11 Rules For Becoming A Better Blogger

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Published my first blog post seven years ago this week. Nearly 900 blog posts later, I think I know a thing or two about blogging (we all deceive ourselves in one way or another).

If you want to become a better blogger:

1. Keep it short. When I first started blogging, somebody I know told an experienced blogger about my blog. The blogger’s comment: “Good stuff, but the posts are way too long.” My first reaction was “screw you — I’ve got something to say, I’ll take as much space as I need to say it.” Stupid reaction. It’s about the readers, stupid. Long posts deter readers from even beginning to read them.

2. Get to the point. Journalists (the good ones) have a rule: Don’t bury the lead. I’ve violated this rule more times than I care to admit, and I don’t plan on doing so again. Long-winded intros about what you were doing or reading this weekend is great. No one cares (get over it). Get to the damn point already.

3. Lose the colloquialisms. Blog posts are written — not verbal — forms of communication. The little things you say when speaking — like “So, I was talking with my friend the other night…” — can be eliminated when writing. Especially the words like “so.”  Also, no need to say “I think” — we know it’s what you think. And please: Don’t use the acronym “IMHO.” You’re a blogger — your opinion is anything but humble. It’s easy, when listening to verbal communication, to process (and ignore) the colloquialisms. But in written forms of communication, colloquialisms are barriers the reader must deal with to get to what’s really important.

4. Looks matter. Is there anything more daunting to read than a 15-line paragraph, in 8-point font, in pink text on a red background? Regardless of the quality of your content, it helps if your post is inviting to read. White space (and a lot of it) is good. Some pundits will tell you to include a photo or picture. OK, but relevancy here would help. Irrelevant stock photos of happy shiny people will make your blog look like every other stupid blog out there.

5. Lose the long list of links. It’s great that you’re a nice person and want to link to everything and everyone you’ve referenced in your post. But when every fifth word is a link, it distracts the reader. Put the list of links at the end of the post if you must include them. Wikipedia can have every other word be a link. Not your blog post.

6. Don’t do multi-part blog posts. Nothing will turn off readers faster than seeing a blog post title that starts “Part 1.” Or worse, “Part 4”. You’re writing a blog, not a book. If you a 7-part post to write, create an e-book. Nobody wants to read part 1 today, and wait until G*d-knows-when until you write the next part, and then wonder how many more parts to go.

7. Go off-topic very sporadically, and with great care. Wanna see the mittens I knitted this past weekend for the Church fair? Yeah, I didn’t think so. There’s a fine line here. I’ve got a lot of things to say about the state of politics in this country, but the readers of this blog don’t come here for my political commentary. So no politics. On the other hand, off-topic posts like Out-Of-Office Messages are my most frequently-read posts. Go figure.

8. Write stuff you want to read. I’ve read countless blog posts telling me to “know my audience.” Nonsense. Avinash Kaushik isn’t a blogging God among the web analytics community because he “knows his audience.” He’s a blogging God because his audience wants to know him. Or more accurately, to know what he knows.

9. Don’t force it. One of the best pieces of blogging advice I ever received came from a loyal reader (a few hours away in Eastern Massachusetts) who told me “you know, you don’t have to post every day.” Your readers aren’t sitting on pins and needles waiting for today’s post. Sorry to burst your self-absorbed blogging delusion.

10. Develop a formula. I (nearly) never struggle to write a post. I read stuff that triggers a post, and it goes directly into the writing process: 1) Someone said something; 2) Why they’re wrong; 3) What the right answer is, and why I’m right. For a good example of a blog with a good formula (not to mention following some of the other rules, here) check out Seven Sentences.

11. Obsess over quality, not quantity. It’s really easy to get 10,000 hits on your blog post. Write about politics or sports or Beyonce. Post pictures of Miley Cyrus doing lewd stuff. Assuming you’re not selling advertising on your blog (or maybe even if you are), you’ll do a lot more to build your reputation by worrying about how the good the posts are than how many page views you’re getting.
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These are the things I’ve learned in seven years of blogging. There are, however, a few things I haven’t learned:

1. How to create good blog titles. I’ve often wondered how many more hits I may have gotten if my posts had better titles. Or if my blog itself had a better title, you know, like Bank Marketing Strategy.

2. When to publish posts. Lots of advice on when’s the best time to publish. I just write and publish. Probably losing out on thousands of views.

3. How to drive traffic to your site. Personally, I’ve never been comfortable with tweeting 100 times to publicize each post. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Again, I’ve probably lost out on thousand of hits, but oh well.

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WHAT DID I MISS?

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