A Basic (yet essential) Pre & Post Content Launch Checklist (with guidelines)

Posted on Monday, November 19th, 2012 and is filed under News, SEO. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Posted by Mackenzie Fogelson

So you’re ready to launch some content.

Stop. Right. There.

In case you haven't noticed, our industry has evolved. As SEOs, we're expected to be an amalgam of technicians, analysts, creatives, and marketers. Agility is essential and if you want to acquire and sustain relationships with great clients, you’ve got to prove your worth in every effort you make or you won’t continue to earn your budgets.

Chances are, you’re already pushing out a great deal of content for your clients on a regular basis. Considering SEO, social, conversion, measurement, and analysis, there’s a lot that you have to get into place for success. 

So how about some checklists?

These checklists in this post are meant to serve as simple reminders prior to content release, but they’re also intended to encourage you to think beyond on-page SEO elements. Rely on these lists to make sure you’ve considered every possible angle so that your content isn’t just filling up space, but is working toward building community, brand value and awareness, and driving qualified traffic and conversions.

Disclaimer: Like most of my posts, you're gonna have to hunker down and read. You’ll notice the formatting is not true to a traditional checklist. I’ll walk you through each item (that's the guidance part) and then provide you with a true checklist format in Trello (if you make it through).

Pre-planning and pre-outreach


Even though these checklists are meant to verify that you’ve got everything in place after the content has already been generated, there are a couple things that are worth checking off even before you develop your content:

Google Suggest for ideas and keywords


Even with a stellar strategy, you’re going to need one-off ideas for your content so that you are building what people want, and also optimizing your content so that people can find it. Before you even make the effort on your content, go to Google and see if suggest can give you some direction.

What you have in mind may have already been done (but maybe not so well), so you’ve got to figure out how to dominate with a more unique angle. Google suggest is a great way to do this.

Google Suggest

Pre-outreach for buy in


Want to get the most out of your outreach efforts? Reach out to your community and target audience before you develop the content. This will help make link building easier and will ensure that you’re developing content that your audience actually wants.

 Depending on the magnitude of your content, there’s probably two ways to go on pre-outreach:


[1] Hefty stuff

If you’re putting together some hefty content like the SEOmoz Beginner’s Guide to SEO, then you’re going to want to do invest in some pre-outreach that involves something like a Launchrock campaign.



DistilledU Launchrock Campaign



This will help you determine that there’s interest in this content before you actually generate it, and you will have built a list of followers (email addresses) that you can market to once the content is ready to launch. Distilled did this with DistilledU and within 24 hours they had collected more than 1,000 email addresses. It’s a brilliant way to make sure your content will be well received and that your efforts generating the hefty stuff will be well worth it.

[2] Simple stuff

If you’re putting together a basic blog post, infographic, informal video, etc, you’ll still want to do some pre-outreach, but your effort will be less involved (you won’t need a Launchrock campaign around it). Once you’ve figured out the angle you’re going to take and the audience you’re targeting (particularly some influencers), try reaching out and ask them if the content you’re about to produce would be useful. Try providing a basic outline and see what kind of feedback you get. Involving influencers and target audience members will help you get buy in before you even go to the trouble of creating the content, increasing your chances of success.

How to Build a Lasting Relationship


On-page SEO stuff


Of course, you always want to make sure you’ve accounted for basic SEO stuff:

Keywords in page title


Your page title is probably one of the most important factors for on-page SEO. 
It used to be that you wanted to try to keep it to 70 characters. But now, Google may take the liberty of revising it so that it is more relevant to the query and could use your URL as the title instead of the actual coded page title. 

Bottom line: make sure your title is relevant to your content and keyword rich. I prefer to include personality in my titles, but sometimes that makes for some seriously long titles.

With everything in SEO, you’ll probably want to test this out and see what you find to be most effective.

Keywords in headings


Don’t force it, but if you’re able to naturally integrate keywords into your headings, do it. I like AJ Kohn’s practical advice on headings and how they should seamlessly lead the reader through the content. So, when you’re finished with the post, go back and just read the headings all the way through. If there’s a way to smooth out the transitions, do your reader a favor and make some alterations. Paying attention to stuff like this will keep your readers engaged for longer, increasing time on site and the possibility of conversion (or sharing).


Keywords in body copy


Check that your keywords are integrated into your body text. Also check for natural variations on the keywords that are closely related to the topic. Your goal is to aim for relevance so that the page gets matched with the appropriate query. It’s really important to get the SEO integration right, but it’s just as important to make sure you’re delivering copy that’s easy to read. Ultimately, you want your reader to share what they’re reading, so make sure it’s packed with value and not just stuffed with keywords and their variants.


Descriptive alt text and images


Images can make or break your content, so make them count. Be thoughtful about how they are enhancing (or distracting from) your message.

 As far as SEO goes, be sure that you’ve covered your bases with images. Integrate the appropriate keywords into the image file name as well as the alt description. Keep in mind that image file names and alt tags are meant to provide the engines with a way to determine what the image is about, so don’t just stuff keywords into these places if they don’t in fact describe the image. This won’t do you any good. You want relevant traffic and to provide a satisfying user experience.


Readability

There’s all kinds of important stuff that needs to be checked to ensure for effective readability (and also SEO). Not just so your post is easy to read, but so that it doesn’t get in the way of the reader doing what you’d like them to do.


Headings and subheadings


You should have some. Make sure they are descriptive and flow from the beginning to the end of the post.


Font and line height


Unfortunately, there’s no straight answer here for making your content 100% easy to read, so you may have to do some testing to ensure that your content is formatted for optimum font size and line height. Just make sure that you’re factoring this into your final check on readability. It’s really important.



Short paragraphs and images


Readers are most likely going to be daunted by too many words on the page (I know, I'm aware I have a problem). You want your content to be inviting even if there is a lot of information to share. So check that you are breaking up your text into shorter paragraphs that are easier to digest, and use meaningful images to supplement your message.


Access and shareability

This is probably more a checklist item for blog integration altogether, but make sure that the post is actually being crawled (once it's gone live). We’ve had so many clients have weird things go on with their robot.txt file that resulted in blocked content. Don’t be that guy. And make sure that there’s social share (and follow) buttons (not just links) on the post so that there’s no roadblocks for readers who actually want to share what they’re reading (and perhaps choose to join your community).


Conversion

Get the most out of your content by making it more targeted and actionable (and make sure it’s worth launching in the first place). Here are some things to consider prior to launch, but certainly you can be thoughtful of them prior to content generation:


Consider value and purpose

To make the most of your content efforts, everything you produce needs to be working toward achieving the goals of your strategy and accomplishing the bigger picture of your client’s overarching business objectives. To that end, each piece of content that you launch should have a very specific purpose and task that you want your user to complete when they interact with it.

 So, before you launch your content, you may want to ask yourself these questions:



[1] Is this content helping to achieve our goals?

If not, make the necessary adjustments so that it is. Get into the habit of asking this question at the inception of the idea.



[2] Does this content offer value to our readers?

Seems silly to put this on this list, but I’ve had to challenge my team with this before, so it definitely warrants a spot. Everything you do should hold value. If it doesn’t, then hold off on generating something that does. Quantity is important but only if the quality is inherent in the effort.



[3] What would I like the reader to do after they’ve interacted with this content?

Have you integrated a call to action that is either inherent in the message or a visual call out (maybe a graphic, icon, button, etc) to make the targeted action easy for the reader to complete? This should carry all the way through to setting up goals in Google Analytics in Measurement Setup below.


Integrate links to other posts


Don’t forget to integrate links to other relevant posts from your site, as well as from other credible, relevant sources in your content. 

It adds more value and it lets your audience know what you've been reading.

Note: you can dedicate a column on your blog that provides links to the most powerful posts available on your blog (this is also a great tactic for email marketing - more below). If the reader gets into the post and isn’t interested, some of these posts may attract their attention and keep them there (possibly assisting in conversion). If enough readers ditch the current post to go find the others, it would be ideal to track this all the way back to the goal that you set for this post and make the necessary changes.

SEOGadget Blog

Optimize meta description


The meta description is often neglected. Although it doesn’t influence rankings, it can most certainly aid in conversion. Ensure that you have a compelling meta description that helps the reader determine whether they’d want to read this post. 

Ideally, integrate the keywords you’re using to help the user with association (it helps them make the correlation that what they’ve searched for, and what you’re saying the post is about, is a direct match).


Measurement setup


If content launches and isn’t measured, does it make an impact? Make sure you’ve got these items covered so that you can track the effectiveness of your efforts:

Embed tracking code


Don’t laugh. It gets forgotten. A lot. That’s why it’s on the checklist. Make sure that whatever content you’re generating (blog post, infographic, video, microsite, etc.) that you’ve got tracking code on that sucker.



Set up goals

The hardest part about setting up goals is defining them. Every client is going to want to know what their ROI is going to be. Without setting up goals, there’s no way you can answer that.

 Although you can’t give any guarantees, you can at least help your clients define realistic goals, make efforts towards them, and then report on the metrics that are a result of your hard work. You can use Google Analytics for this, so make sure you’ve got your goals setup in GA so that they are ready for tracking.

Set up other tool stuff


Make sure all of the other tools you are using for measurement are ready to receive data (SEOmoz, Raven, Sprout Social, KISS Metrics, etc). From SEO to social and conversion, make sure all the tools are rearing to go.


Outreach and social

The most critical part of outreach happens before you ask anyone for anything. It’s the time you spend fostering quality relationships so that you have a community of people who actually want to help you. If the only time you’re spending on relationships happens when you’re doing outreach, you’re doing it wrong.





There is no shortcut to outreach. And if you want your outreach to be successful, you have to work at building a community. The only trick to this is being human. Be a genuine person who works hard and cares about people. Then, all you have to do is bust your ass (see, no shortcuts), do good work, and people will want to help you.


To that end, just because you put good content on your blog, doesn’t mean people are going to read it. Even if you’ve established a strong and supportive community, you have to do something to get the word out. Outreach isn’t easy, and when you don’t properly dedicate the time to it, you won’t get the most out of your efforts.


If you’re going to the trouble to write valuable content, seal the deal with effective outreach. Here’s a few items for you to consider:

Connect with the people you’ve mentioned in your content

Clearly there are several ways of doing this (and if you've done pre-outreach, this part should be a breeze). You can do this via email, DM (if they are following you on Twitter), or other social outlets like Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. If you have absolutely no relationship with them, do a little research about them beforehand. And then of course, let them know that their post was solid and was a really great fit, so you included it.

If they happen to link to or share your content, thank them (for the love of Pete)! Monitor your outlets and your analytics following the launch and take the time to thank people (this is called building relationships and it’s good for you). 


Connect with key influencers


Hands down, you want to connect with key influencers who you may not have mentioned in your post, but may be interested in sharing with their (ginormous) audience due to quality, relevance, or unique perspective. 



A HUGE note here: For me, I want influencers to share my content because it’s good, not just because they like me and are doing me a favor. As a result, I am very thoughtful about which influencers I ask to share my stuff as I do not want to abuse the relationship. Also, don’t over inflate your expectations. It’s their prerogative to say no (as they should if it’s not a match for their community). So, before you reach out to an influencer, I’d recommend being selective about who that is so that they are more inclined to say yes and don’t cringe every time they get a DM or a request for share email from you.



Connect with your community


There’s a ton of ways to do this, but there’s one method that is greatly underused. Brace yourself for this one. Use the phone. That’s right, there’s this thing called the phone and you can use it to talk to people. Seriously. Especially when you’re trying to build awareness and do outreach in your local community or with the media. Give them a call, let them know what you’re up to. If they’re interested, you can email (or social) the content so they can possibly link to it, or send it on to others who would find it useful. I’m betting you’ll stand out, hopefully make a good impression, and work toward a sustainable and rewarding partnership.



Use social



I heart Twitter

Especially in the SEO industry, Twitter is going to be one of the fastest ways to spread the word about your content and hopefully get retweeted. 

It’s ok to tweet the same content out a few times throughout the day, but make sure that you’re using a different teaser. If appropriate, call out specific tweeps. Be respectful of time zones, and if you’re going to use the whole “in case you missed it” line, only use that once.

Think about different and creative approaches for alerting your audience throughout the day. 

Make sure that you have a tweet button conveniently located for people to tweet the post. You can even provide a “tweet this” link after each tweetable thought to get more retweets or engagement from your post. 

For any social outlet, but especially when you’re using Twitter for outreach, always keep your goals in mind and remember what you’re trying to help the audience achieve.



Google+
Google+ is not Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn. When you post the content here (same goes for any social outlet), you need to have a different approach. Use yet another unique teaser that is different than what you’ve used for all of the other outlets.

 Be sure to optimize your posts for maximum SEO benefit.

When I’m pushing content out on G+, I usually feature more than just one line of text. You could also try curating a few posts (vs. just sharing the one piece of content). In other words, select another relevant post or two that compliments the theme of the content you’re trying to get traction on. Provide key takeaways and links just it’s a mini-blog post. Just make sure if you do this that you break up the text into short paragraphs and use formatting so that it’s easy to read.



You can also link directly to your G+ posts from Twitter and draw some of your audience over that way. Test different ways of spreading the word about your content on social media and see what works best.





LinkedIn for good measure

Sure you want to make sure you’ve featured your content on LinkedIn, but do more than just post it as your status. Stop by your user groups and provide the content there.



And the others, too
There are so many other social outlets that you can use for outreach. 
You know which ones are going to perform the best for the content at hand. Make sure they're all on your checklist.

Schedule email marketing


Email marketing is another powerful outreach method. And, if you’ve done some pre-outreach, you already have a qualified list of people who want to be in your target audience. 



Note: Feature just the one piece of content that you’re marketing. That’s right, just that one. If you have other great content that people might want to read (or that you want to draw their attention to), you can include it in a dedicated column in the email template (just like on your blog). You’ll find that you’ll get some additional click throughs to other valuable stuff on your site.

Call to action from other places on your website


Double check that you’ve included outreach from relevant place on your website. Clearly your home page is a great one. If you have a rotating image feature in your header, design a slide just for this content and integrate some messaging about the specific task you’d like the reader to accomplish (all stuff to aid in conversion). If you are doing paid advertising, be sure that your add and all associated assets reflect the goal of your content as well.




Analysis, reporting, and testing

There's always more to do than just get your content launched. Now you've got to analyze it, report your winnings to your client, and of course invest in some testing.

Validate your efforts


Now for the fun part. The content has launched and the data is pouring in. Time to select the significant metrics to provide to your client. The most important thing to remember here is that the metrics you report send an important message to your client. If you’re focusing too much on keywords, or too much on (the wrong) social data, you're probably not doing yourself (or them) a favor.



Validate your efforts by reporting on the goals that you have set out for this content in the first place. Once the campaign (or month) is over and you’re being asked to show the client what you’ve been working on and how it’s gone, come all the way back to these goals. If you did your measurement setup properly, you'll have all kinds of data to stand behind what you've done.

We are all going to have different ways of reporting to our clients because every client is different, has different goals, and we all have diverse approaches and things to accomplish. The biggest thing to note here is that if you don’t provide accurate reports that actually measure what you’re doing for the client, you won’t earn their budget.



Prepare report for client


What we’ve been working on presenting in our reports lately is re-introducing the goals that have been defined (remember way back in Measurement Setup?), illustrate the efforts that have been taken in the campaign (or over the last month) to work toward those goals, and then show the metrics that reflect those efforts (screen shots that illustrate everything from GA to social and email marketing metrics).

Ideally, this will open up an educated discussion about expectations and results. There may be some adjustments that need to be made to efforts in general moving forward. Maybe some testing can be done. Maybe you need a new approach (or even some more concrete goals).

This isn’t meant to be all encompassing of our reporting process. Just some thoughts to be aware of and have on your checklist.

Do some testing

You can set up some content experiments so that you can test different variants and determine what can be improved in your content. If you're testing your content, you can stop guessing and figure out exactly what your audience wants. Testing will improve conversion rate, and it will help you deliver more value (which will help you earn your budget every year).


TL;DR Bonus

If you made it all the way to the end (I’m sure you read every word), then congratulations. You may have these checklists in Trello. Add your own items, move stuff around. Make them your own. Hopefully this is an effective springboard that will help you formulate your own checklists to match your process.

Always a work in progress

So it’s quite possible that I’ve left some things out (which I’m happy to hear about below). These checklists reflect some of the things that we’ve been working on not forgetting. We try to keep our process pretty agile, so it's continually evolving, just like our company, so I anticipate some revision will be necessary in the next couple months. At the very least, I hope these lists will help you to think beyond basic SEO stuff and just getting a bunch of content out. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

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