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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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