Before You Blog… Read This!

I find myself talking a lot about blogging and thought I would share some basics that I often pass along to others. As a long time blogger, over 12 years, I’m often surprised at how easy people think blogging is and at how many really horrible blogs there are. Even if you have a blog, it isn’t a bad idea to review the basics and see if you’re still on target.

What is a Blog?

A blog is an online web journal. There are many applications to help people publish their entries, called posts, but they typically all work in the same way.

How do I Blog?

The most effective blogs are those that are updated every day. However, this is not feasible for everyone, and usually anywhere from several times a week to once a week is preferred. Updates are made by:

  1. Logging into the blog application
  2. Typing in your post, which is not unlike using MS Word
  3. Publishing by clicking a button

Blog posts are relatively short and usually offer some useful commentary on a current event, guidance on a particular subject, or useful information about a topic. Most blog posts include links to more information as well as the related website. It’s also nice to incorporate images and video. Most blog applications make this very easy.

Why Should I Blog?

Blogging is great for search engine optimization. Because blogs are updated frequently and usually address current events in a timely fashion, search engines love to put blog posts at the top of the results pages. Often you can discuss something in a blog much faster than you could on a website because the brief, concise format of a blog post allows for quick reaction to important news. Search engines love timely, relevant information.

Because a blog is linked to a website, it’s a great way to drive traffic to your website and also increase the website’s chances of doing well in search engine results. Although you may post about topics that don’t have anything to do with your website directly, your blog readers will naturally visit your website to learn more about you. This unintentional traffic creates a wider audience.

As a blog author, you should follow and promote other blogs that you feel would be of value to your readers. Once your blog is established, you may even want to comment on other blogs. Bloggers connect to each other, if they feel the content is a value to their audience. This builds your online reputation.

If you post meaningful, engaging content, on a regular schedule, your audience will grow. The main purpose of your blog is to develop relationships with your readers. Unlike a website, blogs allow for comments which create the opportunity for dialogue. A blog is not successful if it doesn’t provoke and support relationships.

What Makes a Great Blog?

  • Photos help break up the content. People also remember a message more effectively if there are multiple types of content to process. Blog photos don’t have to be works of art, but they do need to be yours. Make sure you own the rights to all the photos you use.
  • Profile photos help give the blog a personality. The best blogs are like having a conversation with a good friend and it helps to know what they look like.
  • Great blogs have thoughtful post length that’s neither too short nor too long. There is no magic formula but you should read your post a few times before publishing and ask yourself if your post presents any questions you could answer. Likewise, if you find that you get bored of the subject before reaching the end, edit your content down.
  • The best blogs, with wonderful reputations and lots of followers, are those that have a personality. Your blog should be a unique voice regarding the topics you chose to write about. Research what you plan on writing about, do a Google search to see what other people have been saying, and write about the topic in a different way, present a different perspective. Admire other great blogs but be yourself on yours.
  • A blog that isn’t updated often isn’t worth doing. There are a million blogs on the web that talk about a million different topics. You can’t join the conversation unless you speak up, and post often. If you can only commit to sporadic posts, it’s better to put the energy into updating your website instead.
  • Blog authors are social creatures. They have friends (other bloggers). Blogging is an online conversation. Posting comments to other blogs you like, and replying to comments on your own blog is essential. If you can’t commit to a two way conversation, it’s better to present your content on a website, which is traditionally more one-sided.
  • A blog is a connected means of communication. Blogs should link to other blogs, websites, Facebook pages, and other social media channels. Adding links to your blog is easy to do and makes a great impact.

Important Things to Remember

Blogs are immediate. Even if you delete a controversial post, the information can still appear somewhere if someone has referred to it or quoted you. It’s important to remember rules of privacy, professionalism, and consider what message you want to convey before hitting publish. Check to make sure your post can’t be interpreted in a way you don’t intend.

Blogs need to be tended to like a garden. It doesn’t take long but check on your blog every day to address any comments. Check your blog’s statistics once a month to see how your posts are doing and the general activity of the blog. If a particular post has been very active, think about writing a follow up.

Blog authors are conversational writers. Your main objective is to connect with your audience. Before your start blogging, make sure you identify who your audience is. Choose a tone for your writing and use language that your audience will indentify and gravitate to.

Have fun! Blogs are a lot of work but are also very rewarding. Posting to a blog should be enjoyable and something you look forward to doing. If you don’t enjoy writing your content, people won’t enjoy reading it.

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