Writing on a blog is different in many ways than writing for print. The following are ten suggestions I’ve created which can help bloggers write better posts. Please chime in with your own ideas and suggestions, I’m sure there are lots of things I’m leaving out! For more assistance, refer to Steve Dembo‘s great 2008 series of posts and project, “30 Days to Being a Better Blogger,” and ProBlogger’s 2007 post series, “31 Days to Building a Better Blog.”
- Focus: What topic or category(ies) do/does the post fit into? More than one can be selected. Use categories on your blog to help readers identify the main themes on which you focus.
- Brevity: Blog posts do NOT have length limit, like print publications, but generally people are more likely to read a short post rather than a long one. Shoot for something generally no longer than 5 – 7 paragraphs. (This guideline can be completely ignored, however, if needed or appropriate.)
- Hyperlinks: Good blog posts include hyperlinks which provide pathways for readers to get more information. Use hyperlinks to your own blog/site (past posts which relate) as well as outgoing links to other sites.
- Quotations and Links: Many good blog posts include quotations of material posted on other blogs and sites/resources, as well as links to those original sources. These cross-links are important for search engine ranking, and also because many blog platforms notify owners of “incoming links.” These are called trackbacks on some blogs, including WordPress.
- Images: Use at least one image in every blog post. Like other guidelines this can be ignored at times, but using an image helps your post visibility in several ways. When a post is shared on Facebook, by default it can include a thumbnail of an image included on the post’s link. Customized digitial newspaper applications like Flipboard utilize post images prominently when creating the ‘layout’ of a news feed’s contents. Ideally this image should relate directly to your post’s content. Consider using Flickr Creative Commons (CC) Attribution-Only images for this purpose. CompFight is another good source to use to search for CC images. PhotoDropper is a great, free plugin for WordPress that can be used to insert CC images into posts, and includes nice attribution links below the image. Remember to always include attribution links back to the source image website. Attribution is required by CC licenses, but is not part of a “fair use” calculation under US copyright law if you choose to use “All Rights Reserved” images from another site. The safest way to use images on blog posts (or other sites) is to use your own images (homegrown media) or CC licensed content.
- Tags: Include “tags” or keywords for your post which might be topics others would search for to find your content. Blogs like WordPress provide a field to include tags with each post. Using tags is like providing instructions for search engines including Google. You’re essentially asking search engines, “When people search for these keywords, point them to this post.” Use a lot of tags. There is no penalty or cost for using too many or too few tags, but err on the site of generous tag usage.
- Title: Like a newspaper editor, give some careful thought to the headline you choose for your post. The post title is your main tool for attracting the attention of potential readers, when they see the title in a tweet, Facebook link share, in their RSS reader, an email, or elsewhere. The title you select is also very important as your post is indexed by Google and other search engines. It can be helpful (as far as blog traffic goes) to use catchy titles which include words people are likely searching for (or will search for) online.
- Tone: Blog posts don’t have to be “just” informational. Many of the best posts invite feedback, discussion, and debate. On some posts, experiment taking a different tone which is more conversational and inviting for comments. Comments are RARE in the blogosphere in general, but some bloggers are much more adept than others at inviting comments. Study blogs of others on topics of interest and analyze why some posts get more comments than others. Some of this may have to do with the tone of the post. It also can be the overall culture of the blog’s followership. Will Richardson’s blog is a good one to study in this regard, his posts almost always have lots of comments. You can include some self-promotional links or links which promote your organization, but don’t use a “salesy” tone. Most blog readers aren’t interested in infomercials. Share your ideas, perspectives and voice in your posts. Leave the formal sales pitches to official press releases and the marketing department, if you’re writing for an organizational blog.
- Transparency: Do not be afraid of sharing who you are, what inspires and moves you, and what defines you as a person and professional in your blog posts. Transparency is one of the most important aspects of social media, and it invites others to follow you and continue reading what you have to share. Update your blog “profile” with links to your personal blog, Twitter account, professional Facebook account, etc, IF (and only if) you’re sharing content on those sites which is professional and which might be of potential interest to your blog readers.
- Engage with your Audience: After writing a blog post, it’s very important to read and respond (as appropriate) to comments left by others. Social media is all about interactivity and multi-directional communication. If you’re using WordPress, consider using a plug-in like “Subscribe to Comments” which permits anyone to receive email notifications on specific posts of interest. If you’re contributing to a team blog, consider subscribing by email or RSS to the posts you write, to insure you’ll get a “heads up” whenever someone else leaves a comment your posts.
Are there any other “top ten” ideas or recommendations you’d add to these suggestions for writing better blog posts?