What tools and techniques make for good blogging, so that you can deliver a great blogging experience for your reader and listener? In the previous edition of this Newsletter I shared with you the why elements of making my blog posts work best for me – and, hopefully, for you, the reader too. Now in this second part, I shall share with you the how.
What platform do I use for good blogging?
There are heaps of good platforms around for good blogging. I started with the free platform of WordPress. Subsequently, my developer built my website using the open-source WordPress platform that enables a lot more capability to build your brand.
It’s a trusted platform with a pretty good editor and is very Google-friendly. With many plug-ins and add-ons, it has served me beautifully for over 10 years.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
I’ve found SEO confronting and confusing, disliking being imposed upon. But one of the key persons of interest attributes I wrote about in part I was that “publicly, you are who Google says you are.“ As much as I dislike that, it is true. And, fundamentally, the robot’s processes reflect the search behaviour of human internet users. So your blog’s visibility will thrive or fail depending on how well you apply the basic SEO principles. It’s just part of good blogging and getting noticed.
One of my platform’s plug-ins is the free Yoast SEO toolset, and I’ll use its structure here to outline what I follow to assure the minimum necessary SEO for each blog I write. There are many other free and paid tools; this comprehensive one has an easy traffic-lights system forcing you to think about writing for your audience.
1. Key words or phrases
This is fundamental for searchability. It needs to be a word or set of words which people would be searching for what you’re writing about. Lots of creative thought often accompanies its selection. Many people use add-ons to help find statistics of the best key word incidences. I don’t, relying on my knowledge of my coaching clients.
Yoast likes the keyword or phrase to be used upwards of 10 times in a blog post. I don’t necessarily stick to that rule, when it makes the text look or feel contrived. Yoast is also quite directive on the presence of these key search words in places like the title, sub-headers etc. Again, I apply common sense to entice visitors to read on after opening the post.
2. Meta description (also called “snippet”)
This is what I use in the first sentence(s) of my blog. It is also what the reader sees as an outline of the blog to follow. Orange or green colouring helps to achieve the right length of 120 characters.
Yoast likes sections of no more than 300 words, and the frequent use of sub-headers. This reflects the fact that Internet users “scan” first rather than “read,” something they only do if the sub-header attracts their eye. Indeed, magazines and newspapers have applied that sub-header approach for a long time.
Sub-headers are also important to SEO. Yoast certainly likes to see the keyword or phrase in the headings quite often! I don’t necessarily stick to that so I avoid overdoing it.
Yoast likes to see both internal and external links. I usually link internally to several of my other blogs contextually to what I’m writing. This helps visitors to my blog discover and rediscover useful content, and it keeps them in my website, too. Then I try to find one or two external links also, as I did with the WordPress link above. This adds context, relevance and credibility.
Any blog (or social media post) benefits from a relevant picture to capture the prospective reader’s attention. Research has proven that interesting images increase readership. Many photo libraries, such as Unsplash (which The NCP Newsletter uses) offer royalty-free images, free (under conditions) or paid. I buy enough photos from Depositphotos for a year, which give me a very low cost per image. And I spend quite some time matching the post title or keyword with the right picture for each blog post.
1. Post length
While Yoast looks at having more than 300 words for a blog post length, I like to try and keep it to about 1,000 words, given waning attention spans. Call me verbose, by all means, but I struggle to give enough content value in any less. And if I can’t, then I’ve spread the content over multiple blog posts. (As I’ve in this one and in my recent Presentation Skills Trilogy.) However, each of the three posts is pretty lengthy, simply because it is complex ,and I thought the value and quality would suffer if I tried to shorten it more just to satisfy Yoast.
Yoast also looks at sentence length, preferring sentences to have no more than 20 words. However annoying, it reflects the way our visitors scan the text. So Yoast harps on short sentences to make your writing punchier.
2. Reading ease
It measures Flesch reading ease, wanting it to be over 65. Many factors influence that score, including the topic, the balance between active and passive sentences plus the use of transition words. For instance: I pushed the domino. As a result, it fell over. As a result are the transition words.
3. Active and passive voice
Active voice suggests: “mum hugged me”, whereas the passive voice is “I was hugged by mum”. I’m guilty of regular transgression here, but Yoast does a useful job of pulling me up when their 10% limit preference is crossed… or rather, when I cross their 10% limit preference.
It also doesn’t like you starting consecutive sentences with the same word.
So you can see there are many things to consider in satisfying Google. Thankfully, the tools and add-ons help highlight areas to be aware of. Oh, and please don’t worry if you don’t use WordPress or Yoast, these principles should be well addressed in most other platforms, OK?
Using different media
Not long into my blogging, one of my younger clients asked why I don’t podcast. So I registered with iTunes (for IOS) and Feedburner (for Android); I also added an audio version of each post as a podcast. The last step before publishing a post is that I record it on my phone and export it to be embedded in my post, giving the reader the choice of reading or listening, either by clicking on the audio link embedded in the written post, or via the different podcasting services. It is set up so that publishing a blog automatically creates a podcast in the right places, which also gives my subscribers a nudge about the new post.
A blog takes me about two hours to produce, give or take, often depending on the degree of research required. The actual recording itself only adds maybe 15 minutes all up.
Clearly the way to go today is to add video. It adds another level of reach and, certainly, credibility. And you can engage the viewer that much better with your animation and personality. But it takes time!
Not that one needs to do the entire 1,000 words in a video or YouTube clip. I’m told 1-2 minutes is about the video attention span these days. So, one would only do a brief introduction or synopsis, mainly to share on social media, perhaps as an appetizer, with a link to the blog or podcast.
Apart from my blog and podcast subscribers that get an email nudge with each new publication, I also announce my blogs via social media.
I write an introductory paragraph highlighting the outline and purpose of the impending post. Then (using Bitly) I shorten the link to embed it into the social media post. I announce the blog post via my LinkedIn and FaceBook pages, and it also automatically posts it via Twitter.
Of course, this is where I’d most likely apply video, were I to use it.
Good blogging – so what?
In Part I of Writing a Good Blog we looked at why writing blogs can be useful, and now in Part II I’ve shared with you the how I do it. While I’m considered a reasonably good blogger, I’m no professional. Indeed, I don’t use blog posts to make a living. Simply I use them to add value to my work and to that of my clients (and prospects).
And I’d also like to suggest that you don’t take this blog post as advice. I’m merely sharing with you what I’ve learned, and you’ll need to tailor yours to you. So, may I suggest you engage a good professional to help get you going, so you don’t, as it were, perfect a bad golf swing?
Heiner Karst is a member of The Network of Consulting Professionals and an expert coach and mentor. You can reach him on 0419 898596 and at email@example.com.