Writing Well and Frequently for a Successful Blog
Two of the many ingredients for a successful blog are good and frequently updated content. But what does it really mean to provide good and frequent content?
Good content compels, satisfying the readers’ immediate interests but leaving them hungry for more. Think of a blog post as being like an appetizer: It should whet the appetite, pique the palette, and sustain the diner until the next course arrives. You don’t want to give your readers “annual Thanksgiving dinner” — you want them to come back, come back soon, and come back often.
Blogging is quite a personal, conversational medium, and textual blogs have a strong feel of the author and his or her personality. The first blogs were actually online diaries, and even today, most bloggers choose to use words such as I or my in their blog posts, creating an intimate and open feel — even on corporate blogs. This first-person writing differs dramatically from most corporate communication, which at best refers to the company as our and at worst only refers to the company by its full and official name.
Take, for example, one of the McDonald’s blogs, Open for Discussion, which was written by McDonald’s Vice President Bob Langert. In a post on August 20, 2007, Bob wrote:
“We all have one — a pet peeve that we just can’t ditch. I was recently reminded of my #1 pet peeve while reading the latest account of McDonald’s Moms’ Quality Correspondents. They reported that McDonald’s beef is 100% pure USDA-inspected beef. Frankly, I don’t think this should be any kind of big ‘Aha’, and I am amazed that so many people question this established fact.”
Writing in the first person isn’t as easy as it looks (or reads); after all, most people spend years training to write more formally, and commonly produce all kinds of documents in which first-person writing is emphatically not suitable: memos, reports, news stories, invoices, and so on. You may have trouble finding an authentic, genuine voice that really feels comfortable. The best advice is to just practice, practice, practice.
If you’d like your blog to have a casual tone, think of your blog posts as being like letters or emails. Speak directly and simply, as you would in a personal note or letter. Try not to overthink your words, but don’t go right into stream of consciousness (fun to write, hard to read).
A good technique for making your blog posts readable is to read your post out loud. If it sounds close to something you might actually say in conversation, it hits the right tone for a blog post — one with a conversational tone, anyway.
If you make your blog informal and conversational, you still shouldn’t ignore spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. Some bloggers do opt for an unedited approach, but keep in mind that people have more trouble, not less, reading poorly formulated writing. If you have a professional blog, or ever hope to make money from your blog, you definitely need to pay attention to spelling and grammar because these little details influence your credibility. Do your readers a favor — use the grammar and spell-check functions of your word processor — and proofread, too.
Many bloggers like to quote news articles and blog posts, and then expand on them. If you take this approach, make sure that you understand the rules of copyright law when you use someone else’s words — it’s always best to ask permission! For more, read the sidebar “Respecting copyright.”
Although it’s important to update your content frequently enough that your readers don’t assume you’ve abandoned your blog, you also don’t want to inundate them with new content — or worse, force yourself to write mediocre content just to post something.