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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Posts that Don't Suck

Lore Sjöberg once commented on, “Creating your own blog is about as easy as creating your own urine, and you're about as likely to find someone else interested in it.” While that may be true, keeping someone interested in your blog long-term outside of people who go to your church and/or share your last name is a bit more difficult.

You can have the slickest looking blog in town but if the posts suck, well . . .

Not all posts are created equal.

I have made a list of the things I believe are essential for good blog posts. In order to stay creative, hold attention, garner an audience, and ensure longevity there are a few unwritten rules every blogger should know. Ummm, now they are written I guess.

This is my personal opinion and I am sure I have broken my own rules a few times but, nevertheless here are the observations I have made as I grow as a blogger and continue to read countless blogs.

1. An interesting post title is essential. Draw us in. You don’t have to be funny or witty (although that helps) but you do need to surface a need to know. Titles like “what I did today” do not make we want to read any further than the title.

2. Forget what you learned about paragraphs. This is not English Lit—it is the web. It is still “written language” and it does follow some of the same rules but it is always better to write a post as close to the way you speak. Use short sentences. Incomplete sentences. Break your post up by “ideas” even if this means you have “floating” ideas. Space is good.

3. As often as possible, use links. We want to know where you got your info. We want to check out the things you did that led you to write. Plus, links often lead to other ideas and some of us like to go down the rabbit hole.

4. If everyone has already posted about it, don’t post about it. Unless you have something really interesting to say. A twist. Some humor. A different side of the story. Otherwise, don’t be a copycat.

5. Mention other bloggers in your post and make sure you link to them. People tend to talk more about your blog if you are talking about them in your posts. However, few things are more frustrating than reading about someone without that someone being linked.

6. Speak your mind. We want to know what you are thinking. However, don’t be offensive just because you can. Remember the many you represent. But, don’t be afraid to say what you think either.

7. Talk about your personal life but not too much. Sure, we want to know what makes you tick but inert ideas about the mundane don’t make us want to come back to your blog. If you can talk about your personal life but frame it in a larger story it is helpful. Too many blog posts about nothing is danger Will Robinson.

8. Use images. Photos. Art. Etc. We like stories with pictures. Pictures also help your overall blog by making it visually interesting and constantly changing.

9. Be original. Develop your own style. Reframe stories in your own vernacular. It’s easy to tell when someone has cut and pasted or stolen and idea form elsewhere when their post doesn’t sound anything like them.

10. Don’t talk to a small audience. Mentioning your friends by nickname and using insider jargon is annoying. Let us in on the joke. Fill us in. Your post is on the WORLD WIDE WEB. Too many posts written for “you and your homies” is a big turn off. Tune out.

11. Create an identity. Sure, you can blog about whatever you like—it is YOUR blog. But, it is fun to know we can go to your blog because “you are the guy who always . . . “ or “you are the girl who often . . .” Hosting a regular weekly or monthly feature can be helpful.

12. Break from the routine every once in awhile. If your blog posts are predominately about “church stuff” or “politics” or “justice and mercy” break it up with something to hold our attention and give us a breather.

13. Don’t be a downer. Woe is me blog posts get old real fast. We all have seasons. Just don’t stay there long. Say what you have to say and move on. Don’t whine.

14. Don’t give us old news. Sometimes it may be tempting to post “old news” because you can’t think of anything else to say and you don’t want to go a day without a post. Resist. Resist.

15. Don’t sell the sizzle without giving us the steak. In other words, don’t talk about the “great meeting” you had where you solved the world’s problems or “the giant revelation” you had or the “whole bunch of cool places you visited” without filling in the details. What did the meeting solve? What was your revelation and how will it help me? Where are the places?—I may want go there.

16. Grab attention. An apt quotation, a startling statement, a short story, a joke, a cultural reference, a statistic, or a controversial headline are all good examples of something you may want to include in the intro to your post. Posts that start boring usually end boring.

17. Surprise us with a "new find" every once in a while. A teacher once said he'd "rather his students drink from running water than a stagnant pool." In order to be a creative post-er you are going to have to invest some time in research, in honing your surfing skills, in knowing where to go to get the info your readers want.

18. Don't re-post. Re-posting is kinda like re-gifting. Except, re-gifting is acceptable and re-posting is shady. Re-posting is when someone posts what someone else has already posted without giving them credit. Use blockquotes when quoting more than 2 or three sentences from another source. Reprinting entire articles make your readers lose respect for you and/or confidence in you as a blogger they want to follow.

19. Break up the text. Learn to use italics and bold and ALL CAPS where appropriate (Note: ALL CAPS sometimes looks like yelling so use wisely). These devices help the reader stay on track and move them through the text.

20. Use Spell Check. Please. Please. Please. If your blog editor does not have a spell check option, type it in Word first and then copy and paste. An occasional oops is bound to happen but repeat offenders get sidelined. No excuses.

Can you think of anything else?

This post is part of the cultural phenomenon known as Watercooler Wednesday. Check it out! Be part of the in-crowd. Everybody who is cool is doing it. How is that for peer pressure?

Another great community to check out is Creative Chaos where this little diddy is also posted. Go there now!


Cool Dad said...

this will probably offend 95% of the blogosphere, but:

Use YouTube posts sparingly.

One every now and again that has a good message or interesting new music is cool. But for some reason, I dislike the recurring "Oh, this is funny! I'm gonna post it" mentality.

Ironic because we'll be posting a vid in the next day or so, but it's been a while since the last one and hopefully be a while before the next one!

Scott said...

JVo, I like it...a post about a post. Soon you can be the Seinfeld of the blogosphere. This is actually a discussion that my wife and I have had since she thinks I should blog about my life so that others can keep up. I think my life is fairly mundane and lofty philosphical pursuits are much more grandiose. I am not sure if I have a balance or not.

Paul Fowler said...

Thanks JVO - I'm still new to this blogging world so your tips are well taken!

Anne Jackson said...

21. Link to good examples of what you talked about! :) Who does it well? Show us!

Love the list. People ask me all the time what makes a good blogger and now I have a link I can point them to! Thanks!

Tim M said...

Great list, being new to blogging im sure I will refer back to this.

I really agree with your rule about linking to other blogs, Ben Redmond listed some of his fav blogs earlier this year and I ended up really enjoying Brant Hansen's "Letters From Kamp Krusty" blog.

I'll have to put links to the blogs I follow on my blog, in anticipation of that first visitor one day!

Anonymous said...

Good tips! Actually, some of these hadn't occured to me before. Sad, I know.

Anonymous said...

good tips. i like the write about yourself but not too often. i try and write 80% of posts not about me. i don't have an interesting life :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. New to blogging and I found it extremely helpful. Just found your blog and look forward to reading more!