What follows are 26 tips, from A-Z, related to the craft of blog writing and a number of critical factors that will help to ensure the production of high-quality posts.
“Links are the currency of the web,” writes Jonathan Bailey. “If you use someone else's content, whether licensed directly or through fair use, it's important to be sure to provide a clickable link to the original site if at all possible. This not only helps visitors to your site find the original work, but it also provides SEO benefits for the creator of the content and guards against your site being mistaken by the search engines as the original work.”
#2: Blog as Hub
Not long ago, the company website served as the communication hub for an organization. Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman write in their recent book, Content Rules, How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, “A Blog can serve as your online home base or hub for content, including posts you write, curated content you pull together, press mentions, and content created about your organization elsewhere that you want to share.”
One of the distinguishing features of blogs from earlier websites is the ability to leave comments. As Stan Shroeder writes on Mashable, “At their core, [blogs] are about two-way communication; a blog is simply not a blog without comments.”
Lisa Barone suggests, “Having comments open on your blog is a bit like sitting on your front porch in the evening. It lets people know you're home and invites them to stop over if they want to talk. People can interact when they have something to say and they become active members of what you're building.” She offers insights too about how to deal with spam and moderate comments.
Bloggers need to comply with the FTC's December 2009 policy on disclosures, which mandates that bloggers state clearly when they have accepted free merchandise or services from companies they discuss. Learn more about creating disclosure statements.
The Yahoo! Style Guide recommends a number of proofreading techniques and suggests that writers use at least one of them, or combine a few:
- Print your page. Reading a printout is a great tactic for spotting errors.
- Wait. You'll start to see what it actually says, not what it's supposed to say.
- Ask someone else to read your copy. Having a second reader is one of the best ways to clarify and correct your copy.
- Read backward. Great for proofreading numbers and useful when you need to make sure that a piece of text is perfect.
- Read out loud. Reading out loud, or using screen-reading software, will make you take in the words differently. This is also a good way to check the “voice” of your piece and whether the text flows smoothly.
- Read line-by-line, word-by-word. Use a spell-checker.
- Change the look; e.g., font size, background color or text color.
The one thing readers have come to expect from a reputable blog is a frequent and reliable posting schedule. The number of posts you plan to write per week depends on your resources, but whatever works for you, it's best to commit to a regular and consistent schedule.
#7: Grabbing Attention
With an inordinate amount of blog posts being published daily, you want to strive to stand out with the topic, writing and appearance of your posts. Grab attention with great copy, memorable images and inspiring videos.
Speaking of grabbing attention, one sure way to do that is with the use of headings and subheadings. Not only does it help the reader to ascertain what the post is about, but it also increases the readability of the post, which is an important consideration for all web content. Heading tags (e.g., H1 and H2) will also help with optimizing posts for search engines.
Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge. These representations are being created and posted in increasing numbers these days. What's great for bloggers too is that many infographic designers often encourage others to embed the infographics on their blogs as long as they credit and link to the original with appropriate attribution.
Here's a link to a cool infographic, The Journey of a Successful Blog Post.
Sometimes coming up with a steady stream of ideas for blog posts can feel challenging. At times like these, you can use a technique where you reference two different posts and then write about the similarities and differences in the thinking and offer your readers a third unique viewpoint.
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Using keywords in blog posts helps the post to be picked up and ranked by search engines. While it's important to use them strategically in title tags, headings, body content, URL and meta description, it's also important to not go overboard and keyword-stuff a post. Whiztechy has a very helpful article, “How to Use Keywords Effectively in Your Blog Posts.”
As discussed previously in #1: Attribution, links are the currency of the web. In addition to linking to posts you've referenced, you can also refer to and link back to one of your own related posts, which will also help your blog's SEO.
More and more readers these days are coming to blog posts via their mobile phones, so if your blog isn't already mobile-friendly, you'll want to take the necessary steps to make it more easily accessible. Many popular blogging platforms have mobile plugins and templates. Darnell Clayton shares helpful information in his post, “How to Make Your Blog Mobile Friendly.”
#14: Numbers in Titles
Jeremy LaDuque writes in his post, “5 Tips for Effective Email and Blog Titles,” that research has shown that “when a title contains a number, it gets more attention.” 26 Tips, anyone?
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#15: Optimizing Blog Posts
As discussed earlier, using keywords and tags helps with a blog's overall SEO. Taken a step further, Darren Rowse has a post, “Optimize a Single Post on Your Blog for SEO,” about steps you can take to go back and further tweak posts after they've been published by analyzing the competition, and looking further at on- and off-page optimization opportunities.
#16: Pain Points
Rich Brooks writes in his post, “How to Develop a Social Media Content Strategy,” that knowing your audience's pain points will help you tap into conversations that may otherwise pass you by. Begin by finding key phrases and narrowing them down further so you can determine what's most important to your audience.
Because most bloggers want to encourage conversation on their blog posts, many have found it helpful to come right out and ask readers questions at the end of the post, which gives people something specific to respond to. For example, an appropriate question to end this post might be “What blogging tips would you add to this list?”
Michael Martin suggests that people come to your blog to read articles, and the easier they are to read, the better. He offers a useful resource, “30 Things That You Can Do Now,” which includes formatting suggestions regarding links, line spacing, pull quotes, font and background colors, structured hierarchy, italics, bold, etc.
#19: Style Guide
Blogs require a consistent style guide so that anyone who writes and edits posts will be able to adhere to the same rules. Some blogs choose to adopt the AP Stylebook and others prefer the MLA or The Yahoo! Style Guide. As Jonathan Bailey suggests, you'll also want to decide up front how you address specifics such as post length/frequency, post titles (length, capitalization), formatting (subheads, lists), images (sources, sizes), links (number, format), attribution (quotes, photos), and author information/bio.
Kit Singleton provides “7 Tips for Choosing a Business Blog Template.” She suggests thinking about key factors such as knowing your blog's purpose, paying attention to aesthetics, the arrangement of columns, recommended blog features, modifiable CSS code, checking your blog in several browsers, and when the time comes, not being afraid to change the look and feel of your blog.
At times you may find that something you wrote about previously has undergone a significant change. Rather than starting a new post from scratch, you can go back to the original post and update it with the information you'd like to add. For example, the number of users on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are constantly increasing, so you might add the new information and indicate that you've updated the page since the original post date. That way your posts won't get too outdated and it'll reflect well that you're working to keep the material up to date. It also gives the reader a good frame of reference on the quickly changing landscape.
How does your blog sound to a reader? What does it say about you and your business?
Georgina Laidlaw suggests that “Voice is the tone in which you present content…” If a message is what we say, then voice is a critical element in the tone of your content. Pace, rhythm, turns of phrase, idioms—even the way you use punctuation—all contribute to the voice of your blog.
Heidi Cohen offers 7 points to help you create your writer's voice: personality, tells a story, is contextually relevant, listens and interacts, sounds like a real person, has a point of view and avoids sanitized corporate-speak.
#23: Write for the World
If you've ever looked at your blog analytics and found that a particular post was read widely in another part of the world, you'll be able to fully appreciate this next tip—Write for the World—identified by the Yahoo! Style Guide. As it suggests, “Do not assume that you know who's reading your website. Your audience is not homogenous; its members almost certainly vary in age, race, gender, physical abilities, nationality, culture, sexual orientation, and so on.”
Writing for the world can further be translated as banishing bias from your language; e.g., determine whether a group-specific reference is relevant, be exact, beware of false generalizations, use “us” and “them” cautiously, don't make the characteristic the person, watch out for bias inherent in slang and other figures of speech, and don't overcompensate.
#24: Expert Interviews
Conducting expert interviews is a good content source for blogs to consider. Name recognition of someone in your field in whom your audience is interested has a good chance of increasing the post's readership. Furthermore, if the person you interviewed links back to your site or tweets about your interview, your name becomes connected with the expert's, and you can bring a new awareness and credibility to your blog. In the post “Traffic: Will the Expert Interview Increase Traffic to Your Blog or Site?, you'll find a good discussion for how to go about asking for an interview with an expert, suggestions for how to conduct the interview and a list of sample questions.
There are many good reasons why you'd want to embed a YouTube video into a blog post. As YouTube says, “Video is much more engaging than text. It draws more users and keeps them on your site for longer… When looking to increase engagement, try using video as a way to start discussion or make a commentary by creating more context for your users.” Marziah Karch has a great post about how to share, embed and link YouTube videos.
#26: Zigzags and Leaps
In an attempt to keep our blog posts fresh, writers may need to explore new techniques every now and then. Books on the craft of nonfiction and even fiction writing can offer different directions for bloggers to take to get the momentum moving again. In the book Now Write! Nonfiction, Barbara Hurd offers a chapter entitled “Zigzags and Leaps.” She writes, “So the question becomes: how to make the mind move, how to make our thinking zigzag and swerve, plunge and leap as we search for the right direction? I often suggest that students with listless drafts make a series of mental moves that might open up things a bit, allow a little more in, including, we hope, the discovery that's been eluding them.”
Final thoughts about fine-tuning blog posts: To have your blog serve as your online home base, it will require an ongoing commitment to quality content and great attention to detail. But the personal and business rewards of maintaining a blog will be well worth the effort!
What new tips will you try out? What blogging tips would you add to this list? Leave your comments in the box below.
All photos from Shutterstock.
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