If you write a blog, it is clear that every few minutes the experts are recommending a new approach. So, just what are the rules of blogging today? Here is my interpretation of being a good blogger, the rules of modern blogger must adapt and adopt new approaches.
Modern Blogger: Enthuses Readers
People read blogs to educate themselves (personally or professionally) so, educate them.
Open with a BANG! You need both a great headline and great opening.
Don’t be shallow. Skimming the issues may be okay for other people, but you, the modern blogger, should delve in and discuss details.
Brevity is the enemy of blogging. The post needs to be as long as is necessary to explain the topic fully.
Do you have something original to say? You shouldn’t make the same points other people already have, take your thoughts one step further, make new points, provide new ideas.
Is there a point to your material? Each piece you write should have a point.
Focus on the right things: It is easy to be led down a particular path by others. Publish what matters to you. It is better to be positive than be negative on your work.
Publish regularly (monthly, weekly, daily) the frequency does not matter what is important is that new material is regularly added. The principle is post regularly, but don’t strain yourself.
Blogs need a theme, specialty, or niche they relate to. You can write on other subjects, but the writing for your blog needs to be focused. It is not a general writing site. Some writers have two or three blogs on different subjects they are knowledgeable on.
Reach out to others, fellow experts in your subject area, get to know them, let them know about the things you have recently published and what you intend to publish.
Be authentic. Your passion on the subject needs to shine through.
Link your professional work into your blog. This can mean ensuring others know you are available for hire.
Make the Quality Count
Pay attention to spelling and grammar. We all make mistakes but by paying close attention you should reduce the number of published errors.
It is the duty of the modern blogger to make sure you posts are good quality. Whatever the subject make sure your use of English is exemplary.
Use persuasive words. There are certain words that project emotion or power. Using such words empowers your work.
Use clear language. Even though you have a specialist subject it doesn’t mean you should write using jargon.
Use proper punctuation. full stops, commas, semi-colons, and colons help to break up the work.
Your material needs structure. In order to communicate a concept your thoughts needs to be organised, follow a logical order, show all the relevant points.
Use sentences of variable length. Some long, some short, but each properly constructed.
Use paragraphs of variable length. A paragraph allows the writer to explain something. Once explained move on to the next matter in a new paragraph.
Provide killer bullet points. People forget the power of a bullet point to focus the reader’s attention.
Use sections. Sections headers should be in Header 2 (often referred to as H2). This will inform the reader the idea behind each section in turn.
The words in the section header should focus a reader’s attention.
Proofread everything. Avoid the urge to push the “Publish” button too early.
Proofread and edit everything again.
As a rule of thumb your material should be proofread, edited and checked 5 times before publication.
If you need assistance use the grammar checker.
Modern Blogger: Headlines Matter
A short, snappy, interesting title will bring in readers.
Challenge people’s thinking. When the majority of headlines show one view it is time to take the opposite approach.
Lead, don’t follow. You post should offer a unique perspective, so should your headline.
Modern Blogger: Design Matters
Have a well designed, visual logo.
Have a well designed Favicon, the icon which appears on the browser tab. It is square, normally 512 x 512 pixels in size.
It must be easy to navigate through the various pages of your blog, particularly the home page, which is where interested readers go when they find something interesting.
Create a beautiful blog, one that is photogenic, the layout should be pleasing to the eye and assist navigation. As your blog grows into hundreds of posts it should continue to be easy to find related posts.
The design of your blog is important. It should allow easy access to other pages on your site. Having a front page with a slider allows readers to get a visual image of the posts you have recently published.
Having the right colours can be important, don’t put up with colours you don’t like.
AVOID white on black and red on green or other colour combinations where certain people would have problems reading your site.
Have a responsive design. To be clear “responsive” in this context means the site will adapt to look good on all devices types including mobile phones, tablets, and laptops, even if you don’t use them readers will.
It should have clear descriptive, one word, menu items.
Bigger fonts are better. Consider the reader who has vision problems.
Modern Blogger: is it Navigable?
Blogs should be limited to 10 or 12 categories MAXIMUM. These are subject matter groupings and should be seen as a natural way to subdivide your blog. If your blog has 100 categories then readers will have trouble finding things.
Key words or tags are the way to find posts within your blog. They relate to the the “Search” dialog at the top of your blog. These are more free form than categories.
At the end of your post, if you have other posts discussing related material then you should provide a hyperlink to these pages. under a heading like “See Also” or “Related”. Do not rely on your theme to do this.
Etiquette and Writing Conventions
Avoid writing in all capitals. People consider it as shouting and bad etiquette. You may emphasise a single word by capitalisation, particularly in a headline, but never more than a single word.
Consider which fonts to use, as a general rule stay with the default fonts used by the theme. Change the theme fonts if you don’t like them.
Everything you write needs the use of highlights. Eyes find plain text boring and easily switch off.
Highlight important sections of text using bold, italics, colour and bold colours.
Have white space or pictures. This allows a little time for the eyes to rest.
Be different by the points you make.
Every post MUST have a hyperlink.
Make it simple, remove the obvious but add the meaningful.
All blog posts should include pictures/diagrams. There are many sites providing public domain pictures that you should have no problem obtaining images, if you don’t have them.
Use sections. This shows the reader that there is a logical order to your work.
Lists, like this one, are a great way to help the reader scan for the information they desire.
It is considered impolite to delete comments, yet if they are rude, make bigoted remarks, or contain advertising, then you are within your rights to delete them.
Every once in a while have a “holiday special,” a post that will make everyone smile, provide a quiz, or perhaps have a poll. The idea of the holiday special is to change the tone
Modern Blogger: Discuss
Have an exciting landing page for readers, answer their questions.
Your post should educate the reader. It is best to fully cover the subject under discussion, but occasionally you may need two or three posts for a full discussion.
Articles should be as long as necessary to make the point you wish to make. Generally, a 2,500 word article is better than a 200 word one as it educates and informs the reader.
Be thorough. A long, thorough, post will attract readers. One 35,000 word, technical post, had viral readership of hundreds of thousands of readers per day.
Ensure you have a voice, write about the subjects you are passionate about.
Don’t commit libel. Just because you have a voice does not mean you have the right to make accusations about another person. Your words can be considered libelous.
Create diagrams that show the steps that need to be taken. There are many software products you already use that can help you with creating diagrams, for example Microsoft Powerpoint, Microsoft Word.
Tell a story. Even if you are writing a factual piece or reporting some news it is important to tell the story and why it may be crucial.
Good posts include a call to action. It is not esential but it makes a good post even better. The call to action can be the ingredient that makes a blog post worth it all
When you quote or talk about another person’s work, it is good manners to provide a link to their page. For most blogs you don’t have to formally cite their work, but it is best to mention them by name and include the name of their post, alongside the quote you use. The quote you use should be at the most 3 sentences.
If you plan to use more than a small quote, then you should seek permission from the original author. Tell them the parts you wish to copy and how you plan to attribute their work (including a link to their page). If you seek permission then ensure you retain a copy of the email (or letter if they still send those) granting permission. This is essential if there is later a dispute.
Pictures/Diagrams should emphasise the point being made. Pictures will rest the eye, but tey must not be a distraction.
If you use a public domain artwork then ensure you mention the artists name in either the caption or Alt text. It is best to do this even when the site providing the picture says “no attribution required”.
Call to Action?
What you say should motivate people, but it doesn’t necessarily link to a call to action. Most blogs are not marketing tools.
Include a call to action, when appropriate.
Develop and Encourage Readers
You need to build a relationship with your readers.
Encourage readers to comment. Either explicitly ask them to comment or ask questions of your readers that are not answered, questions designed to draw out comments.
Make sure you home page provides a great advert for your writing — it should look like an on-line magazine.
Identify reader’s needs and focus on them when you write.
Be a part of a community of experts on your subject matter, communicate with others in your field, learn from them and don’t repeat their mistakes.
When a reader leaves a comment on your page it is good manners to reply. Although you should never reply with a “thank you”. Reply by making a meaningful point.
Modern Blogger: Performance
It is better to have your site independently hosted than use the free hosting available at WordPress or Blogger.
If budget is a challenge then do host with WordPress or Blogger with a view to upgrading later.
One of the reasons you should avoid free hosting providers for your blog is that their services are unreliable, which means access to your site could be down as often as it is up.
Ensure your blog loads quickly — this depends on 2 things. 1) the host you use, and 2) the theme you select. Some hosts perform better than others, but it can be tough to change hosts without added cost. There are many themes, often many having similar functionality, Change themes if you must.
Make it easy for readers to follow you.
Avoid floating bars or buttons. They impact performance and can annoy readers, especially if they obscure part of the page they wish to read.
If you are going to include social media buttons place them at the bottom of your posts, where people can easily find and use them.
Ensure you have an “About” page. It should give a bio about you, show what you are passionate about and some information about why a reader should connect with you. Update this page regularly.
Don’t repeat earlier articles! You wrote about a subject five years ago, which is now becoming popular again. Do not republish your earlier post, create a new one.
Do not re-blog other people’s posts. I used to be a fan of reblogging then I realised the SEO impact it has on other people’s work, reducing their performance on search engines. If you wish to point people at the work of others then, either:
Write your own article referring to theirs, adding you own wisdom along the way, or
Include a link to them in a web-roundup article of your own where you talk about the contribution that other people have made on an array of subjects, see my Web Explored posts.
How many Links exist to you own pages? Internal links are an essential to improving your SEO performance. Link to related material that is still valid. These serve to deepen the overall value of your site.
Modern Blogger: Publicity & Social Media
Talk to people about what you are doing. Do you have a business card for the site? Hand them out when appropriate.
Have powerful headlines that draw the readers in.
Be bold with your social media postings, link in blog posts.
Follow back, when readers follow you, take a look at their blog, make time for them — perhaps leaving a comment or two.
Distribute your content. Develop a habit of telling people about your posts via social media. Develop a publicity schedule. Post and re-post your work.
Learn how to use hashtags.
When publicising your blog posts use relevant social media hashtags.
Name your social followers when you post. Naming people on social media is a form of flattery. Flattery can gain your readers.
Learn how to use social bookmarking using Reddit, StumbleUpon, and others.
Solid Advice for the Modern Blogger
Be careful about how much promotional content you publish. Affiliate programs may seem a good way to make money but they are not the reason the reader comes to your site.
Promote your own work. If you have published a book, or e-book, then you should let people know even if the subject matter is not identical to your blog. Try to advertise it on the sidebar with picture and short text.
Your blog will evolve as you evolve. You may have written something in the past that you think differently about today. That is okay, your views evolve over time. Do not delete the old post, but you could write a new one explaining why you feel differently today.
Don’t forget your blog’s birthday/anniversary. Celebrate it and celebrate your successes.
It is a good idea to encourage youngsters to create their own blog. They should learn the do’s and dont’s. Know how to protect their identity, their location etc. Encourage them to have a happy and safe blogging life. Children need encouragement, but they also need to know you are their ally.