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?