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Creating great blogs

10 things you can do to produce an outstanding blog

Cision’s SVP of Research Ruth McFarland told me about a LinkedIn discussion she read from a public relations group which started with the simple question, “What makes you read a blog?” The answers varied from “author expertise and topic” to “an interesting spin.” One woman commented that “the layout does matter. Messy layouts usually turn me away…”

As more and more media relations people produce content themselves, it’s important to identify what attracts readers (and keeps readers) coming to your blog. And it’s not all about great writing (although that’s a big part).

I could learn more about blogging, too. So to help us all out, I’ve compiled this list of 10 things that make a great blog, including links to other blogs, resources and experts who have touched on similar topics.

  1. Establish a goal. What do you want to accomplish from producing your blog? Is it to drive traffic to your website? Position your company as a thought leader? Offer value-added advice to customers and prospects? There are a myriad of reasons to launch a blog, but without a goal in mind, your blog will not have purpose and probably won’t stand the test of time.
  2. Find your passion. To stick it out and consistently produce great content over time, you (or your bloggers) need to want to write the blog. In Paul Gillin’s book, The Secrets of Social Media Marketing, he provides a quiz, “Is Blogging Right for Your Business?” After asking, “Are you passionate about the topic?” Gillin writes “Good blogs have personality and personality is a product of enthusiasm. That doesn’t mean you need to be a cheerleader; in fact, some very successful blogs are negative in tone. It does mean that your topic should be something that you can talk about for hours, because that’s basically what you’ll be doing over time.”
  3. Take a unique angle. Do your research beforehand to determine what is already being blogged about your topic of choice. What fresh ideas do you have to offer? What unique angle will your blog have to seperate you from the millions of other blogs on the web? Conducting this research will also keep you up-to-date on the current hot topics and happenings in your industry… and if you participate in discussions on other blogs, you can become a part of a community of blogs in your industry and develop relationships with key influencers.
  4. Make content easy to find and share. Most people will find your blog through search engines or social media sharing. This tip is twofold: One, it’s important to get involved in social media and share your content amidst a mix of other interesting content; Two, find ways to increase your searchability through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Lee Odden of Top Rank Marketing just wrote a post, Is Your Web Site SEO and Social Media Friendly? and provides some great tips on how you can ensure your site is search and social ready.
  5. Always remember that blogs are social. If you use your blog to just shout your own opinions out into the void, you will end up doing just that – shouting into the void. Engage your readers by asking questions, soliciting ideas and participating in and responding to comments.
  6. Write great titles. Because most blog traffic comes from social sharing and search, most readers will decide whether or not to read your post based solely on the title of your post. Just read Mack Collier‘s personal story with titles in his post Better post titles work, and here’s the proof.
  7. Brush up on your writing. Some of my favorite blogs are clearly unedited and I still love them. However, it can only help your blog’s credibility if you take the time to proofread and edit your posts and write in an engaging manner. For tips on how to edit for content, check out Liz Strauss‘ post Editing for Quality and a Content Editor’s Checklist.
  8. Mix it up. When you’re going through a creative dry spell, try writing different types of posts. ProBlogger has a great post 20 Types of Blog Posts – Battling Bloggers Block that can help you discover new types of posts from case studies to interviews to rants.
  9. Please the eye. Messy layouts and too many ads are surefire ways to chase readers away. Consult with a graphic designer if you aren’t sure how your layout looks asthetically. Ask colleagues and friends to evaluate how easy the site is to read and navigate prior to launch.
  10. Use images. Images break up the copy and make the page easier to view. They also can help attract search engine traffic and draw readers to the post. Two free resources I like to use for images are stock.xchng and shared Flickr photos. For more info on how to use shared Flickr photos and attribution, see Chris Brogan‘s post Give Each Blog Post a Pretty Face with Flickr.

What other tips or ideas do you have about producing a great blog?

About Heidi Sullivan

One of PRWeek’s 40 under 40 in 2012, Heidi Sullivan is Senior Vice President of Digital Content for Cision and a self-proclaimed social media metrics nerd. She leads the company’s digital and broadcast content teams, the global research team for Cision’s media database, Cision’s social media community team and the company’s content marketing strategy. You can find her on Twitter @hksully.

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