5 tips for better blogging

Blogging 101I am a newbie to the blogging world, but it has become my new favorite passion. And I’m the type of person that dives headfirst into his passions and learns as much as he can about them so as to get moving right away. So with that in mind I thought I’d mention some of the things I’ve learned about writing good blog posts.

Disclaimer: This is only my 65th post or so, and my blog gets a measily 20 or so hits a day on average, but hopefully that will change if I continue the following practices.

1. First and foremost, put yourself in the mind of the reader. What do you NOT want to hear about? You probably don’t want to hear about someone’s complaints about their kids or their cats or their accountant UNLESS there is something in the story that can benefit you. The one thing I think people want most from a blog post is a little kernel of knowledge that they can take with them. That’s why in almost every post I write, I try my best to tie in something that I don’t think most of my audience knows about. People will keep feeling satisfied and (hopefully) coming back if you teach them something new every time. It doesn’t have to be a fact, a recipe, or a how-to lesson. It can simply be a new way of thinking about an issue, or a connection to something else that may be of interest. In my last post I connected The Rally to Restore Sanity (something thousands of people have probably blogged about) with Dave Chappelle’s appearance on Inside the Actor’s Studio. This not only is a new take on the issue, but connects people to another piece of media they might not have been exposed to otherwise.

2. Value-added content. This is a journalism term that refers to the extra things you can put in your article to make it more than a wall of text. Nobody wants to read a wall of text. You should include at least one relevant picture in every blog post. It’s inviting and sets a tempo for the post. Because we’re on the internet and not a newspaper, you can take this further by embedding youtube videos or linking right in the text. If I mention something obscure in a post, I will usually link to its wikipedia page (set to open in a new window) in case a reader wants to know more about it.

3. Tags. I realized recently that when I first started this blog, I was using tags incorrectly. I was tagging my posts with vague umbrella terms like “blog” or “project”. This is what Categories are for. Categories will enable a visitor to your blog to find older posts of yours in the same vein to the one they’re reading. Tags, on the other hand, should be much more specific. Tags are the keywords that people will search for that lead them to your post. For my recent post about the Rally, I tagged it with “Rally to Restore Sanity,” “Jon Stewart,” “Washington DC,” among others. I may never write about Washington DC again, but that doesn’t matter. Think of tags as the keywords people will search for that will take them to your post.

4. Keep it broad. Tying in with #1, you should strive to write your posts in a way that is relatable to most people. Even if you’re writing about one specific incident that happened to you today, you should take it a step further and explore how it made you feel or what you think about a topic as a whole. There is a difference between facts and insight. I could go on Wikipedia for facts. Insight is your job.

5. Make it easy to read! This is a key ergonomic issue many people ignore. People are used to reading articles in newspapers in magazines. Emulate that style. Capitalize when necessary. Use proper punctuation. Spellcheck. The stuff you learned in middle school. But that’s not all. If your post is exceedingly long, break it up into paragraphs. Organize your thoughts. Use bold for headings. Italics for movie and book titles. Use bulletts and numbered lists and soon a long tedious read seems much more manageable to get through. When you finish your post, go on your blog and see how it looks. See where it can be tightened up or where you could fit a picture or break up a paragraph. I usually edit every post three or four times immediately after it goes online. You should too.