What makes a good blog post?

Blogging well isn't just a case of spewing your thoughts onto the internet. Hopefully these hints and tips can help you make the most out of it.

Consider your audience

It’s a simple thing to point out, but it’s very important nonetheless; who do you want to be reading your blog? Who do you think will be interested in what you have to say?

Consider who they are, when, where, how and why they might be reading your blog, and try and write in a way that speaks to them so they’ll understand and engage with what you’re saying. Remember that your blog can be read around the world, too.

It’s also important to remember that blogs can and do remain discoverable in search engines for years, including by potential employers, so don’t post anything you might regret in the future!

At the same time, your blog is about YOU, and should be written in your voice and style, not like an anonymous web-bot.

What is your post for?

Are you trying to get a point across? What is it? It might be useful to make sure you have a purpose in mind when you sit down to write a post, even if that purpose is just to describe something that happened to you recently. This should help to prevent aimless rambling!

Make it the right length

There are several schools of thought regarding how long a blog post ought to be; some people say short and sweet, while others think people like longer and more detailed content.

The simple fact is that it depends what you’re writing about:  a simple observation which rambles on for hundreds or even thousands of words is no good, but neither is a short post that doesn’t fully cover a topic or explain what you mean.

Experts also suggest that posts of less than 250 words, or more than 1000, do less well in search results; more on this later.

Make it readable

People read online in a different way to how they read on paper – and they’re generally much more impatient online!

Whether your post itself is long or short, it will be easier (and quicker) to read and understand if the paragraphs and sentences are short and the words are recognisable. It may be tempting to write in as creative and enigmatic a style as you can, but this could put people off reading if it prevents you getting your point across.

The design of your blog – font choice, colour, layout, column width, and more – will also help to make your blog more readable. Try and keep your design simple and free of visual clutter.

Using pictures

Pictures which illustrate what you’re writing about can really help to catch your audience’s imagination and attention, so it can be useful to use them. You can upload pictures directly into your blog, or hyperlink to them. If you do use pictures by people other than yourself, make sure you consider copyright and make any attributions as appropriate.

Titles: Attention-grabbing or search engine friendly?

Newspaper sub-editors have had to learn how to write headings for the internet, which is very different from writing them for print. Clever puns and intriguing statements can catch your eye as you flick through a newspaper, but they’re not the type of thing that makes content findable online. Unfortunately, search-engine-friendly titles can often be a little boring and obvious. It’s completely up to you which style you prefer to use, but make sure you know the difference.

Other things to attract search engines

The title and opening lines of any webpage or blog post are the most important things to help them be found in searches, and the words you use in these headings and opening lines are the ones that search engines will pick up, so make sure you point out what you’re writing about if you want your post to be found.

There are other things that can help, too.

  • Tags and categories: make sure you put all your posts in categories, and add keyword tags, as these can help both with SEO (search engine optimisation) and with navigating around your blog if you have a lot of content.
  • Metadata on photographs: people search for photographs online almost as much as they search for text, so if you use photographs make sure they have proper words in their filenames and descriptions; if someone finds your photograph, they also find your blog.
  • Links to and from other websites: the more links there are to your blog, the easier it is to find, both for people browsing other websites and in terms of where your blog will come in search results.
  • More shorter posts: some people think that it’s a good tactic for SEO to write lots of short blog posts rather than a few long ones; but consider that SEO experts suggest webpages with less than 250 words or more than 1000 don’t do as well in search results.
  • Topicality: search engines are now so sophisticated that they update in real time according to what people are searching for, so if you can write a post at the moment of peak interest in a subject it can bump you to the top of search results.

Ask your readers to do things

Marketing people refer to this as a “call to action”. You might be asking people to donate to a charity, fill in a survey, click on a link to another website, or just give their opinion via the comments box. A call to action gives your posts a definite purpose, and encourages interaction between your readers and you.

Responding to comments

How you deal with comments is up to you, and will largely depend on the type of comments your posts receive. Some might just need a quick response via another comment, some might not need a response at all, and others you might want to respond to via email if possible. At the least, acknowledging that people have taken the time to write comments is an act of politeness.

Responding to comments can be a good way of building a sense of community and expanding your readership. It can also draw you into discussions, arguments, and “flame wars” that you don’t want to have. Try not to be baited into antagonistic situations, and remember that you can always delete comments to your blog; your blog is your responsibility, and it’s your privilege to control what’s on there.

Other useful links

These other webpages are full of useful tips on writing and producing blog and wider web content.

http://www.problogger.net/how-to-write-great-blog-content/

http://www.43folders.com/2008/08/19/good-blogs

http://www.problogdesign.com/design/7-elements-to-make-your-blog-look-great/

http://firstsiteguide.com/start-blog/

http://www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/web/writing/

http://www.exeter.ac.uk/staff/web/copyright/

http://makeawebsitehub.com/how-to-install-wordpress/