So, back for more? Couldn’t resist, huh? Well, let’s get started then. Friday, we went over the The Essentials of Blogging and talked about how content, categorizing (including archiving) and commenting are the main staples of blogging. A blog exists for content and sociability for the most part. The goal of any blogger should be to make your blog as interesting to read as possible and that promotes interactivity (usually through commenting and often also through sharing and bookmarking, which we’ll cover later). Your content must also be categorized in such a way your readers know where to look for articles on a given topic or maybe even a specific article. Category listings, archiving and tag clouds are the most common methods of effective and simple ways to organize your blog articles without confusing or frustrating your readers.
Though categorizing and commenting are essential, content is king. More importantly, your written content is king and executioner. A blog is nothing without good content and everything with it. More to the point, good content is what brings in readership. Relevant content creates a following. Crappy content kills a blog.
Good content is relevant
What’s good content, though? There are many who have their opinions of what constitutes good content. Some say content that’s relevant to the overall topic of the blog. Some say well written content is good content. Some say it’s best to write about what the readers want. Some way write what’s useful to anyone to learn about. I can go on and on, but I won’t (I heard that sigh of relief!). I think all of these elements define good content. But good content overall is relative to your site’s goal and your audience expectations and desires.
Let’s say you’re an individual looking to blog about the books you read. You write articles reviewing your recent and past reads and create lists of books you’re looking forward to reading when published. You also encourage your blog readers to send in their lists that you’ll post in a separate section called “reader lists”, or something like that. Good content to you would be writing about these books well enough so that your readers would want to read them. Good content would also be creating lists of books that your target audience would like to read. Good content would also be posting only those reader lists that fall in line with the theme of your books in general. This is not to say you should be reading books or suggesting books you wouldn’t normally. But rather, think about your style, your flavors, your tastes and create your content (articles, images, lists, links, etc.) around it.
This is a bit off topic and we’ll discuss blog design in a later article, but your cohesive flavors, style and tastes should also be reflected in the design of your blog. The same would be true if you’re, let’s say a small service business who provides in home cooking classes for older women in the San Francisco Bay Area. Your blog articles might cover topics like cooking for one (for single or divorced women), cooking for two (for empty nesters), finding food products for women with certain health issues like diabetes or even gastrointestinal problems. Perhaps you’d provide links for natural food stores, discount cookware and other accessories, and so on. Regardless, your content would be relevant to their concerns and designed to attract your target audience, taking into account their tendencies and wants.
Good content is engaging
Beyond writing articles that are relevant, writing articles without grammatical errors, is a given. But, writing articles that are conversational are a big plus! I personally hate reading articles, books, and so forth with industry jargon, even in industries I’m a apart of. Even business blogs should be conversational in tone. Your credibility isn’t lost in the translation from robot speak (ha ha) to human speak. Just break it down. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Regurgitation is frustrating and utterly boring. Plus, it reminds us all of school when jargon’s thrown at us left and right so we’re more likely to hit the back button within seconds of reading the first paragraph. When writing, just speak like you would a friend or a really close colleague…without the cursing…unless it’s “that” kind of blog.
Good content is free…mostly
Writing articles only takes time and effort, not money. Even if you’re not a good writer and have absolutely no talent for writing, there are enough options out there for you or your business to publish free articles for little or no money. One option is getting free articles from sites like ezinearticles.com or isnare.com. Publish any number of these articles on your blog (and cite your source and adhere to publishing rules as expressed on the sites, of course!). But don’t go crazy. Only using published articles from other sources can make you or your business look unprofessional or untrustworthy ’cause you’re not necessarily displaying your knowledge or expertise. Unless, I think, that’s what your blog is. Perhaps your blog is a sort of news “aggregator”, a one stop-shop for information for your blog readers. It’s up to you.
The best option I think is having most if not all original articles on your site. Search engines love fresh and original content and so do your readers. It makes you or your business more authoritative and trustworthy. Hiring a blog writer doesn’t cost too much and can free up a lot of your time to manage the blog and your business as well. One option is to search in writers’ forums for writers, pick a few and start negotiating. Also, look to craigslist.org or guru.com. Both excellent sources. Also, you can simply ask people you know. You’d be surprised how many somewhat closeted writers you know or your friends know. Also, read blogs on your given topic with posts by multiple authors. Check out the writing style and expertise, and choose one that best fits your blog tone and theme. Send them an email asking if they’d like to write some articles for your blog. Of course you can always contact Poles Apart since we have a great relationship with a very talented group of writers who’d be more than willing to write for you.
Good content cites sources
If you’re quoting someone or a website, it’s best to provide a link to your source. Or if you’re just mentioning or suggesting a site, it’s also good to provide a link. You probably don’t need to link to sites like Yahoo or Google since they’re pretty well known and well visited. Anyway, there are two main reasons to link to your sources. One, it’s convenient for your readers. I would also make those eternal links open up in a new window to keep your readers on your blog.
Two, providing links to pingback enabled blogs or websites can increase your page rank indirectly by link building. Ping-what? Pingback lets you notify the author of an article that you have provided a link to her article on your site. In return, the author may put a link to your article (that contains her link) on her blog. Now you have an incoming link. It’s basically increasing the chance to exchange links, thereby increasing search engine optimization, there by increasing page ranking since incoming links are what search engines like Google look for when determining how and whether or not your page is indexed and how high on searches you rank. Don’t worry, we’ll cover search engine optimization for blogs later in this series. All you need to know right now is that linking to quality websites increases the chances your article or entire blog will be found…and read.
Good content has some visuals
Of course now YouTube and web video in general is all the rage, perhaps for good reason. Moving objects catch your eye and people don’t read as much as they should. Well, as much I think they should (*wink*). Putting relevant video content from YouTube, Google Video or Yahoo Video, or hiring someone to create videos specifically for your blog can be a great addition to your blog content library. But again, don’t get too crazy with it, unless your blog is a vlog (a video blog) whose content is all video like Freevlog, which is actually an excellent vlog about creating vlogs. Don’t count out using regular images though. Many of us still prefer good old fashion textual content with photos and illustrations as accents or guides. Plus, images break up the text into more visually editable chunks so your readers don’t grow bored.
Good content reflects you
Overall, good content is only as good as the blog owner. Your content reflects you or your business. Publish articles that are written well, are engaging, expresses the flavors and styles of you or your company image, add some visuals, be relevant and cite your sources, and you’re good to go…for the most part.
We’ll cover blog design (style, theme, layout and information architecture) in the next installment of Our Love Affair With WordPress. Stay tuned!