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To request a blog, wiki or discuss Sharepoint access, contact SID.

Blogs and wikis

Blogs offer a very quick and simple way for anybody to publish content to the web without having to establish or maintain an entire website.

They are incredibly visible in search engines as their content is picked up and indexed much quicker than regular websites by services like Google. Blogs are ideal for publishing project news and updates, commenting on external events and issues, and linking to and interacting with content on other blogs. Find out more about how blogs work at this useful Introduction to Blogging page by Wordpress.

Request the set up of a University blog for your research group, centre or project via SID.

What makes a good blog post?

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.

Are you trying to get a point across? What is it? It's important 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.

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 suggest that posts of less than 250 words, or more than 1000, do less well in search results.

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

It will be easier (and quicker) to read if paragraphs and sentences are short and the words are recognisable. It may be tempting to write in a creative and enigmatic style, 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 etc – will also help to make your blog more readable. Keep your design simple and free of visual clutter.

Pictures that illustrate what you’re writing about can really help to catch your audience’s imagination and attention. 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 respect copyright and make attributions as appropriate.

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 in a newspaper, but they don't make content findable online. Unfortunately, search-engine-friendly titles can often be a little boring and obvious. It’s up to you which style you prefer to use, but make sure you know the difference.

The title and opening lines of webpages and blog posts are important as the words you use will be picked up by search engines, so make sure your post's topic is clear.

Also ensure these aspects are optimised:

  • Tags and categories: put your posts in categories and add keyword tags. These help with SEO (search engine optimisation) and navigating around your blog if you have a lot of posts.
  • Metadata on photographs: people search for photographs online almost as much as text, so 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 think that it’s a good SEO tactic to write lots of short blog posts rather than a few long ones; but also 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.

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.

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. 

Acknowledging that people have taken the time to write comments is polite, and responding to comments is 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. Don't 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.

Wikis

A wiki is a website that allows the creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a simple text editor. They also usually allow the uploading and sharing of documents. The most well known example is Wikipedia.

Why you might want a wiki

Wikis are fully user-editable, so are an excellent tool for collaborative online work. You do not have to have any particular technical skills beyond basic internet usage to be able to contribute to a wiki. The University system is customisable so that wikis can be kept completely private, enabling only people who are part of a particular project or group to see or edit content. Wikis can be used to share documents, plan events, store information, and much more. 

Contact SID to request a wiki.