As we continue to explore principles of successful blogging I want to turn our attention to a matter at the heart of the topic – content.
Much could be said on the topic but in the presentation that sparked my principles of successful blogging series of posts I spoke at length about the idea of ‘crafting content‘.
The idea of of successful bloggers displaying ‘craftsmanship’ began to strike me after meeting a number of pretty high profile bloggers at the SXSW interactive conference a few years back. I remember sitting down at that conference with a number of bloggers who’d build great blogs to pick their brains and having the realisation that their blogs had not ‘just happened’ but that they’d really put time, energy and thought into shaping them over the years.
This ‘shaping’ of their blogs happened on two levels – it happened on a daily basis in the posts that they wrote – but also over time as their blogs grew and matured.
Crafting Blog Posts
My own experience of blogging is that in my early days of experimenting with the medium I would tend to sit down at the computer on any given day and then put up on the web whatever I was thinking about at that moment and within seconds of punching out a first draft the post would be live online.
- little thought went into the planning of posts
- no more time than was absolutely necessary was put into the writing of posts
- no consideration was really ever given to improving posts before they went live
- it was rare that I gave thought to how to time, launch and promote posts
My blogging was very impulsive and minimalistic in terms of how much effort I put into the most important factor of blogging – the content on it.
I got away with this to some degree, perhaps partly due to the fact that the blogosphere was in its infancy – but look back on that time now wondering how much more I could have achieved early on if I’d just given more time to ‘crafting’ my content.
Don’t get me wrong – I still sit down some days to impulsively write – but over time I’ve found that I get better results if I take a more craftsman-like approach to blogging.
One of the factors that changed my own approach to blogging was out of the experience of beginning to write series of posts on my blogs.
I don’t even remember what the first series was (or why I did it) but I do remember the realization of how much better my writing was when I put some time into planning what I would write ahead of time.
Setting oneself the task of writing a series of posts ahead of time mean you need to consider what you’ll write about (in general terms) but knowing what topics you’ll be covering in the future means that your ideas begin to marinate ahead of time and that by the time you come to write your posts you’ve given the topics thought, you’ve got ideas on how to explore it on a deeper level and you’ve hopefully got some creative ides of how to introduce and explore the topic in a way that makes the post stand out a little.
Crafting Content can happen on many levels and depending upon the type of blog you have you might not find them all to be relevant to every blog post you write – however here’s a series of posts that I wrote on the topic in 2008 that was designed to help bloggers consider ways that take a little extra time could improve their blogging:
- How to Craft a Blog Post – 10 Crucial Points to Pause
- Choosing a Topic – take a little extra time defining your topic and the post will flow better and you’ll develop something that matters to readers.
- Crafting Your Post’s Title – perhaps the most crucial part of actually getting readers to start reading your post when they see it in an RSS reader or search engine results page.
- The Opening Line – first impressions matter. Once you’ve got someone past your post’s title your opening line draws them deeper into your post.
- Your ‘point/s’ (making your posts matter) - a post needs to have a point. If it is just an intriguing title and opening you’ll get people to read – but if the post doesn’t ‘matter’ to them it’ll never get traction.
- Call to Action – driving readers to do something cements a post in their mind and helps them to apply it and helps you to make a deeper connection with them.
- Adding Depth – before publishing your post – ask yourself how you could add depth to it and make it even more useful and memorable to readers?
- Quality Control and Polishing of Posts – small mistakes can be barriers to engagement for some readers. Spending time fixing errors and making a post ‘look’ good can take it to the next level.
- Timing of Publishing Your Post – timing can be everything – strategic timing of posts can ensure the right people see it at the right time.
- Post Promotion – having hit publish – don’t just leave it to chance that your post will be read by people. Giving it a few strategic ‘nudges’ can increase the exposure it gets exponentially.
- Conversation – often the real action happens once your post is published and being interacted with by readers and other bloggers. Taking time to dialogue can be very fruitful.
Crafting Blogs on a Big Picture Level
The other level that I think bloggers could do well to apply the idea of craftsmanship to is thinking about the big picture of a blog and seeing the blog, in its entirety, as something that needs crafting.
Over a time as a blog grows and matures it takes on a certain shape and form.
The accumulated body of content, the voice and personality behind the content, the visual design of the blog and even the interaction with readers and emerging community are all things that go into how a blog is perceived.
Some blogs manage to evolve without much thought in a good direction – but behind the scenes of most successful blogs there is a person or team of people who are shaping the blog, plotting its course and making sure that it stays on that course.
I spoke once with a museum curator who told me about her job and it reminds me on some levels of what I do on my blogs.
Curators do many tasks to get an exhibition together – good exhibitions don’t just happen. Their work starts with careful planning, research, study and sourcing of exhibits well before an exhibition takes place.
They are not only involved in deciding what to exhibit but they’re also involved in what to leave out of exhibitions (avoiding clutter and confusion for those attending).
Once they’ve sourced the exhibits they’re involved in arranging them and making sure that they are presented in a way that draws people in and takes them on a journey.
As I spoke with this curator about the care in which she put together an exhibition (a process that took a lot of detailed thought and energy over considerable time) I was challenged to apply some of what I saw in my own blogging.
Great blogs don’t just happen – they take thoughtful consideration, planning and shaping. They too are not just about what you publish but about what you don’t publish. They too take thought as you consider the journey you want to take your reader on.