What Makes a Blog Good?

People don’t like to read. People like pictures. People like to share.

This past summer I worked as a marketing intern for a non-profit organization and I learned a thing or two about the way people respond to Internet writing. While testing different methods for Facebook and Twitter posts, I came up with three rules for social media:

  1. People don’t like to read: Keep posts as short as possible while still including all the relevant information and make sure you link to where they can get more information.
  2. People like pictures: Whenever possible include an eye-catching picture that matches what you’re posting about.
  3. People like to share: Whenever possible ask a question that allows users to share their experiences, opinions, and thoughts.

Though this experience was focused on social media, I think a lot of the principles that I learned carry over to writing for a blog.

People Don’t Like to Read

As Rachel McAlpine stated, people using the Internet are “monsters of impatience.” Though I think this undervalues readers’ intelligence in some ways, it is certainly true that while on the Internet, readers have less patience than when they are reading print.

To combat this impatience, it is important to make your posts engaging and to the point without, devaluing or dumbing down your content. It is not even necessarily required that your posts be short, but that they be easy to read. Some things you can try include:

  • Using headers, sub-headers, and lists for related information
  • Including a title and short summary on the homepage rather than displaying the entire post
  • Including a top navigation bar with well-organized categories so that users can easily find information

Blogs that do this well:

  • Grist—I really love their simple top bar navigation and homepage articles that include a title, photo, and summary with a link to read more.
  • In Pursuit of Happiness—I particularly love this blog’s top navigation because it uses photos and words to show simple, clear categories.
  • Buzzfeed—I love that they have a secondary navigation that has photos that link to top stories.

People Like Pictures

“A picture is worth 1,000 words” is certainly a cliché, but an image really can help you draw readers’ attention and illustrate your point more effectively. Imagine you were writing a post where you were describing some place or event. Describing that place or event might take some time, but a picture can show with exactness what you would otherwise leave to your readers’ imaginations.

Another concept that stems from the idea that “people like pictures,” is that readers prefer looking at a well designed, attractive website. Some simple ideas to make your website more attractive include:

  • Place your title or icon in the top left corner where readers’ eyes are drawn first (according to a study by the Poynter Institute).
  • Use clear, good quality photos to compliment your writing.
  • Use colors that compliment each other and work for the atmosphere of your website.

Blogs that do this well:

  • Global Grasshopper—I love that they use photos both in their summaries of articles and throughout the articles themselves.
  • Humans of New York—HONY is a highly attractive blog that is easy to look at and navigate.
  • Matador Network—I particularly love that they use photos in their top navigation.

People Like to Share

In my opinion, this rule is the most important because what makes a blog unique is the ability for readers to instantly share, repurpose, reimagine, and reuse the writer’s words. As Sean Michael Morris states in “Digital Writing Uprising: Third Order Thinking in Digital Humanities,” digital writing becomes useful when others reimagine it for their own purposes.

“People like to share” also communicates that people like to be able to easily share with each other. Your blog should have Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc. buttons easily accessible so that people can share content with their friends and followers.

Blogs that do this well:

  • Cowardly Feminist—I love that she often replies to comments from her readers.
  • Huffington Post—This is a great example of easily shareable material.
  • Watts Up With That?—His material is easily sharable and his blog often has conversations between many readers in the comments section.
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