A Blog Launch Checklist
A blog isn’t just about putting words on a page for Google. It’s a window into your business.
A blog is a powerful tool in your business arsenal, and unlike adverts—where you put yourself in front of people in the hope they’ll like it—a blog attracts people to you. It’s an opportunity to create a new relationship through education, information, humor, shared values, or simply a need for what you offer.
By blogging, you give yourself the chance to be found by potential customers all over the world. But it’s not a golden ticket to growth. There’s a right way and a wrong way to build a blog, and just like there are millions of incredible artists, musicians, writers, and other creatives that success eludes, your ability to create a great blog is only part of the equation.
While your content needs to be good enough to retain the visitors it attracts, most of a blog’s success is the result of what happens after you hit publish—at least in its early days. Your blog also needs a solid purpose. The internet is awash with unread blogs, and there are three big reasons why:
- A lack of purpose, making it difficult to find a consistent readership
- An irregular posting schedule
- No promotion
As the old saying goes, “It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it.”
How To Blog The Right Way
If the intention for starting a blog is to support the business as either a sales or marketing function, then it needs to be treated with the same consideration as any other business function:
- What is it for?
- Who will manage it?
- What are the key metrics?
- What does success look like?
- How will the intended audience know it exists?
One of the best ways to do this is with a checklist. This is especially useful and important when multiple people are involved in the process and you need to ensure consistency.
Creating Your Blogging Checklist
Once you’ve decided that you want a blog, and you’re committed to the ongoing requirements of creating and promoting the content, it’s time to make your checklist. You can print this out and tape it to your monitor if you’re likely to forget about it. You’ll also want to distribute it to any members of the team who need to follow it.
1. Set Your Key Metrics
These will be your North Star. If the blog’s main purpose is to drive email subscribers, that needs to be reflected in the content and the blog’s layout. Pushing readers to a phone number, for example, will undermine that metric, so your writers, editors, and web developers need to be aligned on the goal of the blog, which in this case is building an email list.
Similarly, if the goal is to increase followers or boost views of particular site pages, that needs to be demonstrated through the blog activity.
With the metrics decided, track them monthly in a spreadsheet to ensure the blog is achieving its goals.
2. Choose A Platform
WordPress is, without question, the big player in the website space, reportedly powering 40% of all websites. That’s enough to convince some people that it’s the best option to use, but there’s not really a right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing a platform. The best startup blogging platform will be the one that meets your requirements.
If you want full control, then a self-hosted option like Wordpress or GitHub may be most appropriate. On the other hand, if you want to launch your blog quickly and have readers immediately then an established option like Medium might be more appealing. The trade off with Medium is you have no control over the platform. The trade off to a self-hosted option, however, is the additional time required to build the blog and grow the readership.
3. Configure The Platform
Once you’ve chosen your platform, it’s time to set it up to achieve what you need it to do.
If a key metric is collecting email addresses, you’ll need a mechanism to do that. Other considerations are:
- Will readers be able to leave comments?
- Where will images be hosted?
- Will anyone need an account to access the blog?
4. Set Up An Email List and Opt-in Form
Building an email list is one of the most effective steps you can take for engaging your audience and encouraging visitors to keep coming back.
If you don’t have an email list, you’re relying on people remembering you. With so many things fighting for a user’s attention, the odds are stacked against that happening. Even if a reader does bookmark your site or remember to check in occasionally, it’s unlikely they’ll do so often. After all, how many sites do you check daily or weekly?
There are plenty of email marketing tools to choose from, including some free options.
Once your email marketing account is created, you’ll need clear ways for your visitors to sign up. A list that nobody knows how to join is just as bad as not having a list at all.
Opt-in forms can be used in multiple places. Popular options include static forms in the sidebar or placed within the blog post. Alternatively, you can have dynamic forms that appear when the visitor reaches a certain point of the page (such as halfway down), after they’ve been on the page for a certain period of time, or if they’re about to close the window.
You can include more than one, but be mindful not to overdo it, otherwise you might just annoy your visitors and discourage them from reading your content in the future.
5. Get Familiar With Self-editing Tools
Before you publish your posts, it’s worth running them through a self-editing tool first. They’re no substitute for a professional editor, but these automated tools can help to ensure your post is easy to read, not full of incomprehensible words, and doesn’t have embarrassing spelling mistakes.
Hemingway reads your content and gives a readability grade, highlighting things such as use of passive voice, notes when you’ve used a phrase that has a simpler alternative, and tells you when a sentence is difficult to read.
Grammarly works as your assistant, spotting spelling mistakes and offering improvements to grammar. It can be added as a browser extension too, even helping you with social media posts and emails.
6. Set Up A Publishing Calendar
Once you have everything set up and ready to go, it’s time to turn your attention to your publishing calendar. This will help ensure the blog has regular posts, and if you have multiple writers a calendar keeps everyone accountable.
There are, as always, multiple options to choose from at various levels of complexity.
It’s entirely possible to keep a simple spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets, showing all the topics that are in planning, being written, or have been published.
Alternatively, you can choose from a dedicated project management tool like Trello, Airtable, or Asana. Each one can be customized to your needs and preferred way of working, and they’re all adaptable whether you have a single writer or a larger team.
7. Adopt A Style Guide
A style guide is optional, but if you want your blog to stand out and scream professionalism, it’s worth taking the time to create one.
By having a style guide, you’re providing a consistent experience for readers, in exactly the same way that businesses use specific colors and fonts in their branding. The guide should include the voice of your blog, so posts don’t range from very formal to very informal, or first-to second-person. If readers enjoy the posts because they’re fun and light, they’ll be surprised and possibly disappointed to find a dense, humorless post.
The guide should also include rules on the content itself. To determine those rules, consider asking yourself and your team:
- What structure should the articles follow?
- Are there templates?
- What are the requirements for supporting links?
- Will images be hosted on a central repository such as Imgur, or uploaded directly into the blog’s database?
There’s no right or wrong answer to any of these questions, and the goal is simply to provide a level of consistency for readers.
8. Draft Your ‘Kick-off’ Post
Now comes the fun part: writing your first post!
This is a great time to tell the world all about you. New readers can discover more about the person or business behind this blog they’ve found, and you can continue to refer back to this introduction post well into the future.
Make the “kick-off” blog post a cornerstone piece of content that you keep visible for years to come, by including:
- Who you are
- Why you’ve started the blog
- What your company does
- Who will be writing the posts
- How often posts will be published
- How people can subscribe
9. Draft The First Five Posts
To avoid your blog fizzing out before it gets going, it’s recommended to have five posts drafted. This will help you build momentum, as well as start to create a backlog of content that you can pull from if you’re behind or struggling to create new posts in the future.
These posts can be stored in an ideas section of your project management tool, giving you a deep well of topics to draw from.
10. What To Do Before Publishing Your Blog Posts
Once the post is written, there are a few steps to take to help it really shine.
First, edit the text. It’s good to have a person read over it—either yourself or someone else. Make sure the content makes sense and there aren’t obvious mistakes. This is also a good time to use Hemingway or Grammarly for anything you may have overlooked.
Second, add an image. If you have the resources then a custom image can be used, otherwise there’s nothing wrong with using free stock images.
Third, add your call to action (CTA). This should be in line with your key metrics, so if your goal is to increase the number of subscribers on your email list, the CTA could be an email signup.
11. What To Do After Publishing Your Blog
As noted earlier, creating content is only part of the task. To get readers and subscribers, you need to get the posts in front of the intended audience.
The first step is to promote the content internally. Share it with your team and ask them to engage with it.
Then, you’ll want to promote the post externally. Use everything from your email newsletter and social media profiles, to relevant online groups, subreddits, and forums.
The recommendation is to spend as much time sharing your content as you spend creating it. The end goal is to get viewers, and that means informing people that your blog exists. As with the checklist for your blog itself, promotion should be consistent and organized, so you can have a separate checklist for promoting your blog posts.
Blogging is an incredibly powerful tool for boosting your visibility online and attracting your target audience to you. To improve the chances of success with the blog, it’s worth spending a little time before you launch to work out some important details. That includes which platform is most suitable, what the key metrics are, and a checklist to ensure ongoing consistency with your publishing schedule.
Build a Blog that Software Developers Will Read
The Technical Content Manager’s Playbook is a collection of resources you can use to manage a high-quality, technical blog:
- A template for creating content briefs
- An Airtable publishing calendar
- A technical blogging style guide