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7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Hit Publish

By October 23, 2013June 29th, 2015Writing & Content Marketing
7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Hit Publish

When you’re ready to publish your latest stroke of brilliance, it’s common to have an itchy trigger finger. Never before has the wit and wisdom flowed so effortlessly and elegantly from your brain to the screen.

But will your audience feel the same way?

Crafting a great blog post can be a long process of research, concept development, writing and revising. Perhaps the most important part of that process is the time spent picking apart the post from the perspective of your target audience – especially if you expect to realize any business benefits from your blog.

Hitting “publish” before going through this stage is like firing off an angry email before you calm down, count to 10, and ask yourself if hitting “send” is really a wise move.

Each blog post contributes to defining your values, expertise and trustworthiness. Before you release the hounds and create a permanent online record that helps to shape how people perceive you and your business, there are certain basic questions you should ask yourself.

1. Is My Headline Strong Enough To Inspire People To Keep Reading?

According to Copyblogger, about 80 percent of people read the headline, but only 20 percent read anything beyond the headline.

It doesn’t matter if your blog headline is hilarious, controversial, disturbing, hard-hitting or simple and straightforward. It needs to strike a chord with your target audience, so look at it from their perspective.

Many headlines have fallen flat because they drew praise from the CEO but drew yawns from readers.

If your audience doesn’t keep reading, the headline is a failure.

2. Does My Content Deliver On My Headline’s Promise?

Misleading readers to get them to click sacrifices trust and credibility for a short-term traffic spike. Dressing up a sales pitch as helpful advice is a classic bait-and-switch approach and assumes all readers are too dense to see through your deception.

Yes, your headline got people to keep reading, but when your headline says one thing and your blog content says something else, that’s shady. It’s not a stretch to call it flat out lying.

And people aren’t exactly lining up to do business with liars.

3. What Value Am I Offering To My Readers?

People will read your blog because they expect to get something out of it. Some people want to learn something new, while others just hope for a good laugh. Both have value, depending on your company and your audience.

Whether the value you provide comes in the form of a helpful tip, new research findings or funny yet relevant observations, readers should feel like they’re somehow better off after reading your content.

Does your content help to solve a problem, fill a need or make their lives better? Or is your content more focused on promoting your own products and boosting your search ranking?

Great content can do both, but you create value for your business by first creating value for your audience.

4. Does My Content Help Or Sell?

Continuing on the theme from the previous question, most content publishers still insist on using their blog as an advertising platform for their almighty products. They probably use a flip phone and listen to music on a Walkman, too.

Get over yourself already. Nobody cares.

Yes, you can soft sell your product by introducing it as a solution to a real problem. But an overt sales pitch shows you’re more interested in shameless self-promotion than helping the people who are taking time out of their busy schedules to read your stupid blog.

Nobody cares about your business, your product or your blog. They only care about what you can do for them. Stop trying to sell your product and focus on helping people.

5. Am I Bringing Something New To The Table?

It would be great if you could introduce a completely new concept, new information or a new idea in every blog post. But the odds of doing that are pretty slim.

What you can do on a regular basis is offer a fresh perspective or a different take, or tackle a topic from a different angle. People quickly become bored with blog content that rehashes the same stuff they heard from someone else.

This underscores the importance of establishing your own voice – a memorable, identifiable, authentic voice that conveys your attitude and personality. This gives your blog content built-in freshness.

As a content publisher, there’s no bigger compliment to me than when someone reads something and says, “That sounds like something Scott would say.”

6. Does My Content Speak The Language Of My Target Audience?

It’s easy for experts in a particular field to forget that their readers don’t share their expertise. They assume readers will understand certain terms and concepts that are second nature to the experts.

It’s better to err on the side of caution and offer a simple explanation than assume readers will understand what you’re talking about. Take nothing for granted. If more than a simple explanation is required, maybe that term or concept deserves its own blog post.

You can use relatable, conversational language in short sentences and still sound intelligent. You can talk about topics in your industry without using industry jargon.

When you make a complex subject understandable and relevant to your target audience, you’re one monumental step closer to earning their business.

7. Have I Told Readers What I Want Them To Do Next?

Do you want people to share your blog post, leave a comment, download an e-book, register for a conference, sign up to receive your blog, or hire you?

Again, take nothing for granted. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Tell people what you want them to do and how you want them to do it with a clear call-to-action. Tell them how they’ll benefit by acting and point them in the right direction.

What other questions do you ask yourself – or wish other bloggers asked themselves – before publishing a new blog post?

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Ros Holmes says:

    I wish I could have a daily text alert to remind me of these 7 great points! Thank you.

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Thanks, Ros! I still need to remind myself of some of these points and I wrote the post 🙂 Someday, it will be second nature (I hope).

  • Great points, Scott!

    Each and every point is important – ignoring even one of them can cost us a lot of time and effort.

    #5 – I do agree with you about offering a different perspective. So many bloggers write about bringing something new to the table – writing new ideas. But, in our industry (blogging/marketing and many other industries), the chances are very low. All we can do (consistently) is offer a different take on the same subject.

    Thanks for reminding me these points, Scott. I am in the process of creating my new blog. I have learned a lot through my previous blogs, but I did forget some information through the long vacation I took. So, a reminder was necessary.

    Thanks again! Hope you are having a good week!

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Thanks, Jeevan – There’s still tremendous value in offering a fresh perspective on an established but still important topic. Another way to differentiate ourselves is to present new research and offer our own interpretation of the results. Good luck with the new blog!

  • Adrienne says:

    Hey Scott,

    I’m still not that great with headlines but my posts are being read and comments continue to flow in so I obviously must be doing something right. I do get new visitors, a little more then my regular readers and my stats show that they’re staying on my page for a good while.

    There is always room for improvement and boy am I still a work in progress when it comes to this area. Maybe I’ll get there and maybe I won’t but for the most part I just keep trucking along and doing my best to deliver the best content I know how to my readers.

    I don’t always come up with “new” ways of doing things but possibly easier ways of doing things. I also like to share new things I run across and it’s really great when the majority of my commenter haven’t heard about these either. That’s my way of bringing something new to the table.

    Thanks for these insights and I’m going to keep moving forward my friend. Wish me luck.


    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Adrienne, I think you’ve built enough credibility by consistently posting great stuff that you could say the sky is brown and people will read it anyway! But I agree that we can always improve. I’m always looking back at my posts and thinking of ways that I could have reworded my headlines or reorganized my thoughts. I guess we just have to file those thoughts away and apply them to the next post. Good luck!

  • There are good reasons why one should resist instant publishing. Once you hit the publish button the content is aired. It’s not good to modify the published content every now and then because each time you make a modification the search engines are pinged and multiple modification can harm your reputation.

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      I couldn’t imagine publishing or sending any kind of content without giving it a thorough once-over. Great tip about modifying published content and its impact on search – I wasn’t aware of that. Thanks – Scott

  • Giving my content the once over is something I am improving at 😉 Good tips Scott!


    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Hi Ryan – I think that’s something that all of us should never stop improving upon. Glad you appreciate the tips!

  • Lisa Buben says:

    Excellent points as I’m about to hit that button. Made me stop and think again about the headline. (That’s my weakness and for telling my readers what to do except answer a question at the end….) And what else I can offer the readers is one I think about more often too. Thanks for sharing these tips with us Scott. Great to keep as a checklist before publishing our posts 🙂

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Thanks, Lisa – You pretty much summed up the point of the post in three words. Stop and think. Before we hit “publish,” what can we do to make our content more likely to be liked, shared and remembered?

  • Great post Scott~

    I am with you on the over the top sells promotions that in my opinion you see too often. I am a Sales & Marketing expert and one of the first things I say to my clients and students, Don’t Sell bond.Talk talk about only you ask questions about them. No one cares what you did yesterday unless it’s your boyfriend. It always has to be about your client. That never changes.

    Another thing you said I don’t hear many people saying and doing is= Do something new!! To me every time I do something I coming from that place. Because even if what you’re doing isn’t new, how you do or present it can always be new and innovative. That really is key to setting yourself apart from most everyone else.

    Most people are copying people and some of them do it well. But I rarely see anyone coming up with their own ideas for products blog posts workshops. You can go to any coaching website and 99% all sound like one person wrote their website. It’s scary.

    Again everything you said was something that should be thought about on every article. Great stuff.

    • Scott_McKelvey says:

      Thanks, Dawn – As for your point about being new, I think the word I should have used is “fresh.” The idea doesn’t have to be new, but the approach, the angle or the perspective needs to be fresh. Otherwise, like you said, you’re rehashing what someone else said!