve got a post on how I earn money online, for example. By using ‘earn money online’ as my anchor text, I’m telling Google that that post is the most relevant one on this site for that keyword.Blog post checklist: 25 Things Every Post MUST Have Before I'll Hit Publish

14. External link to an authoritative site

Google cares about who you associate your site with. When linking to other sites, it’s important to take that site’s authority into consideration.

Linking to spammy or low authority sites can hurt you.

I make a point to include at least one external link to a site with much more authority than my own.

For example, if you really want to do a deep dive into SEO tactics, take a look at Backlinko’s massive list of Google’s ranking factors.

Alternatively, take a course on SEO. These two resources have both helped me tremendously.

See what I did there?

15. Pinnable image

Pinterest is a huge traffic source for me (and most other bloggers I know, for that matter). To make it easy for people to pin your content, it’s best to have a Pinterest-ready image already in the post.

I also use the JQuery Pin It Button for Images plugin so people can easily pin the exact image they want.Blog post checklist: 25 Things Every Post MUST Have Before I'll Hit Publish

16. Click to tweet

I love reading blog posts with great pull quotes just ready and waiting for me to tweet them, so I finally got the Click to Tweet plugin for myself.

I try to put at least one tweetable quote in every blog post to make social sharing easy peasy for my readers.

Fun Fact: Blog posts that are easy to share get shared more often! #bloggingtips Click To Tweet

17. Affiliate link

I made it my goal this year to turn affiliate marketing into my primary income stream, so not a post goes by that doesn’t contain at least one affiliate link.

They are always relevant to the post and useful to the reader. Otherwise, there’s just no point.

18. Affiliate disclosure

Any post containing an affiliate link must also include an affiliate disclosure.  This lets your readers know that you are affiliated with the brand(s) you are promoting and may earn a commission from purchases they make.

This is an FTC regulation that must be followed.Blog post checklist: 25 Things Every Post MUST Have Before I'll Hit Publish

19. Link to another affiliate post

In rare cases, I can’t find any authentic way to include an affiliate link in a post. What I then do instead is link to another blog post that does contain affiliate links.

Most of what I now know about affiliate marketing I learned from Michelle Schroeder-Gardner’s course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, which I highly recommend.

You can also get your feet wet with my free 5-day email course.

20. Email opt-in form

I never let a post slip by (anymore, that is) without inserting an email opt-in form to capture more leads.

This is especially important in blog posts about location independence and making money online, as those are the topics around which I will likely build products to sell in the future.

Chances are, if people are interested in those topics and dig my content enough to give me their email, they’ll be interested in any related products I develop down the road.

21. Content upgrade

A content upgrade is simply bonus content people get in exchange for providing you with their email address.  While I don’t have one of these in EVERY post just yet, it’s something I plan to do moving forward.

This could be a free email course (like mine above), a short ebook, a printable, or anything else you might dream up.

In many of my posts on location independence, I include a content upgrade in the form of a free sample chapter from my ebook on the same subject.Blog post checklist: 25 Things Every Post MUST Have Before I'll Hit Publish

22. A prompt at the end to promote discussion

I always end a blog post with a question that encourages readers to engage by leaving a comment. I love discussing things in depth with my readers, and it makes them feel a part of the larger community.

23. A catchy AF title

I put this toward the end of the list because it tends to be one of the very last things I do before hitting publish.

Sometimes the title I think of when I first start writing the post just doesn’t fit by the time I’m done or it’s not spicy enough to entice people to click.

Other times, I have the story idea first and dream up the title for it later.

Your title is extremely important because this essentially determines whether people read your post or not.  Harsh, but true!  If your title sucks, no one’s going to read your content.

Use your title to create curiosity and leave them wanting more (without being clickbaity).Blog post checklist: A Catchy As Fuck Title (that's not clickbait)

And remember, your post title is different from your SEO title. The post title shows up on the actual blog post, and the SEO title is what shows up in Google.

Both should be catchy and enticing, and they can be the same if it makes sense for the post.

Just remember that your SEO title is where your long-tail keyword should appear; this is less important for your post title because it’s not a significant ranking factor.Blog Post Checklist: Include a catchy title that entices people to click

Pro tip: Numbered lists are extremely popular with web audiences, as are ‘How To’ style posts. Anytime you can incorporate one of these into your post title, do it!


Still stuck for ideas? Here’s a massive list of catchy blog post title ideas for some inspiration.Blog post checklist: A Catchy As Fuck Title (that's not clickbait)

24. Zero typos

Nothing grinds my gears more than a blog post with a million typos and grammatical errors. It just looks sloppy, and it turns me off as a reader.

Not everyone is such a stickler, but I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t hold my blog to high standards when I’m doing the same to everyone else’s.

To avoid publishing a post with embarrassing mistakes, I use a free browser plugin called Grammarly which catches my spelling and grammatical errors for me.

I never knew until I began using this plugin that I was a chronic comma abuser. I’m a new woman now!

The other thing that helps me immensely is to read through my entire post out loud. Strange as it sounds, this method helps me catch any weirdness I hadn’t detected while typing.

25. A marketing plan

Before hitting publish on any blog post, I make sure I have a clear picture of exactly how and where I plan to promote the post.

Because putting it out into the world is great and all, but if you really want people to see it, you have to have a marketing strategy.

Are there Facebook groups related to your blog post topic where you can share it? Do you plan to promote it on Reddit? Twitter? Pinterest? Can you mention it on Snapchat or in a new YouTube video?Blog Post Checklist: Have a marketing plan for every post

Here are a few of the ways I promote every blog post:

  • Compose an email about the new post to send to my subscribers
  • Reach out to any bloggers I’ve mentioned or linked to and ask them to share the post
  • Share on all my own social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and G+
  • Share the post in any related Facebook groups
  • If the content is evergreen, schedule it to be shared on an ongoing basis
  • Look through older content for relevant places to insert a link to my newly published post

There are other free platforms worth checking out as well, including StumbleUpon and Flipboard. Not every post needs to be promoted heavily on every platform; the important thing is having a plan.

I’m still figuring out best practices for paid advertising on Facebook and other platforms, but it’s something I plan to use more heavily in the future.

What’s on Your Blog Post Checklist?What's on YOUR blog post checklist?

Remembering everything that goes into a blog post is a tall order; hopefully, this comprehensive blog post checklist has given you a clearer understanding of why I blog the way I do, and why each of these things is important.

Blogging for money is a different ballgame than simply blogging for fun; it requires meticulous planning, attention to detail, and above all, consistency.

Now tell me: What’s on YOUR blog post checklist? Did I leave something out? Let’s discuss!

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  • Reply Laura March 24, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    This is genius! I’m like you, I often forget one or two of these things and have to go back after I hit publish. Definitely going to keep that pin you made handy!

  • Reply Rachel March 24, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    The “Skip Guided Setup” oh my gosh… I hope you can save some others from that mistake! I actually think I’m going to have to create a new Gmail account just so I can use Google’s keyword tool and not these other subpar keyword websites. I kept reading posts on SEO and exclaiming “No! The tool is not free! I am so stuck in Google Adwords crap that keeps asking me for a my advertising budget!”

    • Reply Leah Davis March 25, 2017 at 8:35 am

      That’s exactly what I eventually had to do, Rachel! I have a special Gmail account that I use for nothing but logging into Keyword Planner haha. It’s mildly annoying but I’m just glad I was able to start using it. I don’t want anybody else to make my mistake!!

  • Reply Nikita March 24, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    No wonder I love reading your blog so much! You put so much thought, consideration and effort into each post – and it shows! I know that every post you share, and that I read here, is going to be valuable and enjoyable!

  • Reply Joella March 24, 2017 at 8:19 pm

    This is such a useful post, Leah! My blog is more my hobby these days (though I’m trying to find more time to work on it) so I’ve kinda stopped caring about SEO and a few other things, but I still do a lot of this stuff. I might actually start doing all the SEO stuff properly again now you’ve explained the crucial part of google keywords. I did not know to skip guided set up.

    I think this post also goes to show how much work bloggers have to put in on posts- it isn’t just upload a photo from your iPhone, write a paragraph and you’re suddenly super popular.

    Anyway, I love what your blog has become over the last couple of years. You’ve got a really strong brand and direction. Very happy for you. Hope you had a fab time in Greece and you’re enjoying being back in the PNW! 😀

    • Reply Leah Davis March 25, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      Sometimes it’s nice not to care about SEO though and just write from the heart. That kind of blogging is something I still do from time to time, and for those posts I don’t go through all this trouble of optimizing it for search engines, I just want it to sound beautiful and natural and make people feel things. It’s nice to have a balance, I think 🙂 Thank you SO much for the kind words, I love that my blog’s new direction is going over well.

  • Reply Brittany March 24, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    You always manage to write in a way that is super helpful, really interesting and never preachy. I’ve stopped reading so many blogs because I always came away feeling like shit after I read them. Like I wasn’t good enough, didn’t fit in, was doing my own thing the WRONG way. There seems to be such a cool kid, ‘you can’t sit with us’ vibe in the blogging world sometimes.
    I couldn’t care about SEO to save my life, but I will read every word you type. I really appreciate the stuff you put out there and the way you do it. 🙂

    • Reply Leah Davis March 25, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that, Brittany! I never want to sound condescending or like my way is the RIGHT way. There are so many ways to blog, and one isn’t necessarily better than another. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts! 🙂

  • Reply Steph March 26, 2017 at 2:53 am

    This post is an absolute GOLDMINE for those of us new to blogging. I looked for something similar to this before launching my blog recently and couldn’t find anything, at least not of this quality. Most blogs would have you believe that once you have your WP template installed then you’re good to go!

    Information like this is a real timesaver for us starting out, thanks so much. There are quite a few points in here I haven’t come across before.

    PS If you wanted to share your image workflow that would also be amaazing 😉

    • Reply Leah Davis March 28, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      Wow Steph thanks so much for the compliment! I’m so happy I can help. Are you interested in seeing my image workflow for creating graphics? I might be able to do that 🙂
      Leah Davis recently posted…Blogging for Beginners: 5 Skills to Master from the StartMy Profile

      • Reply Steph April 12, 2017 at 2:50 am

        That would be amazeballs. I feel like if anyone has a super-organised image workflow it’s probably you!

        Lightroom is *so* slow on my laptop these days that it really exacerbates my inefficiencies.

  • Reply Brenna March 26, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    I’ve been blogging for like… 14 years?… and I do about four of these things regularly. OH GOD. Thanks for posting this, it’s a good reminder for me to step it up!

    • Reply Leah Davis March 28, 2017 at 4:51 pm

      And you are proof that even if you’re not doing things “by the book” you can still find blogging success! Glad you found the post helpful though 😉
      Leah Davis recently posted…What if my best isn’t good enough?My Profile

  • Reply Mani @ A New Life Wandering March 27, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    The Yoast plugin is my favourite thing ever. Ok, that’s probably an exaggeration, just like when people use the word literally wrong. But I think you get my point. Thanks for the great list.

    • Reply Leah Davis March 28, 2017 at 4:53 pm

      Haha! Yoast is helpful, but I always caution people not to rely on it alone for SEO! There is so much more to consider, like site speed and image size. Plus, Yoast won’t tell you if your chosen keyword is actually any good, which is where Keyword Planner comes in 🙂

  • Reply Adriana March 28, 2017 at 3:01 am

    This is probably the best blog post I’ve read in a long long time.. Great tips, very useful! Thank you!

    Lost in Denmark

  • Reply Jobie Medina March 28, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    This is extremely helpful. I’m new to blogging and appreciate every bit of help. Thank you!

  • Reply Helen April 4, 2017 at 6:47 am

    Great post Leah! So useful! Definitely a lot I need to work on!!! Your affiliate email guides have really helped me too! thank you and hope you are well!!

    Helen x

    • Reply Leah Davis April 4, 2017 at 3:46 pm

      So happy to hear that my content is helping you, Helen! Best of luck!

  • Reply Karlie April 4, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    This is a great post with things that I’ve never thought of at all. I can tell you put a lot of work into blogging! I think my list is a lot smaller: Did I make tags and categories? Did I insert the read more tag? Is there a title? Am I spell-checked. But my blog is also just a hobby, where yours is your job, so I understand why you take way more time!

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