Every blog post gets one of three reactions from the reader:
- “That post was magnificent! I wouldn’t change a thing!”
- “Meh. That post could have been better.”
- “That post was dreadful. I wish I could get that 10 minutes of my life back!”
But none of these reactions are helpful to the content marketer. If the post isn’t fantastic, what needs to be improved to take that blog post from “Meh” to magnificent?
The answer to that question is in the Blog Post Audit:
NOTE: You’ll get a downloadable version of the Blog Post Audit and access to an “explainer video” once we’re done explaining how to use it. 🙂
The Blog Post Audit worksheet has five components (labeled above):
1. Grading Elements – Evaluating elements like the headline, introduction, and media in the post.
2. Grading Criteria – Grade these elements based on specific criteria.
3. Element Scores – Score each element separately on a scale from Exceptional to Unsatisfactory.
4. Final Score – Receive an overall score out of 100.
5. Action Items – Take action to improve the elements that don’t receive a perfect score.
When you’re reading or editing a post, it’s
difficult impossible to put your finger on the SPECIFIC reasons a blog post is falling short of fabulous.
Is the headline compelling? Is the SEO non-existent? Are the images fuzzy?
It’s even more difficult to communicate what needs to be improved to a writer or content team. That is, if you don’t have a process. The Blog Post Audit tool gives you that process.
The Components of the Blog Post Audit
This article contains a process for conducting a Blog Post Audit. You’ll learn the 10 elements to score on every blog post and get access to our Blog Post Audit tool.
There are 10 elements to a blog post audit:
Who Should Use This Blog Post Audit?
In this post, you’ll learn to evaluate and improve each of these elements. Then, you’ll get access to our Blog Post Audit spreadsheet.
To show you this audit live in the wild, I’ve added blog post critiques of big brands (and some little ones) you can learn plenty from—look for them after the “explainer video.”
But first, let’s look at each blog post element in a bit more detail…
Here’s how to put this audit to work:
- Content Marketers – Audit and improve your own blog posts.
- Business Owners and Managers – Audit the blog posts of your employees to improve your blog marketing.
- Agency Owners and Freelancers – Audit the blog posts of your clients so you can help them improve their content.
OK, let’s dive into the 10 elements of the audit.
Blog Post Audit Element 1: Headline
Elements of an exceptional headline:
- A clear, “tightly-written” promise is made using as many words as necessary.
- The promise made in the headline is delivered upon in the body of the post.
- The headline is compelling without being misleading or “hypey.”
An exceptional example of a blog post headline:
This headline from Buffer App follows a proven formula:
How to Get [DESIRED END RESULT] in [DESIRABLE AMOUNT OF TIME]
In fact, most effective headlines follow a formula.
Watch out for headlines that are merely statements or incomplete phrases.
Take a look at these three blog headlines found on a fitness and nutrition website…
- Chocolate for Breakfast
- Benefits of Meditation
- Win The War Against Childhood Obesity
Notice how these are simply statements of (presumably) fact and could be dramatically improved. Often, a simple modification can make the headline a 100 times more impactful…
- Chocolate for Breakfast?
- 7 Benefits of Meditation
- How to Win The War Against Childhood Obesity
These headlines aren’t perfect but they’re infinitely more effective than their originals.
Often there is a better headline hiding in the opening or closing of the article. Look for the benefit statement included in the opening and you’ll likely find the beginnings of a headline.
Take a look at the opening to this article about shin splints…
This opening provides multiple avenues to tease out a decent headline.
- How to Treat the Most Frustrating Runner’s Injury
- Are You Making This Common Shin Splint Treatment Mistake?
- 5 Common Training Mistakes That Cause Shin Splints
- 3 Training Regiment Changes That Cure Shin Splints
All of these headlines are hiding in the introduction to this article.
Blog Post Audit Element 2: Introduction
Elements of an exceptional blog post introduction:
- Copy is extremely easy to consume and develops a rhythm for the post.
- Copy draws the reader in and compels them to read the entire article.
An exceptional blog post introduction:
Notice how quickly this Bonobos article gets the reader to the benefit. It’s instantaneous.
Often the weakest part of an article is the introduction. Sometimes an article will go from good to great just by chopping off the first five paragraphs and getting the reader to the point quickly.
Here’s a trick: Use a very punchy, curiosity building sentence to open the post. This sentence should be short (rarely longer than eight words).
The idea here is to open with a simple sentence that is easy to read and that builds curiosity. This first sentence is intended to create a “greased chute” (a term coined by copywriter, Joe Sugarman) that starts the reader “sliding” down the page.
Here are a few examples of this type of opening line:
- You’ve finally found it.
- Here’s the big misconception…
- Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
Once you get someone started down the “chute” it’s much easier to keep them moving. The difficult part is getting them started.
Blog Post Audit Element 3: Consumption
Elements of exceptionally consumable blog content:
- Copy is formatted in a way that makes the article easy to consume.
- Transitions between ideas and subheadlines are smooth.
Exceptionally consumable blog content:
Notice how Freshbooks breaks up the copy using bullets, bolding, and hard returns.
- Bulleted lists
- Numbered lists
…to break up the text.
Secondly, look for transitions between ideas and other areas where the reader could slow down or stop reading. The transition points should be smoothed out as much as possible to avoid losing readers.
Remember, the blog content cannot do its job if it isn’t consumable.
Blog Post Audit Element 4: Goal
Elements of exceptional use of goals in a blog post:
- A clear call-to-action (CTA) is made that is relevant to the subject matter of the article.
- Copy and/or design of the CTA compel the reader to take the desired action.
- CTA is located in one or more prominent positions within the post.
An exceptional use of goals in a blog post:
Home Depot embeds physical product offers into their content in a prominent location. After all, if I’m going to install this flooring, I’ll need a tape measure.
The key to higher conversion rates from blog content is:
- Relevance – The more congruent the offer, the higher the take rate.
- Consumption – If the copy is difficult to get through, the reader will “bounce.”
Blog Post Audit Element 5: Media
Elements of exceptional use of media in a blog post:
- All images, video, and audio are clean, clear, and of high production quality.
- All needs for images, video, and audio are met.
An exceptional use of media in a blog post:
Kayak.com is in the travel space and uses beautiful custom photography and video in their content.
It may not be necessary to hire a full-time photographer or graphic designer, but steer clear of stock images/video and, depending on your industry, consider upping your media game.
Committing to the production of high-quality media is one way to stand out in an industry saturated with content.
(NOTE: Want to create a blog content plan in 60-seconds or less by filling in 5 simple blanks (yes, it’s really that simple)? Get instant access to the Blog Content Planner spreadsheet so you can track your plan, plus 55 different blog post ideas to get you started so your blog will never get stale. Check it out now.)
Blog Post Audit Element 6: Close
Elements of an exceptional blog post close:
- The close effectively concludes the post.
- The close uses humor, wit, insight, or otherwise incites emotion that compels the reader to comment, share, or visit more pages on the blog.
An example of an exceptional blog post close:
This article for Copyblogger explains how the writer came to justify the purchase of an iPad to himself and his wife. The conclusion of the article uses humor to incite engagement from the reader.
The closing of the article can often take it from good to great.
Remember, this is where the reader will decide to share the post, comment, click on your CTA, dive deeper into your site, etc.
Your closing doesn’t have to be epic but be sure the article doesn’t simply end abruptly.
At the very least, the close should restate the intro and ask the reader to comment and share.
Blog Post Audit Element 7: Search
Elements of exceptional use of search in a blog post:
- All five on-page SEO elements are optimized for a keyword unique to that page.
- All opportunities to cross-link to other content are used.
An exceptional use of search in a blog post:
NatureBox is clearly targeting the term “holiday snack” in this blog post.
On-page search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t difficult. You’ll simply want to choose a relevant keyword that is unique to your post and include that keyword in:
- Title tag
- Body text
- Image alt attribute
- Meta description
(RELATED: How to Do On-Page SEO)
Blog Post Audit Element 8: Categorization
Elements of exceptional use of categorization in a blog post:
- The post is in the appropriate category.
- The post is appropriately tagged.
An example of an exceptional use of categorization in a blog post:
H&R Block uses intuitive category names (Budget & Saving, Tax Tips, etc.) that allow the audience to find the information they are looking for.
The proper use of categories and tags is an important part of the user experience on your website.
While it’s often simple to select the right category or tag for a post, it’s an important checkpoint of any blog post audit.
Blog Post Audit Element 9: Completeness
Elements of exceptional completeness in a blog post:
- The post completely delivers on the promise made in the headline and introduction.
- Every idea in the post is appropriately “fleshed out.”
An example of exceptional completeness in a blog post:
At DigitalMarketer, our popular Ultimate List of Blog Post Ideas article is made complete by adding dozens of examples and an infographic.
Remember, the goal of the headline and introduction is to make a compelling promise.
This element of the audit is designed to ensure that the body of your blog post delivers 100% on that promise. If it doesn’t, amend your headline or get back to work on the blog post.
Nothing will destroy the reputation of your blog quicker than writing a great headline and failing to deliver in the article.
That said, this element of the audit is about more than simply delivering on the headline. Look for areas in the post that could be strengthened by adding:
- Media (images, video, audio)
- Internal or external links to more information
Look to “go the extra mile” with each and every article and you’ll see results. Consider producing less content that is “exceptionally complete,” as opposed to a high volume of content that leaves the audience wanting.
Blog Post Audit Element 10: Consistency
Elements of exceptional consistency in a blog post:
- The content of the post is consistent with the brand.
- The content of the post is consistent with other information presented by the organization.
An example of exceptional consistency in a blog post:
The brand at Unbounce, a landing page software company, can be snarky and funny. Employing a WTF in a blog post headline is on message for Unbounce.
Is your brand professional? Snarky? Academic?
Whatever it may be, produce content that reinforces that brand.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, for some organizations, ensure that this blog post isn’t contradictory to something else that has been published on the blog or elsewhere.
How to Use the Blog Post Audit Tool
The audit tool is very easy to use. This short video will teach you to get started improving your content in minutes.
Now, let’s get to the good stuff—blog post critiques!
In this summer installment of blog post critiques, you’ll see our Blog Post Audit applied to three different blog posts:
- A social media marketing article on Nimble…
- A home design post from Honest…
- One of our very own blog posts here on DigitalMarketer…
Blog Post Review
Overall, Nimble’s headline here is not bad. It contains a specific promise with a benefit, and the article delivers on that promise in that it contains six tips to help get more clients via Twitter.
However, it’s also generic and bland.
According to the Blog Post Audit, an exceptional headline “is compelling WITHOUT being misleading or hypey.” And that sense of being compelling, catchy, and exciting is what’s missing here.
It also couldn’t hurt to get more specific in terms of what it delivers and how it works: What kind of tips are these? What type of clients will you get?
Addressing one or both of these questions within the headline will create a much more compelling headline.
A great introduction is easy to consume and makes it effortless for readers to start moving through the copy and sliding down the page.
In this post, however, the first paragraph is basically fluff—meaning they could probably do away with the first paragraph altogether.
It would be better to begin with the second paragraph and get to the benefits that much quicker.
The spelling mistakes within the first paragraph are also a big turn-off. Many readers will stop reading an article immediately if it seems to be poorly written with grammatical errors.
Finally, take a look at how this opening looks visually:
It’s two big blocks of scary text.
Big chunks of text like this are intimidating and uninviting, which is the exact opposite of how you want your opening to come across to readers.
And speaking of big scary blocks of text…
This blog post really misses the mark on consumability.
Just take a look and you’ll see what I mean…
The entire thing is full of big blocks of text.
That might be fine for a dense novel or a long textbook, but this is a blog post. Many people want to skim your content (rather than read every single word), and this is tough to do with an article full of long paragraphs.
Many people want to skim your content (rather than read every single word), and this is tough to do with an article full of long paragraphs.
This article needs to be reformatted using shorter paragraphs, full of shorter sentences, to make it easier to consume and encourage people to actually read it.
- bulleted lists
- bolded words
- and more images
…wouldn’t hurt, either.
This article sort of has a CTA at the very end — when they ask the reader to “Try to implement at least one of the above-mentioned tips today.”
But let’s be honest. That’s a weak CTA.
And it doesn’t exist as part of the blog post. Instead, it feels tacked-on at the end as an afterthought.
A great CTA should contain copy and/or a design that compels the reader to take a desired action that is relevant to the subject matter.
When you read the end of this blog post, do you feel compelled to try to implement one of the tips in the article? I don’t.
Nimble gets a 2 for media, but only because they do in fact have an image.
Otherwise, this is another fail.
A good blog post contains clean, clear media that provide examples and expands upon the ideas in the text.
This really isn’t that hard to do—it just takes a little more work to go that extra mile.
For instance, under point #2, Nimble claims that you can “develop your email list through Twitter by giving free gift vouchers along with newsletters to your followers.”
This is a perfect place to show us an example of somebody doing that.
A picture here would also provide us with proof and credibility that the author actually knows what he’s talking about.
Without a picture, how are we to trust that what he’s saying here is actually true and that companies really are using the strategies presented in this article?
Nimble does effectively conclude their post with some sign-off language, so you don’t feel like you’re falling off a cliff at the end. Kudos.
It’s a pretty dry close, though.
It could be improved to be more exciting—and, as we mentioned, it should also include a MUCH stronger CTA.
This article seems to be targeting the keyword, “Earn more clients via Twitter.”
The keyword is present in the URL and the title, but it’s painfully absent from the body of the article itself. The post is also missing a meta description.
Given how competitive SEO is today, it’s almost impossible to rank when you miss the mark for basic on-page optimization like this.
Nimble does a good job of tagging the article in all the relevant categories, which you can see right under the headline.
This category can be a little tricky to judge since it’s likely to vary from person-to-person.
But overall, I just felt that this post left me wanting more.
The biggest thing this article is missing is examples.
I would love to see a few relevant examples from each point they make to really drive home their point and give me a better understanding of how to actually implement these six tips in my business.
As it is, I get to the end of the blog post without really feeling like I learned what the article promised in the headline.
Overall, this article seems to be pretty consistent with the style and tone of the brand compared to the rest of the content on their site.
The topic of generating more clients with Twitter is also likely to be a relevant and interesting one for the audience of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) like Nimble.
Blog Post Grade: F (62.5) Not good, but lots of room for imporvement
If this were a test at school, this is the point where Nimble would be freaking out at the big letter “F” written at the top of their paper in red ink.
But actually, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
At its core, this has the makings of a decent article. It contains relevant information that could potentially be useful for readers of the Nimble blog.
Where the post falls flat on its face is in the execution. It’s not so much what the article says, but how it says it that is turning off readers before they even finish the first paragraph.
By making some mostly cosmetic changes and adding in some images and examples, this post could be greatly improved.
Homework for Nimble:
- Search: Optimize the URL and the Meta Description. Add some cross-linking throughout the article. Use the keyword phrase (earn more clients via Twitter) in the body of the article.
- Intro: Fix the spelling errors and get to the benefit of the article faster.
- CTA: Make this stronger and more compelling. “Try these tips” at the bottom and “Subscribe” in the sidebar aren’t cutting it. Think about what you can offer readers that is relevant to the topic of this post and make a clear, strong CTA in at least one visible place.
- Consumption: Lots of spelling errors and big blocks of text are telling readers to STOP and hit the “Back” button. Fix the errors and break up that text into smaller, more scannable chunks.
- Media: Include more pictures (preferably examples of their tips) to strengthen the article and make it appear less scary and more consumable to readers.
Blog Post Review:
The headline gives a clear, specific benefit that is delivered upon in the body of the post. The benefit is compelling without feeling hypey.
The intro paragraph flows well and gets you interested in the content to come. It develops an easy-to-read rhythm that encourages you to read on.
On one hand, Honest does a good job of breaking up the text with some images, subheads, and bolding. This helps make it easier for readers to scan the page.
On the other hand, the actual text on this website is hard to read.
Take a look at the article and you’ll see dark gray text on an off-white background…
Poor contrast and a hard-to-read website.
(Not just on this blog post, but everywhere on the entire site.)
This just goes to remind you that nothing exists in a vacuum on your website.
The design, the branding, the content, the tone of voice… everything on your website comes together to give the reader an impression of who you are.
That’s why you want to make sure EVERY element on your website is saying something good about you.
Instead of asking for an opt-in, purchase, or download, this article makes a much simpler CTA at the end:
Read a related article!
And it’s a smart move.
This is actually a guest/sponsored post written by Brendan Guy from a company called Houzz.
And by providing links to three relevant articles on the subject of decorating kids’ bedrooms, Houzz is able to pull readers off of the Honest blog and onto their own website.
One of the best things about this article is its frequent use of high-quality images. Each of the article’s five tips.
The five tips of the article are demonstrated in a clear and vivid way, giving the reader a great example of how to implement the advice in the blog post.
And to make it even better, each image is integrated with Pinterest and contains a link back to a product page where you can buy what’s being featured in the image.
Everything in this article was going so well…
And then, it just kind of ended.
This blog post could really benefit from a conclusion at the end to wrap things up and give us a better sense of completion.
This could go a long way in increasing:
- And other engagement
Everything seems to be in order here, with all the relevant on-page SEO tags and keywords included.
This blog post is categorized under “Design + Style,” clearly the most relevant category for this content.
When you finish this blog post, it feels complete.
You’ve read through five well-explained tips on designing a kid’s bedroom, and you’ve seen image examples of every tip.
The post feels complete and you’re satisfied at the end.
After perusing a few other articles on the Honest blog, it’s clear that this post is consistent with their brand voice and promise.
It looks and feels very similar to their other blog posts.
Blog Post Grade: B (85)
This is a solid blog post. I wouldn’t call it exceptional, but it gets high marks for almost all of the categories.
There are just a few things Honest/Houzz can do to improve this one:
Homework for Honest:
- Consumption: Break up your paragraphs and use bulleted lists to aid in consumption. And make your text darker so it’s easier to read!
- CTA: This could be stronger and in a more prominent location.
- Close: Consider adding a sentence or two to wrap it up. You could include your CTA within the close.
Blog Post Review:
In this headline, Molly gives us a clear and enticing promise without sounding hypey or misleading.
The article promises to show us how to use Facebook Messenger ads in your business, and it delivers exactly that.
The opening to this blog post is definitely easy to consume and draws the reader in.
I gave it a 3, instead of a 4, simply because it could have been a bit more compelling at the very beginning.
Think about how else you could start this blog to get readers excited from the very first sentence.
Even though this is a long and detailed post, Molly does a fantastic job of making the post easy to read.
The article includes numbered lists, subheads, and plenty of images to break up the text.
As you can see we’ve also been experimenting with pull quotes (we also call them “offset quotes”) to highlight certain important sentences, which is another way of making the text look less intimidating.
This post includes a few CTAs to learn more about our Facebook Messenger Marketing Blueprint Execution Plan.
Since this article covers the topic of Facebook Messenger ads, a step-by-step guide on how to use Facebook Messenger to generate leads and sales is a highly relevant CTA that our readers are likely to be interested in.
And, unlike the other blog post audits this month, we don’t just leave the CTA for the end of the article. (Remember, many of your readers won’t make it that far.)
Instead, we put the first CTA in the valuable real estate right at the top of the post:
Then we put another one about halfway through the article:
Notice that this time, we go beyond a simple text link and insert a professional-looking banner ad to make the CTA really stand out.
And we go one step further to make the CTA pop. Check it out below:
And finally, we put one last CTA at the very end:
Having three CTAs might sound like overkill, but it’s really not.
Remember, this is a long blog post, so three CTAs doesn’t feel like too much.
And because the banner ad is created in the same visual style as the rest of our graphics on DigitalMarketer.com, these CTAs feel consistent with the rest of the post and don’t stand out as a distraction.
This post is PACKED with images.
And they aren’t just stock photos, they’re…
- real-life examples
- and actual screenshots
…that show you exactly what you need to do to get started using Facebook Messenger ads.
This is another area where we could improve a bit.
The article does have a close, but it could be a little more thorough and encourage readers to share this content on social media.
This being the DigitalMarketer blog, I would hope we have all our on-page SEO taken care of…
And we do!
Including the use of all the relevant tags and keywords.
And just to prove that this stuff really works when you put in the effort to do it right, check out the Google SERPs:
Two months after being published, this blog post is on the first page of search results for the term “facebook messenger ads.”
We’re in some pretty good company, ranking right alongside reputable companies like TechCrunch, Marketingland, and Facebook.
We like to categorize our blog posts by the benefit they provide.
This post is categorized under “Drive More Traffic,” which is appropriate for a blog about using paid traffic to drive visitors to your website.
This post comes in at a tight 1,751 words and tells you everything you need to know to get started using Facebook Messenger ads for your business.
It starts with an introduction that explains why Messenger ads might work for you and the two different ways to use Messenger ads (as a destination and as a placement), along with a few ideas of how to use those two ad types effectively.
It then recommends a specific tool to help you get started using Messenger ads (ManyChat) and gives you some tips for how to use that tool to build your subscriber list.
All of which is just to say that this blog post gives you all the information you need to get started with Facebook Messenger ads—which fulfills the promise made in the headline and gives a satisfying sense of completion by the end.
The tone, style, and appearance of this blog fit right in with the rest of our posts.
Having an awesome designer to create consistent-looking graphics—like the computer screen image at the top of this post—also adds a nice touch (if you don’t have a professional graphic designer, there are tools you can use to create professional looking images, like Canva).
Blog Post Grade: A (95)
All in all, this is a pretty awesome blog post. Great job, Molly!
Of course, nobody’s perfect—we could improve this post by tweaking the intro and close—but otherwise, it’s a great example of what a blog should look like when you’re paying attention to all ten of the Blog Post Audit grading criteria.
- Intro: Consider using a punchier opening line.
- Close: Consider expanding on the close just a little bit to give a better sense of completion at the end.
So that’s all, folks!
Now, get out there and start putting this audit to work for you!
(NOTE: Want to create a blog content plan in 60-seconds or less by filling in 5 simple blanks? Get instant access to the Blog Content Planner spreadsheet so you can track your plan, plus 55 different blog post ideas so your blog will never get stale. Check it out now.)