Better Blogging, Part Deux

I hope you checked out the first part of this mega-pillar post. If not, you can see the first half of Better Blogging here. It was a monster, but this one is even larger as I drive my points home.

It’s time to talk about actually writing blog posts. Every blog post is going to need a title, but there’s nothing saying you have to have a title first. Some blogging experts will tell you that you should create a title for maximum SEO benefits. Whereas I’m sure that can help, sometimes creating a title that will entice readers to come by works just as well.

Would you rather read a post that has a title like β€œHow To Regularly Acknowledge Your Direct Reports” or a title like “5 Ways To Make Employees Happy?” We hate clickbait, but if you can get people to come by with a nice title, go for it. Try not to make your titles too long; it makes it hard for people who might want to give you acknowledgment for an article you’ve written on their blogs if you have a title that’s so long it’s unwieldy.

Next, let’s talk about actually writing posts. Do you remember writing stories back when you were in grade school? The teachers always talked about the concept of a story having a beginning, middle, and an end. Blog posting is kind of like that, even if you can bend the rules a little bit. It never hurts to establish near the beginning of the post what the post is going to be about, especially if it’s an educational post. I tend to break this blogging rule often, because the experts say you should state the purpose of your blog post in the first line. Hmmph; would anyone have read To Kill A Mockingbird if they’d written that in first line of the story? Nope; sometimes it’s best thinking like a storyteller.

If you’re telling a story, the beginning doesn’t necessarily have to flow all that well, but it does need to have something to capture people’s attention so that they’ll stick around to read the rest of it. The ending of a blog post is important as well, mainly to help indicate to people that it’s officially over. I’ve read a lot of blog posts where you get to the end and you’re thinking there should be more to it. Leaving people hanging will irritate them and make them not want to come back. I’m going to come back to talk about the “middle” in a few minutes.

The length of blog posts is something that a lot of people like to talk about. From my perspective, a blog post is as long as or as short as it needs to be; only the writer can determine that. It leaves a lot of leeway and doesn’t really answer the question as to whether it’s better to write long or short blog posts.

The truth is that there’s no real answer to that question. Some readers don’t mind reading long blog posts, and actually prefer them because they know they’re going to get all the answers they want and need. Others only want to read a few paragraphs as the entire blog post and then move on with their lives.

We’ve made it through the MTV generation, where many people learned how to get everything they wanted in three or four minute chunks and didn’t have to concentrate on anything any longer. That doesn’t mean you have to succumb to anyone else’s view of how long or how short you want your post to be. However… search engines love longer posts as long as you’re actually saying something. Long tutorial or list posts work very well; give it some consideration here and there.

It’s more important looking at how short a blog post is than how long one is. Studies have shown that if the majority of your blog posts are less than 300 words you’re probably not going to get much benefit out of them. With Google’s new algorithms looking at content that actually offers something of value, it’s hard to justify consistently short blog posts and have the search engines give you credit for a post being authoritative (their word) or helpful.

This doesn’t mean that every once in a while you can’t get away with writing a short post; after all, if you’re trying to get the word out about some disaster that’s happening “now”, and you only have a short period of time or only know so much about it, you can’t always be expected to write a tome without much substance to glean from. Also, if you’re fixing someone else’s problem that may be an evergreen issue and it doesn’t take a tome to explain how to fix it, your short post might be very beneficial. As someone who’s always researching how to fix something, I not only find something short and sweet that helps me address my problem helpful but those posts will always show up on the search engines because if I’m having that problem, lots of other people are having the same problem.

If you don’t care whether Google or any other search engine will help your post or you’re not blogging to gain traction, write what you want to, how you want to. Write for your audience; they’ll always find you. However, if you’re really looking to spread your influence and want the help of the search engines, you’ve got to work on helping to give them what they’re looking for.

Now we come back to talking about the “middle” and thoughts of when to ramble and when to get to the point. Let’s do this in concepts of educating somebody versus customer service.

If you’re trying to teach someone how to do something, it doesn’t always help to go off on tangents about things that have nothing to do with what you’re trying to teach. For instance, in my college astronomy class, the teacher was always talking about fishing and things like casting, rods, and all other sorts of stuff. I had no idea what any of it meant. He was of the impression that he could connect fishing information with astronomy to teach us how to do calculations. It didn’t work for me, and even though I knew a lot about astronomy, having read a lot about it through my childhood years, it became a difficult course to pass because of how confused this man made me.

Let’s relate this to customer service. On occasion I’ve had to call my ISP (internet service provider) to ask questions about my service. What invariably happens is I get someone on the phone who hears a portion of what I’m saying and then immediately cuts me off and starts trying to solve what they think is my issue. The problem with that is that I’m often more technically savvy than the first person I talk to. Thus they’re trying to solve a problem that’s not my issue, that I know isn’t my issue, and that I know won’t be solved by any of the advice they’re starting to give me because they haven’t taken the time to fully listen to what I have to say. Who doesn’t find that irksome?

Sometimes life and blogging are just like that; you need to have some filler, which some people might consider as rambling, in order to get the nuances of what you have to say better understood. This works especially well when you’re telling a story. If you leave a lot of detail out, the accuracy of your story will be lacking. People either have questions, or leave without understanding what the heck you’re talking about. Trying to get to the point without making sure everyone understands what you’re talking about just to try to keep a blog post short will kill your blog. People like knowing everything they need to know to get where you’re coming from, especially if you’re helping them solve a problem.

When not to ramble? If you make a point about something, there’s no need to make that point 3 or 4 times in the same post. That type of thing gets on people’s nerves. Adding filler “just because” is a waste of everyone’s time.

Making extraneous points that don’t clarify anything or add to the enjoyment of the story can be left out. If you happen to be talking about someone and you’re giving a description that they have blue curly hair that flows into a mullet that merges with the Chicago Blackhawks sweatshirt they’re wearing, that’s a funny image. If you’re talking about someone you happen to think is overweight and then go on a rant about overweight people before getting back to the rest to your story, that was probably not needed and you might have turned off a lot of people.

Circumspection is always your best friend when trying to decide whether you’ve rambled too much or whether you’ve told enough to give the story or whatever it is you’re writing about enough substance. Also… you probably shouldn’t be writing about overweight people unless you’re a physician or personal trainer. πŸ™‚

Now you’ve written your blog article and you’ve posted it for all to see. Before you did that, did you think about whether you wanted to receive comments or not? The overwhelming majority of bloggers want to have comments on their blog posts. Blogging is part of social media after all, and being able to interact with others who respond to the things we write about is what makes blogging so special. Yet… well, I’ve been griping about this a lot lately, so instead of writing about it let me share this video; one of the benefits of updating and repurposing articles:

There are people who either don’t want comments or want to restrict comments. Seth Godin is a perfect example of someone who doesn’t allow comments on his blog. He’s a big name person who’s written a lot of books, and not allowing comments has not stopped a lot of people from reading his blog or sharing his thoughts with other people. Not everyone can get away with that and still generate a lot of engagement.

Some people write blog posts that every once in a while they don’t want anyone commenting on. Many times it’s either a very personal post or rant, but would rather not deal with the controversy that allowing comments could create. Some people write blog posts and have a very short period of time that they leave comments open before they shut them down. I’m not going to say that any of these are good or bad; what I am going to say is that you as the blog writer has to make a choice of which direction you want to go and what you’re hoping to accomplish. Luckily you have that option depending on which blogging software you’re using.

If you’re going to allow comments, I’m always of the opinion that it’s best to make it easy for people to comment. I’m someone who doesn’t moderate comments (I do have rules that make it seem like I do), set up exclusive blogging comment systems, or make people jump through hoops in order to leave a comment. The reason I don’t do that is because there have been a number of studies which have shown that a majority of people don’t like always having to sign up or subscribe for the right to offer their opinion on something; I’m one of those people. I’m also not making anyone jump through any stupid GDPR hoops; you’re an adult; act like one.

It doesn’t generate good feeling from those who visit our blogs to put up roadblocks to commenting. There have been a number of studies that have shown that having a system like Disqus or Intense Debate might raise the quality of comments that show up on a blog, but between 50% and 60% of people won’t sign up for those services and will either read the content without ever wanting to comment or stop visiting those blogs altogether because of the frustration of not being able to comment the way they want to.

The case for moderating comments is entirely different. People have different reasons for wanting to moderate comments, which can go from wanting to make sure certain information doesn’t show up on a blog post or making sure that no comment gets through that potentially has people saying something that the owner of the blog wishes not to allow. I have a couple of gripes about blogs that intentionally moderate comments. One I talked about in the video, so I’m not mentioning that one again (now you have to watch the video lol).

My other gripe is that you often find that later on at some point, when you’re least expecting it, you’re suddenly getting a whole lot of messages at once, both from people who comment on the blog and the blog owner’s response to those people. If that blog happens to be popular it can be overwhelming. It also gives the appearance of not trusting people who want to comment on your blog. That’s why I stopped subscribing to blog comments years ago. I have a different way of tracking blogs I comment on these days.

If you put your reasons up as to why you moderate comments many people will accept that, but at least they get to then make the decision as to whether they want to participate or not. I hate when I don’t know someone has a moderation policy and I leave a comment, only to realize that I have no idea when, or if, it will ever show. I’ve had a lot of comments that have never shown up on someone’s blog; that irks me to no end.

The big thing most of us worry about is spam. We all hate spam, but there’s nothing we can do to stop it totally. With most blog platforms there are plugins that can help slow it down drastically. They’re easy to set up and easy to use for both the blog owner and those who wish to make comments. If you’re setting up different blog commenting ways to reduce spam, such as moderating or coming up with things like Captcha or math problems, using different plugins are a better way to go.

We’re coming into the home stretch, and if you’ve lasted this long I thank you for it. These are some final thoughts towards the concept of better blogging.

I’m often asked where I get inspiration for ideas to write my blog posts. My goodness, every day of life is an inspiration to write a blog post, and for non-niche blogs it’s even easier. Since I do try to stay on certain topics more than other topics, I find that doing a lot of reading of other blogs really helps my mind figure out what I want to write on.

For instance, if I happen to be reading someone’s post and they’re talking about 10 ways to do something, I could not only decide to write a commentary post on that article, it also gives me an opportunity to link back to that article. That way the original writer gets a boost from my article, and I have a new article as well.

I get ideas from my real life on a consistent basis, but I can get ideas by turning on the TV, following a thread on Twitter, or almost anywhere else. My problem is that I come up with so many ideas that I sometimes forget what they are when it’s time to write something. Luckily, I can always come up with something fairly quickly to write on. Inspiration is everywhere; you only have to be alert and open to it.

As I mentioned a couple of paragraphs above, there’s also the concept of “sharing the love”. People love knowing that you enjoyed their article enough to link to it, even if you disagree with their point of view. It never hurts to link to anybody, and that type of thing often encourages people to link to you as well. I’ve done it for one blog post on here; have you found out which one?

Something that works well with commenting, especially if you have a WordPress blog, is called CommentLuv. What that does is allows people to have a link back to their blog if they comment on yours showing the very last blog post they’ve written. Some versions of it allow people to choose from the last 10 blog posts they’ve written. I know this has gotten me a lot of visitors, and I also know that it’s provided me with enough blogs to be able to check out, see if I like them, and comment on.

In the initial article I talked about selling ad space on a blog, but that brings up your making the decision on whether you want to have advertising, marketing, or want to sell space on your blog or not. Google does have some rules for how you sell or market certain things on your blog (pertaining more to how you share certain types of links) to continue being listed on their search engine, but whether you care or not about that is irrelevant.

If you’re using your blog to help you create influence or to get clients for projects or services, then marketing every once in a while isn’t such a bad thing for you to think about; as a matter of fact, in today’s crowded online world it’s mandatory. If you’re trying to make money via affiliate marketing or MLM (multi-level marketing), that’s not such a bad thing either. If your blog happens to be popular enough and someone wants to pay for the space to add some kind of banner ad to it, go for it. Just make sure it’s got something to do with your blog; the big G doesn’t like if you’re writing a blog about recipes and you have an ad about online poker. I could probably get away with it since I sometimes write about poker, but it’s a rare thing. πŸ™‚

Each person has to make a decision on what they hope their blog will do or what they want to put on their blog. You need to be aware of how these things might affect the people who visit your blog and determine how much or how little it might affect their enjoyment when they stop by.

Something many bloggers forget to do is internally link to their own previous blog posts. I’ve done that a lot in this particular article. With WordPress, there are plugins that can handle some of this for you, and I know that with other blog platforms there are programs that can also do that.

I like doing it on my own; I’m hands on like that. Any time I have the opportunity to keep people on my blog, get them interested in other things that they may be looking for, and helps to show my expertise while helping to spread my influence, it’s a good thing. It also helps with SEO (search engine optimization), almost as much as external links, especially if you’re familiar with the concept of anchor links (which basically means using a link to highlight a certain word or phrase that’s either in the link or that enhances your words or topic).

There’s the concept of how frequent you want to put out blog posts, and what time you’re publishing them. I happen to have multiple blogs, and my frequency schedule is different for all of them. On this blog I now write once a week, but some years ago I was writing 6 to 7 posts a week; ouch! On my business blog I also write once a week, but I used to write four or five posts a week. I’ll admit that was tiring! Since I’ve reduced the number of posts I think the quality’s gone up; I hope I’m not wrong. πŸ˜‰

As to what time of day you should be releasing your posts… that one’s still under consideration. I think it’s more important figuring out when you’re going to market your posts as opposed to when you release a post. There are better statistics on the latter, but do what you’re comfortable with; just don’t forget the marketing piece.

I know you’re starting to get tired, so the final thing to talk about is how to get the word out about your blog. You can’t just write a whole lot of posts and expect people to show up; blogging doesn’t work that way.

There are many options available. One, you can send a link to your blog to everybody you know via email.

Two, you can hook up on something like Twitter and make sure that every blog post also post itself to Twitter.

Three, what you’ve done for Twitter you can also do for other social media outlets such as Facebook or LinkedIn.

Four, you can make sure that every blog post automatically “pings” to what’s known as a blog pinging service such as Ping-o-Matic; this means it alerts blog directories that you’ve written a new post.

Or five, you can learn how to work the blogging community and blog networking via the concept of commenting on a lot of other blogs. I’ve done all of these, and the one that I found most effective is commenting on other blogs. It offers the most options across the board, especially if those blogs happen to have CommentLuv. It also takes the most time, but you can get the most enjoyment out of doing it and most of the people whose blogs you comment on will appreciate it… well, maybe not “most” anymore.

That’s the end of this killer two-part pillar post on better blogging. I’ve covered a lot of ground, and I make no promises that I didn’t leave anything out; after all, this is a huge subject. Combined, the repurposing of this post and its predecessor has increased the length of the original articles from 5,300 words to around 6,300; whew! Any questions, just ask; I’m going back to bed. πŸ˜‰

2 thoughts on “Better Blogging, Part Deux”

    1. Thanks Debbie. I had to repurpose this one because it was my first pillar post, and I thought it had a couple of tips for newer bloggers… maybe a couple for older bloggers as well. πŸ™‚

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