Tag Archives: blogging

Getting Started with Blogging

I’ve been delivering introductory training sessions on blogging for staff at Birmingham City University of late.

The sessions are mostly interactive, often utilising the super-cutting-edge, high tech platform of post-it notes, however, as several trainees have asked for the presentation that accompanies my ramblings, here it is:

Interestingly one of the recommendations for blogs that came out of today’s session via the trainees, was that blogs, like all websites, have to be clear and usable.

In other words, bloggers had to be easily identifiable and contactable in any accompanying ‘About’ and ‘Contact’ pages, and text should be easy to read in the way it’s laid out. It sounds obvious, but many blogs online seem to make finding out more information, or contacting a blogger, a challenge.

What Makes a Good Blog Post?

I ran an ‘Introduction to Blogging’ training session for some staff at Birmingham City University yesterday, so thought it might be worth sharing their findings on what they thought did or didn’t make for a good blog post, based on a number of samples I provided.

First – my misspelling of ‘authoritative’ aside – here’s what generally tended to work well in the blog posts they read:

Things that don't work quite so well in blog posts, according to my blogging trainees.
Things that generally worked well in blog posts, according to my blogging trainees.

….And now for the elements that didn’t work so well in the sample blog posts they read:

Things that generally worked well in blog posts, according to my blogging trainees.
Things that didn’t work quite so well in blog posts, according to the staff trainees.

*N.B. The ‘Blog Connected to Social Media’ post-it is attached to the wrong page. It should obviously be on the ‘what worked well’ page*

Are there any they’ve missed/couldn’t fit on the A3 sheet? Give your thoughts on what makes for a good blog post in the comments below.

How to Write a Bad Blog Post

I’m researching examples of bad blog posts for a training session I’m delivering next week and stumbled across this obligatory ‘top 10′ on Hubspot.

The list is geared towards those blogging within a professional or digital marketing capacity (particularly point 9), but points 2, 5 and 5 seem to be the most common issues in my own experience:

10 Tips for Writing the Worst Blog Post Ever

1. Write a boring, non-descript headline. Instead, what your headline should do is three things: capture potential readers’ attention, entice them to want to read more, and concisely explain what they’ll get in return from reading it.

2. Talk all about your products and services (and how awesome they are). Making your blog posts overly promotional and product-centric is a great way to turn off your readers. Focus your efforts on writing educational content relative to your industry that helps your readers solve problems they have or explains how to do something they don’t know how to do.

3. Write for someone other than your target audience. You should have a sense of who your blog’s target audience is. (Hint: It should align with the target audience for the products/services you offer.) If those people wouldn’t find your blog content interesting and valuable, or if you’re writing for someone other than your target audience, you definitely have a problem.

4. Have nothing remarkable or helpful to say. Creating remarkable content means people will want to remark , or talk, about it. If your content is boring, unhelpful, or nothing to write home about, you might need to spice up your writing style or choose a different topic.

5. Format it as one big block of text. There’s nothing more daunting to a reader than a big chunk of copy. In fact, a first glance at a big block of text is enough to make a reader leave the page before they’ve consumed even one line of text. Break up blocks of text with formatting devices such as headers, bullet points, and images to make your content more pleasing to the eye and easier for readers to consume.

6. Include zero in-text links. Blog posts can be a great outlet for linking to other content. Improve blogger relations by giving other bloggers’ content some link love, or increase chances for lead generation by linking to relevant, downloadable content like ebooks and webinars on your own site.

7. Forget to attribute your sources. You don’t need to go all term paper-style and add footnotes to your blog posts, but failing to attribute data or other content sources you cite in your own articles is a blogger no-no. Something as simple as mentioning the source and linking to its website is a good practice. Same goes for photo sources. (Note: Did I mention the title for this blog post was inspired by a very popular children’s book ?)

8. Fail to include a call-to-action. As we said before, a blog can be a very helpful lead generation tool. Be sure each post includes a relevant call-to-action that enables readers to access additional content acquired by completing a lead gen form on an optimized landing page .

9. Make a ton of spelling and grammatical errors. You could have expressed some killer ideas, but if you fail to spell-check your blog article or have a colleague proofread it before you publish, you’re setting yourself up for a lack of credibility and some nasty comments from your readers.

10. Disable social media sharing links and comments. Or maybe you won’t even receive feedback on your post since you’ve disabled the ability for readers to comment and never added social media sharing buttons for sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn to your blog. Don’t limit commentary, engagement, or your article’s potential to get shared online.

via How to Write a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Blog Post.

So, be honest, how many of these rules do you break on a regular basis?

Using Blogging for SEO

Good piece on the importance of search engine optimisation and a snapshot of the basics on the Channel 4 News Blogs:

A former journalist colleague of mine worked for an SEO firm; her job was to write about anything. Literally any subject she fancied covering. Her copy would be used on one of the firm’s network of websites, and because it was well-written, journalistic text, Google would assess the site as more authentic and give it a higher rank.

The fact that my former colleague was paid hundreds of pounds a day gives an insight into how much value companies place on having a good Google rank.

via Getting to the top of Google – it’s a matter of survival | Geoff White on Technology.

It often seems counter-intuitive to explain to academic colleagues that blogging frequently – even if it’s not about academic topics, can tangentially result in higher rates of applications to their courses, greater public interest in their research or larger conference attendances.

Yet, that’s the way it is, at least until Google’s next change of algorithm anyway.

Admittedly, this particular blogger comes across as fairly obnoxious, but he does give a good overview of what content-based marketing is about:

It’s not about being pushy. It’s not about slamming people with endless pitches and sales efforts.

[…]

Your site/email newsletter/podcast/whatever should consist of something like this:

  • Some posts that are just friendly and storytelling.
  • Some posts that are gentle pushes towards a next action or an ask.
  • Some posts that are pure selly-sell, as I like to call it. Apparently over here they call that an offer.
  • Some (but very few) totally off-topic posts.

via Why Content Marketing is Not Branding | Copyblogger.

Fight! WordPress vs Tumblr

Sadly the below link isn’t an animated battle royale between two blogging platforms.

It is however, a useful comparison between the two popular blogging platforms; WordPress and Tumblr:

BlogInstall | WordPress vs Tumblr – which blogging platform to choose ?

As much as I love the instantaneous, media-friendliness of Tumblr, there doesn’t seem to be a way of installing it on your own domain (unlike WordPress) – thus losing out on much SEO goodness.

So, for now at least, a self-hosted WordPress seems like the best option for those with the access, ability and know-how to publish an academic or course blog.

Tidying up after Microsoft Word

One of the major facets of my job over the past few years, seems to have been cleaning up messy HTML code on various content management systems that’s been pasted directly from MS Word by web users of differing skill levels.

The final published webpage often ends up with strange formatting, random fonts and generally looking a mess.

Some CMS systems – such as WordPress, seem to tidy text up automatically, but for users of those that don’t, here’s a neat little, browser-based tool for creating ‘clean html’ from Word Documents.