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It’s easy to forget how briefly the internet has been around. Even briefer has been the era of blogging. Here are a few fun facts about the history of blogging:
• The honor of “first blog ever” (1994) is typically associated with American then-college student Justin Hall in (NPR mentions another early blogger, Claudio Pinjanez, as developing his blog at the same time).
• The term blog, from weblog, came about from another early blog—Robot Wisdom Weblog—started in 1997 by Jorn Barger.
• In 2004, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary named blog its “Word of the Year.”
• As of 2020, there are between 500 and 600 million blogs online.
Merriam-Webster describes blogs as websites made up of “online personal reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks, videos, and photographs provided by the writer.” People write their own blogs and contribute to multi-author blogs (like the Proofreading Pulse) to share their knowledge or opinions, to teach, to stimulate discussion, or to have a voice. Blogs can be purely personal projects, or they can make you money through advertising and sponsorship or as marketing tools for your business.
No matter your motivation for blogging, you’ll want to make sure each post is high quality to keep your readers coming back. In today’s post, I’ll describe tips to make your blog more effective.
Content Should Be Relevant, Relatable, and Delightfully Readable
Your purpose in blogging might be to share your thoughts, opinions, and feelings; share useful information; or a combination. Marketing may also be an important part of your blog. Once you’ve chosen a good topic, consider who you want your readers to be. What information and ideas will they find interesting and useful? What manner of presentation will appeal to them (e.g., humor, lots of facts, poetic language)?
Considering such questions before you even start will help you settle on a plan to make your blog topic relevant and the tone and style of your posts relatable.
Moving beyond your topic and tone, if your posts are boring or poorly written, people won’t keep reading. A few tips:
• Reel readers in quickly. Use a catchy title and an interesting opening paragraph.
• Write like an expert: convincingly and with confidence. Fact-check if needed, cite sources*, and make sure arguments are sound. Bouncing ideas off a few friends is a good way to help determine if you’re headed in the right direction.
• Use proper mechanics (e.g., grammar, spelling, sentence structure) and proofread! (We can help with that!)
*In blogs citation is typically done by linking back to the original or by including the title and author of the original if it’s not available online.
Use the Internet Advantageously
If your blog is for marketing (or if you want to boost readership), it will be especially important to consider words and phrases to include in your posts that will lead your readers to you by internet search. (Yes, it’s the dread “SEO” — search engine optimization.) If your blog is about pet care, for example, include words and phrases in your posts that people will be likely to search for (e.g., “best pet food,” “dog walking service”).
Include internal and external links in your posts beyond those you use to cite sources. Linking to other sources boosts your credibility and allows you to point readers to information that expands on your blog’s content. It also allows you to strategically direct readers to other parts of your business website.
There are lots of programs out there to help you build your blog. WordPress is one you’ve probably heard of, even if you’re new to blogging. These programs offer templates to help the aesthetically challenged create attractive content. Use them to your advantage! Color, images, and video add interest. Huge, solid blocks of text are off-putting; break up your writing into shorter paragraphs. But don’t make it so busy people can’t read it.
A note about the use of images: If you are a regular reader of the Proofreading Pulse, you probably look forward to seeing what Stickman is up to in each post. Readers like a catchy repeated image, almost like a blog mascot. Such images serve as further motivation for readers to come back each time you post, and they’re vital when you’re promoting individual blog posts to make them look unique.
Quality Is Critical, but Quantity Matters as Well
Sometimes I’ve checked out a blog that sounds interesting by name only to find it has just a one or two posts or posts that are infrequent or outdated. These are real interest-killers. If you are just starting out a blog, write several, maybe ten, posts for the initial launch to immediately build interest. You may have to save up a bit, but it is worth it in terms of capturing readers. Once you are launched, make sure to post often and regularly. What constitutes often and regularly will vary a bit by blog; use your best judgment.
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