How Long Should a Blog Post Be?

325-350 words…or not. Actually, there is no such thing as the RIGHT length for a blog post. But here are some things you may want to consider.

Long_Text260x200Blog Posts Can Be ShortShort or LongLong

Let’s look at two of my favorite blogs: Dosh Dosh and Boing Boing.  Now, immediately you may notice that they have something in common…they are both extremely popular blogs.  Both have daily readers in the thousands and a dedicated crowd of regular followers (much like Blogging Startup…well, maybe not thousands).  But one thing any reader of both blogs will quickly realize: they differ dramatically in post length.  Boing Boing is known for short post of two to 20 sentences highlighting a video, oddity, website or product.  While Dosh Dosh, on the other hand, typically publishes lengthy articles, often more than 3000 words.  Despite taking opposite strategies for post length, both blogs are among the most successful on the Internet.

Write Enough to Get Your Point Across

…but no more.  Back to our examples, Dosh Dosh is often sharing indepth strategies for optimizing your use of the Internet.  A short article would not allow for the detailed information needed to implement much of what is shared.  On the other hand, Boing Boing is just trying to grab your attention long enough to point out something interesting.  Extra words and length writing would only distract the reader from the interesting thing.

Length of Posts Will, In Part, Determine How Often You Post

It stands to reason that if you are writing lengthy posts, you will probably be publishing on your blog less frequently than if you wrote short articles.  Dosh Dosh publishes a few times each month…although he hasn’t published anything since May 18th.  Where are you, Maki?  On the other hand, Boing Boing puts out new posts several times each day.  Just this Friday, July 17th, Boing Boing published 20 posts on topics ranging from raging toilets to baking cookies on a hot car dashboard.  Of course, it helps that Boing Boing has fiddy-seven ninety writers for the blog.

Write With Reader Expectations in Mind

If Boing Boing started publishing 3500 word thesises (or is it thesi…ah, forget it) articles, the readers would quickly lose interest and move on.  And Dosh Dosh equally disappoint fans with Five Bulleted Ideas for Ad Placement.  Hand-in-hand with writing enough to get your point across is writing in a length that readers expect.  Once you’ve set a pattern for your blog, thing seriously before making a change.

Consider Breaking Really Long Posts Into Two or More

If you have a lot of information to share, giveStranger_Fortune300x150 thought to writing a series of posts.  At the very least, break up the long article with sub-headings, short paragraphs, bulleted/numbered lists, and possibly publish on multiple pages.  The idea is to make your longer articles easy to read.

Don’t Allow SEO Concerns Affect the Length of Posts

Some have written that longer posts do better for SEO, possibly just the result of more frequent occurrence of keywords.  Well, don’t you dare write longer just to improve your SEO.  What about your readers?  If you write too long for your subject, readers will move on.  And you certainly won’t merit those all important backlinks if readers find your writing too lengthy.  Again, the rule is “write enough to get your point across…and no more”.

Finally, If You Still Are Unsure About Post Length…TEST

Of course, you already track your blog traffic with a fully functional and easy to read analytics program like, say, Google Analytics…right?  So you can see exactly what your readers are, um, reading.  You can learn how long they hang out on your blog and how many pages they visit.  There are amazing facts that you can learn from reviewing your blog stats on a regular basis.  SO, if you want to find out if short or long posts bring (and keep) more readers, run a test.  For a month, keep your posts short.  Everything you right must be under some predetermined word count.  Then, a month later, post nothing but longer posts.  Now review your analytics to see just what gets read the most.  Of course, you could devise a much more detailed and effective test using goals within Google Analytics, but that is an entirely different post.

So, that’s it.  I think I’ve said enough so, now it’s time to stop writing.

[PhotoCredit:Emborg & Misocrazy]

Spamtastic Advice for Bloggers!

Yummmmy!This is going to be one of my shortest posts, but an important one to all bloggers. I just finished doing regular maintenance on all my blogs and was amazed at the tremendous increase the amount of Spam during the past week. I had over 200 spam comments on this blog alone. That is an increase of 600% over the typical amount of spam I receive.

Sure, I could give the typical (and critical) advice that all bloggers need a top notch spam blogging plugin. But here is some equally important advice:

Don’t just delete spam. Be sure it is tagged as spam!

Akismet, the plugin I use (and recommend) finds 99.9+% of all spam on my blogs, but occasionally something slips through. And when it does, you should be sure that it’s identified as spam according to the procedures of your software. Doing so (at least with Akismet) added that commentor to the larger spammer list shared by everyone using that software. As part of the blogging community, you are doing your part to clean up the Internet graffiti (well, graffiti minus the artistic value).

UPDATE: Wow, there were 44 new spam comments since I wrote this post 10 hours ago!  Have you seen an increase in spam on your blog?

[PhotoCredit:BennyYap]

Who’s Number One? How About the Blog Reader!

Fish EyesIf in business, the customer is king…then for blogging, the reader is king.  Unless you simply don’t give a damn about who reads your blog or if anyone ever visits, then making the reader king is a must strategy.  One way to recognize this principle and make it real on your blog is to create a contract with your users.

I recently found just this thing while visiting Bruce Lawson’s blog.  Bruce has been working as a web developer in the United Kingdom for a large business for the past several years.  While working on a new website, Bruce decided to put into words his own contract with the website users.  He called his agreement A Constitution for a New Website.  In Bruce’s own words, “websites designed by committee serve nobody’s interests, especially not the users’.”  His Constitution lays out exactly what’s important in developing any website.  The Constitution is simply written and clear in it’s message; websites are all about the user, not the owner, not the designer, and not the programmer.

Bruce has already extended an invitation to readers to amend the Constitution for use on their own websites.  It’s a great way to keep focus when developing or writing for your blog.  Create your own constitution or adapt Bruce’s (with linked credit, of course).  And start viewing all you do from the user’s perspective.

[PhotoCredit:Laszlo]

Test Drives: How to Discover if Blogging is for You

Test DriveSo you’re thinking about starting a blog, but haven’t made the big step yet. Blogging sounds like a lot of fun, but you’d like to test the waters before you take the plunge. Hey, I understand. This is how I got started in blogging. For all you cautious individuals wanting to taste the thrill of blogging before making the full commitment, here’s some ways to test drive the blogging lifestyle:

Write 10 Posts on Your Blog Topic

There is a lot to be done when you publish your own blog, but nothing more important or time consuming than writing for your blog. Hey, that’s why we visit blogs, to read great content. So one way to explore the world of blogging is to pick a potential blogging topic and write 10 posts for that blog. Don’t try to write them all in one day. Take some time, but no more than two weeks. Write about a topic that interests you…one you might want to blog about.

So, how was it? Was it difficult to come up with new ideas? Did you enjoy the writing? Pass on your writing to a close friend or two. Ask for their thoughts and opinions.

Writing the 10 posts is a blogging test run. It gives you an idea what it’s like to write every couple days about your blogging topic. And remember, blogging is a long term commitment. The honeymoon period for blogging usually ends after three to six months. That’s when the writing really becomes a chore. But if you enjoy the subject and like to write, it becomes a welcomed chore.

Oh, don’t forget to hold onto those 10 new posts. They are a great way to start if you do become a blogger. For some great tips on writing blog posts, see Piaras Kelly’s post, Tips on Writing Content for Your Blog.

Guest Blog on an Established Blog

Hey, now that you’ve got 10 great posts already written (you did say they were great, eh?), you can offer your writing services as a guest blogger on an established blog. Your posts can be used as writing samples, and if the blog is on the same topics, you can even use one that you’ve already written.

First you must find a blog where you can offer yourself as a guest writer. If you already frequent a blog or two and are known by the owner, then that would be good place to start. You can also research blogs in your topic area at Technorati or Google Blog Search.

Once you have a blog in mind, be sure to read several posts on the blog until you have a real good feel for the tone and topic of the blog. Contact the owner through their contact page or email address to offer yourself as a guest writer and pitch a few ideas for possible posts that fit their blog. Don’t be surprised to be welcomed with open arms as many blog owners are very busy and would welcome a guest writer.

Oh, by the way, don’t expect to get paid for being a guest blogger. Only the top blogs pay for posts and rarely use unknown writers for guest bloggers. Your experience writing for the blog and seeing the reaction of readers is payment enough. To learn more about how to be a good guest blogger, visit ProBlogger.net.

Diving InMicroblog on Twitter

Want to go ahead and start your blogging experience without the long term commitment or enormous writing demands? Twitter helped popularize the term microblogging with it’s service to publish very short (no more than 140 characters) “posts” about anything you want. Many Twitterers (hm, is that right?) use the service as a diary and post what they are doing throughout the day. Others comment on current events or share information.

Unlike a blog, you don’t read a Twitter on a single page on the web. A Twitter can be published on multiple websites (in something called a widget), in a desktop applet (like instant messaging), or at Twitter.com. To read someone’s Twitter, you must choose to follow them. To learn nearly everything there is to know about Twitter, read the Big Juicy Twitter Guide by the Queen of Twitter, Caroline Middlebrook.

Twittering will give you a taste of blog publishing without the hassle of setting up a website or the responsibility of writing multi-paragraph posts. You can twitter in just a few seconds and do it as often as you like. It’s not the same as blogging, but it will begin to give you a taste of what it’s like to write for others on the Internet.

Start a Blog on Blogger or WordPress.com

Finally, if you’re nearly ready to take the plunge, but not yet ready to commit money or time to creating your own blogging website, you can start a blog for free at WordPress.com or Google’s Blogger. Both of these services offer free blog sites with nearly all the functions of an independently hosted blog. You can register your account and create your blog in less than 15 minutes.

These free blogs allow you to focus on your writing and not worry about all the hassles of purchasing a domain, finding a web host, loading software and tackling technical problems. You simply write your posts and load your images. It’s definitely more involved than Twitter. Let’s face it, you are no longer test driving, you have now leased a vehicle and are among the thousands of bloggers worldwide.

The only step from here is to “buy the vehicle” by setting up your independent blog on your own domain. But you don’t have to do that to be a real blogger. You can continue blogging at Blogger or WordPress and experience success as many other bloggers have before you.

So don’t think you have to jump into the deep end of the pool when you first consider becoming a blogger. Take some time to sample the experience and consider the ideas I’ve suggested.

[PhotoCredits:Exfordy & Salsaboy]

Where Does Blogging Fit Into Your Life?

Blogging often starts as a curiosity or minor interest. You write a few posts, get a few visitors and a subscriber or two. You start reading other blogs (if you’ve not been doing this already) and adding more and more to your RSS reader. After a couple weeks, you find that ideas for you blog creep into your head during business meetings and social conversations. Soon blogging becomes a passion….no, an obsession.

PerspectiveFor many of us, blogging started as a hobby but became something more. In my own life, I started blogging as an outlet from work; a way to share my ideas and gain ideas from others. But it didn’t take long for blogging to become much more than that. Soon it was two blogs, then three. A couple months ago I added a fourth blog as a resource for a training workshop I was doing. Four blogs will keep you very busy.

But I also have a life outside of blogging. And recently, that life has gotten in the way of my blogging. Well, maybe that’s not a good way to put it. The fact is, I have to set priorities for my life, just like each one of you. And my priorities are family and work. It was work that needed the most attention and will continue to consume the majority of my time for the next month. So, something had to give, and it’s been my blogging.

I don’t blog for a living. Heck, I could probably make more with a sign on the street corner. But I do value my blogging for other reasons. Nonetheless, blogging has taken a backseat in my life for the past several weeks. Any of my regular readers already know this just from the infrequent posting on this blog. I’ve even got a few kind emails (thank you) from readers wanting to know what had happened. As I said to them, it’s just a situation where life had other plans than I did.

When you are blogging, or involved in any hobby for that matter. You need to keep things in perspective. Keep your priorities straight, even if something has to suffer a bit. I’m not suggesting that you neglect your blog, but don’t let it take over your life. We’ve probably all heard the jokes about husbands or wives that seem wed to their blogs, allowing their relationships to suffer. But when it really happens, something is desperately wrong. Put blogging in it’s correct place, and give it the proper attention only AFTER you have taken care of the other priorities.

So, I’m probably not going to be posting as often as I’d like during the next month.  Let me apologize to you now.  You may want to take the time to visit some of my older posts or spend the time working on your own blog. I will be posting once or twice a week, so I’m not disappearing entirely. And watch out for mid-May, when I get some of my free time back.  There is still a lot I want to accomplish on this blog and a lot that I want to share.

[PhotoCredit:OiMax]

Ms. Kinder Was Right: Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling Do Matter

The Elements of Style by William StrunkWho’s Ms. Kinder? Ms. Kinder was my eighth grade English teacher. I assume she took the job when there was no more demand for Nazi drill sergeants. But despite Ms. Kinder’s Himmler-like techniques, what she taught us has proven to be valuable to my blogging success. So now, in front of my faithful blogging friends I confess, “Ms. Kinder, you were right. And I’m sorry about that little incident with the lunch box and the earth worms.”

When I first started blogging I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to my spelling, grammar or punctuation. I figured that a blog is more informal and these things really didn’t matter all that much. Well, four blogs later, I’ve seen the light. I learned how important these things were by my own reaction when reading blogs littered with offenses to the English language. Blogs with errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar led to a couple of responses:

  • I’d get confused or frustrated when trying to understand what was written. This is particularly true when reading technology related blogs that already challenge my intellect.
  • I’d lose trust in the knowledge of the writer. It just seemed difficult that someone who would misspell compensation on their blog could teach me anything about making money online.

But both of these reactions usually result in my leaving the blog. Grammar, spelling and punctuation errors are a distraction and a nuisance. I found that I just didn’t care to read a blog written with little care for use of proper English. It’s not that you won’t find errors on my own blogs, but I make an effort to make them as few as possible.
So, what do you do if you weren’t really listening when Ms. Kinder’s was explaining expletive constructions? Here’s my suggestions for minimizing English language atrocities on your blog:

  1. ALWAYS reread your article before posting to find errors. Proofreading is basic to all forms of professional writing; make it a regular part of your blogging.
  2. Use your spell checker. It may not always be right, but it’s a second opinion on your spelling. WordPress and most other major blog platforms have a spell check built right in. So use the tool to avoid some simple mistakes.
  3. Use other resources and guides to help improve your grammar and use of punctuation.

Here’s a list of online resources to help:

Punctuation Made Simple – Learn to properly use the colon, semicolon, apostrophe, dash and comma. Links are at the bottom of the page.

Guide to Grammar and Style – Jack Lynch’s site has a wealth of information, but can be a bit difficult to navigate. There is an alphabetical index and a rudimentary search engine.

Online Writing Lab Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling – Excellent resources. Brief and to the point.

Strunk’s The Elements of Style – The same guide I used in college, available online. This is a great read if you are looking to improve your writing.

So, no more excuses. Ms. Kinder was right, but more importantly, your readers deserve a quality blog. And good use of English is critical to a quality blog. So take the time to check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. Donut be won of those righters whose two lazy to get it write.

[PhotoCredit:ZapPowBang]