Assuming you are already creating valuable content, making a few basic optimizations can help it earn significantly more traffic and engagement.
Yet it’s not uncommon for teams to get busy and forget to make these optimizations.
To avoid this problem, we created content marketing checklists for the four major content formats: blog posts, podcasts, social media, and video.
You can give these content checklists to your team members to run through before hitting “publish” so that essential optimizations are never overlooked.
Prerequisites For Effectively Using Content Marketing Checklists
Before jumping into the content marketing checklists for each platform, it’s important to note that they are designed to help you optimize the content for the intended platform.
Therefore, these checklists will only work if you are already producing great content that people love.
We have separate resources on generating interesting content ideas and creating a strategy to consistently produce high quality content, but there are three simple questions you can use as a filter to identify if your content is high-quality:
- Is this content relevant to our audience? If the content is irrelevant to your audience’s interest, they won’t engage with it, and it won’t perform well.
- Do we provide insights from our personal experience solving this problem? Google’s recent helpful content update emphasizes the importance of personal experience and expertise because people want to learn from other people that actually have a proven solution.
- Does this piece of content provide a unique perspective or solution to the problem? If you already provided your experience solving a particular problem, there’s a good chance that you also checked this box. However, it’s still worthwhile to consider this question as you may be able to add more detailed insights from your personal experience (such as failures and anecdotal stories) or simply refine your perspective to provide a more unique and/or helpful perspective to users.
Assuming you already have a consistent content calendar and are producing the type of content that users love, here are content marketing checklists you can use to maximize engagement for each piece of content you create.
For the first time, The Copyblogger methodology is now available to a select few clients.
We know it works. We’ve been doing it since 2006.
Content Marketing Checklist For Blog Posts
If you’re publishing blog content, following a few SEO (search engine optimization) best practices can help you significantly increase organic traffic and visibility.
Identify A Keyword That Fits The Pain Point
It’s always best to first identify pain points your audience faces and then create content that addresses those pain points rather than starting with keyword research and then creating content that matches the best high volume/low difficulty keywords.
However, it is a good idea to find the most common phrase used to search that pain point to maximize organic traffic to your blog post.
A simple trick to finding a keyword that matches the pain point of the blog post is to enable the Ahrefs Google Chrome extension and then Google the pain point. Then, click on the top ranking posts for the generic pain point you typed in and see what long-tail keyword variations those blog posts rank for.
Then, choose the variation that best matches the pain point of your blog post and has the best low difficulty/high search volume combination.
Optimize Your Headline, Meta Description, And URL
Your headline and meta description are the only preview that your visitors have of your article, so spend some time optimizing them.
First, title tags should be shorter than 60 characters, and meta descriptions should be shorter than about 160 characters.
Within those constraints, here are a few additional optimization tips:
- Include the main keyword in the title to help search engines and users understand what it’s about.
- Entice clicks by providing a preview of the value of the post. For example, if you include examples, a template, or a checklist, include that in the title when possible.
Finally, your URL should be legible to a user and contain the basic keyword. For example, the keyword this blog post targets is “content marketing checklist,” so this is the URL:
Images can slow down your website, which can cause your bounce rate to skyrocket, sending a negative engagement signal to search engines.
To prevent this, use an image compression plugin like Smush and ask your developers to incorporate lazy loading so that only the images on the part of the page the user is currently viewing load.
In addition, Google Images is a search engine, so optimize your images by including Alt text to generate more traffic.
The alt text should simply describe what the image is so that both users and search engines can understand what the image is about.
Google also provides the following guidelines for Google Image optimization:
- Use HTML image elements to embed images. Use an image sitemap and responsive images.
- Optimize the image landing pages by checking your page title and description. Be sure to add structured data and use descriptive filenames, titles, and alt text.
- Opt out of Google Images inline linking.
- Optimize for SafeSearch.
Optimize The User Experience
One of the easiest ways to improve user engagement is to make it easy for users to read your content.
Here are a few specific things you can do to improve the readability of your blog post:
- Keep paragraphs shorter than four or five sentences.
- Break up the text with bullet points, lists, and highlight/bold critical sentences.
- Use a legible font and color that makes it easy to read from at least three feet away.
- Use screenshots, images, and infographics to convey concepts where it makes sense to do so.
For example, this blog post is easy to quickly skim and extract the main concepts. As a result, people are more likely to continue scrolling, resulting in excellent user engagement signals:
In contrast, this blog post is intimidating and difficult to read, which will likely lead to poor user engagement signals:
Add Internal Links
Internal links are helpful not only for search engines to find and crawl your content, but also for users who want to know more about a particular concept.
For example, we mentioned content ideas and content strategy at the beginning of this article, but rather than explaining how to come up with great content ideas and discussing what a content marketing strategy entails within this single blog post, we simply internally link to our other blog post on those specific topics.
Ideally, you want a content marketing strategy that links to and from other related topics.
For example, we have a guide on freelance writing that covers the general topics involved in freelance writing, and then we link out to blog posts on more specific topics within freelance writing. We also link back from the specific topics on freelance writing to the general guide on freelance writing:
Incorporate Relevant Keywords
Search engines are becoming highly sophisticated at understanding what a piece of content is about, but you can still help them out by including semantic keywords (other keywords commonly associated with the main keyword).
Include A Relevant Call To Action (CTA)
Finally, your traffic won’t be helpful if you can’t retain that visitor and turn them into a customer.
Therefore, you need them to take the next step in the buyer journey. This may be signing up for your email marketing list or scheduling a demo.
A general rule of thumb is to make a small ask, like signing up for your email list, if it’s a top of the funnel blog post educating a beginner audience. If the blog post targets a solution aware audience (readers actively looking to purchase a product), you can ask them to either sign up for a demo or trial of your product.
Content Marketing Checklist For Podcasts
Once you’ve created an engaging podcast episode, here are a few additional optimizations you can make to help it achieve more visibility.
Leverage Promotion Techniques
Total subscribers and subscriber growth rate are among the most important ranking factors for podcast platform algorithms like Spotify and Apple podcasts.
So the more people you can get to subscribe to your podcast, the better it will rank.
Therefore, promote your podcast to your email list and ask readers to subscribe.
You can also run ads to your most popular episodes or post a preview of the episode on social media:
Many podcasters also collaborate with other influencers and then ask them to cross promote it.
This is arguably the most effective content promotion technique as it helps you get in front of a brand new audience.
Optimize The Title For Clicks
The number of plays an episode receives is a critical ranking factor that search algorithms consider, so creating an appealing title can help you earn new listeners and re-engage your existing subscribers.
You can even ask ChatGPT to help you create an appealing title to earn clicks. Just download the podcast script, feed it to ChatGPT and then use a prompt like this:
“Below is a transcript of a podcast episode that is part of a show about digital marketing. Analyze the transcript and then create 10 intriguing titles that describe what the episode covers show and entices people to click on it and listen. The target audience is (your target audience) who want to (their dream).”
Here are just a few examples of some appealing podcast titles:
If your podcast discusses a topic you’re trying to rank for (e.g., “travel tips for Japan”) include that keyword in the title, but enticing existing readers to click is arguably the most important as episodes that get more plays will help boost your overall show’s authority.
You can also use one of our headline formulas if you’re really stuck.
Include Show Notes And A Detailed Description
Show notes can help encourage users to listen to your episode, and it also improves SEO as the description helps algorithms better understand what your episode is about.
If you’re targeting a specific keyword, include it in the description a few times.
You can also include timestamps to give users a preview of what you’ll discuss, which can also help improve engagement:
Ask For Ratings And Reviews During The Episode
Ratings and reviews are also critical ranking factors, so inside each episode, ask users to leave a rating and review. You can explain how it helps you rise in the algorithm, and if you want to take it to the next level, make a joke out of it.
For example, the hosts of the business podcast My First Million have an insider joke about the “Gentleman’s Agreement.” Essentially, they say their content isn’t free – you must pay for it by subscribing. You can have a similar joke encouraging people to rate and review it.
Another incentive is to read out people’s reviews on the podcast. This is something that Noah Kagan does on his podcast, and it has helped him steadily grow over time.
Encourage Engagement On The Platform During The Episode
Platforms view engagement with the podcast episode, like using the platform’s native sharing features, as a positive user engagement signal.
So during the episode, ask your users to share the episode with their friends and explain how it helps you rise in the algorithm.
You can use the same techniques we discussed above, like creating an inside joke, to encourage shares.
Alternatively, you can tell users who they should share the episode with – like a boss or colleague – and what they should say when they share it. Giving people explicit directions can significantly increase engagement.
Invest In Quality Cover Art
While cover art isn’t a direct ranking factor, people are less likely to click on your episode if you don’t have any cover art or the cover art is unappealing.
Content Marketing Checklist For Social Media Content
While each social media platform has a slightly different algorithm, they all have the same end goal – encourage people to stay on their platform for as long as possible.
So here is a checklist you can use to maximize engagement on any social media platform.
Craft A Compelling Hook
When users pause over your content or interact with it, social media platforms view that as a positive signal and therefore give it more reach.
That means you must capture the scrollers’ attention in the first milliseconds.
You can do this by beginning your content with a teaser or a bold/contrarian take that is unique from the popular opinion. You can also write your post or copy the transcript of your video and then pop it into ChatGPT and ask it to craft a hook for you.
Include Relevant Hashtags
Add about 3-5 hashtags related to the post’s topic to get more visibility to your posts.
You can use a hashtag finder like TagsFinder to help you identify popular hashtags to add to your post.
Test And Optimize Your Publishing Times
You’ll find that your posts tend to perform better at certain times of the day than others, so use a social scheduling tool, like Hootsuite, that allows you to optimize your posting schedule.
You can also manually test posting at different times of day and track which posts earn the highest engagement.
Tag And Involve Relevant Influencers
The more people who share and engage with your content, the better, so involve influencers in the content creation process whenever possible. Even if you don’t do a full collaboration, you can mention ideas you saw other influencers discuss and then credit the influencer in the post.
Often, the influencer will reshare content that mentions their philosophies or ideas, which can help your content earn more reach.
Engage With Your Audience
Perhaps the easiest way to double your engagement is to simply respond to comments on your post. Instead of just answering questions from your followers, provide a thoughtful response and then ask them a question too. This keeps the conversation going, which is a positive signal to social media algorithms and helps you build a stronger relationship with your followers.
For the first time, The Copyblogger methodology is now available to a select few clients.
We know it works. We’ve been doing it since 2006.
Content Marketing Checklist For Video Content
Here are some critical checkpoints to ensure your video content is well optimized for clicks, engagement, and extending watch time.
Optimize Your Thumbnails For Clicks
Clicks are an essential aspect of the YouTube algorithm, and improving your thumbnails is one the most impactful actions you can take to improve your click through rate.
You can either hire someone on Upwork or Fiverr to create enticing thumbnails for you, or use a tool like Canva to create one yourself.
Some basic tips to create appealing thumbnails include:
- Use bright and contrasting colors
- Use the same basic format/style for all of your video thumbnails so that people recognize your brand
- Include your personal face in the thumbnail
- Convey emotion and intrigue
You can also A/B test different thumbnails even after the video goes live.
Optimize Your Title For Clicks
Along with your thumbnail, your title should also be optimized to encourage clicks. Intriguing and shocking titles (even clickbait-style headlines) tend to perform well, and an easy way to generate ideas is to simply look at the headlines of your competitors’ top performing videos.
If your video covers a particular topic, include the main keyword in the title to help the YouTube algorithm understand what it’s about so that it shows up in the search results.
You can use a tool like Ahrefs and set it to “YouTube” to identify trending YouTube keywords.
Include In-Video CTAs
Throughout the video, verbally ask viewers to like the video and subscribe. You can make a joke out of it and also offer subscriber-only content.
The key to a compelling CTA is to show the viewer what value they’ll receive by taking action.
For example, if you offer live Q&As, be sure to mention that when you ask them to subscribe. You can also include a CTA to subscribe in the meta description and even have a visual cue in the video pointing to where the subscribe button is located.
Hook Viewers In The First Five Seconds
If you can hook the user in the first few seconds, you have a much better chance of retaining them for the rest of the video, and video retention is key to ranking higher in the YouTube algorithm.
A few ideas to hook your viewers include:
- Immediately start your video without any intro so that the meat of the content pulls them in instantly.
- Providing a teaser snippet of the juiciest part of your video.
- Tell them in the intro a sneak preview of various topics you’ll cover in the video.
There are plenty of other ways to grab the viewer’s attention, but the best way to lose the viewer’s attention is to create a long-winded intro that doesn’t create any anticipation.
Respond To Comments
The YouTube algorithm also looks at engagement metrics, so respond to as many comments as possible. This also lets you get to know your viewers on a deeper level, and you’ll be able to create better relationships with them over time.
Interlink Relevant Videos
Once someone is watching your video, keep them engaged with your channel to earn more views for your other videos and eventually turn them into a subscriber. An easy way to accomplish this is to interlink other relevant videos.
You can do this throughout the video, but most importantly, add links to other relevant videos at the end.
Include A Description And Provide Timestamps With Hooks
The description helps your viewers and algorithms better understand what your video is about and including intriguing timestamps can encourage people to watch the video.
Here’s an example of a description with excellent timestamps:
Include Teasers For Retention
YouTube’s algorithm also looks at the total time viewers spend watching your video, so to encourage people to continue watching, give them a preview of what they’ll learn if they stick around to the end of the video.
Next Steps To Improve Your Content Marketing
These content marketing checklists will help you better optimize each piece of content, but a successful content marketing strategy requires much more than simply checking off a few boxes on a checklist.
If you want more help improving your content marketing skills, you can join the Copyblogger Academy. Inside, you’ll have access to one on one coaching with the content marketers behind the Copyblogger brand, a network of peers improving their content marketing skills, and full video courses on copywriting, content marketing, and other topics that will sharpen your skills as a marketer.
Alternatively, if you want a done for you content marketing solution, consider talking to the pros behind the Digital Commerce Partners.
They can build a content strategy tailored to your business’s needs and execute it for you so that you can focus on running your business. Reach out to them now to learn more about how you can collaborate with them.