Make Your Blog Successful in 2017 – A Complete Checklist to Improve Everything

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  • Blogging Tips
  • Mar 09, 2017

Do you ever feel as though you are just spinning your wheels with your blog? You invest time, money, blood, sweat and tears, but that doesn’t always translate into a successful blog. The good news is that you can change things at any point. Improving your blog is something you should work on each and every month. Many bloggers choose to review their blogs once a year for issues and make improvements.

However, it can be difficult to know where to even start. This handy checklist will help you go through each aspect of your blog, improving one item at a time. You can also pick and choose and skip around. Complete as many of these tasks as makes sense for your own blog. At a minimum, you’ll improve your blog and your results.

Quick Navigation

Jump to: Basics / Usability / Social Media Integration / Blog Content / Bloggers Networking / MonetizationUser Experience / Blog Design / SEO / Niche

The checklist is broken into categories. You can skip around or focus on one category at a time.

I recommend that you print out this page or perhaps a section at a time and cross off each item as you’ve completed it. Keep the checklist next to your work area and complete one or two items each time you work. Just 15 minutes a day can make a big difference in the experience users have when they visit your blog.

Basics for Beginners

  • Are you on a self-hosted WordPress platform? Many new bloggers start out with a free WordPress.com account. The problem is that you cannot customize these free accounts as you might like and it is very difficult to monetize them. It makes sense to self-host if you want to take your blog to the next level.
  • Check your security settings. WordPress is notorious for attracting hackers. Install a firewall, change your login URL, and double check directory settings. Of course, there are many other things you can do, but these are a good start.
  • Install a backup plugin or schedule regular backups. However, use cautious here as some of these plugins can slow down your system.

Dig deeper: If you are just getting started with blogging, you’ll also want to review our step-by-step blogging newbie guide.

Improving Blog Usability

  • Always have your audience in mind. Come up with a user persona that represents your average site visitor. This will allow you to ensure you are writing to your target audience and matching up with the needs of that personality type.
  • Take a look at navigation. Is everything intuitive? Can site visitors easily find the links to the places on your site you most want them to visit? Don’t forget to add breadcrumbs and links to help them find their way back through the site to the place they started.
  • Opt-in form. Want visitors to sign up for your email list? Make you opt-in form easy to find.
  • Contact info. Place your contact info in an easy-to-find location. Visitors love to interact with the sites they visit. Make it easy for them to ask questions and get in touch with you.

Dig deeper: Learn how to create your first persona using these tips.

Integrating Social Media

  • If you aren’t on social media, you should be. According to Global Web Index, there are approximately 3.773 billion global Internet users and 2.789 billion of those are active social media users.
  • Stay focused on a few platforms. Figure out which social media platforms work best to reach your target audience and focus on those. Although it is okay to be on more than one platform, you can only be so many places at once. Focus on the ones that bring your site the most traffic and the target audience you most desire.
  • Automate your social media posts. You can use tools like HootSuite and a variety of plugins to automate your posts. IFTTT is another good resource. You can set up “recipes” so that when a new post goes live, your social media followers are notified.
  • Make it easy to share. Add the ability for site visitors to share your content on their social media accounts. This can expand your reach beyond your own fans and reach those your fans know and beyond.
  • Link to your social media profiles. Add social media links to your pages so site visitors can follow you easily.
  • Take out advertising to drive additional traffic to your site. Facebook and Twitter offer excellent and highly targeted options that allow you to reach the perfect audience for your blog.

Dig deeper: Learn the 24 golden rules in social media marketing.

Improving and Recycling BlogContent

  • Does your content on your website stand out from the competition? Take the time to study what your top competitors are doing and figure out what is missing that you can cover. Sometimes you might cover the same topic, but will cover it in a new way or add additional information that the competitor didn’t cover.
  • As soon as you budget can afford it, hire a site editor to look over your posts. Typos and poor writing will not only impact your Google rank but will turn off site visitors.
  • Post often. You might not be able to post more than a couple of times a week, and that is fine if that is all you can post, but make sure you are consistent. If your site visitors count on a new post from you on Mondays and Fridays, then schedule ahead and make sure you meet their expectations.
  • Check your headlines. Headlines are the first thing a site visitors sees when landing on your page, the way that search engines list you content and what you’ll using your digital mailing and advertising. You need a strong, catchy headline with smart keyword strategies for maximum impact.
  • Check the size of your text. Look at it through different screen sizes. Is it too big or too small? Is there enough contrast between the background and your text?
  • Write strong opening lines that hook the reader. Ask a question, use an interesting quote, or cite a fact. This will engage the reader and make her want to read more.
  • Accept guest posts, but make sure they are still excellent quality. Add a page to your site calling for guest posts and make your requirements clear. Don’t put aside quality for quantity.
  • Old content can get pushed down to the bottom of the list and forgotten. Link to content in your archives so readers can see it is still important reading material.
  • Add lists of popular posts in different categories. This can be done as a separate post that is a round up posts or placed on your home page. For example, you might write a roundup of “The Best Web Host Company Reviews.” You would then gather the top five or ten posts on your site and share them.
  • Edit old content and make sure it is excellent. Update it and notify your mailing list you’ve updated articles with more current information.
  • Add stories into your old articles to make them more engaging and personal. For example, if you wrote an article about choosing the best web host, interview one of your fellow bloggers who recently went through the process of choosing a new web host and tell his story.
  • Make sure your posts have a call to action to the reader. This encourages the reader to do something when they finish reading your article. It can be subtle or obvious.
  • Take a look at content syndication websites. Be careful here, though, because if your content is repeated in too many places, your own rank for that article/keywords could take a hit. Be choosy.
  • Come up with an editorial calendar for the remainder of the year.

Dig deeper: Learn how to write headlines that work using templates; and read Vishnu Supreet article on how to organize a multi-author website and come up with a good workflow.

Connecting with Other Bloggers

  • Follow and connect with other bloggers on social media, especially those who are influencers in your industry.
  • Visit other blogs and contribute to the discussion. Please don’t just go on other blogs and spam them. No one appreciates that. Would you appreciate that if someone did it to you? Instead, add something worthwhile. Most blogs offer the opportunity for you to share the link to your own blog when you do this.
  • Find excellent content from other bloggers and share on social media. Tag the other blogger so they know you shared their article.
  • Drop an email to a blogger if they wrote an article that had an impact on you. Tell them what you liked about the article. Don’t ask for anything in return. You’re just forming a connection.
  • Reach out to those you have already developed a connection with and find out if they’d like to share a shout out in one another’s newsletters so you can both benefit from one another’s fans.
  • Link to their content from your own blog or from your list of favorite bloggers. They may or may not return the favor. That’s okay. Again, you are just developing relationships. You can always make adjustments later on if things aren’t working for you.

Dig deeper: Also read Christopher’s guide on how to reach out to influencers effectively

Monetization Strategies

  • Each year, you should take a strong look at the ways you are trying to monetize your site. Which ones are bringing a return on your time investment? Which ones are showing no returns at all? Throw out the bottom two or three and replace them with new options or put more of the focus on the ones that are working well for you.
  • Grow your mailing list. The more people on your list, the more people you have to reach out to and let them know about sales and specials. However, you don’t want just any list. You want a very targeted audience who is interested in what you have to offer. Encourage those already visiting your site to sign up for your mailing list by offering a free book or other incentive.
  • Become a consultant. You are likely an expert in your niche, or you wouldn’t be writing about it. Think about how you can turn this into consulting sessions or classes. For example, if your blog is about customer service, can you offer workshops for businesses and train employees in best customer service practices?
  • What products aren’t you offering that you could offer? Are there any services related to your blog that you haven’t yet explored as an income option?

Dig deeper: Make more money blogging using these case studies and niche ideas.

Improving User Experience

Site Load Time Infographics
47% of site visitors expect your page to load in two seconds or less.
  • Does your site meet the expectations of your average site visitor? Go through your site, trying to look at it through a new visitor’s eyes. You may want to enlist the help of family and friends here. Hae them go through your site and report any problem areas back to you.
  • How can you make your site stickier? What would make site visitors want to stay around a bit longer?
  • Is there anything slowing down your website? There isn’t much time to grab the visitor’s attention. Take too long to load and you risk the visitor bouncing away never to return.
  • If you have too many images or your page looks cluttered, cut out some of the clutter and make sure the look is clean and streamlined.
  • Carry through your branding on every page. If you have a particular style for posts, stick to it for all posts. If you have a featured image, for example, you should keep a featured image for other posts.
  • Fix broken links. You can install the Broken Links plugin and see at a glance what links need fixed on your blog. There are few things as frustrating as clicking on a link for more info and being taken to a 404 Not Found page.

 Dig deeper: Here are the 10 essential ways to improve your site load time.

Updating Blog Design

  • Make sure your website offers a responsive design. With more and more people using mobile devices, it is important that your site can adapt to even the smallest of screen sizes.
  • Build a community around your blog to keep users engaged. You can add some gamification features or a forum.
  • Make sure your design is uncluttered and visitors can see everything you have to offer at a glance.
  • Is your design current? Web design changes a bit from year to year. The last thing you want is an extremely outdated look for your site.
  • Do the colors of your design speak to the purpose of your company? Can you use a little color psychology here? For example, if you sell organic coffee beans, you might want to use browns and greens to show nature.

Improving SEO

A note here. SEO changes almost on a weekly basis. Google is constantly changing their algorithms. However, there are some basic tips you can follow that never fully go out of style.

  • Research keywords to see what people most want to read. Then, write the best content you can in a way that answers that keyword. The days of just stuffing a keyword into the text over and over are gone, though. Google does not rank sites well when they abuse keywords.
  • Mix in some longer articles. Google’s algorithms are now looking to see how many of your articles are short and how many are substantive. You can even add some guides to up your ranking.
  • Break up content with <h2> and <h3> tags. This organizes your content and signals to search engines that your content is well organized.
  • Avoid buying links, ever. This is another black hat tactic that the search engines are onto. Instead, let backlinks occur naturally or seek them out from well respected websites only.

 Dig deeper: Check out Jerry’s SEO 101 guide.

Choose Your Niche

This topic is so important, that it isn’t going on the checklist, but is a step you should not skip nevertheless. In a case study on Moz, they take a look at a couple of blogs to show you how to write in a specific niche. One of the things that the author of this article Dan Shure, mentions is that the competition is high, but you can still succeed.

“You’ve got to create the right mix of elements and put in the time, dedication, passion, and effort,” he said.

He takes a close look at a website called Noah’s Dad and notes that while this blog is another daddy blog, it has a unique focus. Rick Smith, aka Noah’s dad, documents his journey with his Down’s Syndrome son. He has created a community of followers out of other parents with Down’s Syndrome children or family members.

Some of the things that make Rick’s blog a success in this very specific niche include:

  • He has a very specific and narrow topic as well as a purpose for writing about that topic.
  • Searches for companies and blogs that tie into his niche in some way and mention them.
  • Links to news articles and provable statistics. This makes his work more credible and quotable.
  • Posts on a regular schedule.
  • Engages in social media.
  • Uses unique images that offer a story.
  • Adds video.

Think about how you can implement these things in your own blog to improve it even more. By using the checklist above and focusing on how you can improve in your very specific topic area, your blog will stand out from the millions of other blogs online.

Article by Lori Soard

Lori Soard has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 1996. She has a bachelor's in English Education and a PhD in Journalism. Her articles have appeared in newspapers, magazines, online and she's had several books published. Since 1997, she has worked as a web designer and promoter for authors and small businesses. She even worked for a short time ranking websites for a popular search engine and studying in-depth SEO tactics for a number of clients. She enjoys hearing from her readers.

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