By Heidi Cohen published August 14, 2012

Content Marketing Checklist: 13 Things You Must Do Before You Publish Content

imagesWhat content creator hasn’t hit “submit” without taking that extra couple of minutes to check over what is about to publish? While it’s understandable (particularly when you are under the gun with a looming deadline), luck often dictates that the one time you don’t stop to give your piece the once-over will be the time it contains a glaring error.

To make sure your published content is always at its error-free best, keep this 13-point checklist on hand at all times. (And for tips on how to promote your content after you publish, check out Brody Dorland’s 12 Things to Do After You Write Your Blog Post.)

1. Align your content with specific sub-goals.
While your marketing efforts should all support your overall business objectives, each piece of content should meet specific sub-goals that flow into higher-level achievements. For example, if your business goal is to increase sales, your content marketing goal would be to create content to show how to style clothes or, more specifically, create a Pin board and a Tumblr to show how to combine women’s summer separates. Target’s Tumblr is a great example.

2. Target specific elements of your audience.
Each article or piece of content doesn’t need to apply to your entire market. But it does need to speak to a relevant segment of that audience, as described in your marketing persona and social media persona, depending on where your content will be distributed.

3. Optimize for one or two keyword search phrases.
Each article should be focused on a couple of keywords from your overall list to support its findability.

4. Link to additional content, both on and off of your site.
To further support your SEO goals, include links to other content you’ve created, such as product information (where applicable), as well as to relevant content and/or resources on third-party sites. Don’t forget to associate these links with specific keywords within your content.

5. Ensure your headline is as magnetic as possible.
Killer headlines do the heavy lifting for content, since many potential readers decide whether or not to read your content based on how well your headline draws them in from your site, newsletters, or social media. Where possible, incorporate one of your target keywords near the beginning of the title, since this will help your optimization efforts.

6. Integrate corporate branding.
Every piece of content you produce is an opportunity to extend the reach of your organization’s brand and reinforce your professional expertise. This will help your 360-degree brand shine through the various elements of your content, particularly in social media. In content marketing and social media, your brand is no longer just a logo. It’s how your brand looks, talks, and acts. A great example of this is Ford’s Facebook timeline photograph.

7. Communicate in a voice that’s consistent with your other content.
In today’s social media world, your content must speak in a human voice to a human audience. The objective is for your content to have a consistent voice regardless of who’s doing the writing.

8. Include an image (preferably a photograph).
Visual content does a great job of helping your content grab readers. If possible, use images that include human faces to maximize the impact, and avoid using bland stock photography. And don’t forget to check that the images you choose are copyright-cleared for commercial use. (Note: Flickr allows you to sort on this dimension.)

9. Format content to facilitate readability.
Make content easy to read and scan so your target audience can consume it on the go via any device (think smartphones or other devices, such as tablets). This means using bullet points and bolding to help guide the reader. Also, keep your content left-aligned.

10. Skip the foul language.
No one wants to listen to a potty mouth. So unless your brand identity includes using adult language (such as Redhead Writing), eliminate the profanity. Instead craft content that grabs readers’ attention. If you can’t find the right words, consider another form of content, like photographs.

11. Review your copy for grammatical and spelling mistakes.
While many word processors have spell checkers, they don’t catch everything — such as when you made the wrong choice of whether to use “they’re,” “there” or “their.” To this end, it’s useful to have a copy editor to check your content and ensure that it’s consistent with grammar and style rules for whatever content outlet you are using.

12. Incorporate a call to action.
Each piece of content should encourage readers to take a specific action — such as visiting your site, subscribing to your newsletter, etc. Assess whether your article explicitly directs consumers to take the next step.

13. Engage readers.
This is particularly important when you want to encourage readers to comment on your content. To expand the conversation, include a question for readers to address and social sharing buttons to make it easy for them to do so. Remember, the goal isn’t to stump your readers but rather to get others involved in your content-related conversation — even if only a small percentage of your audience is likely to respond.

When it comes to content creation in today’s connected social media world, writing requires more than great, compelling content. It needs that extra attention to details.

What other tips would you recommend to other content creators to increase the effectiveness of their writing process and why?

BTW, if you haven’t signed up for Content Marketing World yet, please consider joining me at my Content Marketing 101 Workshop, which will help you get your 2013 content marketing plans on track.

Author: Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen is an actionable marketing expert. As president of Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi works with online media companies and e-tailers to increase profitability with innovative marketing programs based on solid analytics. During the course of 20 years, Heidi has obtained deep experience in direct and digital marketing across a broad array of products including soft goods, financial services, entertainment, media entities and crafts-oriented goods. Heidi shares her actionable marketing insights on her blog. Find Heidi Cohen online at Twitter @heidicohen, LinkedIn and Facebook.

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  • http://www.divvyhq.com/ Brody Dorland

    Awesome checklist Heidi! And thanks for mentioning mine! Between those two lists, folks should get great results from their blogs…

    • HeidiCohen

      Brody–Thanks for the inspiration. Research has shown that the use of checklists helps improve strong outcomes. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

      • http://www.divvyhq.com/ Brody Dorland

        Just an idea…the infographic version of our checklist has been a great piece for us (http://ow.ly/cXAVz). Something to consider!

  • http://essaybase.co.uk/ essaybase.co.uk

    Thank you for your advice! Now my blog is just better.

    • HeidiCohen

      Great to hear! My goal is to help readers with their content creation. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Paul Keers

    Coming from an editorial, rather than a marketing, background, there are two things I would immediately suggest checking before publishing.

    The first is the facts. All those years of meticulous fact-checking and sub-editing in print journalism led to content which was respected as authoritative. If contemporary content wishes to be regarded with the same respect, then it must aspire to the same standards.

    The second is the law on defamation, libel and slander. Just because something is online does not mean it is free from those constraints. Indeed, producing content on behalf of brands makes this even more important, because brands are rightly concerned about scandals and, ultimately, legal cases involving their good name.

    I’m sure the 13 points you suggest are important – but these two are critical.

    • HeidiCohen

      Paul–Thank you for highlighting these facts. Having worked for high profile media entities like The Economist, I totally agree with you. It’s critical to check your facts and to not defame, libel or slander anyone. Additionally, content creators shouldn’t plagiarize other people’s work, a critical element that’s not on either my list or yours. In my opinion, these elements are part of the editing process in point 11. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • Carmelo

    It all depends on your goals and your M.O. but in the blogging world writing with enthusiasm, from the heart and especially with a certain vulnerability seems to garner much more of a reaction. Of course honesty is huge, always, but especially if you’re blogging repeatedly. It’s the best way to “keep your voice” and stay consistent so the audience can trust you.

    Great list and I’m sure that the legal things Mr. Keers brought out are vital as well.

    • HeidiCohen

      Carmelo–
      I agree that having a strong, consistent voice is an important element of creating any form of content including a blog. Showing your vulnerabilities can help make you more real to your audience. This should be incorporated into your writing as you’re creating, not before you publish it.
      Happy marketing,
      Heidi Cohen

  • RizzoMB

    Very Simple well stated steps.

  • http://twitter.com/i_praveensharma Praveen Sharma

    Great list. And the best one according to me is the last one- Engaging Users. Making your users feel that what you have written is for them and they are part of your writing gives an additional advantage to your post. Good one Heidi :)

  • http://www.johnmihalik.com John Mihalik

    Awesome list Heidi! A really comprehensive checklist. Thanks so much!

  • http://semanticantics.com/ Rob Skidmore

    Awesome checklist and great advice. I know I could have avoided some blunders if I followed these steps.

    I would also add to check all of your links and make sure that they aren’t headed to 404’s. :-)
    e.g. Redhead Writing. Unless that was your intention. It is a simple thing and maybe not a big deal but it does make things easier for readers.

    • http://semanticantics.com/ Rob Skidmore

      Fixed :-)

  • http://www.pixelsandclicks.net/ Bhaskar Sarma

    Another critical thing is to check for links and whether they are broken or not. Some content platforms have their own quirks in this regard, and if you are not careful links, especially outbound can end up in a Page Not Found page.

    • Heidi Cohen

      Great addition to the list! Thank you. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

  • http://essay-writing-service.co.uk/ essays uk

    Hm.
    interesting, but i don`t think that it wiil be very useful for me.

  • http://twitter.com/postcardologys postcardology’s

    Excellent tips. They are all very helpful. Anyway, creating content doesn’t end with clicking submit or publish. There are also some things you need to consider right AFTER publishing your content: http://blog.printplace.com/blogging-tips-6-things-to-do-after-you-publish/

  • Antonella

    Thanks for the tips!