August 19, 2015
Blogs and the art of blogging are evolving rapidly. Hundreds of millions of blogs can be found on platforms such as Wordpress, Blogger, Tumblr, Medium, Quora, Ghost and more. On Tumblr alone, the number of blog accounts rose to 226 million in July 2015, up 15 percent from 2011. By August 2015, however, that number had swollen to 250.6 million blogs. The focus and variety of blogs are growing as well, from journalism news to corporate messaging to content marketing as well as personal diary-style blogs.
Q. What makes a good blog?
A. A good blog is one that people actually read.
The real question about how to write a blog is to ask why people read blogs in the first place. Think about the last article you read online and ask yourself how you arrived at that site, what you had searched for and why you were searching. In most cases, you were seeking information to help you do something, whether it was how to write a resume or where to find a great tapas eatery. Successful blogs – the ones that people actually read – offer news you can use or provide value in some practical way. What is “practical” is defined by the reader so the first rule in writing a blog is to understand your audience.
Understand your audience: Define the reader by age range, geography, social characteristics (like young urban professional or active but retired baby boomer) and most important, by shared interests (like aspiring PR professional, vegan cooking, triathlete, etc.) As you begin to write, write to that person and what he might find valuable.
Define your message: The length of blogs varies but whether you choose to write a 250 word or a 1,000-word blog, make every word count. Decide precisely what message – what practical value – you want to convey and don’t stray from that central message.
Provide substance: Use credible, authoritative sources and share or link to relevant material by credible sources. Don’t be vague but offer substantive, actionable information. That’s the difference between a) Washington Dulles Airport is a busy airport, and b) Washington Dulles Airport ranks as the nation’s 22nd busiest with more than 20 million passengers in 2014.
Be pithy, give context, be concise: Don’t make your reader muddle through a long introduction of your topic: get to the point quickly. Do provide context, like the introductory paragraph to this guide. Studies indicate that people don’t read blogs in full but somewhere less than 30 percent of the content. Edit rigorously to eliminate unnecessary words and phrases and keep your blog concise.
Use visuals: People absorb visual content some 60,000 times faster than text. Choose visuals that both attract attention and help you tell your story, but verify licensing of the image and following instructions for attribution.
Adopt professional standards: Blogs often adopt a style far more informal than the academic writing you master in college. A blog that meets professional standards doesn’t have to be stuffy and formal but should be free of errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar, use fairly short sentences, be unequivocally accurate and be clear and unambiguous. Conversational style is not only acceptable but is easier to read.
Match the title and conclusion: Wrap up the blog by emphasizing your key takeaway. Did you deliver what you promised in the title?