Blog Checklist: 60 Must-Have Items

Blog Success: Are You on Track?

Is your blog on track to succeed? Regardless of whether you’re a blogging newbie or have been blogging for a while, it’s a good idea to check to see that you’re blog’s on course to achieve the goals you set for it.

60 Point blog success checklist

Here’s a sixty point checklist for blog success.

Set up and configuration. These are the things that need to be set up by the blogger and/or the technical team before you start.

  1. Blog name. What are you going to call your blog? How is the name associated with your blog goals? Do other people find it memorable? Are their associations similar to yours? Check a small sample just to be safe. A jumble of letters doesn’t mean anything to readers.
  2. Blog URL If you plan to blog for the long term, I strongly recommend getting your URL and hosting it yourself rather than using WordPress.com or Blogger’s free options. Down the road when you decide to move your blog, you’ll lose Google juice and have to train readers to look elsewhere for your content.  This is a blog branding choice. If you’re starting a business or organizational blog, work with your technical team to integrate it into your website.
  3. Tagline or description. Create your blog’s tagline line and description. Include it on your blog and window titles.
  4. Branding. Consideration the look and feel of your blog. Blog design elements include graphics, logo, icons and consistent color palette that are part of your brand image.
  5. Plug-ins. Have you extended your blog with related technical gadgets (aka plug-ins)? Have you selected your plug-ins? (You can’t tell these pieces of code as a reader. You must check the source code.) Use plug-ins for SEO, social sharing, comments, backup, feed management and, if necessary, podcasting and video. Your technical support can take care of this.
  6. Blog theme. This is the mechanism that formats blog content for display as a webpage. Theme templates control page layout (including number of column and order), colors, typography and menus. They provide the user experience (UX). They can be customized and can contribute to SEO impact.
  7. Customize your blog. At a minimum, change the photograph and/or graphics in the template because this can be a sign that no one’s home.
  8. Spam filter. Blogs have spam just like email and other forms of social media. Set up filters to reduce the amount, if any, that gets into your customer comments.
  9. Administrative functions. Set up other users such as webmaster, contributors, editors, authors. This also incorporates password management.

Basic pages. These are static blog pages and information that should be created before you launch your blog.

  1. About page. Explain what your blog is about. Here’s a list of detailed guidelines to help you create your About page. If your blog is a business or not-for-profit (NFP) and it’s not integrated with your website or is acting like a stand-alone website, consider including additional page(s) to describe your organization.
  2. Author pages (if more than one person). Use these pages to give your writers their time to shine. Make it personal and add photographs.
  3. Terms of Use. Include information that defines your copyright and licensing. Creative Commons standardizes ways in which IP (Intellectual Property) rights can be protected while allowing others to use and modify your work.
  4. Disclaimers. Include information about how you’ll disclose endorsements, affiliates, etc.
  5. Privacy policy. This isn’t needed for every blog. But it’s critical if you have subscribers. What will you do with their personal information?
  6. Contact information. How can prospects, customers and the public contact you? Consider phone, email, and/or social media options.
  7. Physical location. If your business is a retail operation or has physical locations you want people to visit, add a page for store locations, maps and hours of operations.

Sidebar content (can include widgets) is the information that appears in the one or two columns on your blog.

  1. Search. Give readers the ability to search your blog for words they want to find. Make the search functionality easy to find or readers will leave your blog.
  2. Archives. Let readers search for older posts by date, category, tag, or author.
  3. Email registration. This is a good way to extend your reach. Let readers get your content when and how they want it. Use an outside provider (which is good if you have additional content) or Feedburner (which is owned by Google)
  4. RSS subscription. Let readers get your content via feeds. While this technology usage is on the decline, it’s easy to install and helps drive readers.
  5. Calendar. Consider whether you need event management. This can be important for organizations that have sales or live events.
  6. Blogroll. While blogger opinion is mixed about having a blogroll, if you have one, consider which blogs you’re going to include and why.
  7. Feeds from other blogs or content. Do you want to add other people’s content to your blog? This can be useful if your blogging schedule isn’t frequent.

Content. Blog content is the core of your blog’s offering.

  1. Content focus. What’s your blog’s niche? How does your focus differ from others in the field?
  2. Categories. What major topics will your blog cover? These are sub-topics of your focus.
  3. Keywords. What words are important to your target audience? What words do they use when they search? Focus on one word per post. Do keyword research to help plan your blog posts.
  4. Tags. This is a folksonomy. Tags are the words your readers use to find information on your blog. Make sure that your tags are actually present in your post content or Google will deduct points from your ranking for those terms.
  5. Editorial calendar. Do you plan your posts to ensure you cover your topic fully?  The editorial calendar plug-in is useful
  6. Blog post frequency. Do you only write when the spirit moves you? Are there sufficient posts to show that someone’s home? Are posts made on consistent days to help build a following? Having trouble with blank-post-syndrome?
  7. Blog titles. Do your post titles lure readers in? Are they all the same formula? Here’s how to write killer blog titles. Stuck in a title rut? Here’s 99 free blog titles.
  8. Targeted content. Are your posts targeted, interesting and useful? Do they contribute to the community’s knowledge on a topic? Or, are your posts only focused on you and what’s happening in your life? If so, that’s a challenge to building a following beyond your mother and a few friends.
  9. Unique perspective. Do you provide unique content and insights or is it just a rehash of what everyone else is saying? If the latter is the case, assess whether you have sufficient insight into your niche.
  10. Blog post quality. Are you phoning it in with filler since you don’t have time? You’re better off with one fantastic post a week and three mediocre ones.
  11. Content sourcing. Are your statements backed by data or are you just guessing? To be taken seriously, you must be rigorous in your research. Are you crediting your sources or trying to pass off someone else’s work as your own?
  12. Readability. Is your blog difficult for people to read? This includes typeface, background designs that peaks through your text. Is there too much competing for readers’ attention? This includes the information and ads in your sidebar.
  13. Writing quality. Is your English good? Do you have poor grammar and/or misspellings? It’s an important aspect of your blog brand and reflects poorly on your blog. If writing English is a challenge, pay an editor. At a minimum, have someone else check your posts for the basics.
  14. Human voice and emotion. Does your blog sound like a real person wrote it or is it filled with corporate-speak? This is important for organizational blogs. Similarly, are you keeping your emotions in check? Your blog shouldn’t be a place to rant or you won’t have any credibility. Here’s help developing your blog’s voice.
  15. Content format. How do you organize your blog posts? Are you using bolding, bullets, quotes, tables and lists? Do you help guide readers to pull them in?
  16. Content media. Does your blog contain an array of content formats such as photographs, video, audio, PowerPoints and PDFs?
  17. Guest posts. Do you have guest bloggers? If so, what’s your policy and how do you source them?
  18. Blog vacation. Have you made plans for how to keep your blog going if you’re on vacation or sick? Here are six ways to prepare for a blog vacation. If your blog is for a business or other organization, consider having a blogging contingency plan.
  19. Links. Links are an important blog element to connect with the blogosphere. Do your posts use links effectively to describe information readers may not get? Do you link to past posts to get readers to delve deeper into your content? Do you offer links at the bottom of your post to encourage further reading?
  20. Comments. Do you say everything about the topic in your post or do you leave room for opinions? Do you ask readers for their input with explicit questions at the end of each post? Do you respond to visitor’s comments to show you care? Here are some tips to increase blog comments. Don’t forget to set guidelines for what’s acceptable.

Social Media. Are you helping to raise your blog’s visibility by socializing its content?

  1. Connect with blog or blogger via social media. Ask readers to connect with you or your blog on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. Don’t overlook category specific social media networks. Also include a targeted call-to-action.
  2. Distribute content to social media platforms.  Automate blog feeds to send your published posts to Facebook, LinkedIn and/or Twitter.
  3. Twitter stream and status updates. Use a widget to integrate your tweets or display your Facebook status on your blog.

Promote. Get the word out about your blog to build your audience.

  1. Share content. Expand the reach of your content by asking readers to like, tweet or bookmark the post. Don’t overlook old-fashioned email a friend.
  2. Use your social media tribe. Get support from family and friends to get the word out about your blog.
  3. Participate in blogosphere. On social media, it’s not about you. It’s about your community. Here are 21 ways that bloggers engage.
  4. Leverage your business. If you’re blogging for a business, are you promoting your blog across your business to increase your readership?

Monetize. Many bloggers hope to use their blogs to make money.

  1. Donations. Ask readers to support your efforts by donating an amount that they think your content is worth. This money can go to you or a charity of your choosing.
  2. Product sales. Sell products on your blog. These can be digital content products such as e-Books. If your blog is a business blog, then sell your company’s products. Here’s a great example of how to use your blog to sell. Of course, it helps to ask for the digital sale!
  3. Subscriptions. This is an old print way to raise revenues. On a blog, it must provide additional value in the form of a forum and/or newsletter.
  4. Ads. Incorporate advertising using a third party sales service that’s tailored for blogs such as BlogAds or Google adsense.
  5. Sponsorship. Sponsorships are specialized brand advertising where you’re paid for the association.
  6. Affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is online marketing’s version of an extended sales force. Media sites, including blogs, make a percentage of the sale referred from the site.
  7. Kindle distribution. Register with Amazon to sell a Kindle version of your blog content.
  8. iTunes. Sign up with iTunes to sell your podcasts.

Metrics. It’s important to track your results back to your blog goals.

  1. Install third party metrics. Incorporate Google Analytics or other web metrics tracking.  There are often differences between your blogging software’s numbers and third party site results. While bloggers prefer the better numbers, the third party data is considered more accurate.
  2. Track blog metrics. Depending on your goals, your metrics may vary. Here are forty blog metrics and tailored business blog metrics.

Achieving your blog success takes time, perseverance and hard work. Bear in mind that there’s a difference in performance between excellent and weak execution. Use this blog checklist as a guide to push your blog to the next level. Most importantly, track your blog results against your blog goals.

Do you have any other points that you would add to this blog checklist? If so, please include your suggestions in the comment section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Here are some related articles to help you with your blog:

Also, check the guides and tutorials from your blogging software.

Hat tip to Mack Collier for inspiring this post. To get more support for your blog, please join #BlogChat Sunday evenings at 9.00pm ET. Here’s how to participate in a Twitter Chat.

Another tip of my hat to my webmaster, Larry Aronson, for his input and help compiling this list. He’s a great technical resource if you’re starting a new blog or upgrading an old one.

Photo credit:  Dru Bloomfield – At Home in Scottsdale via Flickr

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  • Yuko Ichihara

    Prof. Heidi,
    As always your colum is practical, meaty, and actionable. This post reminds me of your lectures – We learned a lot from you. Thank you.

  • http://TheCommonUncommonly.com Tom L

    On behalf of new bloggers everywhere, thanks. This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night… but in a good way. Once I get things rolling, I’ll be back to figure out why no one is reading my blog!

  • http://daddybydefault.com Craig Grella

    This is a great post, thanks, and very helpful for putting together a post on a daily basis. There’s alot of stuff on the list that I do without thinking about it, but by putting it down on paper and looking at it, it forces me to put more thought into those items, which undoubtedly make my posts better.

  • http://www.agilitybiz.net Frank

    Great stuff (as always) Heidi! Please keep them coming!

  • http://www.jamienorthrup.com Jamie Northrup

    Thanks Heidi, I’m printing this now as I’m launching my new website/blog in 2 weeks and want a complete rundown of what I had to do or needed to do, and you got a lot covered here.

  • robin stacpoole

    OK, that is like drinking from a fire hose – good but overwhelming. I’m just about to start off on the blogging thing, know that it is important to get right and see a lot of stuff here that I should be doing. But … there is too much to start all at once. If you ever have the energy and time, have you thought about splitting this article up into 1st, 2nd, 3rd and home run blogging articles issued a week apart for chaps like me that have jet to swing a club … sorry I mean blog. You also hint at, but do not really embrace the differences in blogs aimed at B2C, B2B, charity and others. I’d love to see a how to blog for B2B blog. Regards, @robinstacpoole

    (PS, love the subject focused blogs that you create)

    • http://riversidemarketingstrategies.com/ Heidi Cohen

      Robin–Sounds like a good idea for a blog post to me! Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • http://ariherzog.com/ Ari Herzog

    .

  • smarty

    Great checklist! I would suggest adding it to checklist.com for others to use.