The Anatomy of a Blog Post and Other FAQs

9627547_sI started the blog conversation last week with my article The Benefits of Having a Blog for Your Book.

Hopefully you are convinced of the value of a blog so let’s continue the discussion by offering some examples of a blog post.

Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions:

How long should a blog post be?

Your article should be as long as it takes to finish your thought. That might be two paragraphs or the equivalent of a full page. It doesn’t need to be pages and pages long like a White Paper or a Case Study.

Your article should pose a thought at the beginning; a question, an opinion, a lesson and the follow through with your point of view. You’ll want a beginning, a middle and an end. If you can do that in 75 words – great. If it takes 450 words – that is okay as well. (most will not be the 1300 words this article is)

One tip – write your blog article in a Word Document or a Note page rather than directly into your blog. This gives you an opportunity to use spell check features and also allows you to check your word count. You’ll add links to other articles and images later, once you have reviewed and proofed your article.

What should I talk about?

What is important to you? If you want a blog that focuses on your writing process, it could be a real time diary of each day’s writing experience. Did the words flow, did you find inspiration in an unusual location? Are you struggling with your characters? Share the experience with your readers.

If you would rather focus on a topic that you have strong feelings about (politics, gardening, travel, etc.) you might share an experience you have had, a news article that you reviewed or recent social media discussion on your topic.

Start by sharing the topic you want to discuss and then add your opinion. People won’t want to revisit your blog if all you do is sell your book or repeat other people’s opinion; they want to know what you have to say. Make sure you add value to the topic.

What should the tone of my article be?

In a word? Conversational.

Unlike a website that may be in third person and formal, your blog should be written in first person and with a conversational tone that is easy to read. Leave the big words and Harvard Business Review approach to another platform; readers will enjoy reading your personal opinions, learning about your values and humor. Think about columnist Dave Barry; he has become famous for his tongue-in-cheek humorous approach to real life.  If you read his blog you will find short one-liners posted multiple times a day. In fact, he was tweeting long before Twitter was invented. Here is an example of one of his blog posts:

TRAVEL UPDATE

I’m on my way to Georgia today, and for a good reason: That’s what my calendar says. “Go to Georgia!” it says, and when it uses that tone of voice, there is no arguing with it.

The security personnel at Miami International Airport and Drug-Smuggling Facility opened my suitcase and took a good long look at my nail clippers. But the fools let me keep them, which means that, if I want to, I can easily take over the plane.

Can I quote from other articles that I have read?

The short answer is: yes. The long answer includes the fact that you need to give credit and include a link back to the full article.

The follow-up answer to the question you haven’t asked is this: don’t just share someone else’s thoughts – add to the discussion. For example, if you want to share an article that someone wrote about the 5 Best Names for a Dog, make sure you comment on those names and add a few of your own. Example:

I was just reading an informative article written by Susie Q entitled the 5 Best Names for a Dog. She thinks Rover is overrated and the best name for a dog is Queenie. No disrespect to Susie and her opinion but I think Jack is a much better name for a dog; regardless of it the dog is a boy or a girl.

Don’t be afraid to disagree with the article you are referring to but make sure you are responsible and respectful in your blog at all times. That means – no bad language and no bullying.

How often should I write a new blog post?

Well, this is a long debated question and the answer has changed as frequently as the number of years people have been blogging. (About ten years+, BTW).  You want to update your blog often enough to give people a reason to return. If you only write a new article once a month, your readers will forget about you in between articles and find new blogs to follow. If you are a Downton Abbey fan you know how hard it can be to get back into the story when there is a nine month hiatus between seasons.

In the beginning, people were blogging every day, but now if you can update your blog at least once a week, you’ll have the opportunity to gain a following. Be consistent. At Halo Publishing we are sharing new articles three times a week and hopefully you are enjoying them!

Are pictures important for a blog article?yes

Again, the answer is short and yet I will find a way to type several sentences. Yes – each article should contain a picture – one that relates to the topic. People are visual and a sharp, clear picture can be more important that the title.  More on this in the next question…

If so, where can I find pictures to use?

There has been a lot of controversy around pictures that are used in marketing and blogs of late; some resulting in very expensive law suits. The best picture is the one you take yourself because there are no copyright issues. You took the picture; you own the picture.

Purchasing pictures from sites like IstockPhoto.com can be very expensive and therefore prohibitive. If you are spending $50-$75 on an image for each article and publishing a minimum of once a week; you’ve just added almost $4,000 to your annual expenses.

Consider checking out Flickr.com for photos in The Creative Commons that have no copyright restrictions. Or they may just require attribution. That means that you write in your article where the picture came from. Photo Dropper is a plugin that you can use with WordPress that allows you to quickly add an image to your blog post. They offer ¼ of a BILLION free images to choose from.

I use 123RF.com – it is a paid service but I can pay as I go and pictures run about $1 each which allows me to use it on my blog but also other places without paying additional royalties.

Search for free images online for additional resources but please refrain from just downloading images you find on Google Images – you might find yourself in copyright hot water.

Are Key Words Important

Yes. Using key words in your title, article and tags help Google index each article by specific topics and industries which will help with organic search. In other words, include the words you think a reader might be searching in your article so they can find you easier.

Bottom line: The anatomy of a blog post will vary on the topic, your time availability that day and your thoughts on the topic. Be authentic. Be real. Add value and you will find an audience.