This is a newsletter article from the September 2010 edition my monthly email newsletter. If you like it and aren’t signed up, simply fill in the form to the right or at the bottom of this post to join.
The main component of any successful blog has to be the writing. Without quality writing, your blog will fall at the first hurdle.
Blogs which rely solely upon technology to succeed cannot entertain, engage and elicit feedback for customers on a long-term basis.
To be great bloggers, we do need to understand the basic principles behind great writing for the web, and use these principles to create quality content.
The following tips are designed to support you in producing outstanding, interesting and downright cool content for your blog, without compromising on quality or losing yourself in the quest to engage your customers…
Nothing engages blog readers more than a healthy dose of humor when they read. Humor makes information easier to absorb, and also makes the writer seem instantly more accessible and interesting. Knowing how much to use in your blog writing is a skill which takes a little time to hone.
If you are funny more often than not, you run the risk of not being taken seriously as a blogger. Conversely, if you keep your blog posts wholly dry and professional, you could alienate people who are looking to be entertained by your blog as well as informed.
What are your best character traits? When you write, let yourself reveal them to your customers. Blogging as a platform is specifically designed to be more relaxed than traditional business communications, meaning it is perfectly acceptable for you to show who you are when you write.
While this doesn’t mean revealing the details of your last messy night out with your customers, it does mean you have the scope to draw from personal experience to write your articles, letting people get to know you a little as they read.
Some of the best blogs out there at the moment rely on the personality of the owners to keep them interesting, helping people to build up rapport and keep coming back again and again.
Check spelling and grammar
Nothing puts people off more than bad spelling and poor grammar in a blog post. If you don’t have time to check these two things off when you write, should you really be blogging at all? Badly-written blogs show that their owners don’t really care enough to make an effort when they write. And this lack of care will be quickly picked up on by customers.
Blog writing should be invisible to your readers, in the sense that when they visit your site they should hear what you have to say without even being aware of the language that you use. If people have to struggle to understand where you are coming from, or pick their way through a series of mistakes, the chances are they won’t be coming back to visit for a long time afterwards.
We are all lazy at heart, and we like to be able to pick up information without effort. The accessibility of information online means that our attention spans are getting shorter, and our expectations are getting higher – a tough combination to have to cater for, as a business blogger.
No matter what industry sector you are writing about, it makes sense to keep your language clear, avoid acronyms or jargon, and present your information in easy-to-read sections. Use sub-headings to divide up long passages, and always remember that the average online reader has an attention span of a few minutes per article to get to grips with what you are trying to tell them.
Keep it short
People like to get the information which they are looking for, quickly. Job done!
Keep it original
There are two reasons why your blog posts should always be completely original. The first is that if you take copy from other people’s sites, the owners will probably find out and sue you for theft of intellectual property. This is a messy, unpleasant and ultimately destructive process which you can do without. Secondly, your readers come to you because they are expecting an original voice in the blogosphere.
They trust you to come up with new and interesting comments and articles.
If your writing is stolen from another site, and your customer realises that, it makes sense for them to go to the site where the material came from originally to get their information fix.
Whatever industry you specialize in, there is always new information coming out to write about. By keeping abreast of news in your specialist field, you can report back to your customers about any changes, improvements or events which they may find interesting.
Writing about breaking news is a great way to improve your SEO ratings and attract new customers, as people tend to search about the things which they find most interesting, and want to know more when news items are announced. By being among the first to report back, you will gain a loyal following of people who come to you as the first port of call for news and updates in your sector.
Pick great images
If you’re not keen on writing, you can use pictures to tell half your story for you. Great images are not only visually appealing, they also get picked up by the major search engines and support you to appear in the rankings.
A number of sites offer free royalty-free images (like sxc.hu), so scouring the web for a suitable picture to illustrate your point is a few-second job. If you’re better with a mouse than a keyboard, consider drawing up diagrams or images that speak on your behalf, illustrating what you want to say without having to produce reams of paragraphs.
Feedback is probably one of the most important tools you will ever get as a blogger. When you ask for customer’s opinions about what you have written, you get a free critique and also stand to lean much more about the kind of things they want to see on your site.
If you want to go one step further, invite guest bloggers to write for you in addition to posting up your own articles. They get exposure, you get a day off from writing for your blog. What could be better?
About Blog Tech Guy…
I’m Joel, and I’m here to take the mystery out of the world of blogging to make it easy for you to set up, streamline and maintain your blog. I offer services including blog optimization, technical support, access to help and tutorials, and a host of other blog-related support.
In 1839, English playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton came up with the classic line ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’. This may be an old adage now, but it remains as strong today as it ever has. Writing carries influence, and anyone who doubts that only needs to check out the media across the globe to see how much of an effect a few choicely-written lines can have on the people who read them.
Perhaps this is one reason why the noble art of blogging is here to stay – because it is primarily involved with the exchange of words. People communicate online through the words that they write, and unlike newspapers, the media or books, the words go uncensored, are published immediately, and can be added to by anyone who signs in and responds to them. That is an incredibly powerful concept, and the whole ethos behind the superb world of the blogosphere.
From the first online diary written, blogging has gathered momentum and become an established platform for people from all walks of life to voice their personal opinions. Even the most business-focused blogs tend to offer a personal perspective, whether it is a view on buying software, commentary on news and events or political opinions. It is commonly accepted that people who blog are entitled to voice their subjective views, and this democratic approach is what makes blogs stand out from other media vehicles as being different, and engaging.
Trawl through the World Wide Web and you can find thousands of blogs written to different standards, from people who have an opinion and want to share it with the world. This is both positive and negative – positive because it means that people from all walks of life are gaining an opportunity to get their voice heard, and negative in a way because it gives even the most obscure and unpalatable opinions a valid platform from which to communicate. In countries where repression is the norm, blogging is becoming a way of letting the outside world know about punishing regimes and unfair politics, while close to home there are a myriad different sites given over to niche subjects which would previously not have been given air time in regular communications vehicles.
All this goes to show that blogs have more power and credibility than they are often given credit for. This means that as a blog writer, you may be reaching a wider audience of different people and viewpoints than you ever really considered. As the owners of potentially influential sites, we have an obligation to write in a certain way in order to preserve the inherent dignity of our blogs and make sure that we only provide a positive voice in the blogosphere.
It goes without saying that our blogs should be balanced, unbiased and professional in the first instance. Unless you are writing a deliberately provocative blog, it’s important to make sure that any opinions expressed will not cause offence, and that you maintain a professional façade at all times to support your brand. Fanaticism or extremism will always have their place in our world, but obviously that place is not on a business site which is first and foremost there to generate revenue from appealing to as many people as possible.
Having said that, it’s great to be able to find a place where it is both safe and accepted to speak your opinion. Blogs are invaluable for sharing experiences, ideas and viewpoints in a tolerant and open forum, where other people are invited to comment on what you have put. Make the most of this unique opportunity to share your views, always remembering why you set your blog up in the first place, and what it is there to achieve.
Have you ever come across a website or blog that looked like it had potential, until you actually start to read it? I’m talking about the kind of sites where the owner has obviously had a great idea, and new exactly what they wanted to write about online. They targeted a niche market, set up the site with all the right thinking and then…murdered it with text.
Even as literate adults, we don’t like wading through reams of copy on the web. We reserve that pleasure for studying, reading novels, or wading through legal contracts and documents. Our expectations as surfers are much higher. We want to be entertained, and we need a way of accessing information in quick, simple ways.
Those people who prefer to read vast amounts of text tend to stick to buying newspapers. For the rest of us? We know what we want, and we know we want it quickly.
As bloggers, we have a responsibility to our readers to offer a decent article which keeps people entertained, gives them information quickly, and hopefully sparks off a debate and feedback.
What we don’t want to do is face our poor visitors with page upon page of technical writing that makes people feel a little sick when they scroll through our sites.
When you look at some of the most successful blogs out there, they all have a few things in common:
- Great articles, which say everything that the customer is looking for within one thousand words or less
- The use of images to liven up the site and make it more visually appealing to the reader
- Informative, current content that makes the reader want to stick around
- An acknowledgment that the reader is short on time, and needs to gather information quickly without working through lengthy sentence structures and navigational minefields to locate it.
In fact, the best blogs work a little on the same principles of newspapers. With more and more news corporations leaving the paper-based world to represent news and information online, our expectations of the internet are changing. We are growing accustomed to surfing our favorite sites to get what we want quickly, and it actually goes against customer expectations to deviate from this standardized way of presenting information.
Take a look at your blog. Are you swamping your reader with jargon, lengthy paragraphs, technical language and confusing navigation? If you are, it may be time to take a few steps back and reconsider your technique.
Look at the blogs which you most admire. What stands out about them, and their style of presenting information? What characteristics do you notice which are being carried across from journalism in to today’s blogs and web sites? By translating what you like best about the way you yourself gather information, it’s a simple process then to map what you find on to your own site.
Keep ahead of this industry of ours, and take note of the way reader’s expectations are changing, to make sure you become a trendsetter in today’s blogosphere, rather than trailing behind in the wake of your savvy competitors.