Blogging made Simple
There's a good chance you know what a blog is by now. Just in case you don't, it's website that's updated regularly with written content. Like mine, they're often integrated with websites now. Blogging is therefore writing or otherwise creating content for your blog. If you're wondering how you should write blog for a blog, here are some simple suggestions about how you can approach it.
Whether it's a blog, a magazine, or a newspaper, the first thing we see is the headline. Something about it needs to grab our attention, whether it be the promise of information that we don't have, something that we care about, or simply a pun, like the one above.
The promise of information is something I always strive to practise in my blog headlines. Take this one: 'Blogging made Simple'. I'm one of those people that's routinely active online, using multiple social media accounts, blogging, researching, or more. For those of us who live and work this way, it's easy to forget that not everyone is as familiar with online life. I always try to remember though that there are people out there for whom this is all new, so I often write in a way that includes newcomers to online life, rather than excluding them. My blog titles reflect that:
Each one holds the promise of information that I'm prepared to reveal as if it were a whispered secret. Even if the reader actually knows something about the topic, it suggests that I know something, and that they should read it in case it's something they don't know. Though I write in such a way as to include newcomers, there's still the possibility that people who know more will find something of value too. Evocative or eye-catching headlines can also be effective when paired with topical content. For example, when Mobilegeddon was headline news, I blogged on it twice. With things like that, the window of opportunity to add your perspective is narrow, and if you miss it, the moment's gone forever. So if you have a unique perspective, journey, or product, think about how you can present it as an evocative headline.
A good structure is as important for a blog as it is for anything else using the written word. There are 3 key ways of structuring blogs:
- Headings: these make it easier for readers to know what's coming next and they're also crawled (searched) by search engines, increasing the likelihood that your blog will be discovered. When combined with paragraphs, they avoid the 'wall of text' problem.
- Images: an attractive, related, or illustrative image makes for great punctuation. Remember the old truism about pictures telling a thousand words. The image I've used above isn't related to blogging, but it illustrates what I mean by structuring perfectly.
- Story: another truism is that stories are organised into a beginning, middle, and end. It's important that blogs be organised in the same way because humans are so used to stories being told with that structure. If your blog post flows natural from one to the other, then you're increasing the chances of your reader staying with your story until the end.
With writing blogs, you don't just need to structure it well, you need to write it well. So what constitutes good writing? Spelling, grammar, and editing are a big part of the picture. If you're reading a blog and it's got lots of spelling mistakes, are you going to keep reading? Maybe you'd tolerate it if it was a topic you cared about, but even then wouldn't you be wondering if the writer knew what they were talking about? This is also a search engine issue as Google's 'Panda' updates mean that it's less likely that their search engine will discover poorly written text. Also bear in mind that your blog is being read by humans, not AIs (artificial intelligences) with access to every thesaurus ever written. Using a lot of long, complex words isn't clever, it just annoys readers.
If you've got sources, especially highly rated ones, then provide them. In the paragraph above you'll see that I've linked to Google's webmaster blog in order to prove that my statement regarding Google Panda is factual. This means that I've got the facts from the horse's mouth, not from the horse's arse! Google's search engine regards this as a positive in terms of establishing you as an authority on your topic, whilst linking to poorly written content has the opposite effect. Also bear in mind that, as far as Google's concerned, links should be clear, not hidden. That's why mine show up as red.
Curate or Create?
Yes. Sorry, obvious joke, but both are good ideas for different reasons. Curation is discovering content created by other people and sharing it with a dash of your own personality or perspective. What's good about curation that you're then saving your readers, social media followers, or contacts from having to trawl through who knows how much content in order to find something valuable. If you share good quality content well and frequently, then it will help draw attention to you as readers/followers start to identify you as someone valuable and authoratative.
Creation is where you're creating the content yourself. For example, this entire blog post has been written by me. Yes, the images are ones that I've found online (and given all due credit, more credit than required for the structure image) but all the text is mine. Yes, as with all presentations of any content in any form, it's been written with my perspective, but I've also backed it up with high authority sources.
Call to Action
This can make for a great close. It's something that prompts readers to engage with you further, like signing up to an email list, or to simply buy what you're selling. If you read blogs, you'll quite often see things like this. I've been slow to adopt this because, like Joe Vargas, I haven't wanted to be too in your face about this. However, if we don't promote ourselves, our skills, and our knowledge, who will? So as Jared Knabenbauer says 'Please like/comment/subscribe'!
Tools, not Rules
As Christopher Vogler said of his great book The Hero's Journey, it's a tool book, not a rule book. The same is true of this blog post: these are tools that you can put to use, suggestions that can get you going, but I'm not going to tell you that they should be followed slavishly. However, anything that negatively affects your discoverability by Google's search engine is likely to be a bad thing.
If you happen upon some great combination all your own, or from different sources that you assemble into your own, then well done! Why not share them with me in the comments?