Thursday, March 28, 2013

What Makes a Great Blog: A List of Tips!

I am, of course, writing this list of "how to blog well" tips because I am such a wonderful blogger and am ready to bless the world with my overflow of knowledge!

Stop laughing! I mean it!

No, in all seriousness - I am not writing this post because I am a great blogger, but because I read lots of great blogs!

In the years that I've been a passionate blog reader, I've had time to compile a list - what makes me click on a blog post, and what makes me pass one by? Some of those qualities are truly "content qualities," but many are, sadly, purely "appearance/presentation qualities" - i.e. how a post is presented to the world rather than actual content. Psychology 101, here we come!

And so, in no particular order, here are some "great blog characteristics" that I have compiled based on my own observations. Enjoy!

A Good Lookin' Blog - A few months back, I noticed that I had started to read a blog in my reader much more frequently than I had before. What had changed? Improved content? Nope - the content remained the same, but she had upgraded from a blah-and-boring background to a new-and-improved and visually appealing background. Voila - I found myself reading more often. The moral - looks matter. Pathetic, but true.

Length of Posts - Moderate or long posts = great. Super-short or marathon-length = not so awesome. (Super-short often means a lack of content, while marathon-length is apt to lose reader attention span. If you have something marathon-length to say, it helps to break it up into Part 1, Part 2, etc.)

Bring on the Links! - Lots of links within your posts to past posts or other pertinent sites or other bloggers' posts.

Short Paragraphs - This is a well-known technique. Short paragraphs make for easier reading! In fact, a while ago I gave up on one blogger who wrote in solid-block format (no matter how long her post, it was all in one unbroken paragraph). Regardless of content, it was exhausting to read.

Grammar, Spelling, Etc. - We all make mistakes, but grammar and spelling really do count. I have to admit, I do tend to click past blogs that begin, "Your not going to believe what their saying about..." Quality matters!

Clarity of Purpose - It helps to know the purpose of a blog. Is it a family blog? An issue-based blog? A short statement of purpose (and an intelligible blog name) help to focus your audience appeal and clarify your purpose in blogging.

Good Post Titles - If one thing makes me skip past a blog post, it is a vague or uninteresting post title! (Unless you're a friend or a really good blogger, in which case I read 'em all!) Example of a bad title: "Peer-Reviewed Studies, June 2011 to July 2012." When I see that, I've already scrolled past! Now, as to how to write an interesting title... I'll get back to you when I've found that out.

Decent Post Frequency - There's nothing more disappointing than finding a great blog... and then realizing that its most recent post was April of 2007! Blogging regularly enough to keep a blog active is a definite plus.

Social Media - Social media share-buttons on posts, or a Facebook group for your blog - huge pluses in gaining readership, and in being able to interact casually with your audience! (Unfortunately, the latter is often a huge time commitment over and above the blog itself, which is one reason that I don't do this. But if you want to grow your blog, this is the way!)

Pictures - I find that I am many times more likely to click on a post that has a picture attached to it. Again, this is not content-related but is instead purely a presentation issue.

Author Bio and Picture - I like to feel connected to the author, which is hard to do if the blog author is anonymous or unidentified! A page with author bio, picture, and contact information is a huge plus.

Sidebar Link Lists - Link lists on the blog sidebars (to past posts or links outside the blog) is a huge plus in garnering reader interest and providing more information for your readers. Keep it updated! (Again, I need to do this.)

Civility - Nothing is more likely to make me click "unsubscribe" than vulgarity, profane language, irreverence, or the like. Everyone differs in her tolerance for this, but it's a huge turn-off for me.

Evidence of Work - Readers appreciate it when bloggers have truly done their homework, putting their minds and their hearts into their posts. Lazy blog posts will lose readers! For example, a blog post that consists only of, "So, everyone, what do you think of President Obama? Discuss!" just won't work. Links, quotes, discussion, etc., are needed to make it work and obtain greater readership.

What would you add to this list, gentle readers?

Following my own advice: Adding a picture, even though it is totally irrelevant to the article. Aren't you feeling more likely to read this post now? 

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