Chapter 4: Blogging
A captivating voice baits the hook, but a blog won’t land a strong and returning readership if the content and mechanics behind the voice are subpar.
What are some examples of strong versus subpar content?
Organization and Relevance
Formatting Fit for a Scan
Timely and Current Connections
Blogging requires planning, because new posts should appear regularly. An established blogger, Dekker posts two to three times a week. He uses Google calendar to keep content planned two to three weeks in advance, and he schedules sponsored posts and paid work often a month or two in advance. Creating a content calendar helps ensure a steady flow of content and also encourages strategic and timely topic choices.
Beyond adding fresh content on a regular basis, the posts themselves should be timely. This might mean tying in to a current event or trending topic: in Dekker’s case, visiting a newly opened restaurant or offering “12 Ideas for Spring Brunch Season.” With a more timeless or evergreen topic, content can link to current other resources or websites.
Whatever the blog topic – food, fashion, sports, cars, vintage Barbie dolls – be original in the thoughts shared and the voice and writing style used to share them. Dekker speaks in his own voice about his experiences, keeping content casual and in the first person. He seeks out new and interesting restaurants and experiences and talks about them with his own personal spin.
Unique and fun visuals also add interest. Photos, other graphics and multimedia elements can bring the content to life and capture the attention of readers scanning the page. In a post about Kittie’s Café in Bexley, Dekker highlights key options at the WiFi and laptop-free café, including the s’moretado drink, one of the standout menu items to not only hear about but see.
Organization and Relevance
Good posts have a strong and relevant takeaway for readers. Maybe it’s helpful cooking tips or purely to entertain, but writers should know what they intend for the reader to gain from reading each post.
Keep an eye on word count and structure the content. It’s not a meandering diary entry. A typical guideline is 300-500 words, but it depends on the style of the writer and the blog. Creating a rough outline before writing can help writers organize key messages and place links and images.
A blog post that starts a conversation and links to other great content mean readers never need to hit a dead-end. Links give readers a choose-your-own-adventure experience that lets them explore examples, dig deeper into the post’s main points or check out other perspectives. Use links to connect your blog content to other expertise, unique perspectives, resources or examples.
Links also force readers to choose between continuing on or clicking, so limit links to key outside sources and clearly show readers where links will take them. Avoid “click here” and use the text in the link to indicate where the link leads.
Images tell great stories and most blog posts fall flat without some type of photos, graphics or video. Dekker recommends using original artwork as much as possible, “especially considering the fact that we all carry small cameras with us.”
An Explorer’s Heart author Powers is also a photographer and includes multiple photos with each post to use both images and words to share information. In a 2016 post How to Plan a Trip to Aspen, Colorado this Fall, she includes 24 photos that illustrate different aspects of her content from scenery to fall leaves to local hot spots.
Assume all existing images are copyrighted unless you prove otherwise. Ask permission (via email to create a paper trail) and then link back to the original image and include photo credit within the post. Read about author and blogger Roni Loren’s expensive and lawyer-filled experience
when she unknowingly posted a copyrighted photo, and her suggestions for avoiding this pitfall.
Blogs position their writers as subject-matter experts. And it’s hard to build trust as an expert with spelling and grammatical mistakes, inconsistencies or other weak writing. Dekker says he uses the lessons he learned from journalism, skills like careful proofreading and fact checking.
Other fundamental to keep in mind:
- Using active verbs
- Crafting strong headlines
- Proofreading carefully for both grammar and spelling
- Relying on a stylebook for consistency
- Learning about and using keywords to help readers find your post
- Editing. Editing Again. And Again.
Powers agrees that a good blog posts needs not only great photos but solid writing.
“It should be informative and the best out there,” Powers says. “The competition is tough, so a post with 100 words and a
few mediocre photos won’t get you very far.”
Formatting Fit for a Scan
The majority of people don’t read online information word-for-word. They scan, and this means the length and format of online content should look different. These tips will help make your online content scanner-friendly:
- Cut online content to about half the word count (or less) than a similar piece of content intended for print
- Use shorter sentences and more, shorter paragraphs to allow scanners to digest smaller pieces of information
- Chunk the text by limiting content to one idea per paragraph when possible and separating paragraphs with a space to create visual breaks in the text
- Add subheads and make them meaningful so scanners get a good overview of available topics and can jump around in the text
- Look for information in the narrative that lends itself to a list format or series of bullet points
- Highlight keywords or subheads by making them bold or a different typeface (but use these sparingly so they still stand out)
- Avoid distracting backgrounds and difficult to read font colors and types