12 Steps That Make Blogging Clients Think You’re a Genius

I recently got a type of paid blogging assignment I hadn’t had before. Instead of writing blogs from scratch, as I usually do, I was asked to improve the existing blog of a small business. I found this an interesting challenge.

This CEO had been blogging and was giving out some great information, but the blog wasn’t in very sharp blog format. As a result, the blogs came off as uninteresting. Readers sort of had to dig to find the nuggets of useful stuff.

I did a lot of what I thought of as very basic, obvious things to his blog…and this client was just thrilled! It was time-consuming to clean up the blogs, but to me didn’t involve any magical abilities.

It made me realize that if you know some fundamentals of blog style,  you can really wow a lot of businesses that need help with their Web sites. Of course, you can also do these things to your personal blog and improve your own posts.

Here are my tips for making yourself look like a blogging superstar:

  1. Write shorter paragraphs. Many of this client’s blogs were one giant paragraph! By simply creating short, two- or three-sentence paragraphs, the blog became much more readable.
  2. Write shorter sentences. Blog sentences shouldn’t go on for eight lines. Many of the sentences on this blog required a AAA road map to follow, so I broke them up into two or three sentences. The result was an instant improvement in clarity.
  3. Add photos. At this point, images are really important in blogging. They make a blog so much more enticing. And adding an image is a chance to do something fun. For instance, for a blog aimed at startup businesses, I found a funny photo of a sign at a town apparently called Startup. The client was blown away by this little bit of creativity. Moral of the story: A little Flickr goes a long way.
  4. Be concise. I trimmed out all repetition in the blogs and made them as short as they could be and still convey the information well. You can’t go wrong saying it in less space on the Internet. One of my very favorite blog posts ever is still this one on writing, by Copyblogger’s Brian Clark. It’s less than 40 words long. Won’t work for every topic, but it’s a great example of how brevity is beautiful.
  5. Remove all tangents. This business owner had a habit of going off to discuss side issues to the main point. But blogs are too short for wandering off onto side roads. Blogs need to stick to their topic. Trimming out tangents made each blog entry more focused and easier to follow.
  6. Remove repetitive words. We all have words we tend to use when we write. In this blogger’s case, it was “basically,” “so,” and “actually.” Trim those out, and you automatically get a more engaging post.
  7. Use good grammar. You might be a financial genius or amazing business coach, but that doesn’t mean you know its from it’s, or when to spell out a number and when to use the numeral. The more closely you can follow a style guide along the lines of what newspapers use, such as Associated Press Style, the more readable viewers will find your posts. Cleaning up my client’s grammar foibles made him sound more authoritative.
  8. Eliminate jargon. Be clear about who your audience is and what they understand about your industry. My client’s blogs were cluttered with insider references and acronyms the average prospective customer wouldn’t get. Out they went, in favor of spelling out abbreviations and explaining industry terms.
  9. Have smooth transitions. I liken article and blog writing to knitting a sweater. Each paragraph should logically follow the one before it, with no dropped stitches — random new thoughts that show up abruptly. Once I’d cleaned it up with the steps above, I went back through my client’s blog to make sure each blog post had a smooth flow from beginning to end.
  10. Enliven the byline and kill the signature. So many people miss this great link opportunity. Rather than just letting the blog program put a generic “posted by admin” notation at the top and leave it at that, write an actual byline, and make your name a link to your site. It just looks pro. Like many who are new to blogging, this client was instead signing his blogs with a stationery-style signoff, with his name, professional designations, company name, and phone number. Too formal! I chopped that off in favor of the enlivened byline.
  11. Link to busy places. Like many new bloggers, my client was only linking to other pages of his own, low-traffic Web site. This obviously wasn’t helping the company site build its search-engine rankings. I dropped in a few relevant links to major industry organizations and articles in major publications on the same topic to help search engines view the client site as more credible.
  12. Make sure links aren’t naked or dead. All of my client’s older blogs had naked links, where the URL address is showing (http://www.makealivingwriting.com), rather than adding links the classy way, where key words are enlivened with the appropriate link (Make a Living Writing). Even worse, most of the naked links were also dead like that naked link above, meaning they were not coded properly and nothing happened when you clicked on them. I killed all the naked, dead links and made them live key words. Now, it’s a blog!

Have any other tips for making your blog look professional? Please leave them in the comments below.

Photo via Flickr user wharman

  1. Very great incites. Thanks for sharing it. These tips maybe the blogging basics but they should be forgotten. Every blogger must apply this strategy…

    - Felix

  2. You have outlined such great essentials, Carol.
    The graphic, plain and simple with color, complements what you wrote.

    Patricia
    http://pmpoetwriter.blogspot.com/

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Patricia, and welcome to my blog! I recognize your name from WM Freelance Writers Connection. Thanks for coming on over here.

      And I did like that graphic! To me said, "Cheers, success"…just felt very positive.

      @Felix – hoping you mean "they should NOT be forgotten." Thanks for commenting!

  3. Steven H says:

    I just recently discovered for myself how shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs can make your message much more digestible. I used to always get too verbose.

    Great tips!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Steven — thanks for wandering over here from Copyblogger!

      I don’t know exactly why it is, but people want to read short sentences on their computer. It’s like it makes our eyes tired to have to roam along for 4 lines trying to get to the end of the sentence! But in any case, it really works.

  4. Marilyn Richardson says:

    Hi,
    Great stuff,
    How do you shorten a naked link?

    Thanks,
    Marilyn

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Marilyn! Thanks for bringing your question over to the comments. If I start answering everyone’s questions on email, pretty soon all I’ll do is answer email, and then the entire readership can’t benefit from the information.

      It’s not that the naked links need to be shortened — naked links need to disappear completely. They’re dorky. Instead of a naked link, you want to enliven a couple-three key words and make them the link instead of showing a naked link.

      How you do that is, you choose the words — say, Make a Living Writing. Then you highlight those words, and press the little chain-linky icon in your blogging program, and insert your whole link in the little box that pops up. Hit ‘insert’ and presto! A nice, enlivened link based on key words as you see above on my blog name, instead of a goofy naked link like http://www.makealivingwriting.com.

      If you’re trying to do this outside of WordPress, Blogger or any of the other basic blog programs, and you need to hand-code it, there’s a simple formula. But I haven’t figured out how to write it out here without my program enlivening the link! So you can see the code over at W3 Schools, a great free site about HTML codes my teen turned me on to.

      Hopefully that clarifies the whole naked-link issue! Just remember, this is a family blog and we find naked links inappropriate. :-)

  5. Susan says:

    I enjoyed this blog, Carol. I am guilty of the “naked link” issue. Thanks for explaining how to fix this problem. I am a beginning blogger so I found these simple tips very helpful.

  6. forlan says:

    It is a good tips. Write short paragraph is not difficult for foreign like us but we still confuse about English grammar.

  7. As always, more great advice from a pro! I’ll definitely have to remember this information to better my blog. I’m afraid I may have trouble keeping my sentences short, though, cause I tend to ramble a little too long at times. ;-)

  8. Anne Wayman says:

    Carol, great list. Love short sentences. Had to laugh, though. I'm running a reader's survey over on my blog one one responder has complained about my short sentences… only one, though. Suspect she's actually suggesting I vary sentence length more…

    A

  9. Carol Tice says:

    @Misti –

    I don’t naturally write in short sentences, but I go back over my draft at the end. Many long sentences can easily become two sentences, and it makes it more readable and clear.

  10. I have the “long sentence” problem myself, which I think is connected to point #5 (tangents). Note on Anne’s “vary sentence length” comment, though: a post where every sentence is identical in length IS monotonous reading. Just three exactly-twelve-syllables-each sentences in a row will give any text an annoying “singsong” feel.

  11. Keith Davis says:

    Hi Carol

    All great points especially write short paragraphs and sentences.

    I blog on Public Speaking and I use the same technique when writing a speech.

    If you use a long sentence, by the time you get to the end of the sentence… the audience have forgotten what you said at the beginning. LOL

    Once the audience get lost, they stop listening.

    Same with blogging – short sharp sentences with great graphics to get the readers attention and if you can… throw in a bit of humour.

  12. Carol Tice says:

    @Katherine – True — we’ll start thinking it’s Shakespeare and we’re all writing in iambic pentameter!

    @Keith – right on!

  13. Michael says:

    Nice post and good points to think about, removing repetitive words I have this problem and always seem to place the word will to many times in my content. What helps is to run the page through a website analysis, look for words that are repetitive and replace them or remove them that’s what I do on any new content I create.
    Michael recently posted..How To Make A Image Slideshow In HTML

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