This blog post is a response to the series “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog,” at the Tonia’s Roots blog. This series is based on the Darren Rowse (ProBlogger) e-book 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.
Genealogy bloggers are ultimately writers. Our posts may be very personal. They might relate to our own families, showing how we have broken down a “brick wall,” or describing a brick wall yet to be broken. Or our posts may be general. They might offer advice to beginning or even more advanced researchers. They might describe a new (to us) or little-known record group, or may simply offer some news related to genealogy.
Despite the focus on genealogy, however, our blogs can learn much from other blogs and bloggers in other subject matters.
Consider, for example, the advice provided by the article “A Sample Blogging Workflow,” by Chris Brogan. Mr. Brogan describes several “Goals for [specific] blog POSTS (versus goals for the blog overall).” Those he identifies are:
- Seek link traffic;
- Seek advice [in other words, start a conversation];
- Establish thought leadership [blog about subjects that no one else has discussed];
- Promote something interesting;
- Link love to others.
These goals will inform individual blog posts, but should be considered in the terms of the larger goal of your blog itself. In my earlier post in this series, “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog Catchup Week 1: Elevator Pitch,” the larger goal and purpose of the blog was discussed.
Mr. Brogan continues to provide several tasks that we should consider completing for every post we write. A few of these tasks include:
- “Read material first.” Mr. Brogan suggests not only reading other blogs related to our topic (genealogy), but also reading blogs on unrelated and even “fringe” subjects.
- “Consider pictures.” There are quite a few websites available that offer photo content with Creative Commons licensing. These photos are free to use as long as we properly cite the source. As genealogists, of course, we would never dream of doing otherwise.
- “Announce your best posts.” Mr. Brogan suggests using the same methods as were discussed in “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog Catchup Week 3: Promote a Blog Post.”
- “Check traffic and logs.” Mr. Brogan also recommends that we search for mentions of our blog, and add to the discussion there as well by adding comments.
Once we have an idea for a blog post, and understand its purpose in the context of our blog’s larger goal, we will need to actually write the post. Sarah Fudin wrote “How to write a perfect blog post: 10 tips,” in Ragan’s PR Daily. The ten tips she provides are:
- “Pick the ideal title/headline.”
- “Make the main point clear right away.”
- “Compile a list.” List posts were discussed in my earlier post “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog Catchup Week 2: List Posts.”
- “Make it link-worthy.”
- “Make it attractive.”
- “Include multimedia elements.”
- “Stick to the point.”
- “Use keywords.”
- “Keep length in mind.” Ms. Fudin recommends that blog posts always be less 1000 words, but generally between 500 and 800 words.
- “Be original.”
Writing blog posts, of course, is not the ultimate goal. Ideally, someone will read the posts.
Pamela Wilson wrote “8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content,” in the Copyblogger blog. This post reveals some very interesting information about the way people “read” online content. Citing a 1997 survey, Ms. Wilson informs us that 79% of web users scan content rather than reading it. The rest of this article describes the best way to take advantage of this knowledge, by creating content that is easily scannable.
- “Embrace the line break.” In other words, write small paragraphs, creating a lot of white space. White space makes the content less daunting and more easily read.
- “Break up your content with compelling subheads.” Ms. Wilson recommends writing your headlines and subheadlines first. To me, this seems like a great way to organize your writing, and keep yourself on track.
- “Use bulleted lists.” Another blogger has recommended using lists. This tip seems to be consistently recommended by all professional and well-established bloggers.
- “Use deep captions.” A deep caption is a two to three sentence caption, and should ideally be paired with a striking image. This may entice browsers and scanners to read the whole article.
- “Add highly relevant links.”
- “Use strategic formatting.” Use bold formatting to highlight only the most important concepts being discussed. Just be careful not to highlight too much. Highlighting everything is about the same as highlighting nothing.
- “Harness the power of numbers.” “You can often make a post more compelling just by numbering your main points.” If you want to see this in action, take a look at the most popular blog posts at some of the more popular blogs.
- “Check your dual readership path.” Once your post has been written, read it again, but only looking at the highlighted material: the headings and subheadings, bolded points, bulleted lists, etc. Can the reader understand the point of the article? I believe that this is an extremely interesting way to view your posts: it offers the perspective of the casual scanner, rather than the deep reader.
Using these tips and many others, blog writers can certainly improve the quality of their content and the number of readers.
- Tonia Kendrick, “#31WBGB: 27 Must-Read Tips for Genealogy Bloggers,” Tonia’s Roots, posted 7 August 2011 (http://www.toniasroots.net/ : accessed 11 Aug 2011).
- Chris Brogan, “A Sample Blogging Workflow,” Chris Brogan, posted 5 July 2008 (http://www.chrisbrogan.com/ : accessed 11 Aug 2011).
- Sarah Fudin, “How to write a perfect blog post: 10 tips,” Ragan’s PR Daily, posted 28 June 2011 (http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Home.aspx : accessed 11 Aug 2011).
- Pamela Wilson, “8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content,” Copyblogger, posted 7 December 2010 (http://www.copyblogger.com/ : accessed 11 Aug 2011).