Since I began using blogging as part of my courses and professional practice, I’ve learned that asking someone to “blog” can be a vague request. Even though we’ve all seen and read many blogs, it can still be difficult at times to explain the characteristics of a blog post, or what kind of information it might include. In an effort to better communicate the best practices I’ve observed, I’ve put together these recommendations to share with my students and clients. Perhaps they will be valuable to other aspiring bloggers as well.
Blueprint of a Blog Post
It is important to remember that blog content is designed to be shared. Posts are often consumed on mobile devices, tweeted and posted on Facebook, and generally read in a hurry (even scanned). To maximize impact in this environment, many bloggers have adopted a blueprint for posts. Consider including these elements as you blog.
The title of your blog post is perhaps the most important element. This is how most people will determine if your post is worth the time to read. Your title should communicate the central purpose of your post. It should be brief, catchy and honest (don’t promise what you can’t deliver). And remember, a clever title is good, but it won’t necessarily help people find the post when searching, so be sure your title includes the right keywords.
Blogs are becoming increasingly visual. To attract attention to your post, lead with an eye-catching image that communicates the central idea of your article. Your featured image will also show up on the main page of most blogs, as well as on social sites as users share the content.
Dense content is difficult to read online. Break your paragraphs into short, 2-3 sentence paragraphs whenever possible.
Use bold subtitles to divide sections of your post. This will help readers navigate the post and find exactly what they are looking for, especially when scanning.
Bullets or Numbered Lists
Bullet points help keep a post concise and allow for easy reading.
In addition to your featured image, try to include images throughout the post that support your main ideas or illustrate concepts. This is especially helpful if you are writing a how-to post where screen captures can be useful to the reader. When including images, be sure to pay attention to how they affect formatting — no one likes to read a messy post.
Consider including links to other content throughout your blog. A great way to keep your post concise is to turn a mention of a concept into a link providing the opportunity to investigate further.
You don’t have to have all the answers. Including questions in your posts (especially at the end) will help spark discussion in the comments.
Types of Blog Posts
As you plan to blog about a topic, consider some popular types of blog posts.
Informational Posts, “What Is….”
Some of the most popular blog posts are those that break down a new idea for readers. We may have heard about a new social network, technology, policy, etc., but often there are few places to get a solid summary. A great example of this type of post is “What is Instagram and Why Is It So Popular?” by Kelly Lux
Instructional or “How-To” Posts
These posts explain how (and sometimes why) to do something. They offer clear steps for the reader to follow. “How-to” posts can include information you’ve researched or they can explain your own approach, such as Chris Brogan’s “How I Use Mindmapping to Write”
Lists are one of the most popular types of blog posts. They offer a collection of resources that can provide value over time. These are the posts that consistently drive traffic to a blog and increase search results. Two examples of great list posts are “86 Helpful Tools for Data Professionals” by Joshua Kitlas and “61 Non-Librarian Jobs for LIS Grads” by Mia Breitkopf
Case Studies or Profiles
These posts highlight a situation, company or person to learn from. They may be positive or critical. An example of a profile post is Kelly Lux’s “Why Wegmans is a Trust Agent [and your brand should be too]“.
Posts that review new products, services or features are very helpful to a wide audience of people. They can help us understand emerging trends and inform our decisions. For an example, check out a post I write for the iSchool blog called “First Look at the New Syracuse University Mobile App”
Video blogging can be a powerful method of communicating ideas. Remember to keep your videos brief, with good lighting and sound. And keep in mind that video is not always the easiest content for people to consume, especially on mobile devices or at work. Gary Vaynerchuk has a unique approach to video blogging, like “rant on What Oprah’s network tweeted“.
Be Creative, Be Original, Start a Conversation
There a many types of blog posts, and every blogger has his or her own approach, but hopefully these tips will help inspire you to create content that informs others in your own original way.
What are your tips for writing a great blog post? Please feel free to share anything I left out!