This post was submitted by Sarah Fudin who currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California’s Online Masters in Education program, which prepares students to earn a California teacher credential. Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.
If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re heading into the blogosphere looking to launch your own blog, beware: ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tough out there. The Internet is saturated with writing — news companies jostling for readers, content mills chasing advertising dollars, average people shouting from their digital soap boxes. In this tide of words, how can you ensure that the readers youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re looking for manage to find your blog? That your content is appreciated and shared?
You can debate all you want about search engine optimization (the process of improving your websites visibility by tailoring it to the criteria of search engines, like Google), but donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t forget the simple truths of good writing. In many ways, Internet blogging is no different than what you learned in English class: have a message that you simply articulate to your audience.
To that end, letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s examine what you can do to improve the quality of your blog posts:
1. Write about what you know.
Your first step to winning an audience is understanding your strengths. Be honest with yourself and try this exercises: Make three columns — Ã¢â‚¬Å“expert,Ã¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“understandÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“pass.Ã¢â‚¬Â Fill in the expert list with every topic you gab about to your friends and family on a regular basis — and donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t forget the college courses where you earned an A. These are your Ã¢â‚¬Å“expertÃ¢â‚¬Â subjects, the ones you know and know how to fluidly research. Your Ã¢â‚¬Å“understandÃ¢â‚¬Â column should be filled with subjects that you are confident about and could prepare a presentation about, if with notes. Everything else? It falls in the Ã¢â‚¬Å“passÃ¢â‚¬Â column.
2. Distinguish yourself from your competition.
Use your Ã¢â‚¬Å“expertÃ¢â‚¬Â topics to research the competition. There is no point in starting a blog if the competition is thick and entrenched to the point that you could not poke through with all your effort. In that case, you should break down your Ã¢â‚¬Å“expertÃ¢â‚¬Â category into smaller pieces. Love classical music? Too broad. Can you specialize in Baroque, Beethoven or bass arias? See if you can specialize without becoming obscure.
3. Read, read, read.
If you truly want to write, the way forward is to read everything you can get your eyeballs on, especially if itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s written by the competition. Look for what you like as much as what you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like. Besides keeping you informed about what is out there and what is being produced, being an avid reader will make you keenly aware of the conventions of writing, of what works and what doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t work. This knowledge will prove invaluable when it comes to your writing. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s akin to navigating a maze after watching dozens of others do it before you — youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll already know the ins and outs.
4. Utilize keywords.
Regardless of which topic youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re writing about, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll face those seemingly unavoidable words that repeat. When writing anything other than a blog, these are the words that writers are conscious of and try to avoid to keep their work from feeling uncreative and repetitive. But this principle gets turned on its head when blogging. This is one concession youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have to give to SEO over good olÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ fashioned writing because repetitive use of keywords will make you writing easier to find via search engines.
LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s go back to Beethoven for a moment: If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re blogging about the composer and want to attract readers entering Ã¢â‚¬Å“BeethovenÃ¢â‚¬Â into search engines, then you have to be sure to have that keyword (Ã¢â‚¬Å“BeethovenÃ¢â‚¬Â) in your title, and early on in the body of your writing, and frequently in the body of your writing. The repetition of they keyword helps a search engine understand that your writing is in fact about Beethoven, which will help the search engine guide users looking for Beethoven to your page.
5. Find your voice.
Back to traditional writing tips: Blogs develop a following because the author / blogger has a specific tone and style that comes across consistently, like a popular newspaper columnist. In other words, the blogger has found his voice. Huffington Post claims 36.6 million unique monthly visitors because it has a panel of writers who know their subjects and arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t shy about giving their opinion. Through writing about what you know, being an active reader and distinguishing yourself from the competition, you should be in a place where you feel comfortable to not only repeat what others are chiming but to offer up your own opinions as well. After all, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not adding anything new to the discourse, why should readers visit your blog?