Get Your Blog Off To A Strong Start Now

Definitive 2015 Blog Assessment ChecklistIt’s the start of a new year and you’re looking at your blog wondering what you can do to improve it’s performance.

Whether your blog exceeded your expectations or fell short of your goals, now is the time for you to give your blog a fresh start to succeed in 2015.

The beginning of the year is a good time to go through your blog and change things up.

The Definitive 2015 Blog Assessment Checklist

To ensure that your blog has a fresh start, use this definitive 2015 blog assessment checklist that’s in the form of questions to make it easier for you to get your ideas on paper (or computer.) Definitive 2015 Blog Checklist

1. Reassess your blog metrics.

I generally put metrics and analytics at the end of the marketing checklist. BUT in this case, it’s useful to start with your analytics to better understand your blog at the end of 2014.

The key is to examine your blog analytics to determine how it supports your business.

Actionable 2015 Blog Assessment Checklist:

  1. What blog metrics are you currently tracking?
  2. Which posts yielded the highest traffic in 2014? Do they have something in common? Was it the content topic or the headline that drove the results?
  3. Which posts yielded the most email registrations? What is different about these articles? How can you improve your new posts?
  4. Which posts received the most inbound links? What set these articles apart?
  5. Do certain types of content perform better than others? For example, guest posts or podcasts.
  6. Are there columnists that yield higher traffic and time on blog than others? What topics do they cover? What sets their posts apart?
  7. Do headlines make a difference in blog post traffic? Research by Upworthy showed that it does.
  8. What are your biggest traffic sources? Is your blog at risk because most of your traffic comes from a few specific platforms or sites? How can you diversify your traffic?
  9. Is your blog supporting your lead generation and sales process? Note: It’s important to incorporate a call-to-action to collect email addresses for your newsletter. Also don’t underestimate related branding and sales results due to your blog’s positioning.
  10. How much did your blog cost to run in 2014? At a minimum, assign an average amount of time per post and multiply by the number of posts. Then add in technology support and other paid products.
  11. How much did you spend to promote your blog?

2. Examine your blog’s competition

New blogs continue to appear every minute of every day. Therefore it’s important to monitor what else is going in your category.

You have to consider objectively how your blog content rates compared to your competition. View the competition broadly. This includes all other forms of information competing for your prospect’s attention regardless of format.

Don’t let yourself get blinded because someone else doesn’t call their blog a blog. Also, don’t limit yourself to prime competitors in your field.

Look at top competitors across categories. Is there something that they all do that you’re not doing?

Actionable 2015 Blog Assessment Checklist:

  1. What are other blogs in your category covering?
  2. Is your blog topic sufficiently niche so that you have room to grow without publishing the same information as many other people?
  3. Do your competitors have professional writers?
  4. Do your competitors have regular columns?
  5. How long have your competitors been publishing content?
  6. What sets your competitors apart from the pack? From your blog?
  7. How often do your competitors publish fresh content?
  8. How would you rate your competitors’ headlines?
  9. How would you rate your competitors’ images?
  10. How would you rate your competitors’ branding?

3. Assess your blog post content.

Examine your core blog content. The big question is: “Do your blog posts stand out from the crowd?”

Actionable 2015 Blog Assessment Checklist:

  1. Are you continually writing about the same 2 to 4 topics?
  2. Do you drill deep enough into each category? Do your readers feel that you provide value?
  3. Are these topics still relevant to your business and prospects?
  4. What new areas do you need to cover on your blog? Social media and Google Trends can provide helpful guidance.
  5. Are you answering your prospects’ purchase-related questions? Remember that they’re at least 58% of the way through the buying process before they contact you.
  6. Do you have regular blog features? If so, how are they performing? For example, Gini Dietrich introduced the Spin Sucks Inquisition, an interview of key people in the social media and content marketing space. Previously, she had interviewed her Twitter followers.
  7. Do you regularly curate other people’s content? If so, does your audience appreciate it?
  8. How is your blog voice? Does your blog sound like a real person?
  9. Do you include some personal tidbits in your writing? Your blog shouldn’t be filled with me, me, me. But an occasional insight into your life gives your writing an authentic feel and personality readers can relate to.

4. Study your non-post blog content.

Expand your content focus to the other areas of your blog. You want to ensure that they have a consistent voice and put your best foot forward.

Actionable 2015 Blog Assessment Checklist:

  1. Does your “About page” represent you and your organization? Is it in the same voice as your posts? Does it include links to your top posts?
  2. What content do you have listed under “Resources”? Do they include links to your email registration?
  3. Do you have a “Start Here” tab on your navigation? (That’s something I have to work on.) This is useful to guide newbies. What do you want them to read?
  4. Is your “Contact” information up-to-date? Where appropriate include your location (and map), phone number and email address.
  5. Do you have an entry point for your product offering (if relevant)?
  6. Is your email newsletter signup visible? If you’re not sure ask, your mother. Chances are that she’s not that computer savvy. If she can’t find it, you need to change this.
  7. Do you accept advertising on your blog? If so, do you have a footer link and other prominent way to attract prospects?
  8. Are your affiliate programs clearly marked? Do you have the appropriate legal text for the FTC?
  9. Is your other legal fine print up-to-date? Don’t forget to change the copyright date at the bottom of your blog.
  10. Do you have testimonials on your blog? Are they up-to-date?

5. Blog look and feel.

This refers to your blog’s design elements. These factors should be aligned with your company or personal brand. (Here’s a quick starter guide to branding.)

Actionable 2015 Blog Assessment Checklist:

  1. Can you make your blog look more current? An easy way to accomplish this is to modify your design to reflect the seasons or other holidays. Google does this well by adding doodles that still let its brand show through.
  2. Are there graphic elements you can remove? Over time a blog has the propensity for becoming a catch all for notices, etc.
  3. Are there expired offers or ads? Aim is to declutter your pages. You don’t want your audience to become blind to your content.
  4. Are your blog colors aligned with your brand? Can you use color to spruce your blog up?
  5. Do you have recent photographs that you can add to your blog? This is good for each author as well as the About Us page.
  6. Is your use of fonts consistent? Can you reduce the number of different elements?
  7. Do your buttons stand out? Are they inline with your visual design?

6. Optimize blog content

The objective is to make each piece of content on your blog as effective as possible.

Actionable 2015 Blog Assessment Checklist:

  1. Do your headlines pull readers in? Remember only 20% of readers get any further.
  2. Have you included at least 1 image in each post? Is it optimized for search and social media?
  3. Do you add other content formats such as audio, video, presentations, infographics and PDFs? Leverage your blog to support a podcast or video series.
  4. Do you chunk information to facilitate consumption?
  5. Do you use outlining so that readers can scan?
  6. Is your blog optimized for mobile?
  7. Is your content optimized for SEO? At a minimum, use a plug-in to help.
  8. Do you link to older blog posts and other areas of your website?

7. Ensure your blog is ready for public consumption.

Blogging requires more than just writing a post and hitting publish.

Actionable 2015 Blog Assessment Checklist:

  1. How frequently do you publish posts? Hubspot research showed that publishing 2 to 3 times per week yielded almost as much as blogging every day.
  2. Is your publication timing optimal? If you’re not sure, test publishing on different days. Understand that results may vary based on your content focus.
  3. Do you copyedit your content? This means good grammar and spelling. Can your audience understand it? Need help? Read Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes.
  4. Do you need additional technical support for your blog? If so, do you have someone to call? (BTW—My webmaster, Larry Aronson—is a life saver.)
  5. Have you given credit and links to other writers and photographers where appropriate? This is just like writing a paper in school.

8. Maximize your blog content distribution

Regardless of how large your blog following is, you still have to support your post publication to ensure that it reaches the maximum audience. (If you need additional suggestions, check out these 37 content distribution options.)

Actionable 2015 Blog Assessment Checklist:

  1. Do you email every post to your email housefile? You can offer either the entire post or just a short paragraph. Ian Cleary goes one step further. He writes unique email copy to engage readers and curate an older, related post.
  2. Do you offer readers feeds (aka RSS)? Feeds are an older format but the users tend to be voracious blog readers.
  3. Do you share your blog posts on various social media platforms? At a minimum, use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
  4. Have you created a pinboard for your blog posts on Pinterest? It works for BuzzFeed.
  5. Do you promote your latest blog posts on your website?
  6. Do you link to blog posts from your product pages where appropriate?
  7. Do you link to your blog posts in your customer service emailings?
  8. Do you email your employees your blog posts?
    Do you include a link to your latest blog post in your business email signature files across your employee base?
  9. Do you support your blog posts with advertising, especially on social media?

9. Assess your blog content creators.

Examine your blog creation process. Even if you’re a one man do-it all, still look at this section to see if you can get some new ideas.

Actionable 2015 Blog Assessment Checklist:

  1. Do you have a professional editor who directs your blogging efforts?
  2. Do you have a set of dedicated writers? If so, is it part of people’s jobs?
  3. Can you get other employees involved in your blog content? Remember you can use blind copies of emails, video and photos.
  4. Are your senior executives involved in your blog? If so, do they sound human? (This is NOT a joke!)
  5. Are your customers involved in content creation? If so, do you provide support for them.
  6. Do you pay writers and/or influencers to contribute to your blog?
  7. Do you allow guest bloggers? If so, do you have a set of guidelines to help you manage the process?
  8. Do you curate other people’s content? Is someone in charge of content curation?
  9. Do you create round up posts? If so, is there a process in place?

10. Encourage blog engagement

Use your blog as the centerpiece of your social media activity. It’s part of your owned content.

Actionable 2015 Blog Assessment Checklist:

  1. Do you encourage comments? For example, all that’s needed is a question at the end of your post. (BTW–Copyblogger has moved their comments to Google+.)
  2. Do you use a comment plugin? No matter how careful you are. Chances are that you’ll attract comment spam. I use Disqus.
  3. Do you or the author respond to comments? This encourages more interaction.
  4. Do you let people know when you’ve mentioned them? Everyone loves to see their name in lights.
  5. Do you have social sharing icons? (BTW: You must read this article on how to maximize social sharing!!!!)

The goal of this 2015 blog assessment is to give your blog a fresh start for the new year. (Here are 31 blogging tricks with examples to help you take your blog to the next level.)

You shouldn’t try to change everything at once but rather modify your blog area by area over time. Where appropriate use testing to ensure that your changes and modifications are yielding the optimal results.

BTW-Here’s how to take your blog to the next level with Blog 201 tactics.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

P.S. Here’s the Ultimate 2015 Marketing Checklist for download.

Definitive 2015 Blog Checklist

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies. You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .

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