Checklist for a Great Blog

If a blog is not worth repeating or disputing, then it is not worth writing.

Most blogs suck. Why? Because they are written for the wrong reasons or by people who focus on search engine optimization (SEO) rather than creating great content.

This is a new website. This article provides a simple, easy-to-follow on how to write blogs that are interesting, meaningful and provide value.

1.  Focus on a keyword.

Pick a subject by choosing a single reason why you want people to use to find your blog. Pick only one reason per entry. This will keep you focused. Moreover, it will keep you productive and save time.

You can use other ideas for future entries. Save them in a document for future reference. Mine now has 46 ideas – and this is only my third official blog entry. Don’t worry. Most ideas suck and will never get developed into articles. But it is important to keep them around long enough to be evaluated objectively. This is an essential part of my creative process.

For this article, I want the word “Checklist for a Great Blog.”

2.  Research the subject.

Great writing always starts with research.

A Google search on my keyword phrase landed me on wonderful article by blogging expert Heather Stevens. She’s really good. So, I read her article then left a thoughtful comment for her with a link back to my site. I read about 10 more articles – keeping each open in separate tabs so I  can make comments on these blogs AFTER I have published this article.

As a former professional writer, I have many opinions that apply to the art of blogging. Especially about style: I like short, easy to read sentences. First person narratives. Present tense verbs.

I think the internet could be far more useful if the language on websites was simpler and easier understand. This style is also easier for search engines to understand.

3.  Research the keyword (or phrase).

Google’s perspective is the only perspective that matters for most search results. I use their free keyword tool to get insights on how searches see my blog. Bad news: Google thinks I’m more of a fitness freak than I am a marketing strategist. So I make a list of a few other keywords related to mine. I focus on the most popular global and monthly searches. BlogSpot is the big winner here – the system that I used for my previous (now defunct) website on fitness.

4. Start writing. Keep it simple.

Use a word processing system that allows you to check for readability statistics. I use Microsoft Word but am evaluating a number of other free writing tools that seem to work well. The best blogs score below the 12th grade reading level. This article rates at seventh-grade level – a good solid score.

Why is it important to write at such a basic level? Because it is easier to understand and, therefore, more meaningful. This is especially true if the subject matter is very complex or technical.

Here’s an example: My new business (if funded) must explain the benefits of a consumer preference matching technology that uses fractal semantic data integration, auto-ontology generation, and neural network programming.

The easier (more meaningful) way to say it:  We predict customer preferences by analyzing data from online behavior.

Or simpler: We have a tool that enables company’s to build personal relationships with each customer.

Good writing ends with a simple to understand conclusion. Benefits relevant to the reader are great conclusions!

5.  The art of writing is re-writing.

Add new information, insights and style. Repeating what others have written is BORING. So get creative. Use video. Or other peoples’ videos to support your ideas. Or embed a link to a cool YouTube channel that has ideas you love.

6.  Recognize the genius of others.

Hyperlink to other informative sites using anchor text – these are the highlighted words indicating they link to another website or page. The relevance of the anchor text is really important. It provides context (also known as “semantic value” for searches related to the destination site. I’m spending a lot of time working on a new technology that uses semantic search so this is important to me.

A few important guidelines:

A.      Never link twice to the same site. It diminishes the value of all links.

B.      DO NOT stuff your blog with tons of keywords or links. Limit yourself to less than 10 links. Again, scarcity is a hallmark of value.

C.      Consider your sources. Keep good company by only linking to sites that provide factual, original information.

7. Be yourself and tell the truth.

Not long ago, I was in the market to hire an SEO firm. So I searched for the best online marketing firm, clicked on a few links, and then narrowed my search to San Diego. To my dismay, the firm that had #1 SERP (search engine results page) had plagiarized a competitor. Rather than sending me original work, they sent me a copy of HubSpot’s Website Grader without giving any credit to the legitimate author. The result: I became a fan of HubSpot and now highly recommend their services and technologies. The unethical San Diego company created a customer for their competitor!

8.  Don’t look stupid or obsessively strive for perfection.

Make sure all the links work, spell check, READ what you have written BEFORE your publish it. Style matters.

Test what you’ve written using a tool designed for grading blogs during the writing process.

Set a time limit for getting the blog posted. For beginners, I think four hours is a good starting point. Then shorten it. You will get much faster as you do more blogs.

When I first starting writing pledge drives for the KCET affiliate of PBS, it took me two to threes days to write a single three- to five-minute call-to-action. My early work was so bad that Ringo Starr refused to read one of my scripts. After the first year of writing, I could crank one out in less than an hour. The quality improved to the point where Jamie Lee Curtis, Wayne Dyer and Marg Helgenberger complimented me — then told the producers I wrote the best pledge scripts they’ve ever seen!

9.       Finish strong.

Close your article with a call-to-action. You want people to do something with your information that helps THEM (not you). The idea here is that giving is the best way to ensure you will receive. You can give advice, offer more information, or provide a coupon. Or  provide a hint about your editorial schedule so readers will have a reason to come back again (or subscribe!).

Ideally, you will want your closing paragraph to have a landing page that allows you to collect just enough information to start a one-to-one relationship with your reader.

10.   PUBLISH!

Enough is enough. You are done. Get it out.

Once it is published, I use an online tool to score my blog.  Then I promote it on all the social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Here’s my teaser for subscribing to my site:  I will write about the promotional aspects of blogging in a future blog that will provide checklist for blog SEO. (Yes, this is a placeholder for a future hyperlink).

11.   Participate.

Go back to the other experts you admire and make comments that are meaningful on their sites. Focus on adding to the conversation. Do NOT sell. It is all about giving credit and sharing ideas to build relationships, credibility, and subject matter authority. You will find it far easier to sell once you have established a trusted, meaningful relationship with them.

My next topic will be a SEO Checklist for Beginners.

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6 Responses to Checklist for a Great Blog
  1. Peter karpiuk
    September 30, 2010 | 12:33

    I like simple. I’d like to add something you said recently. Be authentic. It’s the easiest way to connect to people.

  2. Olin Hyde
    September 30, 2010 | 13:47

    Peter: So TRUE! So often smart people make things so complicated. Being authentic is the easiest, best way to make meaningful lasting relationships. Unfortunately, most of us learn the wrong lessons when we fail at things when we are young and authentic. This is such a rich subject… I might just write a book about it! Many thanks for the ideas, comments and being such a great member of the intellectual community!

  3. Erika
    October 1, 2010 | 13:33

    Olin – I’ve been reading a ton about business blogging over the last week or so, and this really encapsulates a lot of what I’ve read — in a simple, easy-to-read format, just like you intended. Love it.

  4. Alison Gilbert
    October 2, 2010 | 05:47

    Great points, Olin. Of course, I have passed this on to my fb friends and retweeted it.
    ‘The MarketingBytes & Multi-Media Maven aka the lady in the hat! Marketing biz with Social Media & traditional communications design.’

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