Writing Well and Frequently for a Successful Blog - dummies

Writing Well and Frequently for a Successful Blog

By Amy Lupold Bair

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 as a blogger? Use the following tips to help move your blog into the successful zone.

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.

Do you know how important great content is to a successful blog? If you’re hoping to break through into the world of well liked and often visited blogs, you will need to find a way to rise above the noise of millions of blog posts. And even if you plan to blog primarily for your own enjoyment, you will surely want to be proud of the content you create.

This article walks you through various ways to create content that you can be proud of and that will, you hope, draw readers to your blog.

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.

Being yourself on your blog

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.

Writing in the first person isn’t as easy as it looks (or reads). After all, many people spend years training to write more formally, and they 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 (which is fun to write but hard to read).

Don’t be afraid to show emotion in your blog posts. In fact, some of the most popular content I’ve ever created resulted from an extreme emotion: joy, grief, anger. Part of what makes blogs so popular is that the reader can relate to the author. The best way for people to relate to you is for you to be yourself and not hold back.

Blogger Heather Solos of Home-Ec 101 has built her brand on posts about how to clean anything, cook anything, and fix anything. But when she tragically lost her sister to suicide, Heather opened up her heart to her readers in the blog post, “Death, Organ and Tissue Donation, and Grief.” Heather’s community rallied behind her, showing their support with nearly two hundred post comments.

Home-ec 101 blog
Source: www.home-ec101.com
Heather of Home-Ec 101 allowed herself to be vulnerable with her readers after the death of her sister.

In contrast, Erin Lane of A Parenting Production writes often about the personal on her parenting blog, but she allows herself to dive even deeper from time to time with topics such as the struggle with body image.

A Parenting Production blog
Source: www.aparentingproduction.com
Erin from A Parenting Production invites her readers into her toughest personal struggles.

Remember the old saying: You can’t unring a bell. Be cautious when putting something out into the world that you may want to take back later. Try to avoid ranty complaint posts, for example. There’s a difference between righteous indignation and whining.

Consider placing your most emotive content into a drafts folder for 24 hours before hitting publish just to make sure you still want to share after the initial flood of emotion has passed.

One of the best techniques for making blog posts readable is to read the post out loud. If it sounds close to something you might actually say in conversation, it hits the right tone for a blog post.

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.

Finding rewards in lengthy blog posts

You may have guessed from the length of this book that I tend to have a lot to say. Guilty as charged! The trouble with that is that the blogosphere has not always rewarded long blog posts. In fact, as we have moved to a culture that prefers quick, easy-to-consume content, easier to enjoy on our smart phones with fewer characters and more images, it began to seem as though the days of reading wordy posts had gone the way of the dodo.

But wait! Recent SEO (search engine optimization) research shows that search engines such as Google and Bing are actually rewarding lengthy blog posts over brief content with fewer words. This does not mean you should make every post you write a manifesto that goes on for pages and pages, but the fact is that a blog post of around 1,750 words seems to be the sweet spot to bring readers to your blog via search engine traffic.

Which words you choose for your lengthy blog posts still matter, though. Ideally you’d like to hook those search engine visitors and keep them there for the duration of your post, maybe even encouraging them to click around your site and read additional content. What you say still matters as much as how you say it . . . or how long it takes you to say it.

One of the best ways to keep a reader on your blog for longer is to introduce them to other related content on your site at the conclusion of each post. You can certainly create these callouts and links by hand with simple text and hyperlinks, but there are also great, free plug-ins such as Jetpack, AddThis, and Inline Related Posts that will do this for you!

Remembering proofreading and editing

While the typical blog reader does not have the same interest in proper grammar or correct spelling that an English teacher might — or perhaps more accurately, it does remain important for good content to be shored up with careful proofreading and judicious editing.

For starters, most blog software and all word processing programs come equipped with spell-check tools. Do not simply ignore the squiggly red lines under your creatively spelled words! Be sure to take the time to correct the spelling in your posts, even the most informal ones.

Proofreading goes beyond simply spelling words correctly. Much embarrassment can be prevented by reading over your writing carefully before hitting publish. It’s highly recommended that you read your words aloud to yourself!

Many errors have been caught by turning the written word into the spoken word. One tip: If you tend to work in coffee shops or shared work spaces, you might want to wait until you’re in the safety of your own home before putting this advice into practice.

So how does editing differ from spellchecking and proofreading? Well, in spite of the earlier encouragement to write lengthy blog posts with some real depth to them, it is still a good idea to edit your words for characteristics such as clarity of thought, missed points, unnecessary repetition, and yes, unnecessary length.

While you should say all that you want to say — in the end, it’s your blog — you do need to be mindful of how your readers will receive your writing if you’d like them to stay your readers.

Relying on your blog’s content calendar

While blogging began as a somewhat free-flowing medium with a focus on personal storytelling and journaling, many bloggers today actually prefer more structure in their blogging life. One popular blogging tool is the content calendar, a way to plan future content.

Content calendars are a great way to keep your blogging consistent and organized. They provide you with the ability to see your upcoming content at a glance, helping you find the perfect place for last minute content ideas or sponsored content.

They also offer a way to organize your thoughts on future posts in those moments when you have a burst of creativity. When writer’s block comes to call, as it does from time to time, a nicely filled-in content calendar can be the answer to your prayers!

Have you heard the term evergreen content? Some blog posts stand the test of time! If you’ve got space on your content calendar and can’t come up with a new post idea, consider recycling a post from the past that worked well for you then. It’s a good idea to begin such reposts with something along the lines of, “This post was originally published on. . . .”

Beyond keeping you organized and providing a way out of an idea drought, a content calendar is a great opportunity to create a blog strategy. Are you trying to establish yourself as an authority in a specific area? Your content calendar can act as your plan of attack. Considering utilizing guest posts from other writers? A content calendar helps you give those writers enough lead time so that they’ve got a post ready for you when you need it.

Creating a content calendar doesn’t need to be complicated. You can download and print free online calendar templates for everything from kids’ doctor’s appointments to sports team practice schedules. There are a variety of tools available such as the web-based project organization tool, Trello, and the organization app, Evernote.

If you’re more of a web-based tool user than a pen-and-paper kind of person, Try starting with the free calendar tool in the Google suite of products. Google Calendar allows you to create a simple and straightforward content calendar with easily replicable recurring posts. With just the input of an email address, you can share your calendar with coauthors or even invite guest contributors to add to your calendar.

Google Calendar
Source: www.google.com/calendar
A Google Calendar is a wonderful option to create a free content calendar.

To set up a Google Calendar for our blog content, simply follow these steps:

  1. Go to www.google.com/calendar.
  2. Sign in to your Google account, or create a new, free Google account.

    If you already use Google Calendar for other aspects of your life, consider creating a new account with an email address related to your blog such as yourblogname@gmail.com. Google does allow you to create a variety of separate calendars within one account, but a separate account may be helpful for clarity’s sake.

  3. Select New Calendar from the menu in the left sidebar.
    Note that you will need to click on the ellipsis in order to access this option.
    creating Google calendar
    Source: www.google.com/calendar
    Begin the creation of your Google Calendar content calendar by selecting New Calendar.
  4. Name and describe your new calendar.
    Naming Google Calendar

    Source: www.google.com/calendar
    Once you have created your calendar, give it an easy to remember name.

  5. Click on Create Calendar.
  6. Navigate the Calendar Settings in the left sidebar in order to customize your calendar settings.
    customize Google Calendar
    Source: www.google.com/calendar
    You can customize your free Google Calendar settings to meet your needs.