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One Year Anniversary Review: Blog Writing

Writing up the one year anniversary review of articles I’ve written about searching and search engines, I ran across this interesting bit I wrote in “How Google Ranks Websites”:

Spelling is still important. Not that Google’s patented page ranking process includes a spell checker – words that are not recognized get dumped. If misspelled keywords are among your missed spellings, then your site will be hurt in the rankings.

Ouch. So spelling does count.

Writing is my passion. I write technical, editorial, and corporate articles and content. I also teach writing. So I’ve had fun writing about writing over the past year.

Two favorite articles I wrote about how to write for the web are “How to Write Like a Wanker” and “Blog Writing: I lk yr blg”, both inspired by rage at the horrible writing on the web today. In the first article, which offers a link to an excellent article, “How to Write Like a Wanker” by Vincent Flanders, I quoted:

No matter what Flash-blinded web monkeys would have us believe, the Internet is a text-based medium: especially its major discussion forums (IRC and Usenet) where people from all over the world can interact and share information. A popular misconception about text messages on the Internet is that, to be an effective communicator and earn the respect and admiration of your peers, you must be able to write lucid prose; that your messages, articles, posts and pages must be easy to understand and pleasant to read.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Popular sites filled with cutting-edge Internet cognoscenti (such as Slashdot and ShackNews) give the lie to this harmful and destructive myth: they are brimming with horrific grammar, atrocious spelling, gratuitous abbreviation and childish, arrogant attitude. To be “in” on the net, you must write like a wanker.

In “Blog Writing: I lk yr blg”, I raged against the twits who complain about their lack of inclusion or low page ranking in search engines, and lack of traffic, while sitting on the web with a site stuffed with poor writing, misspelled words, and abbreviations for whole words:

The following comment on this blog inspired me this morning:

“hello ive done most of it but doesnt wrk with me, ive gt a decent content on ma blog.. what do u suggest?”

I took a look at his blog and, well, this is not a review of his blog but a commentary on how not to write if you want your blog to be successful with readers and search engines.

I’ve talked a lot about readability in blogs and how important, in fact critical, it is to your blog’s success. Let’s review.

1. In order to be found and gathered into the database of search engines, your blog content must be readable and have keywords recognized by the search engine.
2. In order to be found by humans searching with keywords in search engines, your blog must have the keywords, used properly, they are searching for.
3. In order to be read by humans, it must be able to be read.
4. In order to get humans to return to reread your blog, tell their friends about your blog, put your blog on their blogroll, and write about your blog so everyone will know about your blog, it must be readable and have worthy content.

I have plans for a series on writing for the web coming up, but as I look back on what I’ve written about blog writing over this past year, I realized I’d written a lot about writing as regards to search engine optimization (SEO) and keyword techniques. In “Keywords Help You Write Your Blog”, I point out how you help people find your blog by writing with “search keywords” in mind, and you help yourself write better:

Once I started seriously considering how I used keywords in our online documents, my web writing actually improved. I have a list of keywords for my site, but then I would make a list of the keywords I want to use in my post. I keep thinking, “How can I incorporate these words into the article while still attaining the goals of the article?”

I found that this helps outline and organize my thoughts, keeping me focused on the topic at hand and not on the tangents. Still, using too many of the same keywords can get you in trouble, so it’s a game of balance between getting enough and not getting too many.

In “Judging Blogs by their Post Content Styles” and “Horse Sex and What is Dictating Your Blog’s Content?”, I helped people understand that their blog’s are judged by their content, and you should figure out what is dictating your blog’s content:

Search engines need content in order to rate your site. This is a fact. A bunch of photographs are pretty to look at, but they don’t offer much content to fill up search engine databases. The same for links. Links help the interconnectedness of the web and by linking to other sites, you increase their link popularity, but links alone also won’t help your SEO status.

Content matters. But so does style and consistency in style. You need to choose your blogging style, and keep it consistent, or allow it to develop into a consistent form. It can be one of the above styles exclusively, or a combination of them.

There are times when I find information that I know will be of value, and there is little I can say to add to the material. It is my style to offer reason and incentive for you, my reader, to leave my site to find other content, so I make sure that the content I refer you to is good and that you have an idea of what you will be reading on the other site.

And there are other times when what “I” have to say is more important for me to say and you to read, after all, I am considered an expert on all most many of the topics I write about. Isn’t that why you keep coming back for more?

I also spent a lot of time writing about the international issues of writing. Blogs and websites are no longer limited by language. There are many online translation tools around and just two days ago, I read a site written in Dutch. Amazing. Because the web is shrinking the borders on the planet, and soon instant translation of web pages will be available, breaking all language barriers, web and blog writers need to take into consideration international writing issues.

In “International Standards and Languages”, I wrote:

While the majority of web pages are in English, moves by the UN and other international groups are working hard to change that. As more and more people speaking a variety of languages gain access to the Internet, foreign language and international issues will become more and more critical to the web page designer. There are a variety of ways to make your pages more “foreign language” friendly, through its coding and by providing translations of your pages, widening your audience.

And while we are on the subject of foreign languages, did you know that all English is not always “English”? There is American English, British English, South African English, Australian English, and even more English out there, each with their own rules and regulations on how things should be spelled and arranged. Normally, you would just write in “your” version of English, but what if your browser doesn’t recognize your version of English? Most do, but there are ways you can help it know which version of English, as well as which version of Chinese and other multi-version languages your website is in.

Which spellings are you going to use? American English or British English? Or maybe Cockney English? Make sure your HTML codes reflect which form of English you are using to guarantee the right characters appear within the browser’s screen.

I covered similar international language and writing issues in “British Versus American”, “Global Awareness May Change The Way You Communicate on the Web”, “Why Are Country-Specific Words Important to Bloggers?”, “Cultural Colloquiums and Blog Writing”, which struck a nerve with many:

Have you ever tried to explain American baseball to a Russian? Or anyone who has no familiarity with baseball? I did and it was a nightmare. Americans, even those who don’t understand the game at all, use baseball terminology as part of our daily dialog.

“So, did you get to third base last night?” “Oh, gees, I struck out again.” “You know the law. Three strikes, you’re out.” “Hey, take a walk.” “Well, that came out of left field.” “It was a home run, baby!” “It was a line drive I didn’t see coming at me.”

…These icons and catch phrases are part of our daily life. They are so ingrained, we think nothing of them. Our reading audience might.

As you write on your blog, do you think about the words and phrases you use, ones you normally say when talking to friends and family? Do you think about how they might be interpreted by people who don’t know what you are talking about?

…Keep an eye out for colloquial phrases and asides that don’t add to your blog writing. The occasional pop culture reference won’t hurt, and adds color, just be conscious of it. Consider the phrase and how you use it. If it helps, leave it. If it doesn’t, consider taking it out or changing it to something less society specific.

If you are writing for a very specific audience, be it a specific age or generation, or society, then definitely use terms and phrases they will recognize. It’s part of the appeal…

Identifiable cultural colloquialisms connect people. They can be critical to your blog’s success if it serves your audience and their expectations.

In “Computer Models – How New Words Become Part of the Language”, I talk about how words get into the dictionary and make their way into our daily speech. With the current issue of Google fighting trademark issues over the use of “google” as a verb and inclusion in dictionaries, it’s fascinating to understand how words make their way into our language.

Delving more into what makes blog writing work, I wrote “How Easy is Your Writing to Understand?”, listing tips to help you improve your blog writing:

  • Write: The more you write, the better your writing.
  • Read: The more you read, and the more diverse subject matter you read, the better your writing skills.
  • Write on Diverse Subjects: When you write about only one subject, you tend to repeat yourself, saying the same or similar things over and over. Expand your vocabulary by writing about different subjects or similar subjects in many different ways.
  • Write for Your Audience: When you think about your audience instead of writing just for yourself, your writing changes. You now think about what they will think when they read what you write. You now think about getting your point across to “them” not just making your point. The more you know, respect, and understand your audience, the better your writing for your audience will improve.
  • Play Word Games: Simple spelling games or more sophisticated word and sentence games get you thinking about words individually and as a whole. They test your vocabulary and improve it. They also get you thinking about how to make a point in the fewest words possible.
  • Edit: The more time you spend editing your work and the writing of others, the more you learn how to say things and when to say things. You learn how to cull the words to expose the points and phrases that are critical to the article, cleaning away the clutter.
  • Practice storytelling and jokes: When you practice and study the art of storytelling and joke telling, you learn about the powerful punch words can have to deliver your punch line. Literally. Storytelling, whether to make someone laugh or cry, is an art form and a skill and the more you study the art of the story, the better your writing, since writing is about telling a story.
  • Read Screenplays: There are a lot of screenplays available on the net. Read them. See how a story that eventually ends up as a highly visual display starts out with words and simple descriptions.
  • Practice Poetry: When you play with words as part of poetry, you learn the importance of every word in a phrase. You learn verbal banter, rhythm, and flow.

To help you write on your blog, I also put together a massive list of resources for finding things to write about in “Hundreds of Resources for Finding Content for Your Blog”, providing a never ending source of writing material.

Writing About the Tough Part of Blog Writing

I also tackled a few “sensitive” issues about writing on the web. In “Have Your Favorite Bloggers and Blogs Run Out of Steam”, I addressed the issue of bloggers who stop blogging:

So why are so many quality bloggers running out of steam and not contributing to their blogs? And are you at risk of joining their absentee club?

I see several reasons:

  • Life interferes with blogging.
  • Work interferes with blogging.
  • Other interests interferes with blogging.
  • Loss of enthusiasm.
  • Novelty has worn off.

The first three reasons are fairly common. You fall in love, get a new job, things change in your social life, family pressures rise, the job changes, responsibilities increase, or you just fall in love with another interest and blogging falls by the wayside. However, while these are common, they aren’t the number one reason why bloggers run out of steam.

It appears that the novelty factor is top of the list.

Yes, the thrill is gone. The excitement of seeing your first post published, your words in print, visible for the world to see. It’s just so exciting. But then what?

Ah, yes, you have to do it again. And again. And again.

Do it three, four, or more times and soon it becomes work. It takes a lot of work to come up with more than four or five words or a short collection of links. After a while, even the links are hard work.

Maintaining a blog can grow tiresome as bloggers get bored with the topic, the effort, and the task itself.

In “Blogging Yourself Into a Job: Is Your Blog Your Resume?”, I wanted you to think about the impression your blog gives and how you can blog yourself into a job, if you blog is your resume.

Blogging provides documented evidence that you know what you are talking about. It showcases your talent. It creates a network around you of fans, readers, and possible employers. It establishes you as an expert – in whatever field…Remember, if your blog is your resume, let it speak well of you.

On a lighter note, I addressed the issue of making mistakes in your blog posts in “Make a Boo Boo. What Do You Do?”:

I’d like to think that we bloggers should have some kind of error catching and admitting-your-wrong policies for our blogs. What would it say? Would it be one of those sweeping anti-litigation statements that says “Hey, just cuz we said it, don’t mean it’s right.” Or “If you believe this, I have some property in Biloxi I might be interested in selling.”

Bloggers have a very complex set of rights that may, or may not, protect them. Certainly, if you misspell the name of a company or publish a messed up statistical reference, you probably won’t get into much trouble, but if you call names, point fingers, or something more serious, trouble could be coming your way. But I want to talk about what you do if you make a mistake.

…What do you do when you find a mistake on a published post? Do you have a policy? Written or not? What is your policy for when you mess up? Do you publicly state it and apologize? Or do you just edit the post with the correct information? Do you do any proof reading or checking of facts and figures before you hit the publish button, or do you even care? Do you think anyone else cares if you mess up?

While some mistakes are funny, some are incredibly painful. The issue of what to do when you make a boo-boo is a question few people were asking, and one that desperately needed addressing, and still does today.

A post I wrote that had me crying was “Ripping the Blogging Mask Off to Find a Real Person”. I’ve cried, laughed, giggled, and hissed with rage about many posts while I was writing them. “Touching the Spirit When Blogging” had me rolling with emotions, but writing about how to let the real person out when blogging, especially discussing the highly sensitive issue of how Robert Scoble was publicly handling the death of his mother, was a tough one:

I normally tell you to focus on your topic and keep it there, but I agree that the occasional tangent is good for adding a little color and “life” to your blog. Just don’t let it take over. Still, it’s important, once in a while, to rip off the blogger mask to let us see the real person underneath. We want to know you. We want to care about you, as well as learn from you.

While tears are pouring down my face with grief at the loss and suffering of our fellow blogger and friend, I want to share with you a profound lesson in all of this, part of what makes a difference between a good blogger and a top blogger.

Scoble is in pain, yet he never forgets his audience. His purpose is clear: educate the world in a unique and “got you thinking” kinda way. It is critically important to him that he makes you think, whatever the topic is. And it is equally important that his need to engage your brain also generates results. He wants you to turn your thinking into action.

Even in his pain, he is telling you to communicate with your loved ones. Remind them that life is short and let’s deal with the sucky parts of this now, while we are talking and have good times ahead, so that when the bad times come, we’re ready and all playing by the same rules.

Among the tough subjects I wrote about, “Mean Spirited Comments and Blogging” was one written out of pain and loathing, an elephant in the living room that needed to be talked about:

Trolls. Flamers. Meanies. Vicious. Not Nice. Unkind. Rude. Inconsiderate. Nasty. Whining. Bitching. Moaning. Bastards.

Where there are humans, you will find humans who seem to have more than their share of these personality traits. Blogging is no exception.

Even the most non-controversial blogs, like this one, is the target of the blogging thug, mean spirited bloggers and commenters who just have to say nasty things when they can, for whatever reason they want to revel in.

Accusations run from just mean comments to outright lies about you and your blog.

I’m not talking about rip-roaring debates or enthusiastic arguments. I’m talking about old fashion meanness.

It often begins with mean comments on your posts. They can start off as just “not nice” and if they don’t get a response, or they do, the comments can become more aggressive. The mean blogger may actually write their mean attitude about you and your blog on their blog. Many of these mean people encourage others to feel the same way as they do, thus seeking validation for their mean spirits. And trust me, they find them. People are always willing to go along with negative energy. It often feels like negative energy attracts more negative energy faster and easier, than positive attracts positive.

Where there is negative energy in abundance, gangs form. If enough of a gang is formed, they will support each other to target your blog with more viciousness. Group meanness is even more fun because of the team spirit.

Writing with anger or to inflame has two purposes. One, it allows people to vent, which they may think is a good thing, and two, it attracts an audience. Either way, mean blogging hurts. In “How To Avoid Flame Wars”, I explain:

If these attacks are on your blog, you have the right to decide if they will remain public or not. You have the right to control what is said and visible to the public on your blog, so make those practices and decisions public through the use of a good Comment Policy.

You also have the right to control the ignition of a flame war. If you want one, I’m sure you can go out looking for anything to spark a flame, but if you don’t, then use some self control before you publish posts or comments that might incite a riot.

I hear a lot of talk about rights and freedoms, and yet, honestly, the greatest freedom we have in this world is the right to control our tongue and typing fingers. It’s your brain. Use it. And use it judiciously.

There are other methods of blogging that I hope to cover in the future, but one blogging technique really got me ranting. In “Fortune Cookie Blogging”, I poke at the soft-soap writing style so many bloggers use:

I don’t have a problem with people playing it safe. I think “middle-of-the-road” is good. We need middle-of-the-road as well as left and right of the road. It’s about balance.

Still, this fortune cookie blogging left me frustrated and empty. I read word after word, sentence after sentence and didn’t learn anything. I didn’t walk away thinking “huh, that’s interesting. This will give me something to think about.” It was like reading one of those books you forget about two minutes after you finish it.

The problem with staying safe means sitting on the fence, not going one way or the other to get off the fence. The problem with sitting on the fence is that you have a stick up your butt.

When I’m asked about what makes a blog successful, there are a lot of elements. There is look, feel, navigation, design, and quality of writing. But there is a more elusive element that is frustrating to explain. It’s the difference between sitting on the fence and jumping off the fence to feel the ground under your feet. It’s about risk.

George Carlin describes it this way:

…You know morally committed people in South Vietnam knew how to stage a demonstration. They knew how to put on a protest. Light yourself on fire! Come on you moral crusaders, let’s see a little smoke to match the fire in your belly.

While he is using satire to make his point, it’s the fire in your belly enthusiasm I find in writing that makes it memorable.

Wow, I did write a lot more about blog writing than I thought I did. Such is the way these one year anniversary blog reviews are working for me. It’s a chance to review what I wrote, and I wrote a lot about writing.

Articles About Blog Writing Tips and Techniques


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

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  1. [...] Another part of helping people find you is how and what you include in your site’s content. After all, they are searching for words, so shouldn’t the words you write help them search? I reviewed the web development tasks of writing with keywords in “One Year Anniversary Review: Keywords”, and then more on blog writing in “One Year Anniversary Review: Blog Writing”. [...]

  2. [...] bloggers, blogging tools, WordPress.com tips, accessibility and usability, blog housekeeping, blog writing, blogger’s rights, blogging tips, choosing a WordPress Theme, blog comments, comment spam, [...]

  3. [...] One Year Anniversary Review: Blog Writing [...]

  4. […] One Year Anniversary Review: Blog Writing […]

  5. […] One Year Anniversary Review: Blog Writing […]

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